The Bookends of Faith (Part 5)

February 23, 2011 at 11:00 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 6 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Last time we looked at two proofs of abiding as branches in the True Vine Who is Jesus Christ:

1. Pruning is proof.
2. Producing is proof.
Now we see that,
3. Proliferating is proof.

When the fruit of abiding is produced in our lives the principle of proliferation or multiplication goes into effect. Fruit has seeds. When your fruit starts to produce more fruit, better fruit, and much fruit, it is proof you are abiding.

One bookend is the Bread of Life. If you have partaken of the Bread of Life, you HAVE (present tense eternal) eternal life. You could lean all your books on that bookend, but, if you have ever tried to line up books on a bookshelf, you know that if you only have one bookend, eventually the books are going to lose balance. They will fall down or get pushed over. If you lean too hard on the first I AM statement to the exclusion of the last I AM statement, you will fall down. And falling down, you will live a defeated Christian life. The Lord has put this last bookend – I AM the True Vine – at the other end, lest we believe one of two fallacies:

1. The fallacy that the guarantee of eternal life is a license to sin.

2. The fallacy that a branch can stop being a branch.

One who is born again cannot be unborn. One who has eternal life can not have temporary life. We cannot work for our salvation, and no amount of works will seal our salvation. This bookend – I AM the True Vine and those branches who abide will bear fruit – draws the distinction between victorious Christian living and defeated Christian living – between the spiritual Christian and the carnal Christian. Branches that do not abide experience severe chastening (pruning), and, if they will not return to abiding they may be cast into the fire and burned. HOWEVER, this fire is not the fire of hell – not the fire of eternal damnation. These verses must not be used to teach that doctrine. Both bookends are equally strong, and they do not contradict the books in the middle. The “fire” into which non-abiding, unfruitful branches may be thrown is the most severe judgment the Lord administers to His Own children – it is the judgment of letting them have their own way. This fire is the physical, not the eternal, not the spiritual, death of a believer. It is the ultimate chastening due to disobedience. It is the “sin unto death” of which I John 5:16 – written to believers – speaks.

The Bookends of Faith (Part 4)

January 24, 2011 at 10:24 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 10 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Previously, we noted that believers on the True Vine must abide in order to bear fruit – there is responsibility involved. “Abide” means “to take up residence in” – to “remain.” Abiding is something we must do intentionally.

The first step in successfully abiding is to admit that we branches can do nothing without the Vine.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

John 15:5, emphasis added

Our relationship to the True Vine is not “symbiotic.” It’s not that Jesus gets something from us and we get something from Him. He needs nothing at all from us, and we will bear no fruit on our own. We must understand our weakness and confess our need for His strength.

He is the True Vine. We are the branches. God is the Husbandman (Vinedresser.) God is the One Who prunes – or purges. All branches want to be fruitful, but few want to be pruned. Pruning involves cutting, clearing, and cleaning.

Clearing: Some branches have parts that drag them down. We have worldly concerns and interests that weigh us down.

Cleaning: Some branches have diseases or pests. We have addictions and predilections that we brought from our old life before we were saved. Even believers can get dirty in sin.

Cutting: Some branches have dead parts. These parts are sucking some of the sap away but producing very little fruit. It is is not enough just to cut away the dead part itself. Some of the living part must be cut off also. The dead part is cut away to maintain health. The living part is cut away to stimulate growth. In fact, pruning is proof of abiding.

The proofs of abiding: pruning and producing (producing fruit).

Here are some examples of producing good fruit:

1. Answered prayer

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

John 15:7

2. Deeper love for Christ

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

John 15:9

3. Deeper love for other Christians

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:12

4. Joy

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

John 15:11

Notice the progression:

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

John 15:2, emphasis added

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

John 15:5, emphasis added

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

John 15:8, emphasis added

The progression is from “no fruit” to “fruit” to “more fruit” to “much fruit.” This fruit – answered prayers and deeper love in our hearts – is fruit that we enjoy – and it is good fruit. But, remember, fruit isn’t produced so that the branches themselves can consume it. It is produced for others.

Fruit produced for others is a more mature, better kind of fruit:

1. Holiness and obedience

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:22

2. Soulwinning

Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

Romans 1:13

3. A dedicated life

When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

Romans 15:28

4. Christian character

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

True spiritual fruit tastes good, is good (for you), and looks good.

5. Good works

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Colossians 1:10

6. Praise to God

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Hebrews 13:5

Next time, we will look at yet another proof that you are abiding.

The Bookends of Faith (Part 3)

December 29, 2010 at 10:11 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 5 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Last time, we looked at what our response should be to Jesus’s proclamation that, “I AM the Bread of Life.” That was His first “I AM” statement in the Book of John. Now we move on to His last.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life. The two words that John 6:35 and John 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – “unending” and “unbeginning”). He was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:4; 1:8; 4:8) I once heard a catchy song on the radio with the lyric:
He’s not the God who one time did,
He’s the God Who does.
That’s why they call Him the Great I AM,
And not the great I was.

When I say that God is “uncommon,” I mean that He is truly unique.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

This is an illustration – the vine and the branches – which is not as familiar to us as it was to those who first heard it. Vineyards were almost as common to Jesus’s audience as gas stations are to us in the 21st Century. (Hey, maybe there’s a lesson there: He is the Gas Pump – we are the car – we won’t work unless He fills us up!)

If you have actually been in a vineyard or around grapevines, you may have a mental picture of the vines and branches being thin and easily broken, but those in Israel back in Jesus’s day were thick and strong. The image of the vineyard or the grapevine is common in Scripture. God had provided for and chastened Judah and Jerusalem throughout the Old Testament. If there ever should have been a vineyard to the glory of God, it should have been that nation. However:

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:4

The Jewish people were God’s vineyard, but there is also a worldly vineyard in Scripture.

And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Revelation 14:18-20

The grapes in this worldly vineyard are ripening for God’s judgment. Those are two of the vines found in Scripture. Then there is Jesus – the True Vine. Whenever there are “types” of Christ in the Bible, Christ fulfills those types, and is a “better than” those types. He is the Vine from which all other vines are copies or imitations.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

John 15:1-2

He is the Vine. We are the branches. God is the husbandman (vine-dresser). Branches can be strong when they are fed from the vine, but if something closes off the flow of sap from the vine, the branches become brittle and weak – and fruitless. Can these fruitless branches be used for some other purpose, such as for building? They can’t be used for building when they are strong because they are connected to the vine. They can’t be used for building when broken off because then they are weak. Abiding – connected – branches are good for one thing: bearing fruit. Broken – disconnected – branches are also good for one thing: burning. (Actually two things if you count hiding places for serpents.)

The branches of the “copy” – of an actual grapevine – have little choice but to abide. They they have no consciousness or responsibility. But believers on the True Vine must abide in order to bear fruit. There is responsibility involved. “Abide” means to take up residence – to “remain.” Abiding is not intending to make a temporary home. People don’t normally go to a hotel or make an encampment with the intention of “abiding.”

Next time, we will try to learn how to be good abiders.


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