Friday, July 18, 2008

Of the Vine

Ray Stedman....again.

John 15:1-3

1. I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.

2. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.

3. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].

His beautiful analogy has helped many Christians understand the relationship God wants them to know. When He said, "I am the true vine," He did not mean true in contrast with something false, but rather real, genuine, as opposed to the mere copy or symbol. As He held this vine and its branches in His hand, He indicated that this was the copy. He was the true vine from which true life is received.

The figure of the vine is used many times in the Scriptures. The disciples would immediately think of several places where it was used. One is in Isaiah 5: "The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel" (Isaiah 5:7a). Israel was that vine. As Isaiah tells us, God cleared out the rocks in His vineyard and hedged it about. He built a tower; He protected the vineyard and cared for it. He did everything possible to cause it to produce grapes. But when He came into His vineyard and looked for grapes, He found instead sour, tasteless grapes. Isaiah tells us what that represents in verse 7: "The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress" (Isaiah 5:7).

God came looking for justice and righteousness; instead, He found oppression, cruelty, exploitation, and indifference to the needs of others. It is evident from this parable that the fruit that God expects of the vine is moral character or, as described in Galatians, the fruit of the Spirit. The life that is in the vine produces fruit that Paul describes in Galatians 5 as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. The fruit, in other words, is Christlikeness. And our Lord is indicating that the very purpose of the vine is to produce such fruit.

Lord, teach me to abide in You so that I can bear the fruit of Christlikeness.

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