Personal Relationships
Tim Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to John, chapter 15, as we continue the study of John's gospel. We come now to one of the more well known passages. It is a key element in the Christian life, whether you realize it or not.

What would you think if a friend called you one night and said, “Hey, I've got a new car, and I want to bring it over and show it to you.”? Of course, you would say, “Sure, come on over. I'd like to see it.” You wait a little while, and he doesn't show up. You wait a little longer, and you almost begin to worry about it. Finally, you see a car coming up the street, but it is moving really slowly. It is a new car, but it is moving so slowly that you can hardly believe it. As it gets a little closer, you realize that someone is pushing that car. He gets closer, and sure enough, it turns out to be your friend with his new car. He pushes it up into your driveway and says, “What do you think? Isn't it great?” He starts to show you all the new gadgets on it. What in the world—a brand new car and the guy comes pushing it up to your house? That sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I knew it did when I started telling it, but there are many Christians who push their Christianity in just that way. That which God has designed to carry us, they are just pushing it around. That is what John, chapter 15, is all about, particularly the first eight verses at which we want to look in this lesson.

God has designed a relationship with Himself for us that is designed to carry us through life. He has given us not just a new car, but a whole life. Not only that, but He has given us the fuel with which to run that new life. So we now want to think about this relationship that God has made with us. We are just going to look at the first of the ways that He illustrates in the first eight verses. Notice, beginning with verse 1 of chaper 15:

John 15

1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

A Relationship of Fruitfulness

The relationship that God offers us through Jesus Christ is a relationship of fruitfulness. Every Christian really wants to be fruitful if he loves the Lord, if he understands anything about his Christian life. All of us desire to honor the Lord in what we do and to have something to show for our relationship to Him. We want to do good works; we want to do things that honor Him. This chapter is one of several in the Scripture that tells us how that comes about. It is possible for us, every one of us, no matter how long we have known the Lord, no matter of how much we know of the Word of God, no matter how deep in the Word we have gotten, to bear fruit.

The relationship of fruitfulness with the Lord is described in verse 1-4. The picture that he uses is in verse 1:

John 15

1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

The disciples would have immediately recognized that picture because they lived in a land of vines, a land of grapevines. They lived in an agricultural economy. They understood not only grapevines, but olive trees and fig trees and lots of other kinds of trees and fruits that are mentioned in the Scripture. Jesus often referred to those kinds of things because they were so familiar with them. Our economy in the last fifty years or so has become much more of an industrial economy, so these illustrations might not speak as immediately to us, but we still understand enough about plants, trees, etc. that if we think about it, we can understand this picture.

It is a Living Relationship

One of the things that I think they would have known instinctively, subconciously, but that probably bears pointing out specifically for us, is the fact that he is talking about a living relationship. Isn't it interesting that when Jesus begins talking about His relationship with us, He talks of it in terms of life? He doesn't talk about it in terms of an inventor and his invention; he doesn't talk about it in terms of machinery or carpentry or those kinds of things where a living thing builds an inanimate object. He talks about a living thing that produces other living things—a vine that produces fruit.

Jesus uses as an illustration a picture of a living relationship. “I am the vine; I am the true vine. My Father is the vinedresser.” In so many words, Jesus says, “If you really want to understand this relationship, think about Me as the vine and think about my Father as the farmer, the grower, the husbandman,” which is an older English word for farmer . So it is a living relationship. That is the first thing that we have to keep in mind. God lives within us, and it is not a matter of going through a certain set of motions; it is not a matter of going through a certain set of rituals. It is a matter of communing and communicating with the One Who lives within us.

Relationship Involves Cooperation of the Trinity

Another thing to notice here is that this relationship, this picture, involves the cooperation of the entire Godhead. First, He mentions Himself in verse 1: “I am the true vine,…” Then He mentions the Father in the second line of the verse. We are going to see before we are through that the Holy Spirit plays a very vital role in this relationship also. So it is a relationship among all the members of the Godhead. It is a fascinating thing to understand that all of the members of the Godhead play a part in our everyday, day-to-day living. Most of the time, we think in terms of God as sovereign over everything. We think of God the Father as sovereign of the universe. Many times when we talk about the Lord or when we talk about God, we actually have in our minds the sovereignty of God over all.

Other times when we talk about the Lord, we think about Jesus Christ as the Savior and as the Teacher. That can sometimes apply to Him. We talk about the Holy Spirit not as often in terms of God, but sometimes when we talk about God leading us to do something, we technically are talking about the Holy Spirit. But it is interesting to notice that all three of those are involved. It is an amazing enough thing that God the Creator would allow us to have contact with Him and would consent to be a part of our lives—not only that, but the Scripture specifies that all three members of the Godhead are involved in our lives. It is not something that God the Father just delegated to another member of the Trinity; all three are involved. So that is the picture of our relationship with God, the picture that Jesus gave His disciples of their relationship with Him.

Pruning the Fruitless Branch

Verse 2 talks about the pruning that takes place. Pruning is actually mentioned at the end of verse 2, but let's look at it because it is really throughout the verse.

John 15

2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

I am using the term pruning because it is an accurate use of the word. The pruning is specifically mentioned in the last part of verse 2 about pruning and causing a vine that is producing to produce even better, a practice that still goes on in growing today. Actually, a part of the overall pruning process is what He mentions in the first part of the verse. That is the fruitless branch, if you will notice in the first part of the verse:

John 15

2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…

What do we do with a fruit tree or any other kind of tree in our yard when a branch dies, for whatever reason, and the other branches are still good? We cut that branch off so that the nutrients that are coming into the tree can go to those other branches more easily. That dead branch is taken out of the way. That is what Jesus says to His disciples about those who do not bear fruit, using the illustration of the vine to illustrate the Christian life.

At first glance, this verse seems to be very troublesome to those of us who believe in the doctrine of eternal security. Many times people who don't believe in that doctrine will point to this verse and say, “Look at this; it tells us that God takes away branches that don't bear fruit.” Without taking the time to go into a detailed analysis of the doctrine of eternal security, let me just say that in light of the clear statements about the doctrine of eternal security and the clear statements of the way God works with His children, this verse must mean something else.

I believe that what it means is that God takes a person who is not bearing fruit out of the place of fruitbearing; He doesn't take them out of the Body of Christ because there are too many places where He says that He doesn't do that. Our salvation is secure because we are Christ's inheritance. To take a part of Christ's inheritance away from Him would not be right. To take one of us out of the Body of Christ would certainly be fair to us, but it would not be fair to that One Who died to purchase us to bring us into the Body of Christ. To take one of us out of the tree of the Christian family would be just and right on the basis of what we deserve, but it would not be right in terms of God's promise of eternal life. It is all because Jesus Christ deserves to have us, not because we deserve to have salvation. So the fruitless branch is the loss of opportunity of service.

Sometimes people say, “You know, since we have eternal security, I can just go out and live any way I want to, and I'll still get into Heaven.” A person who says that and says it sincerely, I believe, doesn't really understand what salvation is. A person who really understands the cost of his salvation, a person who really understands the nature of salvation, is not going to be interested in going out and sinning all he wants to. That is not going to be his motivation. A person who truly knows the Lord, who truly has Christ living within him as this passage and many others talk about, is going to be concerned when he sins. I heard someone say, “I believe in the doctrine of eternal security; I believe in the doctrine of grace; I believe that technically speaking, I could sin all I want to and God would still let me into Heaven, but I sin more than I want to right now.” It is not a matter of sinning all we want to; it is a matter of wishing we didn't sin as much as we do for a person who truly knows the Lord. So for someone who says, “I'll just go out and sin all I want to,” I would really question that person's salvation to begin with.

You know, it is a terrible thing to think about the possibility of coming to that place where God, in His discipline, would set us aside and say, “This is a believer whom I can no longer use.” First Corinthians, chapter 13, indicates that there are believers who have been taken home to Heaven early because they continued in their sin. Their branch was cut off, not for them to go to Hell, but for them to be taken on to Heaven. What could be wrong with that? Well, God has in mind a plan for each of us. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” God said. His purpose, as He repeats several times in this passage, is that we bear much fruit.

I believe there are going to be believers who stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ when they get to Heaven who are going to be brokenhearted, who are going to be in anguish. God will wipe away all tears, but I think that if we look at the layout of the book of Revelation at God's judgment program, that is probably going to be after the Judgment Seat of Christ; and there are going to be believers who are going to be in deep anguish at the Judgment Seat of Christ because God brought them home before they could accomplish the fruitfulness that He had in mind for them, the things that He had designed for them to do. God, in His sovereignty, gets those things done anyway. If He can't use you, He certainly has many other people He can use. It doesn't frustrate God; it disappoints Him, but it doesn't thwart His purposes if we don't do the things that He has outlined for us to do.

For the branch that does not bear fruit, He takes away that opportunity for service. Sometimes it is a temporary setting on the shelf, and only the mind of God knows where that line is drawn when a believer is taken out of this life in discipline and when he is only temporarily set aside. But when a believer is set aside, and through the working of the Holy Spirit repents of his sin, he is brought back into fellowship with the Lord, and he can be brought back into service. Jesus wants us to understand that this matter of fruitbearing is a very serious thing, a very important thing.

Pruning the Fruitful Branch

That is the fruitless branch. If you will look at the last part of verse 2, it talks about what He does with the fruitful branch. Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes that it may bear more fruit. Again, most of us have had enough to do with plants, trees and shrubs that we understand what that kind of pruning is talking about. When a branch bears fruit, sometimes the best thing to do is to cut that branch back. When we do that, it produces either the next growing season, sometimes even later in that season, better fruit and more fruit. I believe that in the illustration of what Jesus is talking about here, He is talking about cutting away those things that are not necessarily sins, but those things that are excesses, those things that might get in the way of our complete fruitfulness. That is what we do with a plant that's being pruned. There may be buds there; there may be fruit or flowers there. Sometimes we even cut away those smaller flowers so the branch can produce bigger and better fruit or flowers.

There are many things in life that are really not sins, technically speaking, but that get in the way of our being all that we could be. Those are the things that are extremely difficult to deal with. Hebrews, chapter 12, talks about running the race. Let's turn there. Hebrews, chapter 11, is the great faith chapter, and it talks about these great heroes of the faith and the lessons that they learned in serving God. Abraham learned a lesson by believing God. Though he wasn't perfect, though he made a lot of mistakes, He did believe God and responded enough to God that he saw God honor His promises over and over again to the point that Abraham was eventually able to do what would seem to be humanly impossible. He was ready to sacrifice his own son. In his own heart and in his own mind, he had already killed his son. The knife was on the way down when God stopped him. God said, “I see now that you would sacrifice your own son.” Those are the kinds of things that are lessons in faith which are described in chapter 11.

In chapter 12 of Hebrews, he says:

Hebrews 12

1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

“We have a great cloud of witnesses,” Paul says, “to the fact that God honors faith and that God uses us as we believe Him in faith.” I think the primary meaning is “I have called before you many witnesses who demonstrate this truth.” But it may also mean that those witnesses who lived those lives of faith are in Heaven watching us. They are witnesses to what we are doing. At any rate, we have a lot of proof of the fact that God honors faith. So He says, “Because we know that, because we have these witnesses, let us lay aside anything that will keep us from being faithful, anything that will keep us from claiming the promises of God, anything that will keep us from being useful in God's hands” like those men and women of chapter 11 were.

The thing that I want to focus in on and the thing that Jesus is talking about in John, chapter 14, verse 2, is this phrase, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” I don't want to in any way downplay the importance of doing away with sin in our lives. That is a baseline doctrine of the Scripture. It is of fundamental importance. But at the same time, I do want to point out to you that God also said that there are some things that are not necessarily sin which are weights to us.

Here is one of those athletic illustrations that Paul uses—a runner who is running in a race in those days in some cases would take off all his clothes and run naked in the race, not wanting anything to slow him down. Our society is deteriorating to the point that it wouldn't surprise me before long to see that in some race that we run because the athletic uniforms that everyone except the basketball players use are getting more and more brief. It is an odd thing to me that basketball players shorts are getting longer and longer. Anyway, they would take off everything possible. If you are going to run a race, there is a certain amount of clothing that you are going to want to take off. There are people today who do that when they are jogging, especially when they are racing, when they are swimming. They even shave their bodies so hair won't slow them down in the water.

I think Satan gets the advantage of us sometimes in the area of weights. We will be pretty careful about the sin when we are walking with the Lord, but sometimes there are things that really contribute to an atmosphere out of which sin that we are trying to put away can easily be spawned.

What I am about to say is just an example from my own life, and the last thing I want to do is to set it up as a standard for anyone but myself and certainly not as any kind of a standard for anyone but myself and certainly not as any kind of standard of what constitutes a spiritual Christian or anything like that. I decided in the past six or eight months that for me most television is a weight that keeps me from being able to accomplish what God wants me to accomplish. I have always enjoyed watching television because most days I read and study a big portion of the day.

I'm thankful that I can. But many times, when I get home at night, I have been reading virtually all day, so I can't relax by reading. There was a time when I thought that I could just take it in, but suddenly a few months ago I came to the realization that I had been like a frog in the boiling water. I didn't realize how many things on television were harming me and what God wanted to do in my life. As I sat and watched television, a lot of things were being pumped into my subconscious that really opened me up for some of the areas of sin that are problem areas for me. I didn't make a vow to God, but I did make a conscious decision to watch as little television as possible. God may not have convicted you of that. If He hasn't, I don't want in any way to shame you. I'm not giving an invitation to give up television; I'm just using myself as an example. For you, the weight may be something else. Television might not be any kind of a problem for you.

What I am suggesting to you is that you think carefully about your life. What is there that God the husbandman might want to prune out of your life, not because it is inherently sinful, but because if He could get that out of your life, He could produce more fruit in that branch that is already bearing fruit into a place of even more fruitbearing.

I have mentioned a number of times lately that eighteen or so months ago, I began to see some important things that needed to be changed in my life, some areas of real sin in my life that were brought to my attention. As I dealt with those things, I committed myself to turning away from those things which were mostly inward things that probably very few other people would have seen.

I have been fascinated to see that once God cracked that shell and got my attention about those things and peeled away the layers, it was like peeling an onion. He got the first layer of onion skin off and, to my surprise and disappointment, there was another layer underneath that one which I didn't even realize was there. God had to deal with me about that. I got that taken care of by God's grace, and I discovered that there was another layer of onion there. God had to deal with me about that. I believe that there are many things in our lives that we don't even realize are there till we begin to deal with the ones out on top. If we are willing to do away with those things that are weights to our performance, if we are willing to allow God to prune us, to trim us back, He also, in the process of that, enables us to much more easily do away with the sin which so easily besets us.

Notice the order here in Hebrews, chapter 12. “Let us lay aside every weight [first], and [next] the sin which doth so easily beset us, …” If we can do away with the weights, it will be much easier to deal with the sins. God is so gracious. He allows us to work first on those things which are not really sins, but as we work on those things, He is able to prune back even the sin that does keep us from growing as we should.

Pruning Makes Us Productive and Fruitful

Going back to John, chapter 15, this is the concept that He is talking about. It is not just a matter of punishing us; it is not just a matter of taking things away from us. So many people have the idea that God is just looking for things to take away from us, keeping us from having things. But, you see, the concept here is dealing with us in love, getting rid of those things that keep us from being all that we could be, that keep us from being as productive and fruitful as He wants us to be. In verse 3, He makes a promise:

John 15

3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

Another reason that I believe that the first part of verse 2 is not talking about loss of salvation is that Jesus, to those very same people, says in verse 3, “You are already clean.” Remember that in the context of the Gospel of John, these things were all said in time periods very close together. Some of this was probably said in the same setting as chapter 14. Remember what happened back in the first part of chapter 14 where Jesus girded Himself with a towel and washed the disciples' feet?

Peter could not imagine his Lord, whom he by now realized was the Son of God, washing his dirty feet. He said, “You'll not wash my feet at all.” Jesus said, “Peter, if I don't wash you, you don't have any part with Me.” Peter said, “Well, then, wash all of me.” Jesus said, “No, Peter, you are already clean; you only need to have the dirt from the street washed off your feet.” So Jesus had assured Peter and the other disciples that they were clean in His sight. They were His believers.

It is in that same context that He reminds them again here in chapter 15, verse 2, “You are clean already because of the words which I have spoken to you.” The disciples had already trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior at that point. They didn't understand all that was about to transpire. There were many things they didn't understand, but they did know that He was the Messiah. They did know that He was their Savior. Jesus reminds them of that promise and reassures them that though God is going to be cutting on them, and even though God, in some cases, may have to set them aside, they are still His children. They are still His disciples.

“Abide In Me”

The principle underlying this is in verse 4:

John 15

4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

This is the verse that is very often associated with the whole concept that is here. It is interesting to notice that this is the first place in the chapter that Jesus says, “Abide in me…” This may have sounded a little strange to the disciples as they heard it because they were following along His picture of the branch and the vine and the vinedresser (husbandman) and all of that. They understood generally what He was talking about. In their minds, they were thinking about a vine and a vine-bearing fruit being pruned so it could bear more fruit. Then He says something that sounds very strange in that context: “Abide in me.” Really, that is what a branch does, isn't it? It abides in the vine. A branch isn't always trying to jump off the vine. Fruit is not trying to jump off the branch.

What is He saying here when He says, “Abide in me.”? He wouldn't say this to a plant. He is only using the plant as an illustration, as a picture. The principle here is, “I am going to do what you need done in your life. You need to relax and let Me do it.”

The word abide is a translation of the Greek word that is used a couple of other places in the New Testament and is translated with the phrase, be at home . It is used in secular Greek with the word relax . What do we do when we are at home? We relax, but even when we are not relaxing, we are at ease in a way when we are at home that we are not anywhere else. Isn't that true? Why is it that most of us, when we finish a meeting or an obligation in another place late at night very often will drive way into the night so we can spend the night in our own bed? We could get in bed and to sleep a lot sooner if we stayed there, but we want to get home. Why is that? The motel or hotel that we are staying in might be even more nicely decorated than our home, but we just want to be home because that is where we belong. That is just our place. Jesus says to the disciples, “Even if I have to cut on you, even if I have to take something that you enjoy, I want you to relax and let Me do it. I want you to be at home with whatever I am doing in your life.”

That takes some trust, doesn't it? When a dentist gets ready to work on our teeth, he usually says, “Now, this isn't going to hurt a bit.” To abide in Christ is something like abiding in the dentist—to relax and let him do what you know he has to do. The same thing is true of so many medical procedures. When we know it is going to hurt, but we know it is going to be worth it, we tolerate it because we know it is what needs to be done to improve our health.

Many Christians are afraid to walk with the Lord very closely because they are afraid they might lose something. They are afraid they might have to give up something. They are afraid that God might call them in to do something embarrassing or awkward or that will make other people think there is something weird about them. Jesus said, “Yes, that is true. I may cut you back; I may prune something out of you that is really not sin; I may ask you to give up something that is really not wrong, but is keeping you from being all that I can make you. But relax, and let me do it. Abide in Me. Trust Me. Be at home in My hands and in My work in your life. Abide in Me.”

Result of Abiding is Production

John 15

4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Do you want to be a fruitful Christian? Then you have got to relax. You have to abide in Him. You can't jump out of His hand. You can't stop being a part of the vine, stop being a part of the branch, but you can relax and be the most fruitful branch that He can produce. Allow Him to produce what He wants to produce in your life. That is the relationship that He has with us.

Verses 5-8 point out the result of the relationship, what results if we are willing to abide in Him and let Him do whatever He needs to do to make us fruitful. In verse 5, He repeats the illustration again:

John 15

5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

The first result of this relationship is production. “He who abides in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit.” Then He underscores that by saying, “In fact, without me, you can do nothing.” You know, the greatest miracle that God ever does takes place on a very regular basis. Somewhere in the world, a number of times a day, someone is brought to life spiritually. A soul is saved from death—the greatest miracle that has ever been done. It is beyond anything in the physical world. God allows us the privilege of being a part of that. As I have pointed out many times before, being a part of that is not just being there when a person prays to receive Christ. We all know stories of someone who ultimately came to Christ sometimes years later partly because someone witnessed to them years back.

I had an associate pastor in Wichita Falls the last several years that I was there. He was a star football player in high school and college. He later played for the Dallas Cowboys. He wasn't one of the stars, but he was on the team for a couple of years and voluntarily left the team. He wasn't cut. He was saved because of the witness of a man with whom he worked in a factory one summer when he was in college. He thought the guy was a geek; he thought he was a loser. He tolerated the witnessing because they were on a work bench together, and he couldn't get up and walk away. He thought the guy was a fool; he had no interest in what he had to say.

One day in the following summer, when he was no longer working at the same job, he got to thinking about the year before and how this loser kept talking to him about God. He was actually thinking about what the guy said. After he graduated from seminary and was telling me this story, he understood all of the theological ramifications of it, and he said, “God brought that guy's testimony to my mind, and I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior a year later with that man nowhere around.”

Two or three years later, he met the girl who became his wife. As a part of getting to know her, he discovered that since the time she was a teenager, she was challenged in a Christian camp to begin praying for the man she would someday marry. They put together that at the very time he was out on a walk when he was thinking through all these things and trusted Christ as his Savior on the basis of what he had been told the year before, she was praying for the man she would marry.

They met at least five years later. She didn't even know who that man was. That worker in that factory that summer had a part in bringing Tom Rogers to Christ, and that girl who was praying for the man who would someday become her husband had a part in bringing him to Christ. So anything that we do for Christ, no matter how insignificant it may seem, no matter what a failure it may seem, is important. That factory worker never knew about Tom's conversion unless Tom has found him since he told me the story. At the time he told me that, he said, “I can't remember the man's name. I don't have any way to let him know that I accepted Christ because of what he told me. He probably won't find that out till he gets to Heaven.” Tom's wife had the privilege of finding out about the results of her prayers.

You see, if we let God do His work in our life, we may bear fruit that we are not even aware of. That is God's promise to us. He will bear much fruit if we allow Him to work in our lives.

Another Result of Abiding is Permanence

In verse 6, he goes on to talk about another result of abiding in Him, abiding in the vine. That is what I am calling permanence . The result of the relationship is production in verse 5; in verse 6, it is permanence.

John 15

6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Someone may say, “Now, wait a minute. You have explained this other thing about taking the branch away, but surely this verse means you would lose your salvation. ‘If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.' Isn't that talking about someone being thrown into Hell?” Notice carefully the wording of verse 6:

John 15

6…he is cast forth as a branch…

.

That is what we talked about in verse 2. God does take away branches; He puts people on the shelf; sometimes He even takes them to Heaven early. But notice what it says in the last part of verse 6:

John 15

6…and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Who is men ? Not God the Father, but people—other unsaved people, maybe even other Christians. Surely you know that one of the standard reasons of unbelievers for not coming to church is, “I'm not going to church with all those hypocrites,” which as I have pointed out very many times before puzzles me because they do everything else with hypocrites. Why not go to church with them? They don't mind buying a car from a hypocrite; they don't mind buying groceries from a hypocrite, banking with a hypocrite, but they don't want to go to church with a hypocrite.

On the other hand, that is an excuse that Christians give non-Christians, and that is what Jesus is talking about here. If a person doesn't bear fruit, people cast them out, in terms of the influence they can have, in terms of the testimony they can have. Their usefulness as a Christian is just burned up. Why? Because they are not bearing fruit, because they are not part of what God is doing in the world.

I would hate to think that I would be an excuse for someone not being fruitful or responding to some of the fruitful branches that God was using, but there is permanence there. God sees to it that those who do bear fruit continue to produce.

Another Result of Abiding is Effective Prayer

Verse 7 talks about the third result of the relationship, which is prayer.

John 15

7If ye abide…

Abiding in Christ enables us to pray effectively. Many times Christians say, “You know, I just don't believe my prayers are getting above the ceiling. I pray, and I don't see anything happen.” There could be several reasons for that, but the first thing to check into if you pray and nothing seems to happen is, are you abiding in Christ? You may be trying to run your life yourself. You may be trying to produce fruit on your own. You may even be one of those branches that are withered, and God is about to set it aside because those who bear much fruit have the right to pray and see things get done. So, if your prayer life is not effective, understanding that sometimes God says you must wait and sometimes he says no, the first question to ask is, “Is there something in my life that is keeping me from being fruitful? Am I a branch that has been set aside? Is that possibly why God doesn't seem to be answering my prayers?”

Conclusion

Verse 8 has a good conclusion to the section:

John 15

8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Matthew records that Jesus had said a little earlier in His life, “Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” That is the same idea here. If you bear fruit, you're doing the seed planting; you're doing the various works that we associate with fruit-bearing, but look who gets the glory: “My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit.”

Why is that? Because He said back in the last line of verse 5: “Without me, you can do nothing.” You know, there are lots of busy Christians around who aren't really doing anything; they're just busy because they are not doing what God is leading them to do. Instead of abiding in Him and letting Him produce, they're just doing things that they think will accomplish something.

A good test of whether God is leading you to do what you are doing, a good test of whether God is bearing fruit is, who gets the glory? A good test of ministry and whether a ministry is a valid ministry or not is, who gets the glory? Let me tell you that if a ministry's best claim to fame is its founder or its principle leader, if people are talking about what a great guy he is, chances are that is someone who hasn't learned, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” That is someone who is generating some human good works, someone who knows good public relations technique, someone who knows how to get attention. But Jesus says, “If you abide in me, if you let my words abide in you, if you communicate with Me about what I'm doing in your life, if you continually submit yourself to Me and ask for My direction in your life, you will bear much fruit, and my Father will be getting the glory.”

You might ask yourself that question about your own life. Who do you want to get the glory for what you are doing? Are you letting your life so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify you? Chances are, if that is the case, you are a withering vine, and you may have already been set aside. But if your desire is to do what simply pleases the Lord step-by-step, day-by-day, with no real thought to who sees or what the overall outcome might be, just letting His life flow through you, that is what the Father is glorified with. That is the kind of life He can use; that's the relationship instead of the religion.


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