Wine or Brush Heap?
Jesus uses many word pictures familiar to his first century audience to communicate the gospel. Any today who have an ear to hear can understand it just as well. Wine is the ultimate fruit of the vine; grapes first, then wine as the final result. In the Old Testament as well as in the New, wine symbolized joy and gladness. The generous amount of wine that Jesus provided for the wedding guests in Cana signified abundant joy. The picture Jesus draws in John 15 speaks to the fruitfulness of those who abide in Him, and the fruitlessness of those who do not. The result to those who abide in Him is that they bear much fruit, and consequently His joy enters them, and their joy is abundant and full (John 15:11). This is in stark contrast to those who remain outside of Jesus. The consequence is that they bear no fruit, even those who point to their “good” works, for Jesus clearly says that “apart from me you can do nothing.” The fruitless branches are stacked in the brush heaps for burning.
Ah, but what is the fruit of which Jesus speaks; the spiritual fruit symbolized by the vine and it’s grapes? What is the fruit we are to produce when we abide in Him? Some say the fruit speaks of the harvest; bringing in the sheaves, i.e all those who come to Christ and are born-again as a result of your direct involvement with them to that specific end. (John 4:31-38) While evangelism is a vocation of the believer, it is subsidiary to the fruit of which Jesus speaks in John 15. St. Paul in Galatians 5:22 is more descriptive of the fruit that is germinated when one abides in Jesus Christ. He writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” This specific fruit is symptomatic of a transformed life, from a proud, purposeful sinner to a redeemed sinner who now reflects the character of his Savior. One who germinates such fruit will always be used by God to bring to Jesus any the Spirit so chooses to put in their path.
The fruit of those branches grafted into the vine and abiding in that vine is a visibly changed life. There will always be pruning which is necessary to spur the germination of the fruit of the Spirit of Christ, but this is a branch that is not destined for the brush heap! Pruning comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes, but you can be assured that the vinedresser knows every hair on your head and will do what He knows is necessary to produce the right result. Here He is the vinedresser, in Hebrews 12 He is the loving Father who disciplines you as His own child: the pruning of a perfect Father.
The task for you today and into the future is to examine yourself, your character, your daily living, your inner and outer, your private and public self for the fruit of the Spirit. The presence or absence of fruit will be an indicator to you that you are or you are not abiding in the vine. Your relationship with the One who says, “I am the vine,” is a relationship that must be safeguarded that He might continue to abide fully in you. Faith to believe this is a gift of God’s grace, but it is still nevertheless an act of your heart, your mind, your will to believe that what He says is true, and you must act on it. Not one day should pass that there is not some self-examination to see what is budding on your branch, and whether or not the grapes are ripening.
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