THE VINEDRESSER

Jn. 15:1 – I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Jn. 15:4,5 – Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

This illustration of the Vine and the Vinedresser gives us a look into the supernatural nature of our relationship with the Lord. One of the lessons is the importance of our total dependency on the Lord. Jesus said that He is the Vine and we are the branches, the Father is the Vinedresser. One of the great lessons we learn from the humanity of Christ is His utter dependency on the Father for all things. He often said He could do nothing without the Father. The Father planted the Vine and provides all the life that the vine needs. The sunlight, water, and nutrients all flow from the Father of lights. In the same way the branches are dependent on the Vine. Separated from Him we can do nothing. Everything we have flows from the Vine into the branches. If we abide in Him we will bare fruit, disconnected we will whither up and die. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this illustration.

“At the very root of all Christian life lies the thought that God is to do all, that our work is to give and leave ourselves in His hands, in the confession of utter helplessness and dependence, in the assured confidence that He gives all we need. The great lack of the Christian life is that, even where we trust Christ, we leave God out of the count. Christ came to bring us to God. Christ lived the life of a man exactly as we have to live it. Christ the Vine points to God the Husbandman. As He trusted God, let us trust God, that everything we ought to be and have, as those who belong to the Vine, will be given us from above.”

This is our place of productivity, it is also our place of joy and protection. Think about it, what is the life that flows through the branches? It is the very life of God. This life in us is the source of everything our hearts have searched for, in Him we are finally fulfilled.

HIS WORD IN YOU

Jn. 15:7 – If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Oneness, that is what our hearts are crying out for and that is what Jesus is describing through this powerful illustration of the Vine and the branches. He is the vine we are the branches. We are connected to Him, the life that He experiences He shares with us. His life is flowing in us and through us. In this verse the Lord describes the practical way we can flow with Him and allow this experience to deepen in us. Jesus is the Word of God, as we abide in His word we begin to experience the beauty of our union with Him. His word is in us, His word birthed us, His word enlivens us, His word is the very life of God in our souls. This is the source of our power in our prayers, Christ Himself is breathing His prayers in us by His Spirit and His word. Abide in His word and you will abide in Christ and His life. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this verse.

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you–This He gives as the equivalent of the other expression: “I in you. If my words abide in you”–that is, not only in meditation, in memory, in love, in faith–all these words enter into your will, your being, and constitute your life–if they transform your character into their own likeness, and you become and are what they speak and mean–ask what ye will; it shall be done unto you. Your words to God in prayer will be the fruit of Christ and His words living in you….If ye abide. Yes, Lord, the power to pray and the power to prevail must depend on this abiding in Thee. As Thou art the Vine, Thou art the divine Intercessor, who breathest Thy spirit in us. Oh, for grace to abide simply and wholly in Thee, and ask great things.”

So Jesus is taking us beyond memorization and mental acceptance, He is teaching us to take the word of God into the depths of our heart. Love His word, embrace His word, delight in His word, and your prayers become intertwined with His prayers. This is the place where we begin to bare fruit. The result; God is glorified and we are filled with joy.

I AM THE TRUE VINE

Jn. 15:1 – I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

This picture of the grape vine falls in one of the most critical places in all of scripture. God’s revelation of Himself in Christ is coming to a climax. Jesus has just served the Last Supper to His disciples, washed their feet, and is headed toward Gethsemane where the arrest and passion will begin. He has been teaching His disciples about the Holy Spirit and how He will change everything. As they pass through a grape vineyard He begins to describe the intimacy that is being brought to them through His death and the outpouring of the Spirit. The Oneness He will pray for in Gethsemane is being described in this passage. We are being brought into the very life of God. Here is how Andrew Murray describes the beauty of this passage.

“All earthly things are the shadows of heavenly realities–the expression, in created, visible forms, of the invisible glory of God. The Life and the Truth are in Heaven; on earth we have figures and shadows of the heavenly truths. When Jesus says: “I am the true Vine,”

He tells us that all the vines of earth are pictures and emblems of Himself. He is the divine reality, of which they are the created expression. They all point to Him, and preach Him, and reveal Him. If you would know Jesus, study the vine. How many eyes have gazed on and admired a great vine with its beautiful fruit? Come and gaze on the heavenly Vine till your eye turns from all else to admire Him. How many, in a sunny climate, sit and rest under the shadow of a vine? Come and be still under the shadow of the true Vine, and rest under it from the heat of the day. What countless numbers rejoice in the fruit of the vine! Come, and take, and eat of the heavenly fruit of the true Vine, and let your soul say: “I sat under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste.”

When I was newly saved I lived in a valley surrounded by grape vineyards. I loved to read this passage again and again, reflecting on the life of God in His people. He is in us and we are in Him. Abiding in Him, depending on Him, brings glory to God and fills our whole being with fullness of joy.

GOD’S VINEYARD

JN.15:1,2,8 – I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

The Lord speaks through pictures. The great prophesy about the last days from the prophet Joel speaks of the Lord pouring out His Spirit in the last days, speaking to us through visions and dreams. If we have eyes to see it, God is always speaking through His creation. Today’s passage is a great example. Jesus is teaching His disciples about The Holy Spirit and miracles and bearing fruit and used a vineyard they were walking through to make His words understandable. The harvest we are expecting will come from His vineyard. Seeing the valuable spiritual truth in the vineyard will help us cooperate with the move of God. Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray on the Vine.

“What has our Lord to say to us of fruit? Simply this–that fruit is the one thing the branch is for, and that if it bear not fruit, the husbandman takes it away. The vine is the glory of the husbandman; the branch is the glory of the vine; the fruit is the glory of the branch; if the branch bring not forth fruit, there is no glory or worth in it; it is an offense and a hindrance; the husbandman takes it away. The one reason for the existence of a branch, the one mark of being a true branch of the heavenly Vine, the one condition of being allowed by the divine Husbandman to share the life the Vine is–bearing fruit.

And what is fruit? Something that the branch bears, not for itself, but for its owner; something that is to be gathered, and taken away.”

Creation is intended to display God’s glory. We have the privilege of being the Lord’s greatest vehicle to display His glory. Why is that? We are His redeemed sons and daughters of God. Our connection to Him and to one another in the local church is the vehicle the Lord has chosen to display His choice fruit. How is He glorified? Through the quality and quantity of His harvest. As I stay connected to Him and His body He flows through me and He is glorified.

SPONTANEOUS JOY

Jn.15:11 – These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

I hated reading ‘Fox’s Book of Martyrs’ while in Bible School. I remember stories throughout history of Christians going joyfully to their deaths, often singing and even laughing as they faced their executioners. I was quite disturbed at this for years and really avoided that book. All of that changed for me in the summer of 1994. In a moment of time I understood. What was the change ? I tasted supernatural joy for myself. I was visited by waves of unexplainable joy. Joy came when I worshipped, it came when I read my Bible, it even came upon me in my sleep and in my dreams. I was filled with joy when preaching, singing, and especially when praying for others. Jesus told the disciples that they would be filled with overflowing joy when the Holy Spirit came upon them. That’s what today’s verse is about. John 15 is part of Jesus great teaching on the coming of the Holy Spirit He delivered to His disciples on the last night He spent with them. Supernatural joy sustained those early Christians even to death. Here are some thoughts from A.B. Simpson on the joy of the Lord.

“There is a joy that springs spontaneously in the heart without any external or even rational cause. It is like an artesian fountain. It rejoices because it cannot help it. It is the glory of God; it is the heart of Christ; it is the joy divine of which He says, These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. And your joy no man can take from you. Those who possess this fountain are not discouraged by surrounding circumstances. Rather, they are often surprised at the deep, sweet gladness that comes without apparent cause-a joy that frequently is strongest when everything in their condition and circumstances would tend to fill them with sorrow and depression. It is the nightingale in the heart that sings at night because it is its nature to sing. It is the glorified and incorruptible joy that belongs with heaven and anticipates already the everlasting song.”

No wonder Jesus said to rejoice when you are persecuted for His Name. He said when that happened the Spirit of glory would rest on us. This supernatural joy is part of what happens when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Remember, the Holy Spirit is infinite. That means that no matter how much you have received of Him there is always more; more than we can ever imagine.

DID I CHOOSE HIM OR DID HE CHOOSE ME?

John 15:16 – You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

This is one of those doctrines people have fought about forever. You know, the free will thing. Did I choose Him or did He choose me? If you disengage your preconceived idea about free will you will see clearly in the scriptures that He actually chose you. It’s the choosing part that gets us confused. In order to understand freedom of the will you have to go back to the garden and that tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is quite apparent that something tragic happened when our first parents ate from that tree. What was the effect on us? I believe it twisted us, especially in our ability to choose rightly. Our free will became enslaved. That’s why we often know and want to do right but find ourselves right back in the dumper of compromise and sin. It is the grace of God that liberates our will. How are we chosen, it is the work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. Here is R.C. Sproles and Jonathan Edwards on this topic.

“God used Jonathan Edwards mightily during the eighteenth-century Great Awakening in New England. Edwards was a firm believer in the doctrine of election. He believed that unless God had chosen a person, elected him to salvation, that person would never come to faith. Nevertheless, he pled, cajoled, and scared people half to death, telling them to repent and come to faith, because he did not know who was numbered among the elect…..Some heard Edwards and asked, “What if I am not elect? What should I do?” Edwards said, ‘Be in church every Sunday morning because you do not know that you are not elect, and you should do everything you can do in your fallen condition.’ Edwards said there is nothing people can do to incline themselves to the things of God. They cannot muster from their hearts true repentance unless the Holy Spirit changes their souls, but they can hear the Word of God and know that they are going to be judged at the end of their lives.”

It happened to me at the lakefront in NOLA in 1973, the scales came off my eyes and my will was set free. Has it happened to you? How would you know, by testing the inclinations of your heart.

FRUIT OF THE VINE

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me.
John 15:4
Dick Mills used to say I can’t make it happen but I can watch it happen. What did he mean by that? If you are dynamically connected to Christ and just stay there, fruit is certain. How much fruit, what kind of fruit, or how big the fruit is not within our ability to determine. That lies in the hands of God. What can I do? Just abide, stay connected, just rest in my organic relation to Him. If I abide in Him I will bare fruit, that fruit will be the beautiful work of God. Here is how Watchman Nee explains it.

“These familiar words remind us that it is God who has placed us in Christ. We are there, and we are told to stay there! It was God’s own act, and we are to abide by it. “Abide in me, and I in you.” This is a double sentence: a command matched by a promise. That is to say, there is an objective and a subjective side to God’s working, and the subjective depends on the objective; the “I in you” is the outcome of our abiding in Him. We need to guard against being overanxious about the subjective side of things, as though a branch of the vine should strive to produce grapes of a particular size or color. We need to dwell upon the objective—“Abide in me”—and let God take care of the outcome. And this He has undertaken to do. The character of the fruit is always determined by the Vine.”

How do I abide? What did Jesus mean by abiding in the vine? All a vine has to do to bare fruit is to stay connected to the rest of the plant. It is the same with us. We stay connected to Christ in three basic ways. First, by spending lots of time reading and searching the written word. This is our life and a major source of the life that flows into us. Secondly, focus on the Son of God. Worship and draw near to Him. The very presence of the Spirit flows from Him into us. Finally, stay closely connected to His body, the local church. This is where Christ flows into us as we are in relationship with His body. Remove the branch from the vine and it dies, remove a believer from the body and he dies. Remain in Him and fruit is certain.

DABBLERS AND DRINKERS

rod-long-355994.jpgJohn 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Human beings without Christ are really like zombies, walking dead people with no source of life or joy. Expressionless faces wandering through life trying to pretend they are something that they aren’t or have something they don’t have. Life itself comes into our emptiness when we meet Jesus Christ. In today’s verse Jesus speaks about an overflowing joy that comes from Him when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. In this whole passage He has been teaching about the Spirit and compares the life of the Spirit to the life of a grape vine. Life flows from the branches into the vine and produces fruit. Jesus describes this as overflowing joy. He is actually making the most radical of all promises, stay filled with Him and you will experience a continual flow of overflowing joy. Here is how A.B. Simpson describes it.

“The filling of the Holy Ghost will bring us joy and fullness of joy. “These things have I spoken unto you,”the Master said after He had given us the promise of the Spirit, “that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” And so the apostle prays that “the God of hope may fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. The fullness of the Spirit must crowd out pain, doubt, fear and sorrow, and bring the joy of Christ to fill our being. What is it that makes the melody in an organ? It is not the touch of skillful fingers only on the keys, but it is the filling of the pipes by the movement of the pedals. I may try in vain to play the most skillful tune, unless the organ is filled; and so our songs of praise are dead and cold until the breath of God fills all the channels of our being. Then comes the heart-song of praise and the overflowing fountain of gladness.”

Many have dabbled with Christianity and not experienced the fullness Jesus is promising. Dabbling is not enough; abiding in Him and drinking of Him is the way to fullness of joy. So ask yourself this question today, am I a dabbler or a drinker.

GLORIFIED

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Herein is my Father glorified —John 15:8

Once you begin to see the glory of the Lord for yourself your view of everything changes. You begin to come to the greatest of all conclusions, everything that exists exists to display the glory of God. The galaxies and solar systems, the sub-atomic and microscopic world, the creatures in the sea, the birds of the air, and the innumerable land creatures and insects. All of these things display the wisdom, creativity, and power of God. But there is even a greater display of God’s glory than all of these wonderful things. What could it possibly be? His greatest glory is reserved for the sinners, the ungodly of this world. God’s greatest glory is seen in redemption, the forgiveness and transformation of the dregs of fallen man. Jesus’s glory was clearly seen in the forgiveness of the harlot called Mary, the restoration of the betrayer called Peter, and the salvation of the self proclaimed chief of sinners, the persecutor also known as the Apostle Paul. Here is how A. B. Simpson describes the glory of God.

“There is nothing that glorifies God so much as for a weak and helpless man or woman to be able to triumph through His strength in places where the highest human qualities will fail us and to carry on in divine power through every form of toll and suffering. A spirit naturally weak, irresolute, selfish, and sinful, transformed into sweetness, purity and power and standing victorious amid circumstances from which its natural qualities must utterly unfit it brings glory to God. A mind not naturally wise or strong, yet directed by a divine wisdom and carried along the path of a great and mighty plan, being used to accomplish stupendous results for God and man-this glorifies God. Father, let me glorify Thee this day and adorn Thy doctrine in all things I do.”
So that brings us to you. Could it be that all the bad stuff that has happened in your life is just an opportunity for glory at the end of the day? If that’s the case we have to glory in our problems and even in the afflictions in our lives. God is serious about His glory, He is serious about redemption and restoration in your life. Draw near and lean on His mercy, I think the Lord is about to show His glory in your life.

FINALLY FREE FROM ADDICTION 

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John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

We live in a world of addictions. People are addicted to pain meds, illegal drugs, alcohol, porno, gambling, shopping; the list is pretty much endless. All of us are susceptible to addictive behavior, it is part of the flaw of having a fallen nature. We all have certain vices that we prefer and easily fall prey to their promises of pleasure. The promise of pleasure is at the heart of all addiction, humans are willing to risk their marriage, their health, their jobs, and even their very lives for the momentary pleasures offered by the voices that seem to drowned out all sensible behavior. How can a man be free from the quagmire of sin that entraps him? The superior pleasure offered by Christ is the only permanent solution to this dilemma. There is a sweeter pleasure in Christ that is greater than all the inferior pleasures of this world. John Piper says this pleasure is available to us in the written word, check this out.

“The divine aim of Scripture is not that by reading we be moderately joyful. The aim is that our joy—the joy of Christ in us—be full. Full would mean, at least, so strong that it pushes any idolatrous competing pleasures out of our heart. It would mean that selfishness has come to an end. We are no longer to be a sinkhole of craven neediness, but a fountain of life—givers, not takers. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. That water is drunk through his word. And the overflowing joy he promises, therefore, comes through reading . I am sure there is a fullness of divine joy that we will not attain until we see his unmediated glory; but who can tell what measures of joy in God are possible, even in this fallen world, if we give ourselves utterly to the word of God?”
Piper has discovered a path to this joy which seems absurd to the unrenewed mind. He says that is in reading the Bible for ourselves that Christ is revealed to us. When that happens in your life the chains of addiction will be broken. They lose their pull on us in light of the higher pleasure found only in the Lord.