John 15:1-11

"I am the bread of life." (John 6:35)

"I am the light of the world." (John 8:12; 12:46)

"I am the good shepherd." (John 10:14)

"I am the resurrection and the life." (John 11:25)

"I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6)

"I am the true vine." (John 15:1)

The fullness of Christ

Dwell in me and I will dwell in you. Live in me and I will live in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in [being vitally united to] the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4)

As we study the gospel of John, we are gradually building up a more complete picture of Jesus. We see in Jesus everything that we need for life and godliness, so that we can enjoy life and life to the full. (John 10:10) It is so important that we have a balanced, biblical picture of Jesus, because this also gives us a picture of God the Father. (John 8:9; 14:7) Just meditate for a couple of minutes on the list of claims that Jesus made and you will see that He is everything we need for every area of our lives.

This passage is precious to many Christians because it shows us clearly how to live our lives. It gives us a measure against which we can look at our lives and see what progress we are making. As we stop and consider our relationship with the Father, it encourages us that God really is doing great things in and through us. It also gives us increasing confidence that we can make adjustments as we are prompted by His Holy Spirit.

As we think about the vine, we see that Jesus presented Himself as the trunk and roots, with His followers as the branches. We are inseparable because we share one sap, one life: the Holy Spirit. If we are the branches, we receive our life from the vine. Father God is the gardener and He is responsible for the fruit-bearing. It is not the responsibility of the branch to produce any fruit - only to bear it (carry it).

Our main responsibility

Our main responsibility in the Christian life is to remain (abide) in Jesus. How do we do that? For us to live "in Christ" and allow Him to live in us, we have to be wholly united with Him. He must be as essential to us as the air we breathe. God had a great purpose when He incorporated us into the vine at our new birth. Do you remember when you became a Christian? It may have seemed as though you alone made the decision to follow Jesus. In fact, the Holy Spirit will also have been at work in your life - perhaps for many years previously. When the time was right, God called you and you responded. So it is with fruit-bearing. It sometimes seems as though we have to work hard at being a Christian, but the truth of the matter is that God has made us to produce fruit. As a gardener, He ensures that we are planted in good, fertile soil, well-watered and pruned to keep us in healthy condition. It is only with the sap running through us, giving us the very life of God, that we can bear any fruit. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

When we realise this and get the truth of it in our hearts, we can rest in God’s love and allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in and through us. That is how we learn to stay vitally united to Jesus. (Galatians 5:16-18)

Producing the best fruit

There are basically two areas of fruit-bearing in the Christian life:

  • Winning souls for Jesus Christ.
  • Developing a Christ-centred life and character.

We can never attain God’s high standards of quality in our own strength or by our own efforts. We will be constantly bogged down by feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and frustration. We have to learn the truth of "abiding" in Jesus Christ and "walking" (living) in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we shall see His fruit in our lives. (Galatians 5:22)

If we are born again of the Holy Spirit of God, fruit-bearing will become the natural rhythm of our lives. As branches of the vine (Jesus), we cannot choose when to be pruned or when to produce grapes. God, the Father, is the gardener. He recognises the things in us that are preventing us from becoming more fruitful and knows just the right time to do the pruning, often when the conditions are bad. (Pruning a vine is a drastic process.) He also knows the right way to do it, so that His vine will be even more fruitful. He certainly would not do any pruning if He thought it would put the vine's life in danger. So, if we feel as though we are going through a time of pruning, we can be reassured that it won't continue for ever. It is only the unproductive parts of our lives that are being removed. The resulting fruit will be phenomenal. It will benefit both the kingdom of God and us. We need to allow the only truly perfect human being to live His life through ours, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The closer we see ourselves being to Jesus, the more we can trust Him for our every need, moment by moment, realising that: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) As we recognise our own inability to live the Christian life in our own strength, we will find His presence in us is totally adequate to face any problem. We will then be able to grasp the significance of His word: "'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit' says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6) Only as we choose to centre ourselves in Him and give attention to Him at all times, shall we begin to understand what it means to "abide in Him".

We must surround ourselves with His word if we want to grow spiritually and be people of "power for the hour"! We have to be consistent; otherwise the pressures around us will get to us and draw us away. As we do whatever it takes to know God, we may actually be shocked, when we next take stock of our lives, to see what amazing fruit has been produced. If we have any doubts about whether or not we are being productive in our lives, or if we are feeling unworthy and condemned, then let us not hesitate to ask close friends whether or not they can see fruit in our lives. Their answers may surprise us!

The blessings of being united to Christ

  • A close relationship with Jesus. (John 15:3)
  • A fruitful life. (John 15:2-5)
  • An abundant life. (John 10:10)
  • Answered prayer. (John 15:7)
  • Glory for God. (John 15:8)
  • A greater awareness of God's love for us. (John 15:9)
  • Overflowing joy. (John 15:11)

A final warning

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” (John 15:2)

Jesus warns us here that, if we think we can live the Christian life without Him, we are simply fooling ourselves. Trying to be a Christian, without being united with Christ, can only ever produce artificial fruit: a counterfeit, cheap, plastic imitation. People who profess to be Christians (through their endless good works and respectability) may have the outward appearance of true branches and seem to be part of the vine. The proof of whether or not they are what they appear to be, can be seen in whether or not their fruit lasts. Sooner or later, God will allow circumstances to occur which reveal that such people never belonged to Christ.

If you think (or know) that you are only a counterfeit Christian, you need to acknowledge the reality of your situation, be prepared to turn towards Jesus and open up the whole of your life to Him, accepting that: “apart from Christ you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) From then on, you will be kept united to the vine through the power of God. (See 1 Peter 1:3-5.) God never cuts off true branches. When we are part of the true vine, we shall "bear much fruit" simply as a matter of course and find release from the endless effort of trying to be something that we are not.

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