We’re continuing our “I AM” message series this morning. However, we’re going to modify it slightly. We are still only sticking to the direct quotes of how God describes Himself since how we view Him to be so easily distorted. However, we’re taking this month to take a look at specifically the “I AM” statements of Jesus. We are then challenged to go out and be the salt and light of the world in that same way. Or, as John wrote:
1 John 4:17b
In this world we are like Jesus. Or in the KJV: As He is, so are we in this world.
So far, we’ve learned that God is compassionate, holy, with us, love, and faithful. This week, we’re digging into what Jesus meant when He declared, “I AM: the vine.”
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jesus is the vine. What exactly does that mean? Well, the vine plays an absolutely critical role to the health and survival of the rest of the plant. It is the vine that carries nutrients from the root out to all of the other parts of the plant. It is the vine that provides strength and structure to the other parts of the plant to encourage and sustain it’s growth. It is the vine that guides and directs the plant’s growth so that it can reach out in many different directions and cover a large area of ground all from the same root. It is the vine on which the branches grow, which then grow leaves and fruit. It is the vine in which the branches from other vines can be grafted onto and provide them all that they need to grow and prosper.
Jesus is exactly all of those things for us as well. He sustains all that we need for life. He is our strength and provides structure to our chaos. He guides and directs us toward good things that produce for us an abundant life. He calls us to reach out and spread His gospel and establish His Kingdom over all of the earth amongst every tribe, tongue, and nation. Through Him, His word remains in us and nourish our souls. It is in Jesus alone that we can grow and bear the fruit that we all long to possess:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
No matter how healthy, strong, and vibrant we may be right now, if we choose to separate ourselves from Jesus and try to live and bear fruit without Him, we are sure to fail. When a branch becomes separated from its vine, it will certainly die. Any fruit that it once was able to bear will rot and cease to grow again. It will be useful for only one thing: firewood. It is no different with us. If we do not remain in Jesus and allow Him to move in and through our lives, putting our faith into action, then we also have created as our destiny hell, that great lake of fire.
One amazing thing about vines are their unique ability to be able to easily graft into it many different types of branches and fruits. There is a company called the Fruit Salad Tree Company that sells trees already grafted that produce up to six different fruits all in one tree. One tree can simultaneously produce oranges, mandarins, lemons, tangelos, limes, pomelos, and grapefruits. Another tree can simultaneously produce peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and peachcots. Isn’t God’s creation amazing?
This natural ability to graft many different types of branches and fruits into a single tree or vine is an awesome parallel to God’s ability to also graft people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to Himself. In fact, the salvation made possible by Jesus was initially intended for the Jews. Jesus was born a Jewish man, lived a Jewish man including the Judaic laws and most of their cultural customs, became a rabbi, sent His disciples only to the Jewish people, and died and was buried a Jewish man.
There was one event, in particular, where Jesus initially ignored a Gentile (or non-Jew) and reminded His disciples of exactly this truth, that He was sent only for the Jews.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
This was also a cause for great controversy and division in the early church of whether God’s salvation is available to all people, or only to the Jewish people. Praise be to the stubbornness of the Jews, God made it available for all of us! It took the baptism of the Holy Spirit, clearly evident by speaking in tongues that convinced the early church that salvation was for everyone. Now us, as Gentiles, have been grafted into the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to bring salvation to the Jews, but they rejected Him and had Him crucified. Even following His crucifixion, Jewish leaders tried desperately to put an end and to silence the followers of Jesus.
Saul was commissioned to do exactly that until He met Jesus on the road to Damascus and met Jesus personally. He was then changed to be the apostle Paul. Once a Jew of Jews passionate to destroy the church, now a Christian passionate to build the church and spread the gospel message. His heart, however, still longed to see his Jewish brothers and sisters to accept God’s salvation. Paul confirmed this truth as he was explaining the great mystery that all of Israel, meaning the Jews, will be saved:
13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved.
Praise be to God who allows us, wild shoots, to be grafted into Him. God, who adopts us orphans into His family to share in His inheritance promised to Israel, the Jews, the descendants of Abram. God, who will accept anyone who calls on Him for their salvation!
In the midst of this praiseworthy truth, however, we also receive a warning. We have been warned to consider the kindness and sternness of God. We are warned to continue in His kindness so that we do not get cut off from Him. If we keep ourselves placed firmly together with Jesus, He will give us all that we need for life and to bear much fruit. If, however, we become disconnected from Him, we will begin to whither and fade. As to protect the health and fruitfulness of the overall plant, the church, the Heavenly Father prunes away those that fail to bear fruit. Even after being pruned away from the vine, God still waits expectantly and fully ready and willing to graft us back in when we so desire.
In fact, this is one way in which the enemy steals, kills, and destroys in our lives. Often, whenever we are lacking these fruits in our lives, or our fruit begins to wither and rot, we become frustrated. We begin to try and prune ourselves on our own strength and cut away these dying areas of our lives thinking that by doing this, we will begin to come alive again. The enemy keeps us focused on these problem areas in our lives and telling us the lie that we’re not good enough. He keeps us working and working on these problems and it seems that they only get worse and worse. The fruits of the flesh that we know we should not have just become more and more evident.
That’s because the solution to these areas in our lives need Jesus. Instead of focusing on the problems, we are called to set our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. We focus on the one who not only started a good work in our lives, but the one who will complete it on our lives. As we press into Jesus, His life is able to flow into these problem areas of our life and transform them from rotting fruit and dying leaves to become abundantly alive and thriving. In fact, this can only be done by pressing into Jesus and allowing His power and life to flow in and through us!
This morning, God’s desire is for our lives to abundantly produce His fruits:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
In order for us to abundantly produce these fruits in our lives, we need only stay closely connected with Jesus. Apart from Jesus, the true vine, we can bear no good fruit. Any of these things that we appear to have, apart from Jesus, is artificial and not only won’t be able to reproduce into the lives of others, but also accomplish nothing in our own lives other than looking good on the outside.
We desperately need Jesus. Life is found in no other! Without Him, we’re not much more than artificial fruits. We may look perfect at a quick glance, but in reality, we’re empty, lost, and dead. Without Him, we’re dry, lifeless branches destined only for firewood.
With Jesus, however, we’re alive physically, spiritually, and eternally! We’re transformed from death to life and filled with the Holy Spirit who provides everything that we could ever need. Our lives can be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Why wait around being empty any longer? Today is the day of our salvation, the day when we choose to graft ourselves into Jesus and have His power transform us into alive, fruitful people full and satisfied!