· This week, my son and I were praying for some missionaries in India; pulled out an atlas; looked at a picture of man guiding a wooden plow pulled by two cows. A sight we don’t see in America anymore. But it was very prevalent in ancient Israel, which was still an agrarian society dominated by fields and farms, cattle and crops.
· It is no wonder that with so many farms in Israel, and so many farmers among God’s people, many parables and metaphors in the Bible are taken from this sphere of life: e.g. Israel is called God’s vineyard in Isaiah 5 that produced worthless grapes; parable of sower and soil; parable of mustard seed; unless grain of wheat falls into earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Even Paul said that our resurrection is like a seed.
· In John 15, where I invite you to turn, we find one of the most important uses in all the Bible. Jesus presents Himself to us as the true vine, and calls us to abide in Him.
· You will remember that last week we learned that abiding in Christ means “believing and remaining in Jesus Christ to bear fruit for the glory of God.” Abiding in Jesus means we have a living, vibrant union with Him.
· Let me show you how practical this doctrine of abiding in Christ is. Read Ed Welch quote, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, p. 260 –
· Today, we return to this passage to ask this question: How does God (the farmer), produce the very best fruit in us (His vineyard)?
· TWO WAYS GOD MAKES HIS VINEYARD FRUITFUL:
He removes dead branches
· Rd. v. 2
· John thinks in black and white. Believers and unbelievers; Jesus - those who love darkness and those who come to the Light; those who do evil and those who practice the truth. Two kinds of branches: those that bear fruit and those that don’t.
· May have contact with the gospel, appearance of being connected to the vine – “in Me.” May look the most religious; go to church, drop money in the plate, sing the loudest, use all the right Christian language.
· But no fruit – no genuine life; no fruit of character and good works springing up from their connection with Christ. It’s all a show, like a bowl of plastic fruit on the table centerpiece.
· Remember that Judas had just slipped out a short time ago.
· What does God do with to such branches? V. 6
· Jesus continues the vine metaphor. Fruitless branches were literally cut off, thrown into heaps, gathered up, and burned. But we know He is really speaking here of the fate of unbelievers.
· Jesus’ language is very explicit. Anyone that does not believe in Christ, that does not know Him or abide in Him, will suffer the righteous wrath of God in hell.
· The connection of fire and divine judgment is even more clearly seen in the parable of the wheat and the tares. – man growing wheat; enemy came and sowed tares into field:
· Matthew 13:30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’ When Jesus explains the parable, He says, “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
· We all deserve this fate because we have all rebelled against God. There’s only one way to avoid it: Run to the cross and beg for God’s forgiveness. Admit you are a sinner, turn from that sin and ask for God to forgive you through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
· Hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption. (Ps. 130:7)
· >>God makes His vineyard fruitful by removing the dead branches. But secondly…
He prunes fruitful branches
· Those of us who do know Christ will bear some fruit. If there’s no fruit, no growth, happening in your life, your salvation is very questionable. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
· But God does not settle for just a little fruit in our life. He wants the very best for us. He wants us to bear much fruit or great fruit (v. 8). And the most effective way to do that is by pruning. Clipping off unfruitful branches, trimming and shaping us,
· My wife and I had the privilege of attending the Truth & Life Conference last month. The theme was suffering. What really struck me was to learn that suffering is actually a gift! -Phil. 1:12-14, 29-30 – something given, done as a favor.
· Sinclair Ferguson shared four reasons for suffering: (1) to humble us under the mighty hand of God; reveals sin, we are but creatures. (2) to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ; wean away from idolatry of this world, look like those you spend time with. (3) to advance His Gospel purposes; a larger purpose we might not see. (4) To display His own glory.
· I want the end, but I so often not want the means!
· Cf. Heb. 12 – Whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives…we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplines us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
· Do not worry or complain, or simply pray to escape the suffering.
· Ask what fruit might God be producing in my life?
· Another guest at the T&L Conference was Joni Erickson Tada. She experienced a diving accident 40 years ago and became a quadripeligic, and has a powerful testimony. Rd. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God quote on p. 203.
· May each of you learn to see the blessing in suffering as well. It is a gift, and it is God’s chosen means of pruning us to make us more fruitful.