John 15: The Vine Life: The Secret of Living
There are three vines mentioned in the Bible: the past vine; the present vine; and the future vine. Let us look at the past vine and the future vine, then concentrate on the present vine, the True Vine. To better understand these truths we will look at the parable from the day before as recorded in Matthew 21 as well as the truths recorded in Psalm 80 and Isiah 5. Before studying these notes, please read the following passages: John 15: 1-15; Psalm 80: 8-16; and Isaiah 5: 1-7.
THE PAST VINE.
The day before on Tuesday of this week which started on Palm Sunday and ended with the Lord’s crucifixion, Jesus had debated with the chief priests and the elders. We read of this debate in Matthew 21. Jesus told a parable to this impressive group. It is called the Parable of the Tenants. Read this passage from Matthew 21: 33-40; see the reply of the chief priests and elders in verse 41 and the outcome of God’s actions in verses 43 & 44 and we are told in verse 45& 46, the chief priest and the elders knew he was talking about them. This parable leads us to understand the teaching of the Lord in John 15 by learning what God had done with his past vine, the nation of Israel.
Psalm 80: 8-16 tells us the story of the nation of Israel, God’s Past Vine. “You (God) brought a vine out of Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its boughs to the sea, its shoots as far as the river.” This describes the story of Israel how God allowed them to grow in number in Egypt then freed them in the story of the Exodus. God transplanted His Vine, the nation of Israel in Canaan and it flourished. God had given them everything they needed to succeed as a nation. But through their disobedience God took action upon them. In Isaiah 5 we read of what all God did for the nation of Israel: He planted the cleared ground with choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. “Then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “ What more could I have done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for grapes why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland neither pruned nor cultivated. The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the gardens of His delight.” The Past Vine was the nation of Israel blessed with every blessing by God. God had taken them out of Egypt, carried them through the parted Red Sea and planted the nation in Canaan, the Promised Land. Hedged them about and entrusted the nation to a series of divinely appointed leaders, husbandmen. Their disobedience required God’s judgment and chastisement.
THE FUTURE VINE
The future vine is called the “vine of the earth”. This is what the world, the unsaved, depends upon for their sustenance and satisfaction. This is the culture and world system we live in today. It is guided by: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. It is in this soil they cultivate their lives. A life which finds its satisfaction and pleasure in the sins of the flesh. These are those who say Christianity is a man-made myth and does more harm than good. They despise the Word of God for it produces guilt which their seared conscience says is unfair and those who call sin- sin; are bigots, intolerant of others’ freedoms. Here is what this vine produces: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you those who live this way will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5) Debauchery is defined as excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure. Witchcraft comes from the Greek word- pharmakeia, from which the modern word, pharmacy comes. Quite often the ‘magic spells’ by witches and witch doctors involved the use of mind altering drugs. We can easily see how drugs, such as alcohol, ecstasy, LSD, marijuana, and prescription drugs reduce our ability to make sound judgements. They dull the pain, and increase pleasure. But in the end destroy the soul.
The harvest of the vine of the earth is described in Revelation 14: “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of earth is ripe. Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine (the future vine) because its grapes are ripe. The angel swung his sickle, gathered its clusters and threw them into the winepress of God’s wrath.”
THE PRESENT VINE
The Present Vine is the True Vine, the Lord Jesus, Himself. Jesus has told us He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. He told us the thief came to kill, and steal and destroy your life. Ultimately the thief is Satan, our adversary who wants to destroy us. The thieves he uses are many and varied. They appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He keeps us from the abundant life by offering substitutes which like wine, sparkle in the cup but in the end sting like the serpent’s bite. Life is our most precious possession. Right now you are wasting your life, spending it on the things of this world which are temporary, or investing your life in those things which are eternal and of God and therefore God-pleasing. Here is the bottom line: YOU ARE THE ONE WHO DETERMINES THE COURSE YOU WILL FOLLOW IN THIS LIFE. You can enter by the strait gate to the narrow way or pursue the broad way which is entered by the wide gate. We are told many enter the wide gate, but few find the strait and narrow way which leads to eternal life. We know the way- and must tell others.
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THE SECRET TO LIVING THE ABUNDANT LIFE?
Remember this message in these chapters of John from 13-17 are to Christians only. Jesus in this chapter 15 will share the 5 spiritual secrets that lead to the abundant life. Do not miss these secrets for they are the keys to the secret and purpose of life.
First there are three questions we must answer correctly if life is going to have any meaning for us. Who and what am I? And why am I here? We are all born searching for something. I recently was frustrated for almost two hours trying to find a screwdriver which would fit a key screw which had to be removed in order to put the batteries in this toy from China. If I could not find that which would unlock this compartment, the toy was useless.
If we cannot find what unlocks the mystery of life’s meaning, life makes no sense. Who am I? What am I? Why am I here? My two hour search to find a way to unlock the battery compartment of this toy would have been a lot easier if the manufacturer, the creator of the toy had supplied me with what I needed. To find the answer to our question- we need to ask the One who created us, for what purpose were we created? His instruction book, the Bible tells me: I am created by Him and for Him. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Now since creation, there has been another voice who is the father of lies who has told us God cannot be trusted. He is not the answer to your question. He cannot be depended upon. This deceiver offers a shortcut to pleasure, always using the things God has created for good into evil. Since the fall, we are all born with a sinful nature and are drawn to those things which appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Are these sins pleasurable? Yes, for a season. But leave one emptier than before and the search to find those things which will please us grows more desperate and deeper into sin. Look around you today and compare what you watched as a family on television a generation ago as to what is on there now. Look at marriage the institute God created for the purpose of ruling and reigning with Him and multiplying and see what an aberration it has become. These are the “fruits “of the earths’ vine. How bold the enemy has become. And we are told this is because he senses and knows his time in near the end. The battle was won at Calvary. The warfare has continued just as it continued after defeat was certain at D-Day in WWII. God has never been without a witness. He not only has believers in each generation, He also has creation which declares His glory night after night and is understood in every language that there is a Creator. He also has the internal witness of the conscience bearing witness to what is right and wrong, although the conscience of many has become seared. And a seared conscience is more the norm than a convicted one.
Jesus tells us who we are, what we are and why we are here. “I am the True Vine and my Father is the gardener.” (KJV calls the Father, husbandman. A Husbandman is the farmer; one who plants and watches over the vine and its fruit to receive it and rejoice in it.) I am the Vine and you are the branches. “
There is our explanation: Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the Vinedresser, the Constant Gardener and we are the branches. The sap which flows from the vine to the branches would represent the Holy Spirit who brings the life of Jesus into our lives, just as sap brings the life of the vine into the branches. We are here to bear fruit. Once you realize this simple, but profound fact you have found the meaning of life: who you are, what you are and why you are here.
The reason God saved you is that you might bear fruit in this world. We live in a hungry world. If we look for sin to fill us and please us- it makes one even hungrier and thirstier. Look at entertainment. We were satisfied with three channels of television when we were growing up. Today, our culture devours entertainment- we have 300 channels and even more can be found and there are thousands of shows of all types to be watched. And we can watch this so-called entertainment on TV, computers, laptops, smartphones, anytime, anywhere.
God created you and saved you to bear fruit in this world. You are a branch and He is the Vine. He has placed you where you are that you might accomplish His special purpose. There is fruit to be produced where you are- that no one else can produce.
So here is SECRET NO. 1:
The secret of living is fruit bearing. God did not create you, and Christ did not die for you that you might go through life getting. God created you and Christ purchased you that you might go through life giving. It is this giving which give us joy.
SECRET NO. 2: the secret to fruit bearing is abiding. The branch which does not bear fruit is taken away, for apart from Him we can do nothing. The branch which does not bear fruit will be taken away and cast into the fire. This is not a believer, for we are saved and indwelt and Jesus Himself, told us it is “forever”. He will not leave us nor depart from us. He will however, chastise, rebuke, and scourge us for the Father disciplines those He loves. The branches that burn are “Judas Branches”; they are tares among the wheat. They are fig trees with many leaves of activities, but no fruit. Pruning is evidence of the Gardener’s activity in a believer’s life. The Vinedresser, prunes that you might bear more fruit. He cuts away that which keeps you from being more fruitful
SECRET NO. 3. So the secret of living, knowing the reason for life is fruit bearing. And the secret to fruit bearing it abiding. What then is the secret to abiding? OBEDIENCE. Obedience leads to abiding. Listen to the Lord Jesus: “If you keep my commandments you abide in my love; just as I keep my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The farmer knows he must obey the laws of nature to enjoy the fruit of his labor. We must also obey the laws of God or else suffer the consequences. We will reap what we sow. Sow to the flesh and reap corruption; sow to the Spirit and reap life everlasting. Adam the first gardener, farmer/husbandman lost his position due to disobedience. Likewise, Israel as God’s Vine which was to be fruitful and multiply, lost its position due to disobedience. Thus God Himself became our True Vine, and our Last Adam, who when tempted in the Garden, did not yield to self will and was obedient even to death. The secret to abiding is obeying.
SECRET NO.4: The secret of obeying is loving. Jesus said: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my commandments.” One can obey out of fear of punishment. One can obey out of a means of selfishness, that is obey in order to get something they want. These types of obedience are not fulfilling. Obedience out of fear of punishment does not bring joy- it breeds a type of resentment and image of God as a harsh judge who is hard to please and quick to condemn. For the one who obeys God in order to get something from Him, that one will be angry with God and accuse Him of not being fair when not receiving what they asked for. They treat God like a vending machine in which they have inserted the coins of obedience and pull the lever of what they want, only to find it does not drop into their hands and they are angry at the vending machine. Love is the highest form of obedience for it comes from the heart. It wants only to do what pleases God, the One they love. God always looks at the heart for there is where motives lie.
SECRET NO. 5: The secret of loving, the key to obedience which leads to abiding and fruit bearing is knowing the Lord. Knowing Him personally. Knowing Him intimately. Knowing Him as He longs for you to know Him. For what comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about a person. (A.W. Tozer) “ No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father, I have made known unto you. “ (John 15: 15) The better you know Jesus Christ, the more you will love Him. “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17: 3. This is the beginning of salvation. It is then our privilege and responsibility to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Guess what else? The more you love Him, the more you will become like Him and think like Him. The more you love Him, and love Him above all else, the more this will enrich the love you have for others, your spouse, children, friends, etc. The more you know about the Lord, about God, the more you will know and understand about yourself.
If you are going to fruitful and bear fruit for the Lord, then you must spend time with Him each and every day. There is no more important spiritual discipline that the daily intake of scripture.
What are the elements to involved in a fruitful life? Read Romans 12: 1, 2: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
- Give God your body. He wants His life to work in and through your body.
- Give God your mind. God wants to transform your mind through His Word.
- Give God your will, that you might prove what His will is.
- Give God your heart. For the heart is seat of worship. And He alone is worthy of our worship; plus what we worship we become like.
As you begin to abide in the Lord and bear fruit, you must be watchful for the enemy wants to keep you from bearing fruit. So watch and pray. There are little foxes, those sins you have classified as little or insignificant, more of a bad habit but not that harmful, which want to steal your fruit and damage the branch in doing so. We also have make sure we stay clean, through confession and repentance of sin. For the leaf with is covered with dirt is unhealthy and is not receiving enough light which is part of the fruit bearing process. There is also insects and various forms of blight which can spread in the garden. The insects of gossip in the church body, the sarcastic criticism and the lack of preparation for worshipping the Lord in Spirit and Truth. There are also storms which can come- or an early frost, but the Lord Jesus has told us how to storm-proof our lives through hearing and putting into practice His teaching, His laws, His principles.
The abundant life is yours and Jesus has given us the instructions for having the abundant life and more than that- He has give us Himself.
May you in 2018, discover the life-changing principles of fruit bearing which are abiding, obeying, loving and knowing.
Tomorrow morning, the first day of a new year you can meet with the Lord Jesus. Where?
“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known!”