I am the Vine

Jesus is the vine, and through him only good fruit is produced.

George Wright
May 31, 2020    46m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright reminds us that Jesus is the vine of life. And through careful pruing away of the bad and dead branches, and through continuing to grow and abide in Him, only good fruit is produced. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 Well, let me encourage you to grab your Bible, and turn to John's gospel chapter 15. And as you're turning there, I want you to know that this week we are going to be sending out an update to our regathering plan, and so we want you to be looking for that on social media, through your email, on our website, we've got some updates coming your way. And we look forward to the day in the not too distant future, where we'll be able to gather together again in person. But for now, we are grateful to have the opportunity to share this time in the word of God in this way.

George Wright: 00:34 And as we turn to John 15, if you're new to Shandon today, we want you to know that this is a culmination of a series that we've been walking through over the last six weeks. We have been looking at statements that Jesus makes about himself in John's gospel. As we're seeking the answer to the question, 'Who is Jesus', why did he come? And the beautiful gift that Jesus provides for us, as he makes the seven 'I am' statements that are incredibly clear and incredibly simple. As we've said on many occasions, Jesus is the master at putting the cookies on the bottom shelf. And in John 15, we see exactly that. Jesus makes this beautiful statement that is so helpful, and is incredibly freeing, as we consider what it means to follow Jesus.

George Wright: 01:32 I'd like to encourage you now, wherever you are, if you're willing and able to stand with me as I read our opening, a couple of verses in John 15. And I realized that may be a little unusual, but we stand at the reading of God's word so that we can be reminded that the word of God is the foundation that the people of God stand upon. And the word of God reveals to us, what God says is right and good and true. So this is the word of God, John chapter 15, verses 1 and 2, Jesus speaking to his disciples. He says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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."

George Wright: 02:31 We'll stop there for just a moment as we begin this message. And I'd love to have a word of prayer with you that God would speak into our lives collectively, as we gather all over the place to study his word, let's pray. Father God, we come before you now needing to hear from you. There is so much noise going on around us, so much noise fighting for our attention, so much noise seeking to dictate the way we think and the way we live. And Lord, in the midst of all this noise, you are speaking. And so I pray that we would hear your word, that we would hear from you, in the power of your Spirit today, right now, as we turn our attention to the Holy scripture. I pray that you would have your way among us, open our ears to hear, open our hearts, to receive. We commit this time to you, and we are thankful for the privilege to hear your word. Use this day for your glory in our lives. It's in Christ' name. I pray. Amen.

George Wright: 03:48 And if you were standing, go ahead and be seated, get comfortable as we turn our attention here to John 15. I've got a picture that I want to show you from one of my projects during the stay at home order. So I have experimented over the last couple of years with a garden. And so this year, a few weeks ago, I made my first ever garden box. It's behind our house, and I've got some tomato plants, a little bit of okra, but mostly tomatoes that are growing in the garden behind our house. And I am by no means an expert gardener, in fact, this is something that I've just experimented with a little bit, but it has been very relaxing and very enjoyable. And every day I go out to the garden, I pick weeds, I see what's growing, I see if there are buds on the plants, and if there's anything starting to come to life. And then a few weeks ago, I walked out and tomatoes began popping out on the plants. Those are some good looking green tomatoes, hopefully very soon they will turn red. And if it all goes well, we will have tomatoes in our household all summer long.

George Wright: 05:11 Isn't it interesting, that when you look at fruit or vegetables on a plant, you can immediately see what type of plant it really is. Now this does bring up the question, is a tomato a fruit or vegetable? That really is an age old question, maybe you've heard it said both ways. I looked it up this week, I went on the little Google machine, and I asked the question, is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? And the answer that came back is yes, it is. Nutritionists say, that tomatoes are a vegetable, because of their nutritional value. But botanists say that tomatoes are a fruit, because they have seeds, and because they bloom from a flower bud on the plant. So the tomato is a fruit and a vegetable. Now this does not answer the debate as to whether or not it's called a tomato or a tomato, and you can argue that out in your household. In fact, you might just want to talk about that, where do you stand as you watch this message today.

George Wright: 06:25 As we step back into the scripture, though, we see that Jesus is teaching this beautiful truth about fruit and the vine. And showing us something that is incredibly important to consider as it relates to a life of faith, specifically, as it relates to living the life of a Jesus follower, the life of one who is following after Jesus trusting our heart and soul to his care and provision. Jesus is showing us that healthy plants produce fruit, and the type of fruit that is produced reveals the type of plants that we are seeing. How simple, how clear, what a gift that Jesus shows us. If you are a follower of Christ, there will be fruit that reveals the decision that has been made, and the life that is being lived. With this in mind, we recognize that John 15 really is a passage of scripture, that is all about identity. Jesus is telling his disciples that the fruit of their life will reveal their identity. The fruit will be the evidence of what is the foundation, and the priority of our life.

George Wright: 08:10 Now this is the only time that Jesus talks about fruit in the scripture. In fact, in the most famous recorded sermon that we have of Jesus, often called The Sermon on the Mount, we see it in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Jesus makes another reference to fruit. And again, this reference to fruit is about identity. Look at what it says in Matthew chapter 7, beginning in verse 15. Jesus, as he's preaching says, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits." And then Jesus again, points to an illustration, he says, "Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles. So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit." A healthy tree, Jesus says, cannot bear bad fruit, nor can that disease tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits.

George Wright: 09:34 Now these verses in Matthew 7 are very sobering. In fact, Jesus is issuing a warning here, as the crowd has gathered to listen to him teach on the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the sea of Galilee. Jesus is saying, look, you can't always take everything you see, and everyone you interact with, at face value. There will be some that look and sound like they are part of the people of God, but in fact, they are actually in disguise, or they actually are deceived. Jesus calls them ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing. They are attempting to use the flock, or use the body, or use the people of God, to get what they want. They abuse the flock, they take away from God's purpose, they take away from what God says is best for his people. And Jesus says, they will be revealed by their fruit, their selfish motivations, their self-serving purposes will be seen. They are not living for the glory of God, they are living for the glory of self, and the fruit will reveal what truly matters most to them.

George Wright: 11:16 You see when Jesus talks about fruit, Jesus is saying, the fruit always reveals the root. What does that mean for us? That means the fruit is always a reflection of the heart. The fruit always reveals what's going on inside. Now we are navigating a season right now in all of this uncertainty, that has been revealing in the lives of many, fruit of what really is most important and what's really going on inside. It's been said, when a crisis hits, what's on the inside, comes out. When a crisis hits, it reveals what's happening internally. When the storm comes, it reveals the strength of the foundation. And for some in this season of uncertainty, the fruit has revealed a foundation of fear, or a foundation of a lack of trust in the sovereign reign of God. For some, this season of uncertainty has revealed selfish, motivations, and selfish ambition, and a lack of concern for the needs and the wellbeing of others, as people have become focused only on themselves. But at the same time, this season of uncertainty has revealed the fruit in some of an unwavering faith, and a desire to do whatever it takes to point to the hope that is in us. And to recognize that in all things, we have this beautiful gift of a promise, because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. As you look at your life right now, what is the fruit revealing?

George Wright: 13:34 With that in mind, we go back to where we started John 15 verses 1 and 2, "I am the true vine, Jesus says, and my father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he take away. And every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes that it may bear more fruit." Now in these two verses that are the foundation for our message today, Jesus is revealing that there is a master gardener who prunes the bush, or prunes the plant, for the sake of providing growth. And as we press into this, we recognize that any gardener understands pruning is essential to growth. And there are two types of pruning that Jesus talks about here in John 15 1 and 2. Again, these are some challenging verses to consider, because Jesus is saying one type of pruning that the master gardener does, is he removes the dead lifeless branches from the vine. He removes the branches that are not bearing any fruit, the branches that are diseased or unhealthy, the branches that do not show life and vitality.

George Wright: 15:08 Now most commentators agree, that as Jesus is sharing these words in John 15, he is referring specifically to what has just taken place among his disciples, as it relates to one of the disciples named Judas. Now, last week in our message, we talked about this scene. John 13 through 17, where we find our self today, are several passages of scripture that all revolve around one scene with Jesus and his disciples. This is when Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples. And in John 13, we see as Jesus institutes this beautiful ceremony that we call the Lord's supper, that he also looks across the table at Judas, one of the disciples, and says to everyone in the room, Judas will betray me. One of their own, one of the men who has walked with them for three years, one of the men that has seen and heard everything that Jesus has done, he is going to stab Jesus in the back, he's going to sell him out to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. And as Judas leaves the room, as Jesus declares he will betray him, the disciples are in this very tense moment. A moment of confusion, a moment of difficulty, and Jesus is saying to them here in John 15, there will be some among the true believers, some among the true followers of Christ just like were described in Matthew 7, that may look like the disciples in some form or fashion, but they are really wolves in disguise, and they will be removed. Their fruit, or you could say lack of fruit, will reveal a cold and unrepentant heart, and they will be removed from the vine, they will be taken away.

George Wright: 17:33 This is so difficult to hear, because we are being reminded in this statement of Jesus, that while man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at and knows the heart. And man can fool other men, but God will never be fooled. And as Paul writes in Galatians, God will never be mocked. He sees, and he knows, the condition of our hearts, and he removes the branches who are spiritually dead and do not bear fruit. In a sense, Jesus is saying here, and eluding to, Judas, that you can spend your entire life among the people of God, and not be a true follower of Jesus Christ. You can spend it your entire life in the church, and not truly be a follower of Jesus Christ. You can call yourself a Christian, and not truly be a follower of Jesus Christ. Your fruit will reveal who you really are.

George Wright: 18:59 This is a sobering call to repentance. This is a wakeup call. Attending church does not make you a follower of Christ, joining into an online service does not mean you are a follower of Christ. Calling yourself a Christian, does not mean you are a follower of Christ. A follower of Christ is one who has recognized the sinful condition of their heart, and recognize that there is nothing they can do on their own to change the sinful condition of their heart, and they realize they need a savior, and they realize that Jesus is their only hope. As we looked at last week, the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father, except through me, Jesus says. A follower of Jesus recognizes that their only hope is the gift of salvation that is found in Christ alone. And in humility and surrender, they trust their life to Jesus Christ, and they trust
their eternity to the promise of what Christ has revealed. What does the fruit reveal about your heart?

George Wright: 20:36 The lifeless branches that do not bear fruit, Jesus says will be removed. But there's another type of pruning that Jesus references in John 15, there is the pruning of removal, but there is also the pruning that promotes growth. The pruning, that process, that brings about greater growth and greater fruit. As the gardener knows, pruning is essential to growth. Now this is what many people often call discipline, and discipline is very challenging to talk about. But I want to turn your attention to Hebrews chapter 12, beginning in verse 8, as we jump into this conversation on this one. The scripture says this, "If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?" What is the scripture revealing here through the writer of Hebrews? The scripture is showing us that discipline is essential to be called a child of God. Discipline is for our good.

George Wright: 22:17 Now, I am the oldest of three boys, and I grew up in a home where my parents believed firmly in discipline. And specifically, firmly, in the effectiveness of the discipline called spanking. Now I realize this may be somewhat controversial today, but I can tell you, I got my fair share of spankings growing up. In fact, there's a verse in Proverbs that my dad loved to quote it's Proverbs 13:24, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." It's right there in the scripture. Okay. And I got my fair share of spankings, and it was never fun. And I can assure you, there was not a single time when my dad brought out that wooden spoon, that I stopped him and said, dad, I am so thankful for what you are about to do. I know that you love me. I know this is for my good, thank you for being a loving, gracious father who is willing to bring discipline in my life for the sake of growth. No, are you kidding me? I was kicking, I was screaming, I was trying to get away from that wooden spoon. In fact, one time, I even stuck a book down my pants in an attempt to not feel the spanking, as if it would not be seen, right? That discipline though, was a gift. And I can assure you now, as I look back on what my parents did in bringing discipline into my life when I needed it most. I am so grateful, and I have the utmost respect for my father being willing to bring discipline in my life, to promote growth in my life, so that I could recognize where I was wrong and recognize what needed to take place in my life. I pray that one day, my kids will feel the same, and respect me for the discipline that has been brought into their life. And it's still coming kids, I know you're watching, more discipline will come, but it is for our good.

George Wright: 24:44 We go back to the passage in Hebrews, as the writer continues, verse 10, talking about the discipline of our fathers. It says, "For they disciplined us for a short time, as it seemed best to them, but he, (speaking of God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness." The scripture then says, "For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, (that's an understatement) but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." What a gift these verses are, God disciplines us for our good. God knows that discipline, pruning, is essential for growth. In fact, according to the scripture, the path to holiness is the discipline of God. He knows what we need to see. He knows what we need to hear. And he knows that we are often blinded by our sin, and we're often wearing earplugs, so that we don't hear what we need to hear. And he recognizes that discipline is the way that we are brought to the light, and discipline is the way that he gets our attention, so that there can be growth and greater fruit. I'm so thankful that the scripture speaks to the truth, that discipline is always painful, but discipline is necessary as it leads to an even greater harvest of righteousness, a greater harvest of fruit bearing, as we are trained by the pruning process of God, and as we see what he desires for us to see.

George Wright: 26:55 As we stepped back into John 15, we are reminded that there is a master gardener, who recognizes what we need. Who cuts when there needs to be a cut, who prunes when there needs to be a prune, who removes what needs to be removed, so that fruit can flourish and thrive and point to the incredible gift of his mercy and grace. John 15, verse 3, look back at our text for today. Jesus says, "Already you are clean because of the word that I've spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine. Neither can you, unless you abide in me." Now, Jesus is speaking to one of the most important questions that a follower of Christ could ever ask. And the question is this, if fruit is the evidence of a life that has been saved, if fruit is the evidence of Christ alive in me, then what must I do to bear fruit? What do I need to accomplish? What needs to be on the to do list, the checklist, what are the things that need to be in my life so that I do not get cast aside like a dead lifeless branch. And the answer that Jesus gives is one word, one simple, clear word. If you want your life to bear fruit, abide. Abide. Abide, what does that even mean? How do I abide? I mean, tell me all the things I need to do. I want to be active, I want to get after this, I want to go for it. I want to make sure I accomplish all the tasks, and get it all done. Jesus, you're just saying abide. Abide means here to continue, to remain, to rest in what Christ has already done.

George Wright: 29:33 This is so incredibly important, because we so often miss this in our journey of faith. Jesus wants to make it crystal clear to his disciples, and crystal clear to you and to me today, you are going to want to devote your life to all the things that you feel like you must do so that you can bear fruit and be right with God and be a reflection of his gift. And you're going to be passionate about actively serving, and sharing the good news. I mean, that's what a Jesus follower does. And you're going to work really, really, really hard to do everything you can to live the right way, and to be an appropriate reflection of God's love, to be a witness of Christ. I want to do, I want to do, I want to do. But don't miss this, the doing does not save you, and the doing does not produce fruit. Jesus is saying the gift of salvation is wholly and completely based on what Christ has already done. And the fruit of your life, and the fruit of my life, it is a true reflection of the good news of the gospel that we receive by faith, not by works, but by faith. The fruit of our life does not come from our work, the fruit of our life that points to Jesus, comes from abiding in his finished work. This is all about trusting in what Christ has already done.

George Wright: 31:48 This is so important, because we often think that we are the ones responsible for creating fruit, or producing fruit, but we cannot produce fruit. The fruit only comes when we are connected to the vine, when we are connected to the life source, for only God can produce fruit. And we are called to remain in him, to abide, to continue in his finished work, to rest in what Christ has already accomplished. We are called to abide in Christ, and as we abide the fruit, the work of the finished work of Christ, begins to grow as a beautiful reflection of his love.

George Wright: 32:57 Do you realize that the primary difference between the Pharisees, who were always frustrated with Jesus and ultimately sent Jesus to the cross, and the disciples who followed Jesus, and loved Jesus, and after the resurrection went on to be great witnesses for Jesus and the early fathers of the church itself. Do you realize the difference between the Pharisees and the disciples? For both worked diligently to do the work of the ministry, and both wanting to live their lives to point to God, and both wanted to make an impact in the way they lived. But the Pharisees placed all of their focus on their work, it was all about what they were doing to prove themselves worthy to God. The disciples placed all of their focus on Christ's finished work, and they were devoted to being a reflection of what Christ had already accomplished. You and I, if you call yourself a Christian, and desire to bear fruit, are called to abide in what Christ has already done, and as we abide, the fruit will grow.

George Wright: 34:45 And this is what we see in verse 5, our final verse for today in John 15, and in this series, Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." One of the great privileges that I have as a pastor, is the opportunity to perform wedding ceremonies. I love a wedding ceremony. Where the bride and the groom are so excited, and so full of joy, and so in love. And the bride wants to be the best possible wife that she can be, and the groom wants to be the best possible husband that he can be. And so standing there at the altar before God and all the witnesses on their wedding day, they are so full of love and joy, and it would be easy for them to conclude in that moment full of love and joy, this marriage stuff, it's going to be so easy, it's going to be such a piece of cake. But anyone who's been married longer than a couple of weeks, realizes marriage can be incredibly challenging. One of the things I always try to remember to say in a wedding ceremony, is a statement like this to the bride and the groom, if you want to be the spouse that God has created you to be, and you want to experience the love that God has created for you to enjoy in your marriage. The greatest thing that you each individually can do, is fall more in love with Jesus every day. Because the reality is, we see this in marriage all the time, marriage is a relationship of two sinners joining together. And when two sinners join together, there will be conflict, there will be challenges, there will be disappointment, and there will be reminders that they are not the perfect spouse. Even in all of their love, and even in their desire to be the best husband or the best wife that they can be, they will fall short. We all fall short. But if a husband and wife, in a marriage relationship, are committed above all else to falling more in love with Jesus every day, they will bear much fruit in their marriage that will lead to greater love and greater joy in their marriage relationship. Which is what they so deeply desired in the first place, when they stood on the altar to commit their lives together.

George Wright: 38:13 Jesus says, abide in me, rest in me, trust in me and what I have already done, and you will bear much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing. You can do nothing of eternal significance when you are disconnected from the vine, you can do nothing of eternal impact when you are not connected to the vine. Jesus is saying to his disciples, and saying to his church, fix your eyes on me. Look at what I have done. Look at what I am doing. Rest in me, abide in me, and your life will bear much fruit. As Jesus echoes one of the most powerful statements he made in all of his ministry here in John 15, we reflect back to Matthew 6:33, as Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Abide in the kingdom, look at the kingdom, fix your eyes on his righteousness. What he has done, who he is, rest in the finished work of Christ and all these things, the fruit will be added, and the fruit will be revealed. That points to one whose identity is rooted and grounded in the finished work of Christ.

George Wright: 40:32 Do you want your life to make an impact? Do you want your life to have a ripple effect into eternity? Do you want your life to bear much fruit? Abide in Jesus, for he has done for you and for me, what we could never do for ourselves. And when we trust our lives to his finished work, we are free to live the life that he has called and created for us to enjoy as his follower, bearing much fruit, that points not to our work, but to his finished work at the cross. Abide, rest, remain, continue, in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and your life will bear much fruit.

George Wright: 41:41 Let me pray for us as we close our time in this series. Heavenly Father, I am so very grateful for the clarity of your word. Specifically, as we ask the question who is Jesus? Today, we are so grateful for what you have revealed, the life source of Jesus Christ that has been offered to us. Oh Lord, I pray for those who are followers of Christ joining into this message today. I pray, Lord God, that they would not be so caught up in all the things that they're trying to do, that they miss out on the beautiful freeing invitation to abide in the finished work of Christ. Lord, give us the faith to fix our eyes on Jesus, so that we can be freed up for the work that you've called us to, so then we can be freed up to live the lives that you have created us to enjoy. Lord, I pray that you would give us the faith to trust you at your word, to rest in the finished work of Christ, to abide in the life source that is the true vine. And I pray Lord, that our lives would bear much fruit that points to the beautiful gift we have received.

George Wright: 43:26 And as we close this time today, and close this series today, I pray Lord God, for anyone who is joining us, that has never experienced the gift of life that is found in Christ Jesus, our Lord. They've never trusted their life to Jesus. They have never accepted the gift of salvation. I pray that today would be that day. I pray that you would give them the faith even now to recognize their need for the savior, to acknowledge their sin and to say, I need Jesus, and I am ready to trust my life to the true life source. I am ready to trust my life to Jesus Christ. I surrender my life to you, Jesus. Oh, how we praise you for the gift salvation? Oh, how we praise you for the gift of life in Christ. Oh, how we praise you for the promise of eternal life? I pray, Lord God, that those who say I am a follower of Jesus will rest and abide in your love, and will bear much fruit, use our lives for your glory. This is our prayer. Thank you for this time that we have shared in your word. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that I offer this prayer, and conclude this series. Amen.

George Wright: 45:19 Well, what a privilege it is been to share this time together, to step into the scripture and to see who Jesus is, and why he is came. I pray for you, that you would continue to experience the love of God. And in this season of uncertainty, I pray for you that you would know that God is with you, and God is pursuing you with his love. We look forward to joining together again very soon. And again, hope you will check in for the updates that will be released this week, as we look forward to joining back together in person. God bless. We'll see you real soon.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206