Abiding in Christ — Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Abiding And Purging

 

Scripture for Meditation: Isaiah 5:2

The Context of the “True Vine”

We are going to look at John 15 in this chapter.  In order to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the True Vine,” we need to be familiar with its context.  The context of John 15 is really to be found in Isaiah chapter five.  Isaiah 5:2 is the record of what the Husbandman did with His vineyard. “He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked.”  And what was the Husbandman looking for? He looked “that it should bring forth grapes.”  He was looking for good fruit, but instead, Isaiah tells us, “it brought forth wild grapes”–sour, rotten grapes.

We are looking at the subject of what it means to abide in Christ.  This is God’s program for producing spiritual fruit.  Way back in Israel’s history God tells us through the prophet Isaiah why He chose Israel as a nation.  He wanted somebody to bear fruit on Earth for Him.  God chose the nation of Israel.  He built a fence around this nation.  He protected it.  He took the choicest vine.  He gave it everything it could possibly need to produce rich, sweet, cultivated grapes.  Sadly, that is not what the nation of Israelproduced.  They produced rotten, sour, wild grapes.  In Isaiah 5:5-6, God explains what He is going to do with the vine. God planted it to be a true vine but it was a false vine.  He says, “And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”  God was looking for one thing through the nation of Israel.  He wanted a fruitful witness on Earth.  And He was looking for fruit.  Because the nation of Israel did not produce fruit, God said, I am done with that people.  Because Israel refused to bear good fruit, God put them on the shelf temporarily.  In verse six God states that He will not take care of this vine any more.  Notice He says in Isaiah 5:7, “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.”  Israel was an unfaithful vine.  The Lord “looked for judgment” or justice.  What did He find?  He found, “oppression.” He looked “for righteousness,” and what did He find?  He saw men crying out because there was no righteousness.  What kind of fruit was the Husbandman looking for?  He was looking for godliness.  He was looking for justice.  He was looking for holiness.  He was looking for righteousness.  He was looking for a godly people, but sadly, that is not what He found in Israel.  They became a false, unfruitful vine.  Remember how John 15 begins?  Jesus said, “I am the true vine.”  What was His purpose?  In John chapters thirteen through seventeen, the Lord Jesus was teaching and preparing His disciples for the day of His departure. He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified and He would be gone from them physically.  He was to depart to His Father in Heaven.  There would be a time very soon for these disciples in which they would no longer enjoy this Master/disciple relationship, the earthly, physical Teacher/student relationship.  He was going to Heaven.  But He wanted to teach the disciples that just because He was going to Heaven, it did not mean they would have no relationship to Him at all.  There would be an even deeper spiritual relationship that the Lord Jesus would have with His true disciples. He begins to teach them the truth concerning the Vine and the branches.  What we see in these chapters are some of the last words that the Lord Jesus gave to His eleven apostles.  What He is telling them is this: I am going to Heaven and I am going to send you out into the world.  My purpose is for you to bear fruit.  Reproduce godliness wherever you go.  That was God’s concern.  He wants fruit in the Earth.  Yet it was very important how these disciples went about their job of producing fruit.  Remember back in John chapter thirteen?  The Lord Jesus met with His disciples and He disrobed, and girded Himself in a towel.   He took out a basin and began to wash their feet.  He was teaching them how to minister in His absence.  He was going to Heaven soon.  He wanted His disciples to know how to carry on His work on Earth.  It was going to require selfless, humble service.  Right after He washed their feet, Judas walked out of the room and Satan entered into him.  Judas departed from these men and Jesus said “That thou doest, do quickly” (Jn. 13:27).  Satan had entered into him to betray the Lord.  From that point on Jesus was there with His eleven true, believing disciples.  Judas was gone.  After Judas had departed, Jesus continued to teach His disciples how they were to minister in His Name, how they were to carry on the ministry of reproducing godliness (Christlike character) in this world in His absence.  He said a remarkable thing in John 14:12. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me [the true believers], the works that I do shall he do also.”  He elaborates on that by teaching them about the Vine and the branch.  The same life and character that is found in the Vine is going to be reproduced in the branch.  Not only will the same things that Jesus did be reproduced by the disciples, but even greater works!  The same kinds of fruit, (love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, goodness, temperance), the same kind of godliness that was manifested in the Lord Jesus was going to be duplicated hundreds of times over by many men all over the world–greater fruit. Jesus, in the period of His humiliation, was limited to a human body.  He was in one place at one time.  He was in one little nation: Israel.  After His departure He was going to send many men out all over the world.  They were to carry on His work and He had one very simple lesson for them.  When it comes to reproducing godliness, if you abide in Me you can do all things.  But if you do not abide in communion with Me, whatever you may produce, (you might build an empire), is all wood, hay, and stubble.  It is good for nothing but burning.  That is basically the truth that the Lord Jesus was trying to get across to His believing disciples in John 15.

 

Unfruitful Branches Are “Taken Away” (v. 2a)

The context of our text starts off in Isaiah.  Israel produced rotten fruit.  Now Jesus is going to teach His disciples how to produce GOOD fruit.  Jesus says in John 15:2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.”  Jesus begins this section by stating that not all branches are going to be fruitful and productive instantly and immediately.  We noted in an earlier chapter that the responsibility of the branch is one–abide in the Vine.  Stay close to the Lord Jesus.  The concept of abiding has to do with communion and fellowship, a heart that is close to God–yielded and surrendered. However, the kind of fruit the Lord Jesus is referring to does not appear by spontaneous generation!  Fruit is a supernatural work.  It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  It is God working in that yielded branch to reproduce the character of Jesus Christ.  We do not do the supernatural work.  Only God can do that.  God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure and He reproduces spiritual fruit in us.  Our job is to abide.

In this illustration, God the Father is the Husbandman.  He is the One that planted this Vine.  He is the One that takes care of this Vine.  A husbandman, (a farmer, a gardener, a vinedresser), has one purpose in mind and one purpose only when it comes to the vine.  Fruit!  How can I produce fruit from this vine?  How can I make it even more productive?  How can I produce much fruit from this little vine?  There really is only one reason to plant a vine.  It is not an ornamental tree.  It is kind of ugly and scraggly, with branches growing all over the place.  You certainly do not plant a vine as a shade tree.  You do not plant a vine for the wood.  It really is useless as far as its wood is concerned.  There is only one reason to plant a vine–fruit.  And if it does not produce fruit, it is worthless.

Fruit and fruit alone is what God was looking for in the lives of the disciples and it is what He is looking for in our lives as well.  The branch does not exist for itself.  The branch does not exist for its own pleasure or happiness in this life.  It exists to produce fruit unto the glory of the Vinedresser, God the Father.  This is the main point in the illustration of Jesus.  How and why is fruit produced?

Jesus wanted to let His disciples know that as they went out to all the world to work and to minister in His Name, if they did it on their own, their labors would be worthless.  The way fruit is produced in our lives is through relationship.  It is by abiding in the Vine.

Paul gives us another example.  How did the dispensation of Law end?  It ended in utter failure.  The Israelites tried to keep the Law and were miserable failures.  That vine proved to be a false vine.  They did not produce godliness.  They did not produce good fruit, but sour, rotten grapes.  Real fruit is produced as the result of a relationship to God.  Look what Paul wrote in Romans 7:4, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another.”  We died with Christ and that death ended our relationship to the Law.  It also brings us into a new relationship, which is not a relationship to Law.  The new relationship is described as a marriage to a Person.  We are married to Jesus Christ.  That is a deep, intimate, personal relationship.  The result of a deep, intimate, personal relationship is fruit unto God.  We are married to Him.  Even to Him that was raised from the dead that we should bring forth fruit unto God.  That is exactly the point of John 15.  We are to abide in Christ.  The illustration is of a branch totally surrendered, totally yielded to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is that relationship that results in fruit unto God.

Jesus wanted His disciples to be aware of the fact that when they went out into the world, they could not produce anything worthwhile on their own.  They may go out and build empires.  The Mormon Church has built an empire, but there is no spiritual fruit unto the glory of God in any of it!  Lots of religious men have done many things in God’s Name, but it is worth zero in God’s sight unless it is the result of abiding in Christ and abiding in the truth.  Before the Lord left them, and sent them out into the world to minister in His Name, Christ wanted them to know this important truth.  They could run themselves into the ground for the Lord Jesus, but if they did it in the flesh, if they did it in their own power, it was worthless.  As Paul said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).  It is a hard lesson to learn.  The responsibility of the disciples was not to go out and try to manufacture fruit.  That is an impossible task.  How could we ever go out and do something that is equal to what Jesus did on Earth?  How could we ever produce spiritual, supernatural fruit?  Whatever we produce in the flesh is a phony kind of fruit.  It is a phony kind of peace.  It is a phony kind of love.  It is the fruit of the flesh, and there is no good thing in the flesh.  Good fruit is the result of communion with Christ.

As they abide in the Vine, as they stay close to the Lord Jesus, God is able to work in their hearts.  God is able to work in them and through them to produce the kind of fruit that God wants.  And God is pictured in John 15 as the Husbandman, the Gardener, the One that takes care of this Vine.  And what does the Father do?  When we are abiding in Christ, He is able to produce fruit in the “least saint.”  But when we are out of fellowship, when we are walking in the flesh, we have limited what God can produce in our lives.  We have cut off that communion, and God is no longer able to work in us.  As we abide in Christ, as we stay close to Him and keep our heart yielded and sensitive, then God is able.  He is able to do mighty, marvelous works through us to produce fruit.

In John 15:2, Jesus says, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away.”  The term for taketh away literally means to lift up.  The King James translation, take away, is a bit misleading.  It almost appears as if He is saying that this branch is going to be broken off.  He talks about breaking off branches later on, but that is not the meaning of take away here.  The word for take away means to elevate, to lift up.  It is used of lifting up your voice in praise to God.  It is used of lifting up or elevating your hands as they did often times when they prayed.  The context has to determine exactly what is meant here by this lifting up.  Dwight Pentecost noted that vinedressers often resort to this procedure, especially in dry regions.  In dry regions, vines begin to grow along the ground, and they do not get the moisture that they need, therefore, the vinedresser has to lift it up.  When those blossoms begin to blossom on the ground, they are going to face into the dirt and fruit will not be produced.  It has to be lifted up.

I have never worked with grapevines, but I work with tomato vines a lot.  I do the same thing every year.  My tomato plants will flop all over the place on their own.  That is the nature of the plant. I have to lift up those branches and tie them up so blossoms are going to get the moisture.  Then they will receive the refreshing rain.  They are going to get the sunshine too.  They are not going to fall in the dirt and die.  When you lift it up, it is going to be productive.

That is what the Lord Jesus meant when He said that some of those branches that are abiding in Him, will not be productive.  Even healthy branches need the work of the husbandman.  The farmer has to take care of the plant.  The husbandman has complete control over the vine, over its environment.  He knows exactly what is best. After years of experience this vinedresser provides whatever the branches need to produce fruit.  Fruit does not just happen.

Even though we are abiding in Christ, we sometimes need to be lifted up.  That is exactly what God does to us.  Sometimes even abiding in Christ, when we are walking with the Lord, we can get discouraged.  We can fall over, or droop down.  We can have our hands hanging down and our knees can get weak and feeble.  We might feel down and discouraged.   Over and over again we read in the Bible that God lifts up the humble (I Pet. 5:5-6).  God takes care of us.  He knows what that Vine needs to be productive.  God knows how to lift us up and tie us back.  He knows how to encourage every single branch.

David wrote in Psalm 40 that there was a time when he was sinking in the mire.  He was in the horrible pit and God lifted him out of the mire.  He took him out of the horrible pit and put his feet on a solid rock. He put a song in his heart. David was no longer down in the dirt, down in the dumps and discouraged.  (Fruit does not grow when the whole plant is covered in dirt.)  However, when God lifted David up, he had a song of praise and the fruit of his lips was evident.

Right after describing divine chastening, the book of Hebrews tells us, “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Heb. 12:12).  God has to lift us up.  We are told to lift up our hands, but it is God who works in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.  Hearts that are gripped with grief, hearts that are gripped with discouragement, hearts that are down cast are in no condition to produce the kind of fruit God wants in us.  It is the Lord that lifts us up.  When we lift ourselves up, God abases us.  He knocks us right down.  But when we humble ourselves before Him, He lifts us up.  When God lifts us up, we are able to become productive, fruitful servants.  I know some understand this “taking away” (Jn. 15:2) to refer to severe chastisement in the life of a believer.  God DOES chastise the wayward believer. Read I Corinthians 11.  There we read of Christians coming to the Lord’s table drunk and fighting to be the first in line.  God said through Paul, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (I Cor. 11:30).  In other words, God judged them.  In fact, God even took some of their lives.  He caused them to die, just like He did with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).  There is a sin unto death.  It is certainly true that there are times when believers are taken away in judgment because there is no fruit in their life.  Yet in John 15:2, the Lord Jesus is speaking in a very positive sense about making branches which are abiding in Him more fruitful.  He lifts them up.  He strengthens.  He gives more grace.

 

Fruitful Branches Are Purged (vs. 2-3)

Not only does He lift up those branches that are low to the ground and growing into the dirt, but He also says in the middle of John 15:2, that “every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”  After the Husbandman finishes His work of lifting up those branches that are growing down in the dirt, He then takes the fruitful branches, (the healthy, strong branches) to make them even more fruitful.  He starts clipping.  He starts pruning back on this Vine.  I do that with my tomato plants also. After I lift up those branches, I tie them up on the stake so that they get all the air and sunshine they need.  Then I pull the small “sucker” branches out, and the branch becomes stronger.  Do you know what happens if you leave those little suckers in?  It grows into a long, leafy, useless branch.  It takes away nutrients and nourishment from the fruit-producing branch, and it produces nothing but leaves.  If you prune off that useless little sucker branch, you get a stronger, healthier, more productive vine.

I think that is exactly what the Lord Jesus was saying about this Vine.  The branches have to be lifted up and tied back and the useless growth has to be trimmed off and pruned back.  Notice that He does it to the fruitful branches.  One might think that the Husbandman would leave the fruitful branches alone.  Why bother with them?  They are already producing fruit.  You know the old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’  You see, God is not satisfied with fruit.  As you read on, God first says He wants branches to be fruitful.  He wants them to produce more fruit (Jn. 15:2).  And by the time we get to John 15:8, He wants much fruit.  A good branch will naturally produce good fruit.  However, with a little work from the Vinedresser, with a few cuttings here and lifting up there, that branch can produce even more fruit.  It can become very productive.  Therefore, God does not leave us alone.  Just because we are walking with the Lord, it does not mean that the Lord is going to stay out of our lives and let us go on our own.  You see, God is very active in our lives.  Even though we are abiding in Christ, even though we are producing fruit, God is always going to be doing something in our lives to make us more productive.  This is the work He calls purging. Pruning trees and cutting off the useless shoots hurts.  God hurts useful, productive branches so that they might become more productive.

What is God’s purpose?  Fruit!  That is all the Vinedresser is interested in.  The vine is not an ornamental tree.  It is not there for its good looks.  It is not there for shade.  It is not there for its wood.  It is there for only one reason–fruit.  God did not find it in Israel, but He wants to find fruit in our lives.

There is something else we should note about this.  When God cuts us back, when God takes a good, strong, healthy branch, and He allows trials and tragedies to come into our life, it is not necessarily punishment.  A lot of the things God allows into our lives are not punitive but preventative.  That is just what He allowed in Paul’s life.  In II Corinthians 12:1 Paul says, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.  I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.”  Now if anybody had cause to glory, it was Paul.  He describes for us in this chapter how he was taken up into Heaven.  He was taken up into the third Heaven.  Whether in the body or out of the body, he was not sure, but he knew he was there.  Whether it was bodily or in a vision, Paul was taken to Heaven.  He heard words that were unable to be repeated on Earth.  Paul saw visions of God.  He saw the glories of Heaven.  And, God brought him back down to Earth.  He says in II Corinthians 12:5, “Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.”  Paul is looking at this person who was caught up to Heaven as if he were a third party–but he was really talking about himself.

Paul did not do anything wrong.  He was not living in sin.  Paul was close to the Lord Jesus, and was abiding in that Vine.  Yet we see in I Corinthians 12:7 we read, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.”  This is just like what God did with Job.  God allowed Satan to inflict pain and suffering on a godly man.  God did the same with Paul.  God allowed Satan and his ministers to buffet Paul in some way.  Satan meant for the thorn in the flesh to destroy the Apostle Paul.  God meant it for good.  God, the Husbandman, was taking care of this branch.  And why did He do it?  It was not because Paul was living in sin.  It was not because there was some horrible iniquity in Paul life.  He says at the end of verse 7, “lest I should be exalted above measure.”  This was not punitive.  This was not a punishment.  This was not chastisement in order to get Paul to stop sinning.  Paul was already walking with God, but God knows human nature.  The Husbandman knows all about the branches.  Lest Paul should be puffed up with all the visions and revelations that God gave him, God sent him a thorn in the flesh, a physical pain, suffering, a reminder, that he was but flesh.

You see, even good branches (like the apostle Paul) naturally grow scraggly and useless on their own.  The Vinedresser that really wants fruit is going to cut those branches back.  He is going to prune.  He is going to inflict pain on even the good branches so that they become more productive and they do not become useless.  Had Paul become puffed up with pride over the visions and revelations he had received from the Lord, he would have become (as he said in I Corinthians 9) a castaway, useless, and disapproved.  And whatever he did in that condition, (broken away from the Vine, filled with human pride), was nothing but wood, hay, and stubble–worthless.

It was God in His grace that afflicted the Apostle Paul.  God allows trials and distressing circumstances to come into every one of our lives.  As trials come, the Devil might use them to shake our faith in Christ, to get us to curse God and die (see Job 2:9).  However, God has another purpose.  God wants fruit. He wants the life of Christ reproduced in us.  God’s goal is to make us fruitful, like His Son. He does this by allowing suffering, trials, and disappointment in our lives.  Yes, even the good branches experience this. Suffering is good when it deepens our sense of need for the Savior.  When suffering drives us even closer to the Vine, it is good.  Suffering is good when it causes us to lose all hope and confidence in self and it drives us to Christ.  Suffering is good when it causes the superficial joy and tinsel life of this world to diminish and it causes us to look on things above–then suffering is good.  Suffering and trials are good when they lead us to a deeper sense of our own sinfulness, our own weakness, our own frailty and our total dependence upon Christ the Vine.  Then it is good.

The psalmist learned this lesson, long before Jesus ever taught on the relationship between the branches and the Vine.  In Psalm 119:75, the psalmist experienced tribulation.  He says, “I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” When trials come, when we face personal struggles, when difficulties arise, it is a sign of maturity to be able to say thank you, Lord.  This is your faithfulness to me.  You are a faithful Vinedresser.  You are taking care of me, and this pruning, this affliction is good for me.

In Psalm 119:67 the writer says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”  A branch that started to wander off into useless growth was cut back by God’s affliction.  This branch recognized that if the Lord had not afflicted him, he would have continued to wander farther and farther away.  Who knows where he would have ended up?  Thank you, Lord!

He said in Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”  Is not that just what Paul said?  He wanted to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings (see Phil. 3:10). It is easy to say, “It is good to be afflicted.”   It is difficult to mean it.  Nonetheless, it is true.  This is maturity.  This is what the Husbandman is doing in every one of our lives.  When God allows troubles, trials, and struggles in our lives, it makes the world less attractive.  And, it makes our Savior so much more attractive.  It is unspeakable mercy when He allows trials in our lives because it causes us to learn that in the world we shall have tribulation, but in Christ we can have peace and joy (see Jn. 16:33).  Every trial that God has allowed in my life and yours, every painful experience that He has allowed us to face and endure, is an example of His infinitely gracious hand, making His branches more productive.  Even when it hurts, it is good.  Oh, that we could learn to submit to the hand of our heavenly Father who knows what is best for us!

Sometimes the Husbandman has to purge.  He has to prune.  He has to cut back.  Whatever we lose when God cuts us back, whatever He takes out of our lives, is designed to make us more productive and more fruitful.  If it drives us closer to Christ, we gain. In John 15:2 we see that some branches are bearing no fruit and need to be lifted up.  Then He mentions branches at the end of verse 2 that are bearing fruit, but when God is done working in them, they bring forth more fruit.  Then in verse 8, God’s real pleasure is that branches bear much fruit.  You see, there is a progression God has in mind for every one of us.  He is taking us on a journey through life in which we are drawn closer and closer to Jesus Christ.  The world becomes less and less attractive until the point where Christ is life.  For me to live is Christ. All of this is to make us like Him.  How does He do it?  Verse 3 says, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”  The term for purging in verse 2 is the same word for cleansing in verse 3.  What is that main instrument that God uses for cleansing or purging?  How does He cut us down to size?  He uses the Word of God.  Remember, He said that these eleven disciples (Judas had already gone), were already clean.  In John 13:10, He said, “ye are clean, but not all.”  Judas was still there then.  Now He is speaking to believers only and He said that they, the eleven, were clean.  They had already had a bath, but they needed to keep their feet clean.  They already had received the washing of regeneration, but had to maintain fellowship with Christ. If the feet are not clean, there is no part (fellowship) with Christ (Jn. 13:8).  The disciples needed to concentrate on their communion with Him.   Washing the feet in chapter thirteen was the illustration of HOW to maintain that communion–by confessing sins and keeping our “feet clean” as we walk in a dirty world.  Abiding in the Vine is His illustration of communion.

 

The Word of God: The Purging and Cleansing Instrument (v. 3)

And what is it that God uses to promote this fellowship, this communion?  It is the Word of God.  James says the Word of God is like a mirror.  It points out all the dirt on my face.  In John 15 it says that the Word of God is like a pruning instrument.  It cuts off the unnecessary growth in my life.  Not only so, but it cleanses.  You know, vines in the Middle East also had other problems–insects and dust.  In a very dry and dusty area, dust would gather on these leaves and photosynthesis would be hindered.  The plants would not grow well unless the dust was washed off. They needed to be clean so that growth would take place and fruit would be the result.

If the Vine is going to produce much fruit, it needs to be taken care of. God never leaves us alone.  He is always working in our lives.  If we open up the Bible and read it every day, God will remove the blight.  He will shake off the dust in our life.  He will cut away some useless growth, a dead end road we might have taken.  God will take care of us.  He does it through the Bible.  Anything that will hinder our growth needs to be cleansed away.  We need to get rid of anything that will hinder us in the race. Cast off that useless weight!  It is the Word of God that points all this out to us.

But the Word of God is useless unless we are yielded.  The Word of God is useless unless we respond.  Again, the whole issue is the matter of the heart.  If our hearts are soft and tender to Christ, if we are abiding in Him, no matter what He shows us from His Word, we will say YES LORD, I will change.  And, when our heart attitude is anything different, we can know we are not yielded.  We are not surrendered, and no good fruit will be produced.

 

 Branches that Abide Not Are Burned (v. 6)

In John 15:6, the Lord speaks to the eleven disciples and says, “If a man abide not in me.”  He brings up another horrible possibility.  It is possible for some of the branches in Him not to abide in Him.  Not all branches cooperate with the Husbandman.  Some refuse to abide in the Vine.  Some refuse fellowship and communion and wander away into sin.  Some want to go out and do the Lord’s work their own way.  Now, remember the point of all this.  Jesus is about to go to Jerusalem.  He is going to leave them and be crucified. He will not physically be with them any more and their former Master/disciple relationship is about to end. Yet He sends them out into the world to minister in His Name.  Though He is not with them physically, there is a spiritual relationship that is absolutely vital. He wants them to know how to minister in His Name, how to conduct the Lord’s work in His absence.   Thus He gives them one final stern warning. “If a man abide not in me,” (if a branch is not having fellowship with Me), that branch “is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”  If we harbor sin in our heart, we are not abiding in the Vine.  We are kidding ourselves.  Whatever we do in that condition is wood, hay, and stubble.  If we hold grudges in our hearts, if we are disobeying the Scriptures, and do not confess and forsake it, then there is no communion.  There is no fellowship, and no matter how hard we work for the Lord, it is wood, hay, and stubble.  It is worthless and good for nothing but to be burned up. If we refuse to yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives–if we resist, grieve or quench Him, then that heart attitude is SIN, which separates us from the Vine. Nothing we do in that condition is worth anything to the Lord.  He said, “without Me ye can do nothing.”  A serious warning is given to these eleven believers and to us!

What does God do when we resist?  What does God do to one of His sons who resists the work of the Holy Spirit in his life?   Well, it says in Hebrews 12:6, “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”  If we do not respond, God our Father is not going to let us get away with it.  If we do not respond, God scourges and chastises us.  He will deal with us.  He is that Husbandman.  He will trim us down to size, and He is plenty able to do so!

Why does He do it?  Why does the Husbandman cut us down sometimes?  Hebrews 12:10 says, “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”  Why does God cut us down when we resist His will, harbor sin in our heart, or refuse to surrender some area in our life?  He does so for our profit.  His purpose is that we become partakers of HIS holiness and produce good fruit.

In Hebrews 12:11 he says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous.”  When a branch sees the pruning shears come by, it is not a happy occasion. God may bring some very unhappy occasions in our lives to cut us down to size.  It is never joyous, but grievous, “nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit.”  That is all God is after – fruit, the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.”  Which branches benefit from the pruning? Only the branches “which are exercised,” (those who submit and surrender) gain the benefit!  When useless growth is removed, the end result is fruit. It is good for us to submit to God’s pruning shears!

God takes care of His Vine.  Anything that we produce when we are not abiding in the Vine is good for nothing.  Read I Corinthians 3:12-17.  We are all going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Everything we have done with our life is going to be tested by the fire.  There are only two building materials.  First of all, there are the building materials (works) produced in the power of the Spirit when yielded to Christ. Those works (gold, silver, and precious stones) will stand the test of fire. Secondly there are those building materials which were the result of the flesh (wood, hay, and stubble).  They will not stand the test of fire.  Once burned, it is all gone.  It is useless.  It was a wasted life.  That is exactly what Jesus is getting across in John 15.  His true disciples were sent out to minister for Him and there are two ways they could minister in His Name.  They could work their fingers to the bone in His name–but if it did not stem from a close, abiding relationship to Christ, it was worthless… a wasted life.  On the other hand, if they would abide in Christ, and concentrate on their relationship to Him, GOD would give increase to their ministry.  They would produce FRUIT unto the glory of the Husbandman. Fruit is the result of a spiritual relationship to Christ.