Transformation Ministries with pastor and teacher Robert Lutz

The Job of the Branch - John 15:1 and 8

 

John 15:1 and 8 says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser… My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  The 8 verses these two bookend discuss with abiding in Christ and the fruit that comes from abiding in Him.  The analogy Jesus gives is simple.  Jesus is the true vine.  God, the Father, is the vinedresser.  I am the branch.  As a branch, my number one job is to abide in Christ and trust the Father.  My job is not to produce the fruit, but to bear the fruit.  The difference may seem subtle but it is so significant.

 

When one produces fruit, they assume full responsibility for the entire process.  But as a fruit bearer, all I must do is abide in the vine.  The vine will give me the nutrients, water, and energy I need.  The vinedresser prunes and takes care of me.  When I abide in Him, Christ will bear the fruit in me.  God never intended the fruit to be a demonstration of dedication and resolve, but instead an evidence of my dependency on and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

 

What fruit is produced?  It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  It is not the fruit of man, but of God.  Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”  As I read this list, I think most people I know  display many of these fruits.  They are nice people, but they are not in God.  So how are these fruits evidence of God working?  This fruit of the Spirit is not just present when conditions are favorable, but in any circumstance.  They are environmentally insensitive.  The evidence of one bearing the kind of fruit produced by Christ is seen in love – for those who do not love in return.  It is seen in joy – in the midst of painful circumstances.  The fruit of the Spirit is peace when something I was counting on doesn’t come through.  It is patience when things are not moving at my pace.  God produces kindness in me toward those who were not kind to me.  The fruit of the Holy Spirit is goodness toward those who have treated me with anything but good.  It is faithfulness  when I have friends who demonstrated unfaithfulness.  It is gentleness toward those who treated me roughly.  The fruit of the Spirit is self-control in the midst of intense temptation.  The fruit of the Spirit is relational in nature.  These characteristics make a person more attractive, pleasant to be around, and a joy to work with and for.  They make everything better.  Other evidences or fruits of abiding in Christ include power and strength that only God can give when my natural inclination is to be weak or timid.  It will include a passion and desire for righteousness and truth.  It embodies a humility that is not demeaning but confident in the God who made me.  When I am not abiding in Christ, I find these characteristics missing in my life meaning I need to look to God, seek Him and allow Him to work in my life so I may begin to bear this fruit.

 

Father, I choose today to abide in You.  You are the Vinedresser and I trust You to do Your work.  Help me to bear much fruit that I may glorify You.  In Jesus name, Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life bearing fruit!

 

From No Fruit to Fruit - John 15:2-3

 

John 15:2-3 says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”  Within the John 15 passage, Jesus identifies four different levels of fruit bearing.  Consider them as baskets of fruit.  Basket number one has no fruit.  The second basket has fruit, but the third basket has more fruit.  Finally, the fourth basket has much fruit.  It is God’s desire for our lives to bear much fruit.  But how do we go from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit?  In John 15:2 and 3 Jesus tells us how we go from no fruit to fruit.

 

Jesus says in verse 2, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away…”. That last phrase can be confusing.  Because of the English translations, some may read this as the loss of salvation due to no evidence or fruit.  However, the verse says every branch in Me which is a clear indication that the believer is in a relationship with Christ.  Jesus clarifies further in verse 3, “You are already clean…”.  There have been times in my life where I have gone days, weeks, months or longer without fruit.  So what does God do to me when I am not bearing any fruit?

 

To accurately understand this verse, one needs to know the Greek word we translate “He takes away” is ‘airo’ meaning ‘to take up’ or ‘to lift up.’  It is the same root word for things such as aerodynamics or airplane.  It really means to lift up or take up off the ground.  The branch tends to fall into the dirt.  The dirt dusts the branch as the rains come it becomes muddy and diseased being deprived on air and light.  It bears no fruit.  The branch is way too valuable to be cut off.  Therefore, the vinedresser lifts up the branch out of the dirt, cleans it off and ties it up.  Similarly, when a believer becomes dirty and unproductive because of sin, God acts to lift him up out of the sin and clean him off.

 

God uses the process of conviction and discipline to lift us up out of the dirt.  When we choose to walk in sin, God intervenes to convince us to stop sinning and begin bearing fruit once again.  He begins by gently convicting us of sin.  God doesn’t beat us over the head and tell us we are horrible.  Conviction is done with a pure love, not anger.  When we confess our sin, there is a relief that comes to our soul knowing things are now right.  If we refuse to confess our sin, God’s discipline is much like a parent, to correct us and help us walk in a way that reflects His character.  God doesn’t want us to stay in the mud, diseased and barren.  He wants to lift us up so we can receive the light, the air, and the nutrients to bear His fruit.

 

Father, thank You for loving me enough to lift me out of the dirt, the mud of this world so I can walk in Your light and bear fruit.  Show me any sin in my life that is keeping me from walking with You.  Search me now…I want to hear You.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life lifted up.

 

From Fruit to More Fruit - John 15:2 and 4

 

John 15:2 and 4 says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit…Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”  There are four baskets of fruit – the first has no fruit, the second some fruit, the third more fruit, and the last one has much fruit.  Today, we want to see what God does to help us go from some fruit to more fruit.  In verse two, he says he prunes the branch.

 

Pruning is something I must do periodically to my plants in my yard.  When I prune, I take away the unnecessary things so the plant can grow and thrive.  It is the excess that takes away from where I want to see the fruit.  Some pruning is small and really not noticeable.  Other pruning is more severe and more difficult.  The reason for the pruning is so that the plant can flourish.  Without the pruning, some of the areas would be deprived of the needed resources in order to grow effectively.

 

God will do some pruning in our lives.  He will take some things away so we may be shaped to His will and way.  It’s not that the items being pruned are bad or wrong; but they are taking away from the way the vinedresser wants to shape me.  Sometimes the pruning is of good things; but they are still not the things God wants in our lives.  Interestingly, pruning for one plant can be different than the pruning of another plant.  What God wants to remove in my life is different than someone else’s life.  Pruning can be a habit, an activity, or a possession.

 

Pruning never happens when the plant is in season or blooming.  It generally happens in the off season after the blooms have finished to help the plant prepare before the next season of growth.  God will prune us of things as He is preparing us for the next season of growth.  Pruning can be painful – extremely painful.  It can also be severe.  But pruning is always done in such a way it draws us closer to the Father.  It may be compared to a time of testing or trials.  James 1:2-4 says, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James tells us when we encounter these trials or these times of pruning, we can rejoice because we know that God is working in our lives to make us more like Him and His character.  He is shaping us so we can bear more fruit.  If we look in our lives and see we have some fruit, but desire even more, we must be ready to experience the shears of God’s pruning.  While difficult, imagine the fruit that comes from such an experience.

 

Dear God, I recognize there are times of pruning that must take place in my life.  Its not easy – far from it – it can be painful.  But I trust You to shape me how You want me.  Thank You for working in my life. Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life with more fruit.

 

 

Not in Christ vs. Abiding in Christ - John 15:6-7

 

John 15:6-7 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  In these two verses on the vine, Jesus gives quite a contrasting picture of branches.  One of the branches is not in the vine.  The other branch is abiding in the vine.  The contrast could not be any more apparent.

 

The first scenario says if anyone does not abide in Christ, he is thrown away as a branch.  If does not say it is a branch.  Christ is saying the person who is not in Christ, never trusted Him or committed their life to Him, that person is thrown away like a branch would be thrown away.  When a branch is thrown away, there is no life in the branch.  The branch cannot exist apart from the vine.  The picture here is a vineyard and the vine is more like a trunk.  The branch must be connected to have life.  This person never come to Christ and has tried in every way to live life apart from Christ.  But true life cannot exist apart from God.  Therefore that person is dead.  The Bible speaks plenty of how people are dead in their sins.  To be dead means to be separated.  To be spiritually dead is to be separated from God. Colossians 2:13 says, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”  As a result of never trusting God, there is a consequence and it is eternal separation from God in a place called hell.  The picture Jesus gives in this verse is that eternal punishment.  It is not God’s desire for us to spend eternity here, that is why God sent Jesus to the world – to forgive us of our sin.  All we must do is come to Him in faith and repentance.

 

The second scenario is that of the believer – He is abiding in Christ.  As a result of abiding in Christ and His words abiding in us we can ask whatever we wish and it will be done for us.  At first glance this looks too good to be true.  However, the reality is if we are abiding in Him and His words are in us, we want what He wants.  My desires are His desires.  My heart is not selfish, but wants to see God glorified in everything.  I become conformed to the image of His will.  His words come into my life and change me.  Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  My main goal is to live for Him each and every day in my work, home, school and community.  As I let Him work in my life, each day my desires conform to His will and He is glorified.

 

Father, I pray You would help me to abide in You.  Thank You for saving me and giving me life – abundant life that lives in You.  Help me to share this life with someone who needs to know You today.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life abiding in Christ.

 

The Vine and the Branches - John 15:5 and 8

 

John 15:5 and 8 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing…My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  There are four baskets of fruit.  The first basket has no fruit.  The second has fruit, but the third basket has more fruit.  But the last basket has much fruit.  It may seem impossible to be a person whose branch has much fruit … that it is reserved for the super Christians, the few, the missionaries or pastors, those select few.  But nothing can be farther from the truth.  God wants all of us to bear much fruit.

 

So how does a person go from more fruit to much fruit.  The secret is there in verse five.  It is found in abiding in Christ.  The word is used 10 times in the opening verses of John 15.  Jesus says we to abide – it is the one imperative He gives.  To abide means to live in the presence of.  It really means I am to live in the full presence of God. It happens at one point – where the branch connects to the vine or trunk.  Within the passage of John 15, Jesus mentions three areas we are to abide.  The first area is given in verses 4 and 5 – Jesus says we are to abide in Him. I must build an intimacy with Him.  The thought here is to be in the presence of someone great.  I see people who are excited about seeing someone great and being in their presence; but there is no one greater than God and we are commanded to come into His presence.  Secondly, we are told we are to abide in His love (v.9).  God wants us to live in the constant knowledge of His love.  To walk in His love gives us confidence to know we are accepted by Him.  He loves us, accepts us and cares for us.  Finally, we are to abide in His words.  We need to be in His Word, hearing it, reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it.  As we let His words get into our hearts, it will change us.

 

To abide in Christ means we must spend time with Him.  It is more than just reading His Word or praying – it is being in His presence.  As we dwell in His presence, in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, His fruit becomes evident in our lives.  It is at this point, the fruit is the sweetest.  As we abide in Him, our lives become a greater reflection of Him and His character.  Sometimes people mistaken talents and charisma for our level of spirituality.  But God here wants our entire heart, our life to be a reflection of His character and that doesn’t come until we spend time with Him.  In Acts, the religious people said of the apostles, “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John … they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13). This is what we want to become, a reflection of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Father, I choose today to abide in You, Your love and Your words.  Help me to be a reflection of who You are that I may bear much fruit.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life with much fruit!