WITH

John 15:6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  [NRSV]

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Jesus is the appointed, reliable judge of the presence of life or the serious results of lack of it. His intent in that judgment is to encourage life and growth even if it requires some dramatic pruning.

Abiding is the challenge Jesus is asking us to accept in the truth of verse 6.  Abiding with Jesus is the choice that does more than just preserve life as it was.  [Preserve means to keep something in its original form or keep it in good condition].  Abiding – accepting and acting with – Jesus is the choice that will protect [Protect means to keep away from harm or danger] our life in Him.  We are not alone because He is WITH us.

True Fruit

John 15:5  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. [NRSV]

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So far John 15 has been all about repetition.  Over and over these verses have reminded us our purpose is to abide in the “true” vine. [Down through Jewish history the vine became the symbol of Israel. During the Macabees period of history, the symbol of the vine was on the coins of Israel. It was over the main doors of the synagogues. (Antiquities of the Jews by Jewish historian, Josephus (5.5.4)]  The symbol of the vine had become more about the nation than God.  Even the purchase of gold to add a branch or a single grape to those synagogue vines could be considered an act of worship.

It’s easy to be distracted from what “true” worship is and the fruit it’s meant to produce.  Jesus says “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  Jesus’ challenge is to accept this one truth: a relationship to Him is the reality of a connection to God Himself.  He is the only “true” vine and the branches are carefully, and artfully cultivated and pruned to produce the “true” fruit of  worship: “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” [Westminster]

Abide…Then

John 15:4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

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Abide; accept or act in accordance with

It’s important when a word is used four times in the two short sentences of verse 4.  Abide is a familiar word but it’s not commonly used today.  Abide becomes the reality of “word to live by” when you plug the definition into those four places.

Accept or act in accordance with Me as I accept or act in accordance with you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it accept[s] or act[s] in accordance with the vine, neither can you unless you accept or act in accordance with me.

When you accept or act in accordance with the life of Jesus and recognize His life is bearing fruit in you…then your fruit can happen.

Can You Believe?

Truth; John 15:3 You have already been cleansed [or pruned] by the word that I have spoken to you. [NRSV]

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Inspiration: Remember the Apostle Peter?  Remember how he protested when Jesus wanted to wash his feet?  Jesus’s response to Peter sounds just like John 15:3 to me – ”you’ve already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  

Reality: OK, this is a test!  Get a pencil and paper and write down the first five true things you remember Jesus has spoken personally into your heart.  Write them in the order you remember them without any concern about a timeline.  It doesn’t have to be a complete list and they don’t have to be written as verbatim scripture but they do have to be real to you.  AND THIS IS KEY: don’t go back and edit them in any way as you read them again. [you know it’s me I’m talking to]. The important thing is they ARE written in the order you remember them. 

•Test IS the root word of test meaning “to bear witness.”  Do not confuse this root test with the same word which means examination. It is true that when you take an examination you are a witness for your own knowledge and, unless you cheat, you are showing what you do or don’t know. However, here the word means a solemn telling of the truth of what you know, bearing witness for truth’s sake.
•english-for-students.com/test.html]

You may have already had the experience of writing or giving your testimony.  You know how difficult it is to distill the most important things Jesus has done for you from the many really good things that have happened in your life without turning it into an “I was and now I am” testimony.   I believe the results of your test are listed in the priority of their impact on you specifically.   Can you believe the things you just wrote down are an accurate recounting of Jesus and the Holy Spirit verifying “you have already been cleansed”?   If you can, that belief can make your list the perfect outline that moves what you wrote from that examination kind of “test” to  the root of a new “testimony.”   A testimony that bears witness for truth’s sake to the I AM.  My wish would be that you would use your results and write your own new kind of testimony.

This is my own “unedited” list.  My new testimony is only to show you an example of how effectively it can work.
1.  I have been crucified with Christ.  I have scars but they’re part of the testimony of my healing.
2.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
3.  Jesus will complete the work he’s begun in me
4.  The greatest of these is love
5.  Lord help my heart, soul, mind an strength

Nobody wants to admit their inability to deal with life or being wounded.  Even healing can leave scars.  I want my scars to be changed from something that needs to be hidden to evidence of blessing.  I want to be like Jesus.  I want Him to be the power that allows me to believe and live as if I have “already been cleansed. ”  I want to view those scars as the revelation of a changed heart not a sign of condemnation.  I want to believe my soul has caught a glimpse of promised immortality, my mind has been challenged by the Word of God and I really do have the strength to live by the words Jesus has spoken into my heart – I AM “the word that I have spoken to you.”

The Purpose of Grapes

John 15:2 He [the Father] removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes [and cleanses] to make it bear more fruit. [NRSV]

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Facts: Artful pruning of a grapevine is what produces better fruit and maintains the optimal health of the branches.  The pruner determines which branches should be allowed to grow and which should be removed. The only shoots that yield grapes are those that grow each spring from one-year-old canes – those that began growing the previous year.  Pruning is vital for the vine because old canes can still produce leaves that make a branch look good but only sap the strength and ability of the newer canes to produce fruit.  It’s all about the fruit. 

Truth: Jesus speaks in pictures I can understand.  There is no substitute for new growth and how it contributes to fruit bearing and a healthy life of faith for the believer in Jesus Christ.  I know how easy it is to look pretty good based on what has already happened in your life of faith.  I know what it’s like to resist the pruning of things that were real and good “then” but are old now.  I know the pruned branch looks really bare and exposed until new growth appears.  I know the purpose of pruning is the fruit…and I know the purpose of grapes.

Inspiration: What turns the grape into wine?  It is crushed and then in due time when the process is through, the wine will be new.  You’ll be my wine in this world.  💕Jesus

Viticulture

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.”

This is another “new” experience. An offhand idea last Sunday has stuck in my brain.  What if I did a chapter verse by verse?  The sermon series at church was ending with John 14 but John 15 is one of my all time favorite chapters so that’s my choice to begin.

It’s going to be interesting because right off the bat there is a very short statement by Jesus.  The “vinegrower” is depending on the “true vine” to establish the vineyard. The quality of the crop is totally dependent on the ability of the true vine to multiply and reproduce itself while maintaining the exact properties it was chosen for.  

I barely dipped into the vast amount of information on the internet about the development of grapevines over the ages and found something I think strengthens the imagery of Jesus’ claim.  Long before the birth of Christ there are documented efforts of the struggle of vine growers to develop grapevines that were able to reproduce their desirable qualities without continually having to introduce variable characteristics from another vine.  

The Bible doesn’t waste it’s analogies.  Jesus could claim He was the “true vine” because He was the complete and accurate reflection of his Father who perfectly reproduces that same unique likeness within His followers.

Doctrine to Comfort

NRSV Matthew 12:29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 

NRSV Mark 9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 

NRSV Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

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After reading several versions of these passages and looking at commentaries written by people at various levels of prestige from St. Augustine to names I didn’t recognize this is my #1 question.  Is Jesus speaking more about people outside the disciple’s experience of faith rather than those in opposition to Jesus?  Is Jesus challenging us to check the balance of our focus on the relationship between doctrine and comfort?

Apparently doctrine is an age-old conflict.  What if Jesus is speaking of people who operate outside the body of faith as we know it but don’t actually oppose Him?  What if Jesus’ emphasis is about “tying up the strong man” with dependence on doctrine, rather than Himself.   Can that be what makes the “strong man’s house” vulnerable to plunder?  What if these three passages reveal the very words of Jesus that lead us from doctrine to comfort?

That makes sense to me when I read the Mark and Luke versions of this passage.  I feel like I can read between the lines of John’s words in Mark.  Sure the man is “casting out demons in your name” but how can what he’s doing possibly be OK “because he was not following us”?  John’s concern for the corporate integrity of their ministry was real.  Jesus matches his assurance to John with the same group-inclusive pronoun, “us.”  “Whoever is not against US is for US.”  

John’s invested his own life and identity in Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus knew the question of integrity was still very personal to John.  John’s own conflict was finding the comfort between doing things the way they “should” be done [doctrine?] and his commitment to the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus words from Luke challenged John to move from doctrine to the exclusive assurance of comfort of a personal pronoun, “you.’  “Whoever is not against YOU is for YOU.”