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  • Chad Werkhoven

John 15:1-8 - Vineyard Theology

God sovereignly puts new life into dead sticks like you.



 

John 15:1-8 (NIV):


“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.


“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.

 

Listen to passage & devotional:


 

Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man


Man subjected himself willingly to sin,

becoming wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways.


Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary

concerning man’s free will,

since man is nothing but the slave of sin

and cannot do a thing

unless it is “given him from heaven.”


For who can boast of being able

to do anything good by himself,

since Christ says,

“No one can come to me

unless my Father who sent me

draws him”?


Who can glory in his own will

when he understands that “the mind of the flesh

is enmity against God”?

Who can speak of his own knowledge

in view of the fact that “the natural man

does not understand the things of the Spirit of God”?


In short,

who can produce a single thought,

since he knows that we are “not able to think a thing”

about ourselves,

by ourselves,

but that “our ability is from God”?


And therefore,

what the apostle says

ought rightly to stand fixed and firm:

“God works within us both to will and to do

according to his good pleasure.”


For there is no understanding nor will

conforming to God’s understanding and will

apart from Christ’s involvement,

as he teaches us when he says,

“Without me you can do nothing.”

 

Summary


Nobody would berate the branch of an apple tree laying on the ground, broken off for one reason or another, for not producing apples. Whether you understand the science behind it or not, it's more or less common sense to understand that this limb, which once pulsated with life, energy and the ability to foster the growth of delicious and nutritious fruit, is nothing more than a cold, lifeless stick once detached from the tree.


So although Jesus' metaphor here (this passage isn't a parable, since it's a comparison rather than a story) seems to make sense, there is something quite odd about it. It's obvious that branches must remain in the vine to bear fruit, that unproductive branches are cut off, and that once detached they wither, are piled up and burned. Furthermore, it doesn't require too much imagination to understand how this applies to us as people who need to remain connected to our Creator.


What's so odd is that Jesus needs to point this out.


Our sinful instinct is so strong that we look past what ought to be so basic and straightforward - that our lives completely depend upon our connection to the giver of life - because we'd so much rather be our own independent tree rather than a measly branch.


Jesus summarizes the entire Bible in v8. You were created by the Father to glorify Him by bearing much fruit, and the way you do that is by showing yourself to be Christ's disciple. In the hours right before His crucifixion, Jesus presents His disciples, both then and now, with only two alternatives: remain in Him and bear the fruit you were created for, or be broken off and thrown into the fire.



Dig Deeper


Certainly this teaching from Jesus has all sorts of applications, but we're reading it here today in the context of understanding that our ability to come to Jesus for salvation is fully dependent upon God's sovereignty. "Apart from me," Jesus tells us, "you can do nothing."


In other words, on our own, as fallen, sinful human beings, we have all the capabilities of a dried out, dead stick. Just as it would be ludicrous to expect a broken off branch to elevate itself to its previous height and somehow graft itself back on to the tree, it's impossible for anybody to lift themselves back up to the sinless condition God created man in. As Paul puts it so plainly, "you were dead in your transgressions and sins" before being made alive (Ephesians 2:1).


This is the miracle of how the Bible presents salvation. You were born in sin, as spiritually withered and lifeless as the broken off branches in this passage and the dried out bones piled up in Ezekiel 37. Yet God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, has picked you up, breathed new life into you, and reattached you to the "true vine," Jesus Christ, so that you might bear fruit.



  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who is the gardener who cuts off branches that bear no fruit and prunes the ones that do so that they'll bear even more fruit;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for reattaching you to the true vine and pray that in Him you will bear much fruit;

  • ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:

 

Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 17

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