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"I Am the True Vine", Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
December 5, 2022 7:05 am

"I Am the True Vine", Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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December 5, 2022 7:05 am

His Name Is Wonderful

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One of the purest forms of worship is to celebrate the names that are given to God. The Bible is filled with dozens of them, and each name describes another facet of God's character. Jesus is a powerful way to engage in the Christmas season. Chuck's series is called His Name is Wonderful, and today he's teaching from John chapter 15.

Quoting Jesus, Chuck titled his message, I Am the True Vine. The longer I walk with Christ and the deeper I love Him, the more I believe in the importance of relationships. Anyone who is growing up in the Lord discovers in a period of time the value of relating in various areas of life. You realize more and more that you cannot do it alone, nor should you try.

I need you, and you need me, and we need one another. Anyone who wonders about Jesus' commitment to relationships wonders about it. I suggest the reading of John chapter 15. It is a chapter that is about really little more than relationships. If you have a New Testament handy, turn to this wonderful chapter and let's take a look at it together. John chapter 15. The theme of this chapter seems to be the Christian's vital relationships. And as I read the chapter, I find that there are three realms of relationships that Jesus talks about in this part of the upper room address. First of all, the first 11 verses, he talks about our relationships with him or our relationship, singular, with him. In the next six verses, he talks about our relationship with other Christians. And then in the last 10 verses, he talks about our relationship with the world.

Now working back up from the bottom, take special note of the key words in these three sections. In the last 10 verses, the key word is hate. He uses it eight times as he refers to the world hating us because the world hated him.

And when the Lord uses the same word that many times in a brief section, he's emphasizing it. So there is a hate relationship between the people of the world and the people of God. It isn't that we don't talk to one another.

It's simply that we don't have a ground of affirmation and agreement with one another. And he calls it here a hating relationship. Now in the middle section, chapter 15, the center section 12 down through 17, you will notice that the key word is love. Four times in these six verses, he uses that word love. You will love me.

You will love one another. There will be a love relationship between you and your brothers and sisters in Christ. When you get to the first 11 verses, the key term is abide. And if you can believe it, 10 times in 11 verses, he uses that same word.

Once again, when there was a repetition of a term, it is for the sake of emphasis. If you want to relate correctly with Christ, then you need to know what it means to abide. That's what this is all about in my talk. Let me share with you four general observations of these 11 verses in John 15, if I may.

First of all, this is for believers in Christ only. Doesn't mean the world can't listen. It just means that the world can't enter into abiding. We've all seen signs around. Signs read for adults only sometime. Sometime a sign will read for senior citizens only. At the airport several weeks ago, I saw a sign that read for passengers only. No one but passengers beyond this point.

Our restrooms have the sign for men only, for women only. Hanging above this chapter is for believers only. A non-Christian cannot turn to John 15 and find out how to become a Christian. A Christian can turn to John 15 and find out an important way to walk with God. So this is for the Christian. This is for the person who is in Christ already. For believers only.

Remember now, the key is abide. Second observation I would make of these first 11 verses is that they revolve around a symbol. If I were reading this for the first time, I would gather rather quickly that the symbol, according to verse 1 and verse 2, is the vine and the branch.

It's unfamiliar to us. But in Jesus' day, the Israelites had the very familiar symbol that was repeated often in the Old Testament of a vine and a branch. Very interesting that Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Hosea, all four, refer to a vine related to the nation Israel. And in every case, the vine is degenerating, and the Lord is concerned about it. He wants the vine to flourish, but because of the unfaithfulness of Israel, the vine is dying.

It is on its way to decay, and that's concerning the Lord through the prophets who wrote of it. Before going any further than that, let me get to the third. The third observation is that the main subject is abiding. It is abiding. And so to stay with the symbol of the vine, the emphasis in John 15 1-11 is not on the root, but on the fruit. When you read these 11 verses, you don't read about salvation, I repeat, you read about productivity. You read about the fruit that comes from the branches through the life of the vine. Fourth and finally, the result of abiding is fruit bearing. As a result of abiding in Christ, there is the bearing of fruit. Look, for example, at verse 2. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, verse 2 continues, every branch that bears fruit, and even further that it may bear more fruit.

Down verse 5. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit.

The reason I have taken you through that rather disjointed reading of the passage is so you can see a progress. He starts with a vine that does not bear fruit, 2A. He moves to a vine that bears fruit, 2B. He goes to a vine that bears more fruit, 2C. And he concludes that a vine that bears much fruit, verse 5. Woven through the fabric of these verses is the twin word picture of abiding and fruit bearing.

Abiding in Christ and bearing fruit. Now let's dig a little deeper. First of all, we have to understand the identity of the vine. And we don't have to guess. We don't even have to turn to some other passage that would answer the question, who is or what is the vine?

No one tells us. It's the first word. I am the vine. So the identity is clearly Jesus Christ. He says he is not only the vine, he is the true vine. The particular construction in the original emphasizes the adjective. In fact it reads, I am the vine. The true one.

That's the thought. And the emphasis is upon true as opposed to false. Genuine as opposed to artificial. All other vines are artificial. All other vines that you would lean on or draw life from to bear fruit are dead vines. False vines. I am the true vine. Isaiah spoke of a vine as being a wild vine. Jeremiah calls the vine in Israel's day a strange vine. Hosea called it an empty vine. Jesus says, I am the true vine.

So just being Jewish doesn't give a person entree to God. That vine is degenerating. Christ is necessary. Now the vine dresser according to verse 1 is the father. I am the true vine and my father is the vine dresser.

He is the one who works with the branches. He is the one who cultivates, who spades, who prunes. In fact you see in verse 2, he prunes it that it may bear more fruit.

So it's the father who is cultivating the vine. Now understand, all of this is symbolic. There isn't a literal vine, there isn't a literal branch, but all of these symbols are metaphors that give us ideas about how to grasp the spiritual life. So when you read of these symbols and metaphors, understand there is a deep significant spiritual meaning.

I may get part of it and I may miss some of it. It's left to us to meditate on these symbols. So the picture is that life comes from the vine. And the father works with the vine so that the branches might bear more fruit. Now the identity of the branch, verses 2, 3 and 4. Every branch in me that doesn't bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so it may bear more fruit. Verse 4, abide in me and I in you as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine.

Neither can you unless you abide in me. He says again, I am the vine. Now look at the identity of the branches. You are the branches. The wonderful thing about this passage is that you're not dependent upon a preachers interpretation of these symbols.

The Lord interprets them for us. So the vine is the Lord Jesus Christ. The vine dresser is the Father, God the Father. The branches would be the believers.

You, you and I are the branches. Look at the word abide yet again. It's mentioned in verse 4 for the first time and then it's mentioned often after that. Abide in me. To abide, I should say, in abiding in Christ we find the secret of fruit bearing. No abiding, no bearing of fruit.

See the way it reads? Verse 4, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine. Neither can you unless you abide in me.

Now we must accept that for what it says. You and I do not possess anything in our inner nature that creates any work that pleases God in and of itself. For us to produce a kind of fruit that will bring eternal reward, the Father working through his cultivating, pruning, spading process, helps the Lord Jesus in giving the life to the branches and through the branches comes the flowing of fruit. We are simply a part of the process and the Father gets the glory. Now the source of life is the vine. Jesus makes a distinction between those who are in him and those who are abiding in him.

This is very important. Back to verse 1. I'm the true vine, my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me, just stop right there. It is impossible to be a branch and not be in Jesus Christ.

But it isn't impossible to be a branch and not produce. This is a reference to our position in Christ. When we came to know the Lord Jesus, he grafted us into the vine and we became a part of the vine as his branches.

We are in him but it doesn't mean we're producing. It simply means we are in the vine. We are drawing our life from the Lord Jesus so that we might live and we might be found acceptable before God.

But that's just a part of the story. Verse 2 talks about those who are in him but verse 4 talks about those who abide in him. We are never commanded to be in the vine but we are commanded to abide. Nowhere in this passage or anywhere else does the Lord look at us and say, be in me. But he does say to us, abide in me. When we came to the cross we were placed into the vine.

That's our position. But there is no production until fruit begins to be born. It takes us down to verse 4. As the branch cannot, I hope you've marked that some way, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

Well this brings us to a major question. What is meant by fruit? There are some who teach that bearing fruit is winning souls for Christ. And certainly that's a magnificent part of the Christian life, is introducing other individuals to the Savior.

But I don't believe that's what he has in mind here. As a matter of fact, I think that this same symbol is found elsewhere and helps illustrate what that answer is over in Galatians chapter 5. If you'll turn for a moment, Galatians 5 verse 22. Let's start at verse 19, 519. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident. Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envies, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit, notice the word, not the product of the Spirit, but he calls it here fruit.

Remember that. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. I want to suggest that fruit that comes from abiding would be the character of Christ produced through us. And some of those things are listed for us there in Galatians 5. It is the life of Christ that flows from the vine through the branch. What characterized his life begins to characterize our lives as we abide. No abiding, no fruit.

Abiding fruit. Some years ago when I taught John 15, I remember doing a little experiment. I went out into, we were at the old building down at Woods and Malvern, an outside where there was a big section of vines that were growing along the ground cover. And I reached down with some scissors and I snipped a rather long strand of vine from the source of life, just cut it off. I brought it inside and I placed it in my study. As I recall, I put it under two books, all the prayers of the Bible and robust in faith just to make sure it was in a good setting so that somehow something wonderful might happen. And you know, even though it was in a pastor's study and even though it was resting beneath a couple of excellent books and even though it was in a good climate, it never got too warm, it never got too cool, protected from the weather, by the end of the week, it had withered and the leaves were just like dry toast.

You could just crinkle them in your hands and they would grind up into dust. There was no fruit. Once the vine and the branch were disconnected.

If there wasn't an abiding, there wasn't going to be any fruit. Now this brings us to the work of the vine dresser. When Jesus says I am the vine and he tells us this only here in John 15, nowhere else does he give us this name of his. When he tells us that he is the vine and the father is the vine dresser, immediately the Jewish mind goes to work.

I say that because they're more familiar with vines than we are. Unless you happen to be in the farming business, you know what viticulture is about, most of us don't. It tells us in this passage what the father does to help us bear fruit. Every branch in the Lord Jesus that does not bear fruit, verse 2, the father, according to this verse, takes away.

In fact, I prefer to use the words lifts up. People who work with vines tell me that one of the problems is that the branches fall down into the dirt and they never produce down there. What is the task of the one who nurtures and takes care of the vine is to lift them up out of the dirt and place them upon the trellis so that they can grow up out and off of the ground and there produce happens.

That's what he does. He lifts us up so that every branch can begin to bear fruit. In fact, he even prunes us so that we might bear more fruit. He uses his word to cleanse us, verse 3. You're clean already because of the word which I have spoken to you. I think that's a beautiful thought. Those of us who love the scriptures and spend time in the Bible tend to be people who let the scriptures do a work of cleansing.

I say it that way because it isn't automatic. The Bible has its own detergent. And by spending time in it, there is a cleansing that occurs. There is evaluation.

There are reproofs. At times you read a passage and you think, God wrote that just for me. Or you even think, how did he know that?

He's been watching my life. Look at Hebrews chapter 4, verses 12 and 13. One of my favorite little sections of Hebrews.

4, 12. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit of both joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. You know the word of God can get where no surgeon's scalpel can reach? No surgeon can do any work on the soul. But the word of God can separate soul from spirit, can get right into the marrow of motives, and excise an ugly cancerous tumor.

No physician can do that. God's word has the ability to put our finger on the nerve of the problem and then guide us in getting rid of it. Look at the next verse.

13. There is no creature hidden from His sight. All things are open and laid bare.

Really means naked. All things are open and naked to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. He prunes us by exposing those things that are hidden from other people's sight. Chuck Swindoll is quoting from Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12, which says, For the word of God is alive and powerful.

It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. That's precisely why the Bible is the centerpiece for learning on this daily program. Truly, it's our source of daily wisdom, or as we prefer to call it, our insight for living.

Stay with us because Chuck has prepared a comment for our listening family coming up in just a moment. But first, maybe you're thinking of someone who would truly enjoy today's message. If you'd like to share this message with a friend, we invite you to visit us online at insightworld.org.

Just look for the message titled, I Am the True Vine. Did you know that every message that Chuck presents here on Insight for Living is paired with helpful study notes? This online document is carefully crafted to help you have an encounter with the word of God. Because the Bible is alive and powerful, it's like a double-edged knife that's able to expose our innermost thoughts and desires.

To access this helpful resource called Searching the Scriptures, go to insightworld.org slash studies. And now, here's Chuck. My good friend Howie Stevenson led our worship for many years when I was serving the church in Fullerton, California. Just before singing a hymn, Howie would often say to the congregation, remember, you are the choir, I'm just the director, and together we're lifting our voices to the audience of one.

I love that. In one brief sentence, we all understood where to direct our worship. God and God alone is the object of our affection and the subject of our praise. In the same manner, Insight for Living exists for this sole purpose, to direct women and men to the audience of one. I'm just the teacher, and you are the choir, but working together, we point listeners to the Savior. In this final month of the year, I'm inviting you to join us in this worthy mission. Insight for Living is the channel God has given to us to deliver women and men into His presence.

The only barrier that keeps us from accomplishing this goal is the funding to do so. Please give a generous year-end gift this month. As you do, we'll make sure that Insight comes to you every day, and you can make sure that Insight is available to others.

Thanks so much. There are a number of convenient methods to respond to Chuck Swindoll. First you can call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. That's 800-772-8888. Or you might find it quicker to give your gift online at insight.org slash donate.

For those who prefer, we also have a mobile app, which includes an easy-to-use donate function. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll continues his message about Jesus, who claimed to be the true vine.

That's Tuesday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, I Am the True Vine, was copyrighted in 1988, 1992, and 1998. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 1998 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Production of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-04 14:22:13 / 2022-12-04 14:31:14 / 9

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