AGCC Sun. a.m. 9/20/98
TEXT: John 15:1-11
INTRO: John introduces us to
Jesus by 7 "I am" statements. These reveal Christ to those who read his gospel
about the nature and person of Christ. We are going to look at the 7 "I am"
statements in John's gospel in a series of sermons so we can know Christ and
what it is He calls us to.
One of the early things we need to know about Christ is that HE is our
life! We will not succeed if we ever think it is us that makes our spiritual
life work. While we may have some responsibility for our spiritual growth, it is
really the work of Christ that gives rise to our life.
A couple of years ago, the Associated Press
released a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that
production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land, in addition to the many
hours of the farmer's labor, required 4,000,000 pounds of water, 6,800 pounds of
oxygen, 5,200 pounds of carbon, 160 pounds of nitrogen, 125 pounds of potassium,
75 pounds of yellow sulfur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition
to these things, which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time
are critical. It was estimated that only 5% of the produce of a farm can be
attributed to the efforts of man. If we were honest, we'd have to admit that the
same is true in producing spiritual fruit.
It is imperative that we understand the importance of "remaining" in
Christ for our spiritual life. It is not enough to make a profession of faith if it is not followed by a
practice of faith!
The Bible teaches us that our spiritual life will falter if we don't
actively remain in Christ and produce fruit, in fact, we can die spiritually if
we live a totally fruitless life!
I. FRUITLESS BRANCHES 15:1-2a, 6
A. Cut! 15:1-2a
1. As John introduces us to Christ here as a "vine," he makes it quite clear that those branches that produce NO fruit will be cut off!
a. These are branches that have been attached to the vine.
b. It is clear that John is teaching here that branches that started off attached but produce NO fruit whatsoever will be terminated and cast aside.
2. There is nothing more tragic than to accept Christ as your savior but then go on to live like you always did before and produce NO spiritual fruit whatsoever!
a. It is not "once saved, always saved"….
b. It is "once saved, REMAIN saved"!
3. You cannot cut off a branch that is not attached already!
4. It is a great tragedy when a believer or a Church moves away from any
fruitfulness and finally finds itself lost.
ILLUS: When I lived in Atlanta, several years ago, I noticed in the Yellow Pages, in the listing of restaurants, an entry for a place called Church of God Grill. The peculiar name aroused my curiosity and I dialed the number.
A man answered with a cheery, "Hello! Church of God Grill!"
I asked how his restaurant had been given such an unusual name, and he told me: "Well, we had a little mission down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such a good business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After a while we just closed down the church altogether and kept on serving the chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that's Church of God Grill."
This incident is not unlike many churches,
denominations, and individuals who over time, have drifted away from their
original purpose. -- From
Making It Happen, by Charles Paul Conn, p. 95
5. A complete loss of any fruitfulness is necessary to be removed.
a. Judas Iscariot found himself cut away by his choices to turn against Christ whom he had earlier served.
b. King Saul who earlier in his life had been anointed by God found himself cut away from God and His Spirit through unfruitfulness.
c. Demas in I Tim. 4:10 is said to have
deserted the Apostle Paul because he loved the present world and evidently had
returned to it rather than produce spiritual fruit.
B. Condemned 15:6
1. When a branch once attached ceases to demonstrate any life in it, it must be removed in order to keep disease from spreading into the healthy parts of the plant.
a. Thus the dead branches are condemned, cut, and thrown away.
b. They are only good for a brief moment of heat by burning.
2. The condemnation of rejecting Christ will be eternal fire!
ILLUS: "Our heart, reason, history, and the work of Christ convince us that without Him we cannot achieve our goal, that without Him we are doomed by God, and only Christ can save us."
These were deep and sensitive thoughts for a 17-year-old, revealing spiritual wisdom that few attain. He had been baptized into the Lutheran church in 1824, at age six, and was confirmed at 16. Now, to graduate from high school, he had been required to write an essay on a religious subject. He chose to explore "The union of believers with Christ, according to St. John's Gospel (John 15:1-14), an exposition on its basic essence, its absolute necessity and its consequences."
The fruit of our union with Christ, he continued, is our willingness "to sacrifice ourselves for our fellow man." And the "joy which the Epicureans in their superficial philosophy sought in vain... is a joy known only to the innocent heart united with Christ, and through Christ to God."
So wrote Karl Heinrich Marx, but by 1844, nine
years later, he had abandoned any Christian devotion he may have once felt. In
fact, his militant atheism and philosophical ideas of man's struggle for a
classless utopia free from the numbing effects of religion, established him as
one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.
-- From Moody Monthly, June
3. The tragic truth here is that lives lived without Christ are doomed to be condemned to eternal fire, a harsh truth most would rather not deal with!
4. There is however another option…..
II. FRUITFUL BRANCHES 15:1,2B,3-5,7-11
A. Cleansing 15:1,2b
1. A branch that even barely produces fruit will be allowed to stay in, but even these will find that there is a process of "pruning" (or "cleansing" as the Greek word literally means - notice next verse (3) mentions "clean") that takes place.
a. While this may at first appear drastic, the gardener knows that this is necessary to produce the best fruit possible.
b. Cutting back would appear to weaken a plant, but in fact it helps the plant put its energy in a more focused way to the important goal of the fruit instead of too much foliage.
2. The process of pruning can make a plant valuable and productive.
3. Failure to prune a fruit producing plant can result in low yields and poor quality fruit.
4. God is not satisfied with us "just getting by" in our walk with Him, He
knows that we need constant attention and pruning in order for our lives to
count for eternity.
ILLUS: The Christian walk is much like riding a bicycle; we are either moving
forward or falling off. --
Robert Tuttle, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3.
5. This is why sometimes after we accept Christ it may seem that we face some pretty big challenges and painful circumstances … these may simply be God's pruning process because our fruit is not developing as it should or could!
a. Of course if we are very fruitful the pruning process can be minimal.
b. Only when too much of a plant's energy is going into producing too much non fruitful life is this pruning necessary.
6. The pruning process is lifelong … it did not matter how old a grapevine
was, it always needed this kind of attention to keep the quality of the fruit up
over the years.
B. Constant 15:3-5
1. And now the great secret to fruitfulness is revealed, pruning would be meaningless if the branch was not in constant connection to the vine!
a. The idea of "remaining" here is important to our understanding of salvation.
b. There is responsibility on our part in salvation too, we must remain in Him to see the fruitfulness of His Spirit become a reality through us.
2. We cannot simply come to Christ somewhere in our past and then just coast through life as a fruitless Christian.
a. There is absolutely NO fruit if we don't remain in Christ!
b. Notice Jesus' words here: "apart from me you can do nothing"! He meant here that only through remaining in Him can we do anything with lasting spiritual value.
3. There can only be "life" as the branch remains attached to the
ILLUS: Donald Grey Barnhouse cites an amazing example of lasting fruitfulness.
In Hampton Court near London, there is a grapevine under glass; it is about 1,000 years old and has but one root which is at least two feet thick. Some of the branches are 200 feet long. Because of skillful cutting and pruning, the vine produces several tons of grapes each year. Even though some of the smaller branches are 200 feet from the main stem, they bear much fruit because they are joined to the vine and allow the life of the vine to flow through them.
He is the vine, and we are the branches. And
when we need pruning, the goal is always more fruit.
4. The importance of "daily" living for Christ is the main focus here. There must be a constant union with Christ that is evidenced in our daily walk in order for true fruitfulness to become a reality.
a. Fruitfulness is impossible if a branch is not attached to the vine.
b. Periodic attachment such as constantly removing and grafting back in again minimizes the opportunity for fruit to develop. It is better to remain constantly attached since there are always healing processes to go through after grafting.
5. The best fruit comes from pruned constantly attached branches.
a. Time is required to see the fruitfulness of pruning and constant attachment.
b. We must not get a short sighted view of God's work in our life.
C. Conditional 15:7-11
1. Notice Jesus' connection with answers to prayer and remaining in Him, they go hand in hand.
a. Too many nearly fruitless Christians can't figure out why their prayers aren't answered, but there does seem to be a connection here to being fruitful and having prayers answered.
b. Again the emphasis is on those who "remain" in Christ, they are the ones who live in obedience and thus have their prayers answered and their joy fulfilled.
2. There is here a direct connection between obedience and joy, between obedience and prayers that are answered, why?
a. Because obedience means doing things God's way, thus our prayer requests are for the right things and not the wrong, so they are answered.
b. Because obedience brings a deep satisfaction that we are pleasing God, and since we are IN HIM, His joy spills into us producing a deep and abiding joy!
3. When we are obedient to Christ the very fabric of our lives appear
different to the world, they can see in us the difference because we are drawing
our life from Christ and not from this world or ourselves.
ILLUS: Bearing fruit is essential to Christian discipleship. A life well lived is a more effective witness than words well said.
Benjamin Franklin learned that plaster sown in the fields would make things grow. He told his neighbors, but they did not believe him and they argued with him trying to prove that plaster could be of no use at all to grass or grain.
After a little while he allowed the matter to drop and said no more about it. But he went into the field early the next spring and sowed some grain. Close by the path, where men would walk, he traced some letters with his finger and put plaster into them and then sowed his seed in the field.
After a week or two the seed sprang up. His
neighbors, as they passed that way, were very much surprised to see, in brighter
green than all the rest of the field, the writing in large letters, "This has
been plastered." Benjamin Franklin did not need to argue with his neighbors any
more about the benefit of plaster for the fields. For as the season went on and
the grain grew, these bright green letters just rose up above all the rest until
they were a kind of relief-plate in the field -- "This has been plastered." "By
your fruits shall all men know that you are my disciples."
4. Fruit never develops without a constant source of life .. this can only come from Christ.
a. Our obedience is what directs Christ's life through us.
b. Much of our fruitfulness then is depended not only on the source of life which is Christ, but also on our obedience which is encouraged through pruning!
5. How fruitful is your walk with God?
a. Are you still attached by more than just calling yourself a Christian.
b. Are you witnessing God's pruning process in your life?
c. Is your testimony current, or only a past story?
6. God wants us fruitful, HE IS THE TRUE VINE!
CONCLUSION: Jesus never taught "once cleansed, always cleansed!" What is clear is Christ's call to remain in Him. No branch that fails to produce fruit will remain on the vine. God's goal for His disciples is that they produce fruit. God will go to great lengths to make this so! Is your life fruitful for Him?