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Faithlife

Lessons from the Garden III

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On our journey to discover God’s vision for Sunnyside, I hope it’s becoming clear that God desires for each person to reach his or her potential in Him - that we become all that He created and designed for us to be. But also, we that we have a responsibility to help others reach their potential in Christ. It is my desire that this church would become an epicenter of life in the community - that we as a congregation pray together, study together, and work together - that we build each other up so that we become a place where people find healing and hope.
Lessons from the Garden III
On our journey to discover God’s vision for Sunnyside, I hope it’s becoming clear that God desires for each person to reach his or her potential in Him - that we become all that He created and designed for us to be. But also, we that we have a responsibility to help others reach their potential in Christ. It is my desire that this church would become an epicenter of life in the community - that we as a congregation pray together, study together, and work together - that we build each other up so that we become a place where people find healing and hope.
Now, on this journey, we have come to . In this passage, there are three main characters: God, who is the gardener (and why do gardeners garden - because they enjoy it), Jesus who is the vine (He is the sustenance or nourishment to the disciple), and then we have disciples, who are the branches (you and me).
In this passage, we also find several critical concepts, three of which are:
Our Product, Our Position and Our Process.
Our Product - Remember, is the result of love and obedience to Jesus, and ultimately, it’s the result of being all that God designed us to be and do.
Remember, we are not responsible for the product, we are, however, responsible for love and obedience.
And the truth is, it is God’s desires for each branch/disciple to be fruitful - to produce much. Now, how is that accomplished? Through Position (where we reside or abide) and Process (or pruning). I’ll think you’ll see that as we go along.
“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, as I also 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.
John 15:1–8 NIV
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
So, let’s talk about
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are 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 done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Our Position

So, let’s talk about Position and then Process.
and then Process.
Now, in this passage, there are two positions.
The First Position is in Christ.
1) Position is in Christ.
These are the branches that reside, or abide, or remain in Jesus. These are the branches that love and obey the teachings of Christ. His word is in them and consequently they produce fruit - fruit that glorifies God, helps make disciples and conforms the person to Christlikeness. That’s position one.
The second Position is apart from Christ.
These are the branches that produce zero fruit. Not a little or less than others, but none. Not talking about the weak Christian, or the struggling Christian, or the one who’s barely holding on.
So who are we talking about? Let me explain what it means to Remain (abide) and what it means to be Cut Off. That might help us to answer the question.
Let’s define two terms here - Remain (abide) and Cut Off.
To remain (μένω, menō), a verb and written in the active voice. It means to continue in an activity, or to remain in place.
It means to continue or to stay.
It means exactly what it means - to stay put. Jesus is saying, - “If you stay in Me, you’re going to produce fruit and you’re going to be fine, you have nothing to worry about. But if you don’t stay in me - you need to be concerned. Branches that don’t stay in Me, eventually will stop producing fruit, rot, and will get cut off.”
The implication here is that the branch, not God - the branch has willfully cut off its life sustaining connection to the vine. God is not looking to cut anyone off, that does not give Him joy. God will do everything He can to make sure you stay alive and remain in Him. But if a person refuses to remain connected to Christ, through Christian fellowship, through worship, through prayer and through the Word, there is a natural consequence, a natural progression of spiritual death.
2 Peter 2:20–21 NIV
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome (defeated), they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.
Now, what does it mean to be cut off? The word airō (αἴρω) means to cause to no longer experience or to destroy, with the implication of removal.
There are two predominant interpretations here.
To be “cut off” could mean to be cut off from salvation.
There are two predominant interpretations here. To be “cut off” could mean to be cut off from salvation. For whatever reason, you have completely cut Christ out of your life. Or, it means to be cut off from God’s blessing. If you turn your back on Jesus, He’s not going to bless you. If you’re living in sin, He’s not going to bless you.
For whatever reason, you have completely cut Christ out of your life. Or,
To be “cut off” could mean to be cut off from God’s blessing.
If you turn your back on Jesus, He’s not going to bless you. If you’re living in sin, He’s not going to bless you.
So, is it one or the other or both? I don’t know. But I do know this - both are plausible, and that is why last week I said it is vital to know your position.
If you are in Christ and you are pursuing Christ, if little by little you’re being transformed, and you’re loving Him and obeying Him, and even if along the journey you have ins and outs and ups and downs, … you’re fine. You’re safe and secure! Your feet are on the solid rock! Don’t worry about being cut off!
The one who claims to be a Christian and has nothing to show for it (zero fruit), or the ones who have completely turned their backs on the Lord, they are the ones that need to be concerned about being cut off. And at a minimum, it means to be cut off from God’s blessings. And worst-case scenario - it means being cut off like a dead branch and thrown into the fire.
Friends, it is important to know the condition of your soul.
You know what a good indicator is that you have not been cut off? God is pursuing you, and you know it. There was a time in the Army I walked away from the Lord for several years. Didn’t care much about being a Christian - just living the way I wanted. But way, way back in my mind - His voice kept saying, “Chad, come back. Come back, come back to me.”
Now, let’s talk about

Process

Again, why do gardeners garden? Because they enjoy it. And when a gardener starts a garden, he plants with the intent of reaping the blessing of harvest. But the gardener knows that to have the most bountiful harvest possible, for each plant to reach its full potential, the gardener must be involved. He waters, fertilizes, sprays for bugs, pulls weeds, prunes and so on.
And Everything the gardener does is for the benefit of the plant!
I understand there are people who don’t put a lot of effort into their gardens, but I do and here’s why - I don’t want just a couple of tomatoes - I want a bunch of tomatoes! I want my plants to succeed, to produce as much fruit as they can possibly produce! Therefore, I will do whatever I can to help my plants have the largest harvest possible.
Jesus said, “My Father is the gardener.” And He wants you and I to have the largest harvest possible, so you need to know this -
God is working always for our benefit.
Everything God does for us, in us, through us and … with us is for our benefit and of course, ultimately for His glory.
Everything God does for us, in us, through us and with us is for our benefit and ultimately His glory.
And what is our go-to passage for that truth? . So let’s look at that for a moment and remember, we’re talking about a process.
And we know that in all things (in every situation) God works for the good (agathōs - beneficial, useful) of those who love him (who are they who love Him? Those who obey), who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
We often interpret , and rightfully so, that no matter what the event is or was, God can take it and turn it into something that has benefit or use. For example, God has taken some of my past sinful choices and some of my darkest moments, and has created something beneficial out of them. He has created opportunities for me to speak into the lives of others - not because of what I did, but because I have allowed God to take a past situation and transform it into something that has benefit, and is useful - not only for me, but also for others.
We often interpret , and rightfully so, that no matter what the event is or was, God can take it and turn it into something that has benefit or use. For example, God has taken some of my past sinful choices and some of my darkest moments, and has created something beneficial out of them. He has created opportunities for me to speak into the lives of others - not because of what I did, but because I have allowed God to take a past situation and transform it into something that has benefit, and is useful - not only for me, but also for others.
Again, God can take any event and turn it into something that has benefit or use. That’s how amazing God is, but that is only half of it. We often misinterpret this as God is the one who puts all the time and effort into turning our messy lives into something good. Or worse, we can misinterpret this as God has an obligation to make our lives good. And by good, I mean that God is supposed to work everything out the way I want. That is not what this teaches.
And we know that in all things God works .…
The word “works,” in the Greek is synergeō - it’s where we get the word synergy - which means to work together.
God will do everything He can to take whatever we’ve been through, whatever we’ve done - good and bad, and work it into something that is beneficial; something that has use.
But God doesn’t do all the work - synergeō - He works in partnership, in relationship with us. If I was going to allow God to take my past and turn it into something beneficial, I had to work with Him in the process. I had to respond to whatever the Holy Spirit wanted to do in my life. Sometimes it was confession and repentance and making necessary changes in my behavior and character. At other times, it was to take action and speak up - all kinds of things happened in the process.
But here’s the thing - God could not work all things out for good if I did not work with Him in the process. And that process is called pruning. We understand that pruning is the removal of harmful or unnecessary parts of a plant. It’s the removal of anything that hinders the plant from becoming all that it can be. Sometimes, there’s a dying or diseased leaf that needs cut off to protect the plant. Some plants have what are called sucker branches. They’re not bad or harmful, they’re just not productive and they consume valuable nourishment from the rest of the plant.
God wanted to cut away from my life, any harmful and unnecessary thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, that consumed valuable nourishment, that prevented me from becoming all that I was created to be. He wanted to cut off anything that hindered Him from making my past something that could be beneficial and useful - either to my character or to someone else.
Listen,
If maximum fruitfulness is the goal, then the greatest means to produce maximum fruit is a process called pruning.
A gardener can water, pull weeds, fertilize and so on - and that’s all good, but none of those will produce maximum fruit like pruning, and pruning is the process where in all things God works for the good of those who love him.
Now, when I prune my plants, I don’t go out there and start hacking away. I will look at my plants and determine what needs trimmed. I will trim only what needs trimmed, and I think God does the same with us. He’s not eager to slash and burn. He will only cut away what needs to be but away - for our benefit, so that we can be the best that we can be. He wants to remove whatever is harmful and unnecessary and anything that hinders our becoming like Him.
Now, when I prune my plants, I simply cut what needs to be cut. I don’t have a conversation with the plant. I don’t ask the plant for its opinion. I just cut.
Now, God will do that in our lives, however, at least in my experience, God rarely just cuts. Typically, going back to - it’s a relational, mutual process. God says, “Hey, I would like to cut that out of your life. It’s harmful or it’s not really helping you become like me.” And we say, “No.” And God, being the patient Gardener, continually works with us to mold and shape.
Sometimes it’s sin, sometimes it’s distractions, or sometimes it’s something good, but God wants to cut it away so we can be the best.
God is very concerned about our Position, that we remain in Him. And He takes us through a Process so we can produce the greatest Product we can. And the Gardener does it all because He enjoys His people, and wants to see them, not just exist, but to flourish. And it all begins with putting your trust and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Let me end with this.
Gardener turns barber, when trees needs a trim –
snip, clip, slashhhhh! And then –
A bower full of flowers, bears fashionable fruit,
each shiny face boasting a slick, fresh style
that's just-right around the ears –
All because the gardener picked up a pair of shears.
Orchard Barber Shop
" by Jacques Callot
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