In Hampton Court, near London, there is a grapevine, which is about 1,000 years old. This grapevine has one root, which is at least two feet thick, and some of the branches are 200 feet long. Despite its age, the vine produces several tons of grapes each year. Although some of the smaller branches are 200 feet from the main stem, they still bear the sweet and delicious fruit because they are connected to the vine. Life flows from that single root and throughout the vine, bringing nourishment and strength to each of the branches.
Jesus promises to do the same for us. He is the “true vine”, bringing life to each of the branches. The purpose of the vine is to bring nourishment to the branches in order that they might produce fruit. When separated from the vine the branches wither and die. The vitality of our spiritual life is dependent upon our connection to Christ the “true vine.”
Each of us must answer two questions this morning. First, are we connected to the vine, or is the life of Christ flowing within us? Secondly, if we are connected to the vine and we are joined to Christ, then how much fruit are we producing through our lives; is there no fruit, some fruit, or an abundance of fruit? John 15:1-8 states,(v.1) "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (v. 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. (v.3) You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (v. 4) Remain in me and I will 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. (v. 5) I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (v.6) If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (v. 7) If you remain in me and my words remains in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (v. 8) This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (NIV)
I. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE. (Verse 1)
Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the true vine.” Have you ever wondered why Jesus may have said that? I think I may know why. Think with me a moment about what has happened and where Jesus and His disciples most likely are. If you remember this is the night of Jesus’ betrayal, but before that happens, Jesus and the disciples have been in the upper room. As they celebrated the Passover in the upper room, Jesus had washed the disciples feet and spoken with them about the events that were to take place. After a great deal of discussion with His disciples, Jesus ends chapter 14 saying, “Come now; let us leave.” Matthew, another one of the disciples, says, that following the Passover meal, Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn and then went out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). I believe that it is as they are making their way from the upper room to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus continued to instruct this group who had walked with Him for the last three years. Jesus knew that time was running out, but He still had much that He wanted to share with the disciples. John 15 continues Jesus’ teaching with, “I am the true vine”. Jesus was a master teacher. He didn’t talk over people’s heads; He used things which were common to those He taught so they could understand His teaching. So I believe that as Jesus and the disciples were making their way, they walked beside something familiar to everyone in Jerusalem – a grapevine. In this way then, Jesus can walk up to the vine and tell His disciples, “I am the true vine.” Now He had their attention; now Jesus was using something that they were familiar with and could understand as an “illustrated sermon.” In the upper room Jesus had told His disciples some things that would be difficult to understand, but now Jesus could help them to comprehend what He had told them. Two things stand out from what Jesus had told His disciples in the upper room from John 14. First, Jesus had told His disciples that He was “the life” (John 14:6). Second He said that the Holy Spirit, the “allon parakleton” that is another of the same kind, coming with strength, would come to be in them (John 14:16-18). Jesus clarifies the upper room teaching with an illustration that we can all understand when He says “I am the true vine.” His method is comparable to the simple science experiment we do to explain hard concepts to our children. Have you ever done this one? Take an unhealthy and withered piece of celery and put it into a glass of colored water. Guess what happens? The celery takes a big drink of water and stands back up; it looks healthy again (except maybe for where the veins within the stalk had turned red from the food coloring). You can see that life is renewed within that piece of celery. And Jesus, with his own easy illustration, tries to make the same point with his apostles. Everyone living in Jerusalem, and even those rough fishermen among the twelve who walked with Jesus, knew that life flowed from the vine into the branches. So he used this common sight, around Jerusalem, to bring further understanding to what He had said earlier. Therefore, Jesus is showing His disciples and us that He is the source of spiritual life. Jesus is the source of life, a resource made available by the Holy Spirit when He comes to dwell within the believer. John spells it out plainly for us in 1 John 5:11-12. And this is the testimony: (v. 11) God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (v. 12) He, who has the Son, has life; he, who does not have the Son of God, does not have life. (NIV)
Now before we move any further we need to stop and deal with our first question, “Are you connected to the vine?” If you are not connected to Jesus through the forgiveness of your sin, if you have not let Jesus rescue you from drowning in a turbulent sea of sin, then you are as good as dead. The life you are living is empty and meaningless because your aren’t connected to the source of life. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV) Romans 6 :4-5 also show us how to become one with him. It is done originally by placing our faith in Him through the waters of baptism. The choice is yours. You can either stay the way you are, or you can choose to be grafted into the life-giving vine. All the other vines are lifeless; the branches have no real fruit because there is no life in the vine. But when you are connected to Jesus, suddenly everything will be made new and alive.
II. THE LIFE SOURCE PRODUCES FRUIT. (Verses 2-8)
Jesus is the life source and His life within the believer is for one purpose–to produce fruit. The question we need to think
about for ourselves is, “How much fruit is being produced, is there no fruit, some fruit, or an abundance of fruit?”
Remember, Jesus is talking with His disciples. Jesus is the true vine and His disciples and those who believe in Him are
the branches. So when we think about the quantity of fruit in an individual’s life we are talking about believers – that is
those connected to the vine. As we said, anyone who is not connected to Jesus, cannot bear fruit. Therefore, the question as
to how much fruit is being produced in your life does not deal with your salvation; if you have been saved, then you are
connected to the vine. Rather the quantity of fruit deals with the issue of what you are doing with the life source that is
Now before we deal with that question, let’s quickly THINK ABOUT THE FRUIT. Some of you may be wondering exactly what is this fruit we are supposed to be producing.
So which one is it? Let’s have Jesus answer that question. Matthew 7:16-18. (v. 16) By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? (v. 17) Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (v. 18) A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. (NIV)
Jesus says you will can recognize the fruit; we are fruit inspectors. So let’s check out the fruit:
So what is the fruit of the believers’ life that is connected to Jesus, the true life-giving vine? ALL OF THE ABOVE! Those who are Christ’s branches should desire to produce more and more of ALL His fruit. That brings us back to the question of quantity. How much fruit is your life producing; is there no fruit, some fruit or an abundance of fruit?
a. The branches that produce NO FRUIT. (Verses 2a, 6)
Does it surprise you that there can be branches connected to the vine which produce no fruit? I believe Jesus identifies such branches. On the surface we may think both receive the same treatment by the gardener. The fruitless branch is cut off and thrown into the fire; isn’t that right? See John 15: 2,6. Jesus said the Father’s desire is that all who are in Christ will produce fruit bringing glory to the Father. Yet according to 2 Peter 3:9 [He] is not willing that ANY should perish (KJV) The Father receives no glory by cutting off branches that are in Christ. So like a gardener does for the new branches; he tries to lift us up first, he tries to give us support and to train us to produce fruit. He knows that new branches often grow along the ground; they get covered with dirt and are shaded from the light of the sun. Although they are alive, they can’t produce fruit. The gardener has to wash the dirt from the leaves and lift these branches up onto the trellis to get the needed light from the sun. So the branch is cleansed, lifted up and trained to grow in a place where it can produce fruit. Yet even with this type of care, some chose not to produce fruit. Like a rebellious branch, they return to the filth of the world. Hebrews 3:12. See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (NIV) With such a branch the Father has no choice. He must prune it, for fear that it will bring disease to the rest of the plant or drain the needed life strength for the weaker, more promising offshoots. Now don’t miss this warning!
b. The branches that produce SOME FRUIT. (Verses 2-4)
Not all branches are as fruitful as others. Some branches may have bushels of fruit; while another branch may only have a single bushel or a peck or two; and still other branches while not have barren very much fruit at all. NOW DON’T CONFUSE QUANTITY AND QUALITY. As a believer you are joined to the vine. The life of Christ within the vine is what produces the fruit. Therefore any fruit produced in your life - obedience, reproduction, or the Fruit of the Spirit, IT IS ALL GOOD FRUIT. Christ’s life in you will not produce inferior fruit. Christ, the true vine, only produces the best quality fruit. However, each of us, as branches, can restrict the quantity of fruit produced in our lives. Look again at what Jesus said. John 15:2-4 (v. 2) . . .every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (v. 3) You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (v. 4) Remain in me, and I will 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. (NIV) What is it that restricts the production of fruit? In a word it’s SELF. We love Christ; His Spirit is within us, and His fruit is evident in our lives. But from time to time, more often for some and less for others, we stop relying upon Christ and His life within us and live our life in our own strength. Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself!” In those times when we stop depending on Christ and rely upon our own strength and ability, it is then that the branch is unable to continue to produce fruit. Often times we may fall into sin once again simply because we didn’t depend upon Christ, the source of life, to help us. What does the Father do for the branch that only produces some fruit? Does He cut the branch off and throw it away? No, the Father’s desire is that each branch produces an abundance of fruit; that’s not possible if the branches are cut off of the vine. What did Jesus say the Father would do? “Every branch in me that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” What is the Father doing when He prunes the branches? He is causing us to stop depending upon self in order that we might rely fully on Christ and bear more fruit.
Have any of you noticed, PRUNING IS PAINFUL. But have you also noticed that although pruning is painful, PRUNING IS PRODUCTIVE. When the branches are pruned back more fruit really is produced. The pain of cutting accomplishes what the Father intends – FRUITFULNESS! Hebrews 12:7,11 (v. 7) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? . . . (v. 11) No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV) Pruning happens with trials, but also through the action of the Word of God in our lives. See Hebrews 4:12-13. How does he let the Word prune us? Through the instruction we may get in our personal devotions, sermons, teaching and interactions in our Bible classes and small groups. To do so, he places us in relationship with other believers. We need each other to grow effectively and be fruitful; none of us can make it alone. I believe this is the single most important thing that God does for us. Being a part of a church and sharing in loving relationships with other Christians is vital to your spiritual health.
With His Word, God renews our minds so that we no longer conform to the ways of this world but pursue His kingdom; He teaches us to hate sin and desire righteousness in our lives. If we don’t let God lift us up with the Word, if we don’t enter into relationships with other believers, if we don’t apply His word to our lives, if we don’t let the Holy Spirit renew our minds, then we are cutting off the flow of Christ’s source of life that He places within us and we may never produce the fruits he intends for us to produce.
c. The branches that produce an ABUNDANCE of FRUIT. (Verses 5, 7-8)
John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (NIV) These are the branches that have been properly trained through the discipline of pruning. They have crucified self and have learned that apart from Christ they can do nothing. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV) John 15:7-8 (v. 7) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (v. 8) This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (NIV) Why can Jesus say what He does in verse seven? Those branches that remain in Him and His word remains in them will not ask selfishly. They have died to self and the passions of the world; they live for Christ. Therefore whatever they ask for is what Jesus would ask for.
Finally, when we mature as believers, so that we bear an abundance of fruit, the Father is glorified, as we show ourselves to be Christ’s disciples.
Jesus, the true vine is producing fruit within His branches. Christ’s fruit is good; it alone will endure. How much fruit are you letting be produced through your life? Is there no fruit, some fruit or an abundance of fruit?