Jesus With His Disciples in the Upper Room
The fifteenth chapter of John describes Jesus earnestly teaching His disciples.  They are in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem.  They have observed the Passover and observed "The Lord's Supper" for the first time.  Jesus has given them an example of servant ministry by washing and drying their feet.  It is the night before He would be crucified on the cross of Calvary.  He is preparing them for His departure back to heaven and their new ministry after He is gone.

The time Jesus has available for instruction has come down to a matter of minutes.  What is the subject that is so important that Jesus will use these precious moments to speak to His disciples about?  He begins to speak about a grapevine, a vinedresser, branches, and grapes.  Surely, He has a great truth in mind that He wants to convey to His disciples.        
I AM the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; (or lifts up),  and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.”             John 15:1, 2.

Our True Reason For Living

            In His last message before His passion and death Jesus wanted all who would come to know Him as Savior to comprehend that He leaves them on planet Earth for one compelling reason, and that Reason has something to do with bearing fruit.  Here are the essential elements: 

1.       Jesus is the Vine. 
The vine is the trunk that grows out of the ground from 36 to 42 inches high.  The vine ends in a large gnarl from which branches grow in both directions along a trellis.

2.       The heavenly Father is the Vine Dresser or Keeper of the Vineyard.
His one goal is to enable the branches to produce the largest amount of fruit as possible

3.       Each of us believers are the branches. 
The branches are tied to a trellis or propped up with sticks to 1). Let air circulate, 2). To provide the maximum amount of exposure to sunshine, and 3). To allow fullest access for tending and harvest. 
The primary function of branches is to bear fruit.   

4.       The fruit is good character qualities and/or good works.    
   “Fruit” is the overflow of God working within us to produce something good that flows out of us.

   The first Psalm teaches us that the man who delights in and meditates on God’s word “will be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings for its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper."  Psalm. 1:3-5.

After telling us that we have been saved by grace through faith the Apostle Paul proceeds to inform us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  See Ephesians 2:10.

Perhaps the most helpful revelation of all are these words, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,  longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control…”  Galatians 5:22, 23.

And to all this we add the words of Jesus, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.”   John 15:8.

We bear outward fruit when we allow God to work through us and as a result, bring Him glory.  Every arena of life, therefore becomes an opportunity to bear fruit.

  Four Distinct Levels of Fruit Assessment

      Jesus identifies four levels of spiritual condition in which His followers find themselves at any given time: 

      1.      No fruit “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. . .”  15:2a
2.      Some fruit – “...every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it.” 15:2b
More fruit – “…that it may bear more fruit.”  15:2c
Much fruit – “…he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit…”  15:5.

These statements reveal that each believer is either producing no spiritual fruit at all or a clearly defined level of fruit.

We have also seen that as a human vine dresser works with each vine to make it more fruitful the heavenly Father is working with each one of us.  His purpose is to nurture us from no fruit to fruit and then more fruit and on to abundant fruit.

 Are we satisfied with where we are in our fruitfulness.  As a believer in Christ Jesus it is likely that just as the nature of branches is to produce fruit as abundantly as possible even so our spiritual nature yearns to produce abundant fruit that brings glory to God.

Let us look more fully at the four levels of spiritual condition to see how we can grow in fruitfulness.

The Barren Branch
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.”  John 15:2.

This statement has been a source of perplexity and debate among Bible scholars.  The first step in clearing up the confusion has been made by Greek scholars.  The words “takes away” are translated from the Greek word “airo.”  The meaning of “airo” is better understood in the sense of “take up.”  This is the way it is translated when the disciples “took up” the twelve baskets of food after the feeding of the 5000. (Matthew 14:20).  It is translated “bear” when” Simon was forced to pick up the cross of Jesus and carry it for Him. (Matthew 27:32).  The second step in clearing up the confusion has come from professional vine dressers.  They inform us that new branches have a tendency to trail down and grow along the ground.  Rain causes them to get muddy and mildewed.  The vine dresser walks the rows of vines with a bucket of water.  When he sees a muddy branch he lifts it up;  washes it off and then wraps it or ties it to the trellis where it can get the most air and sunshine.  In a short time the branch is thriving with fruit.  This also clears up verse 3 where Jesus said to His disciples, “you are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

 For the Christian sin is like dirt.  When he or she lies down in it they get dirty and fruitless.  God will call that Christian by His word to seek cleansing.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1st John 1:9.  It is wise to hear; confess, and be forgiven and cleansed.

If the Christian defiled by sin does not heed God’s call to cleansing then God will begin a process of discipline.  God doesn’t begin the discipline as a result of random sin through weakness but because of a pattern of behavior in which we have come to tolerate sin in our life.

God’s process of discipline is detailed in Hebrews,  “…My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are reproved by Him;   For those whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12: 5,6.

·               God is the source of the discipline
·         He disciplines all of His children
·         He does it because He loves His children

When God disciplines His children He is cleaning them up like a vine dresser cleans his branches.  The goal is to make the barren branches fruitful.  The concluding statement in regard to God’s discipline is found in verse 11,
 “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Let us take note of the steps in God’s discipline:

1.    A verbal warning.  “…do not…be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.”  Hebrews 12:5a.  This rebuke may come in the form of a pricking of our conscience; a timely word from another Christian, a sermon, etc.  What if we pay no attention ?

2.   Chastening begins.  “For whom the LORD loves He chastens.” 12:5b.  At this level we cannot ignore the pressure.  It may take the form of friction within our family; pressures at work;  meaninglessness in  church services; broken fellowship with God or problems in health or finances.  We need to begin seriously searching for dirt in our life with the intent of cleaning it up.  What if we don’t?

3.    We enter the time of scourging.  “And scourges every son whom He receives”  Hebrews 12:6.  “Scourge” is the word used to describe how the Roman soldiers whipped Jesus with “a cat of nine tails.”  See John 19:1.  How can our loving heavenly Father do this to a son or daughter He loves?  1) Because we are clinging to sin with a rebellious attitude against God.  2(.  He wants to clean us up so we can be fruitful.

Giving up the sins that keeps us fruitless is called “repentance”.  We change our mind about tolerating sin because of benefits we enjoy and acknowledge the harmful effects sin has on us, on others, and on our relationship with God.  We begin to value the potential of supernatural fruitfulness that will be ours when we walk in unmarred fellowship with God.  We are now ready for a breakthrough into fruitfulness.

The Leafy Branch With Some Fruit
“Every branch that bears fruit He prunes…”
John 15:2b

When we have dealt with willful sin and asked God to enable us to put it out of our life He cleans us; allows the refreshing winds of the Holy Spirit to refresh us and lets the sunlight of His presence shine upon us.  In a short time there are lush and healthy leaves…and fruit.  Yet, this is not our Savior’s ultimate goal. There is more.

  The Branch With Healthy Clusters of Grapes
“…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
John 15:2b, 2c.

Pruning has to do with cutting off the excess so that the sap flowing from the vine can produce more fruit.  God begins cutting out the excess things in our life so that we can bear more spiritual fruit.  These things are not “sins”.  They are the unnecessary things that use up our time, energies, finances, and emotions and drain away our ability to be more fruitful.  Anyone who has ever made a commitment to ministry has discovered that ministry brings them in conflict with activities in their lifestyle.  Using the metaphor of Jesus their decision about what stays and what goes makes the difference in whether they produce a fourth of a basket or half a basket of fruit or more.  Giving up wholesome things that have been an important part of our lifestyle can hurt.  Yet, in the lands of the vineyards a bountiful harvest is considered crowning the year with joy…regardless of what else happened.  This will also be true of the fruitful Christian.

The Branch Abundantly Filled With Fruit
Abide in Me, and I in you…he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”  John 15:4a, 5b.

Here is a branch that has more lush clusters of grapes than it has leaves.  The secret is unrestricted flow of the sap from the vine into the branch and results in bountiful fruit.  Jesus revealed the meaning for believers is abiding in Him and Him in the believer results in much fruit.

What does it mean to abide in Jesus?  It doesn’t mean putting in an appearance at church on Sunday morning to say hello to Jesus and then living as if He doesn’t exist the rest of the week.  Looking back at the vine and the branch we learn that at the point where the branches meet the vine holds the answer.  The branch that has the largest, strongest, least obstructed connection with the vine is the one that produces the most abundant clusters of grapes.  This means that fruitfulness is not us producing fruit for Him.  It means that when we live in close fellowship with Him that He produces the fruit through us.  The secret is to abide.  Jesus uses the word six times.

Abide means to live in His presence.  Make Him our best friend.  Share with Him our deepest concerns.  Tell Him how much we love Him and need Him.  Worship and praise Him from the depth of our hearts.  Seek to know His mind from the scriptures.  From this deeper relationship He will do great things in us that will flow out from us to others and fruit will be produced.

What does an abundantly fruitful Christian look like?  This is a question that cannot be answered because each of us is unique by physical birth, spiritual birth and God’s purpose for us.  Just as the sap flowing from the vine is out of sight the work Jesus does in each of us is out of sight but fruit is produced that brings glory to God according to God’s unique purpose for us.  What we become as a person will impact others in a far greater way than we ever imagined.  What we do will accomplish more because it originated with Jesus and has His supernatural blessing on it.

May each one of us be filled with a burning desire to abide more deeply and fully in Jesus and Him in us.  Abundant fruit will come that brings glory to God.

Copyright © 2009 Thomas E Berry
All Scripture quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted