Share This Episode
Renewing Your Mind R.C. Sproul Logo

The Vine & the Branches

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 19, 2022 12:01 am

The Vine & the Branches

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1231 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

July 19, 2022 12:01 am

Everything that Christians need to be faithful and fruitful in this life is found in Jesus Himself. Today, Sinclair Ferguson studies what Christ teaches about the vital importance of our spiritual union with Him.

Get a DVD Copy of Sinclair Ferguson's Teaching Series 'Union with Christ' with a Downloadable Study Guide for Your Gift of Any Amount:

Don't forget to make your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

Delight in Grace
Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
Summit Life
J.D. Greear
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick

Today on Renewing Your Mind, our union with Christ. Actually, it's really important we understand this aspect of the gospel, that we're united to Christ, because He's saying it is the real key to us understanding how we're going to be fruitful in the Christian life. We are united to Christ.

That's our relationship. What's the relationship between the branch and the vine? The branch is united to the vine. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson is our teacher today on Renewing Your Mind. He's leading us in a study of a theme that permeates practically all of the Apostle Paul's writings, our union with Christ. As we just heard Dr. Ferguson say, this is key to understanding how we're going to be fruitful as Christians, and we all desire that.

So let's join Dr. Ferguson now as we continue our study. Well, we're coming very near now to the end of our series of studies in union with Christ, and I thought it actually would be very important for us to depart for a few minutes from the Apostle Paul, simply to underline that union with Christ is not originally Paul's idea. Union with Christ is originally God's idea. And in fact, we find in a very familiar passage that this is the teaching of our Lord Jesus.

So in this session, we're going to think about Jesus' teaching in John chapter 15, and especially the first 11 verses, because there, as Jesus is with His disciples, you remember in the upper room, the evening of His crucifixion, He begins in a way that He has never quite done before, to explain to them that the heart of their Christian lives in the future is going to be the fact that they are united to Him. He uses, of course, a picture in order to express that to them, the picture of the vine and the branches. He is the vine, they are the branches. He must therefore give them all the resources they need for life and fruitfulness, and they in turn, as you remember, He says, as branches must continue to draw those resources from the vine. The branches need to remain in the vine if the branches are going to have real fruitfulness. Very interesting actually that in the time of Jesus, apparently in the temple, there were clusters of grapes portraying in a sense both the story of the Old Testament and also the symbol of God's people as God's vineyard and God's vine that He tended.

Some of these clusters apparently were as large as a man. And as the disciples had been in and out of the temple during Passion Week, perhaps it was that these marvelous depictions of God's people, of God's work as the vinedresser of His people, and these giant portrayals of the wonderful fruit that God intended for His people were lingering in their minds. And Jesus in a sense is moving them on from thinking about architecture and art to help them to understand this is a marvelous representation of the way in which their relationship with the Lord Jesus actually works. And I want to try and pick out four principles that Jesus enunciates here.

The background to all of this teaching is this. He has told His disciples He's going to leave them, and of course this has alarmed them. They feel that, well, if Jesus is at a distance from us, if Jesus is gone from us, where are we going to be? And He's already taught them that in fact when He goes from them, the Spirit will come to them. The Spirit who has been on His life and ministry these thirty-three years, the Spirit who has been His companion, the Spirit in whose power He has done mighty works and lived His life, the Spirit in whom He will offer Himself to the Father, the Spirit who will energize His resurrection, the Spirit He will send on the day of Pentecost, He will bring Jesus near. Indeed, in a sense even nearer because when the Spirit comes to indwell them, says Jesus, He will come to indwell you as though I were indwelling you myself.

I am leaving you in order to come closer to you. I am going from you to Calvary and then into heaven in order that you may be united to Me in a close bond of union in which you and I are bound together by one and the same Holy Spirit. And this, of course, is something that we saw last time Paul speaks about in Colossians chapter 3. Christians are bound together with the Lord Jesus because He has given us His Holy Spirit. There are not a hundred Holy Spirits or a thousand Holy Spirits.

There's only one Holy Spirit, and that Holy Spirit is the Spirit who is on the ministry of Jesus and who has come to indwell us. Christians could not be closer to Him because of this union. So here are four things, four principles Jesus enunciates about this union. Principle number one, our union with Christ is the source of all fruitfulness in our lives.

Look at what He says here. He says, "'Abide in Me and I in you.'" Verse 4, "'As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.'"

Later on, of course, He will say, "'Apart from Me, you can do nothing.'" And this is really a very striking statement when you think about it, that Jesus is saying, "'Unless there is a union between you and Me, your lives will never be fruitful.'" And in saying that, He's really emphasizing to us, actually it's really important we understand this aspect of the gospel, that we're united to Christ, because He's saying it is the real key to us understanding how we're going to be fruitful in the Christian life. We are united to Christ.

That's our relationship. What's the relationship between the branch and the vine? The branch is united to the vine. But it's as the branch draws on the significance of that union that the branch bears fruit, as the Christian believer draws on the significance of this union, the resources that are ours in Christ, as we saw in Paul's letter to Colossians, the fullness in Christ that is ours. This should enable us to stand tall and to believe that so long as we remain in this union and communion with the Lord Jesus, the fruit will begin to grow. And you perhaps noticed that in the New Testament, many of the illustrations that Jesus and the apostles use of being a fruitful Christian are illustrations that help us to see this is not something we do mechanically. This is something that happens supernaturally, but also in a way that is natural.

I remember my old minister from student days, William Still, saying that what characterizes the Christian is that he learns to do the supernatural thing naturally. You are the light of the world. Jesus doesn't say, flick on the light every so often. He's saying, you are the light, so let the light shine. Here he's saying, you are a member of the vine. You are a branch in the vine. So, you're not so much supposed to be thinking, how can I bear fruit? He's calling you to think, how can I continue to live in union and communion with the Lord Jesus and the fruit will look after itself?

Isn't it easy for some of us to get caught up in how well we're doing in Christian service and lose sight of how close our communion to the Lord Jesus is? So, this is a great lesson Jesus is teaching us, first of all, that the source of all spiritual fruitfulness is to be found is to be found in our union with Christ. Second principle, which if you'll excuse the pun, cuts more deeply, is that our union involves pruning if there is to be fruit. Our union involves pruning if there is to be fruit. Look at verse 2, every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit. Now, when it comes to practical things, I am almost totally incapacitated. I can mow the lawn.

That's about it. So, I know nothing except what I've read and actually what I've seen about viticulture and how to grow great grapes. But I understand that when a vine dresser, a viticulturalist is looking after his vines, he prunes them for two reasons. He wants to cut away what will not bear fruit, every branch in me that does not bear fruit he prunes, but he also prunes in order that the vine may bear more fruit and richer fruit and better fruit. So, what to me might seem to be a very violent activity on the part of the vine dresser is actually intended to be a very fruitful activity for the vine. I remember being taken by Bob Dendulk, who some people who are here may know.

He was a member of the Ligonier Board, an outstanding Christian man. And I remember him taking me to his vines in California. These just seemed to be miles and miles of vines in his vineyards. And as I was walking up between the vines marveling at the way in which they were nurtured and nourished in the soil and by irrigation, I saw twigs all over the place, thousands, millions and millions and millions of twigs and instinctively thought, what vandal has been here slashing my friends' vines?

Until, of course, the penny dropped. This was why the vines were so fruitful. Incidentally, if vines could speak, I think they would be saying, that hurts. And if vines could speak to those who were looking after them, I think those who were looking after them would say to them, you wait until you see the grapes.

You wait until you see the grapes. And this is how the Father works, isn't it? We find this in so many different places. We find it illustrated in so many lives in the pages of Scripture and in the pages of church history. The Christian who is never pruned is the Christian who will never grow.

It's how He works. And of course, instinctively we say, but Father, that hurts. And we need to understand that unless He do these things, unless He chip away at us as a sculptor, unless He cut as a surgeon, we'll never be healthy, we'll never be whole, we'll never be fruitful. I remember coming across these words of Amy Carmichael on one occasion.

Speaking about this very thing, she writes what prodigal waste it appears to be to see scattered on the floor the bright green leaves and the bare stem bleeding in a hundred places from the sharp knife. But with a tried and trusted husbandman, there is not a random stroke in it all, nothing cut away which it would not have been a loss to keep and gain to lose. Now, we're not saying we understand this any more than when Joseph was in prison after the incident with Potiphar's wife. He perfectly understood how God was working everything together for good. Jesus is not saying you will understand this. He'd earlier said actually to Simon Peter in chapter 13 when Peter said, I don't understand what you're trying to do, what you're trying to do, washing my feet.

He said, you don't understand now, Peter, but afterwards you will understand. And the same is true of this ministry of pruning in which we may feel the pains of life, and yet the Lord is using it in order to make us fruitful. And we see this all around us in the church, don't we? So, principle number one, that our union with Christ is the source of our fruitfulness. Principle number two, that that union involves pruning, that we may bear more fruit. And then principle number three, which you'll find especially in verse 7 is this, that this union is nurtured and nourished by the Word of God.

This union is nurtured and nourished. Its nutriments are found in the Word of God. Look at what he says, if you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. Now, you would almost think that the Apostle John had told the Apostle Paul he was going to write this, that he had almost written to Paul just before he wrote Colossians saying, by the way, here's one of the things that Jesus said. Because you remember how Paul finishes that passage we were looking at before when he says, bringing everything together that he's been teaching about our union with Christ, let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and you make melody in your heart and you teach one another. The way to grow strong in our union with Jesus Christ is to be fed on His Word. Now, that's exactly what Jesus prays for later on in chapter 17 and verse 17, isn't it? Sanctify them in the truth. Your Word is truth.

I want you to notice something. I think we live in a world today among Christian people where we want the Bible to tell us what to do and we'll do it. We're that kind of society, especially this society in the United States. You are known as can-do people.

Elsewhere, people are known as we've never done that before people, but here can do people. And so, we can get into a mentality where we bring that into our Christian lives and we want to be practical and pragmatic. Just tell us what we need to do and we are perfectly capable of doing it. But you'll notice how the New Testament teaches us to respond to the Word of God. What the New Testament teaches us fundamentally is that the Word of God does the work itself.

The Word of God does the work itself. That's why it's important for us to be sitting under a living ministry, isn't it? Not so we can be told what to do, but so that we can be taken into the place where the heavenly potter does his work, so that he's actually working on us under the ministry of God's Word. And we realize this because under the ministry of God's Word, we ought to find that we discover things about ourselves that we'd forgotten about or that the Word of God gets so far down into our lives. It exposes our hidden faults or it comes to us when nobody else knows how we're hurting, how lonely we are, and God's Word comes. And because Christ Himself is speaking through His Word, we realize we're not alone. That's one of the wonderful things, surely, about sitting under a living ministry of God's Word. God's Word does its own work and our task, therefore, is to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. But as we abide in Christ, we allow Christ's Word to take up its residence in our lives because it has the power to change us, because it's Christ's Word. You know, if you've ever preached, you may have had the experience I have often had that you're speaking about something and as you look at the congregation, you think, oh, oh, oh, this is the last thing she needs to hear.

Here's someone who's heartbroken because she's lost her husband or someone who's facing a great crisis, and you think none of this is, oh, if I'd only known they would have been there, I would have tried to massage the message so that it wouldn't be so sore for them. And then they shake hands with you at the church door and they say, that was just the Word for me. And you think, how can it possibly have been the Word for you?

Here is the answer. Because when Christ's Word is preached, Christ Himself is preaching it, and what we experience is Him. And He is able to save to the uttermost all those who call upon the name of the Lord. And when we meet Him, then there is all fullness in Him so that when His Word is given the opportunity to dwell in us and we dwell in Him, then, of course, our union with Him is wonderfully nourished. It doesn't matter what the passage is, what the message is, because we realize the Word is at work. The Word is at work. Now, that same minister, William Still, that I mentioned earlier on, I remember one day the notice board outside the church had this huge notice, and on it the words were these, workshop, inside, showroom, upstairs. That's great, isn't it? That's what happens when we are under the ministry of the Word and when we're in the ministry of the Word, when we're reading Scripture and allowing it to pour over us.

We're in the workshop, and the showroom will surely be upstairs. And then there is this fourth principle. The first principle, yes, this union is the source of all our fruitfulness. Second, this union involves the pruning of the Father. Third, this union is nurtured and nourished and nourished by the Word. And fourthly, the most obvious fruit of this union is our love.

They will know we are Christians by our love. Now, this is not John Lennon love. All you need is love. All you need is love. Love, love, love.

Love is all you need. This is Christ-like love. Herein, says Jesus, is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit. And that fruit means that people will see that we are the disciples of Christ because we love one another the way Jesus Christ as love does. You know, we sometimes think we're living in really tough times for the church, but you don't get this anywhere outside of the church. I believe it will be more and more the reality of people who come into contact with living churches, not dead churches, but living churches, that they will think, where on earth did this come from?

And that will move them on to the question, where in heaven did this come from? Remember how Colossians 3 ends that way? And here this passage focuses on the same thing. Christ's Word abides in us, and when Christ's Word abides in us, the Father is glorified. We bear much fruit. As the Father has loved Jesus, so Jesus has loved us. And we abide in His love, and as we abide in His love, that love is on display to one another. What is the ultimate fruit? Well, at the risk of boring you, it's being like Jesus, isn't it?

That's not boring. It's Christ-likeness. That's what union with Christ creates in us, a likeness to the Christ to whom we're united. And we want to say thanks be to God for His amazing interest.

Amen. The singular focus of a Christian is just that, pursuing Christ. What a profound message from Dr. Sinclair Ferguson here on Renewing Your Mind. This week, we're pleased to bring you portions of his latest series, Union with Christ.

In 12 messages, he helps us understand that when we're in Christ, we're a new creation, crucified with Christ, baptized into Christ, and set free from sin. We hope you'll request this two-DVD set. Just call us today with your donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. Our phone number is 800-435-4343.

If you prefer, you can make a request and give your gift online at The more we consider this union with Christ, the more we want to know about Him and His character. That's why we've made hundreds of resources available to you on our mobile app. You'll find audio and video teaching series similar to the one we featured today, along with articles and daily Bible studies.

You can download it for free when you search for Ligonier in your app store. Well, tomorrow, Dr. Ferguson continues his series with an often neglected aspect of our union with Christ. When we embrace Christ crucified and risen, then that leaves by the Spirit and in God's providence an imprint on our lives, creates a kind of rhythm of death and resurrection that leads to fruitfulness in our lives. We'll learn what it means to be united with Christ in His suffering. I hope you'll join us tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind. I hope you'll join us tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-22 17:48:53 / 2023-03-22 17:57:27 / 9

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime