How To Get Connected!
JESUS TEACHES ABOUT THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
There's a phrase that has become popular in pop culture today, Being in "the zone."
The zone refers to that state of mind when everything is clicking for you and you're doing everything right.
You can't miss a shot, you're able to anticipate what the opposition is doing, and you have a quick answer for every question.
Anyone who has ever played sports or performed in public knows what it's like to be in the zone.
Also, anyone who has ever played sports or performed in public knows what it's like to be out of the zone-there are days when you don't think straight, don't perform well, and nothing seems to go your way.
When it comes to living the Christian life, there's a zone that we can be in-a zone that makes it easier to walk in faith, live in obedience, see our prayers answered, experience joy, and handle adversity.
It is a zone that Jesus challenges us all to live in.
What is this zone?
Well, I want to look at a passage of scripture this morning that gives us the answer to this question: How am I supposed to live up to the holy standard that God has for me?
When you bear fruit you know you're in the zone!
FRUIT BEARING (15:1-8)
* The Signs
* The Steps
* The Success
A. The symbols (15:1, 5a-5b)
1. The Son is the true vine (15:1a, 5a).
2. The Father is the gardener (15:1b).
3. The believer is the branch (15:5b).
LOOKING FOR FRUIT (V. 1-2)
We all need to make a careful examination of our own lives as to fruit-bearing. Most of us immediately think about what we have been doing for the Lord - how many people we have won to Christ or whatever.
Partnering with God
Deeds; Evangelism; Faith and works; Fruitfulness; God's Will; Ministry
Christian Culture; Quotes
Matthew 28:18-20, John 15:1-17, 1 Corinthians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 6:1
Without God we can't; without us he won't.
B. The steps (15:2-4, 5c-6)
1. We must submit to pruning by the Father (15:2-3).
PRUNING FOR FRUIT (V. 2-3)
". . . every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:2b). The branches that are doing well, those that best convey the life of the vine, get the knife. Anyone who has ever driven through the great northern California vineyards understands what the Lord is talking about. In the winter all you see for miles is bare, twisted trunks. But in the summer, what meets the eye are endless rows of lush green grapevines expanding their foliage so fast you can almost see them grow. Their health is directly proportionate to their pruning. A grapevine will never produce anywhere near its potential without being pruned!
* Grape-growers, viticulturists as they call themselves, practice several stages of pruning.
* There is pinching to remove the growing tip so it will not grow too rapidly, and also topping when a foot or two of new growth is removed to prevent the loss of an entire shoot.
* Thinning the grape clusters enables the rest of a branch to bear more fruit and better quality fruit.
* Also, the cutting away of suckers gives more nourishment to the whole plant. The vines are pruned in fall or winter so the main stock will have more advantageous growth and fruit.
* To the inexperienced eye it looks cruel and wasteful, but to the experienced eye it is the only way to grow healthy, delicious fruit. The same is true in the Christian life.
* What is involved in pruning? Pain. Pruning always hurts! David said in Psalm 119:67, "Before I was afflicted I went astray."
* Psalm 119:71 says, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
* Sometimes the pain of pruning comes because of our sins.
* Other times it is simply because we are bearing abundant fruit and God wants us to bear more. Whatever the reason for pruning, our natural selves always want to escape it. No one naturally wants the knife. Nevertheless, the results of God's pruning will be beneficial for us and for him.
* Often we Christians are subject to what I call the "When I Syndrome." "When I get spiritually mature, these things won't happen to me." "When I get married, I will not struggle this way anymore." "When I retire, my life will be easier." Afflictions would only stop if they were useless, and that is why they never stop. Without pruning, a vineyard would never be in full bloom.
* John 15 clearly teaches that pruning is always good for us. Malcolm Muggeridge in his book Jesus Rediscovered says:
Suppose you eliminated suffering, what a dreadful place the world would be. I would almost rather eliminate happiness. The world would be the most ghastly place because everything that corrects the tendency of this unspeakable little creature, man, to feel over-important and over-pleased with himself would disappear. He's bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered.
Those are true words, and I speak from experience. Some years ago I set off on a grandiose spiritual scheme. I shared it with my friends, and they assured me it would succeed. I had good motives, and the ideas were sound, but I fell flat on my face, to my great embarrassment. So I called a close friend, whom I could go to when I was discouraged. As we sat in a restaurant, he said to me, "You know what? This is good for you. If you had succeeded at this, you would have started telling others how to do it. Then you would have a seminar, and so on. Failing was the best thing that could have happened to you." Much of what is noble in us has been accomplished by God's pruning in our lives.
A character in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series is named Eustace Scrub, a selfish, immature boy who thinks only of himself. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he not only finds himself in a dragon's cave but discovers he has turned into a dragon! He attempts to remove the scales but cannot do so by himself. Finally the Lion, the Christ-figure, comes. Eustace describes what happens next:
This is what the Lion said, but I don't know if he spoke. "You will have to let me undress you." I was afraid of his claws I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate, so I just lay flat on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right to my heart and when he began pulling the skin off it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.
That is how it is with pruning. We would rather do it ourselves, but we cannot, and even if we could, we would not remove what really has to go. The truth is, what is noble and attractive in us has come from the cutting we would have avoided. "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word" (Psalm 119:67). "It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees" (Psalm 119:71). James's experience taught him this truth as well.
Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete. (James 1:2, The Living Bible)
* What else do we need to know about pruning? God's hand is never closer than when He prunes the branch. During those times of severest cutting when, to us, he may seem to have departed, he is the closest. His pruning may pain us, but it will never harm us. When the gardener does his pruning well, he leaves little more than the vine. Similarly, the more we are pruned, the more of Christ there is in our lives! Also, the branch does not bear fruit for itself but for others. The life that has been trimmed by the hand of God sustains others. Consider, for example, Corrie ten Boom, who endured so much and has encouraged so many. ". . . every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:2).
2. We must abide in the Son (15:4, 5c-6).
ABIDING FOR FRUIT (V. 4-5)
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
What does abiding or remaining in Christ mean? To me (although the text doesn't explicitly say it), the sap that runs between the vine and the branches is suggestive of the Holy Spirit. So remaining or abiding is parallel to being filled with the Holy Spirit. We have already seen that abiding in Christ produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We must set aside everything from which we might derive our own strength and merit and draw all from Christ.
* Jesus says that abiding in him involves the belief that "apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5b).
* Actually there are many things we can do without Christ. We can earn a living, raise a family, and practice generosity. It is possible to pastor a church without abiding. It is possible to counsel people without abiding. So what does Christ mean?
* He means that we cannot bear spiritual fruit without him.
* We can tie fruit onto our lives like ornaments on a Christmas tree, but the real fruit of His character comes from the vine itself. We can do nothing without him!
* We cannot be loving or patient or faithful or holy.
* Galatians 5:19-25 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
* Galatians 2:20 20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
* That is why God does not shield us from the assaults of life but rather exposes us to them, so we will learn to hold him fast. Jesus taught, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Abiding involves a growing sense of weakness.
* John the Baptist was a fore-runner of Christ and said "I must decrease the He may increase"
ILLUSTRATION (Ron Julian Transmitts his talent of playing music
Along with this realization we are to consciously, deliberately depend upon Christ. I am not gifted with musical ability. But suppose I sneak into my church's sanctuary on my day off, when nobody is around, and try to play some chords on the piano. Without my knowing it, the great Ron Julian enters the NDCBF. The poor man is in pain from my "music," so he walks to the front and says to me, "I would like to help you. I have a power no one else knows about - I can transmit my ability to another person. All you have to do is to look at me and watch me intently." I suddenly get a great idea! I make sure that the next Sunday night all of my church's regular church pianists are away. Ron Julian is there, but he declines to play. So I humbly sit at the piano, and as long as I look at Ron Julian, my fingers really fly over those ivories. Nobody has ever played like that at NDCBF! I start feeling pretty good, so I begin looking at the people, enjoying their admiration for my musical prowess. And my ability is suddenly gone! Often we make the same mistake. We fail to keep our eyes on Jesus and to depend on him, to abide in him.
* Peter experiences this very same phenomenon when he desires to walk on water with Jesus.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)
Philippians 2:12-13 12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Those who learn to abide stay put for the pruning. We must choose to abide, to get into the Word, to associate with others who are remaining in Christ, to keep growing.
C. The success (15:2, 7-8)
1. It results in bountiful fruit (15:7-8a).
2. It results in glorifying the Father (15:8b).
ENJOYING THE FRUIT (V.11) (God is not a kill joy)
(John 15:11). The joy of Jesus in us! Chesterton called this "the gigantic secret of the Christian." Peter called it "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8, KJV). Joy to the max!
Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches, the Father is the Gardener. Everything the Father and Son do is geared to enhance our abiding and our fruitfulness. With each trimming, may there be more of Christ in us, for God's glory and the blessing of others!
There was a man once who lived his entire life in a large city.
He had no idea what it was like to live on a farm or even in a suburb.
After he had amassed his fortune as a lawyer in the city, he decided that he would retire to a simpler life on a farm in a small rural community.
This man moved out to the farm and was thrilled to find that his new home was heated exclusively by fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. How quaint, he thought.
So, he determined that in order to have the full experience of farm life, he would chop his own wood. But he had never done that sort of work before.
He set out to the local hardware store and inquired with the owner about chopping wood.
The owner of the store showed him the finest chainsaw on the market and told him that it was so efficient that it would cut down at least fifteen trees per day.
The man was thrilled and so he bought the chain saw.
He set out into the forest one morning and began to try to cut down a tree in preparation for the winter.
He was so disgusted by the end of the day, because he hadn't been able to cut down even one tree!
The next day he took the saw back to the clerk and demanded his money back.
"You ripped me off. You promised me that this saw would cut down at least fifteen trees per day, and I couldn't even cut down one. Give me back my money!"
So, the owner of the store was a bit perplexed. He actually owned the same model and used it every day.
So, he decided to look at the saw to see if there was a defect with it.
He set it on the floor, held down the safety, pulled the trigger, and then he did something that the city slicker had never seen done in his life...
The owner of that store pulled on the starter rope giving power to the saw.
He shut it off and handed it back to the man. "I don't see anything wrong with this saw, mister, you sure you been using it right?"
The man, now, thoroughly embarrassed, grabbed the saw and walked out.
He had no idea that this was a gas powered saw and had been trying to cut trees down all day without it even started!
Oh, how many of us are like that city slicker?
We made some kind of profession of faith, got baptized, joined a church,
and believed all the promises the preacher told us, but never knew that we were dealing with a Holy Spirit powered God.
We've spent years trying to cut the trees of sin and disobedience down in our lives, yet we haven't made much progress.
We've worked hard at becoming holy...
We've sweat; we've attended church, gone to seminars, seen counselors, volunteered for anything we thought might get us closer to God.
But all the while we were just sawing away in our own strength - never once allowing the power of the saw to do the work for us.
Larry Crabb Has Questions About Prayer
Assumptions; Beliefs; Children; Discouragement; Doctrine; Doubt; Faith; Faith and prayer; Faith, childlike; Faithfulness, divine; Interpretation; Miracles; Mysteries; Prayer; Prayer, answers to; Prayer, believing; Prayer, unanswered; Promises; Theology; Uncertainties
Christian Culture; Stories; Youth & Children
Matthew 7:7, Matthew 21:22, Luke 18:1-8, John 14:13-14, John 15:7, John 16:24, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, James 4:3, 1 John 5:14-15
When I was 10, I first heard Matthew 21:22, where Jesus, who never lies, said, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." It was the "whatever" model of prayer-believe, ask for whatever you want, and it's yours.
I remember running outside, standing on our driveway, closing my eyes real tight, and praying: God, I want to fly like Superman. And I believe you can do it. So I'll jump, and you take it from there.
I jumped four times-and each time landed half a second later and half a foot farther down the driveway. I had believed and I had asked, just like Jesus said. But I didn't receive. Thus began my 50-year journey of confusion about prayer.
Alternatives to Abiding in Jesus
Anxiety; Attitudes; Christ, abiding in; Christ, burden bearer; Circumstances; Comfort; Cynicism; Entertainment; Faith; Fulfillment; Meaning of life; Self-Centeredness
Christian Culture; Everyday Disciples; Stories
John 14:1-27, John 15:1-11, Romans 8:10, Galatians 2:20
If I'm not abiding in Jesus, then where is it that I abide? I once asked myself. I began to notice that when I was tired or anxious, there were certain sentences I would say in my head that led me to a familiar place. The journey to this place would often start with me walking around disturbed, feeling as if there was something deep inside that I needed to put into words but couldn't quite capture. I felt the "something" as anxiety, loneliness, and a need for connection with someone. If no connection came, I would start to say things like, "Life really stinks. Why is it always so hard? It's never going to change." If no one noticed I was struggling or asked me what was wrong, I found my sentences shifting to a more cynical level: "Who cares? Life is a joke." Surprisingly, by the time I was saying those last sentences, I was feeling better. The anxiety was greatly diminished.
My comforter, my abiding place, was cynicism and rebellion. From this abiding place, I would feel free to use some soul cocaine-watching a violent video with maybe a little sexual titillation thrown in, having more alcohol with a meal than I might normally drink-things that would allow me to feel better for a little while. I had always thought of these things as just bad habits. I began to see they were much more; they were spiritual abiding places that were my comforters and friends in a very spiritual way.
The final light went on one evening when I read John 15:7 in The Message. Peterson translates Jesus' words on abiding this way: "If you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon." Jesus was saying in answer to my question, "I have made my home in you, Brent. But you still have other comforters you go to. You must learn to make your home in me."
Power Strip Demonstrates Dependence upon God
Dependence on God; Ego; Frustration; God, power of; God, providence of; Help from God; Help, divine; Human limitations; Independence; Power, divine; Power, human; Powerlessness; Pride; Rebellion; Self-reliance; Supply
Free; Props & Symbols
Isaiah 40:31, Jeremiah 17:5-8, John 15:1-7, Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 4:13
Text: John 15:1-7
Purpose: To visualize the powerlessness of depending on ourselves rather than God.
Objects: An electric power strip with multiple outlets (the kind that computers and appliances are plugged into). One or two appliances and a light.
Experience: Hold up the power strip for everyone to see and say: "You have all seen one of these. We use power strips to plug computers or appliances into." Then plug one or two appliances and lights into the strip. Finally, plug the power strip into itself and attempt to turn on the lights and appliances. When they don't turn on, ask, "Why won't this work?"
"Well, obviously it won't work because the power strip doesn't have any electrical power in itself. It has to plug into an electrical outlet in order to bring any power to the other appliances." Then, unplug the power strip from itself and into a wall outlet so that the appliances and lights turn on.