1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 “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. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Chair 1 - No fruit, the lost person can do nothing to yield a harvest for God.
Chair 2 - “fruit,” the new believer begins to grow a harvest for the Lord
Chair 3 - “more fruit”
Chair 4 - “much fruit”
The Father’s ultimate goal is for everyone to be at the “much fruit” level. Why? So we can prove that we are disciples of Jesus.
Not every believer bears much fruit. There is a progression of fruit-bearing with some barriers in between.
Barrier 1 - Sin
Barrier 1 - Sin
What does Jesus say in verse 2 that God does with a fruitless branch? He cuts it off.
The Greek word for “cuts off” used here is airo. What is interesting about its use her is that this word appears over 100 times in the New Testament, but only here is it translated “cuts off.”
Literally airo means to “lift up” or “move to a different location.”
I have a grape arbor. If one of the vines of my grapes falls from where I attached it to the arbor, I will need to airo or lift it up out of the dirt, clean it off if necessary, and reattach it to the arbor in order for it to get the sun it needs and to bear fruit.
If I did not do this, if I left the branch in the dirt, it would never bear fruit and will need to cut it off and thrown into the fire.
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
The barrier between no fruit and fruit is sin that is in our lives.
When we sin we fall out of the Sonlight and into the dirt. We we stay in the mud, we will spiritually shrivel up and become unproductive. Remember that Jesus says apart from Him we can do nothing.
We need to be lifted out of the dirt (airo), and cleaned off if necessary, and placed back in the Son light, then we move from no fruit to fruit.
We must always deal with any known sin in our life. We do this with prayer and repentance.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
While we remain in our sin we cannot and will not bear fruit, no matter what Chair we are in.
It is because of this that we teach those in Chair 1 to immediately repent of any known sin.
But it is not only at the beginning of our becoming a believer that we need to repent. As we grow in our faith, we may begin to sin less and less, but we still struggle with our sin nature until we are fully surrendered to God.
In Romania Christians call each other Repenters. We need to live a life of repentance. The moment we say “I don’t need to repent anymore, we may have just committed the sin of pride. So we should live as repenters.
Now the question may arise that if someone produces no fruit, are they even a Christian?
Some may argue that if there is no real fruit, then there can’t be any real life. And while there is some truth to this statement, we must be careful not to read more in to these verses than what is there.
Jesus says the Father cuts off any person (branch) that is “in me” that does not bear fruit.
In the gospel of John to this point whenever anyone is referred to being “in me” they are a Christian. You cannot be in Christ without having Christ in you.
We have all had days, weeks, months and maybe even years in our Christian life where we did not bear any fruit. I would argue that many times this was due to un-confessed sin in our lives.
Once you become a believer, sin does not change your position with Christ, but it does affect your ability to bear fruit.
We must not and cannot stay in this state of unfruitfulness for long. God’s goal is that we all bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit, and He will do whatever it takes to get us there.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Our God is a jealous God and will not tolerate sin in the life of His Children.
Barrier 2: Good Things
Barrier 2: Good Things
As we move into Chair 2, we begin to experience God’s plan for us, and His plan usually begins with pruning.
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
When we begin to bear fruit He prunes us so that we may bear more fruit.
For me one of the hardest things to do is cut back my grape vines. They grow so long and are so full that I hate to cut off a perfectly healthy branch.
But God is the Master Gardener. He know exactly what and how much to prune from our lives. But that pruning comes with a cost. And many times it can be painful.
Some churches accidentally allow people to stay in Chair 2. We make the Christian life a comfortable chair that no one wants to move out of. We challenge people to come and see but never challenge them to take the next step, which involves pruning.
It is through this pruning that we can move from “fruit” to “more “fruit.” Without pruning the vine will not produce an abundant harvest year after year.
If we bear fruit we will be pruned according to Jesus.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
But what gets pruned? What gets pruned are not bad things, but good things. A gardener will remove a flower - a good thing - from the branch to make room for fruit. And this is why pruning is so painful and why we it is a struggle.
Barrier 3 - Satisfaction
Barrier 3 - Satisfaction
As we are sitting in Chair 3 and we are seeing the “more fruit” that is being produced we may be tempted to be satisfied with the joy of the harvest.
We begin to enjoy the increased fruit that we are experiencing, but satisfaction is not the goal of the journey that God has us on.
Jesus makes very clear what our goal is, and that is to get into Chair 4 and prove that we are His disciples. ()
When we are in Chair 4 something occurs that has never happened before. The “much fruit” become so abundant that when someone looks at our life they can tell that it is God who is reaping the harvest.
We begin to reap a harvest that we could never do on our own. We are just not capable of it. It is God working through us. It is God who gets the glory.
But how do we break through this barrier of satisfaction?
It is a simple phrase… meno in Greek.
Meno is translated sometimes as “remain” in the NIV. In other translations it is “abide” or “dwell,” “continue” or “tarry.” No mater which translation you use for meno, it is a beautifully rich word which in the context of means “to make Jesus our permanent dwelling place.”
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
To dwell with Jesus is to make Him our permanent dwelling. This type of lifestyle does not happen overnight, yet it is never too late to start. Meno is a sign of maturity and a sign of Chair 4 living. It produces “much fruit.”
By breaking through the satisfaction barrier we become a true friend of God. We are no longer concerned with performing for God, but we find a balance between striving and resting.
For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
As we meno in Christ, God gets the Glory. This truly is the sweet spot.