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BE A MORE FRUITFUL BRANCH

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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. "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. 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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John 15:1 - 17

1. Fruitfulness

The main point of this passage is the we might be fruitful. There are other themes which help us to become fruitful, but let us not loose sight of the central theme: Fruitfulness. God wants us to be fruitful. Verses 2, 4, 5, 8, & 16 make this clear: "so that it will be even more fruitful" (v.2) "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." (v4) "you will bear much fruit" (v5) "that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (v8)  "so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last" (v16)
What kind of behavior, attitude, results or accomplishments might qualify as the kind of "fruit" that Jesus wants us to bear? One is the fruit of the Spirit:  "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Gal. 5:22) When actions that stem from these beautiful qualities appear in our lives and mark the way we relate to others, these results of being a branch attached to the vine are certainly fruits—results—that bring glory to God.

Also in Mathew 5:16 Jesus said, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Your good deeds are good fruit that bring glory to your Father. When we maintain our connection to Jesus, as a branch is connected to the vine, these and many other good fruits accompany us.

2. Pruning

"while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes" (2) None of us likes pruning. It is not enjoyable to have our Father, the Gardener, cut away the things in our lives that hinder fruitfulness. But if we carefully separate the process of pruning from the resultsof pruning, we will soon discover that pruning is good—not pleasant, but good; good for us and good for others around us who will benefit when we become better, fruit-bearing disciples.

Prune (a verb used with an object—something useless is taken away), pruned, pruning. To cut or lop off (twigs, branches, or roots). To cut or lop superfluous, unnecessary or undesired twigs, branches, or roots; to trim. To rid or clear off, to remove something superfluous, unnecessary or undesirable

Pruning is a horticultural and forestry-related practice involving the selective removal of certain parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or redirecting growth), improving or sustaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for transplanting, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. The practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants.

Instructions for pruning: Remove branches that show signs of damage first. Whether they were damaged by a storm or some other event, broken branches should be pruned so that the water and nutrients they're still taking from the tree get redistributed to healthy branches.

God prunes for fruitfulness. He is intentional and skilled. He knows what hinders fruitfulness. He cuts away unproductive tissue so that the sap and nutrients of the vine (Jesus) are more plenteous for the good branches.

Does God prune all the branches? No. He prunes the branches that are already fruitful and makes them more fruitful.

3. Connected

"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." (4) "If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (5) "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers;" (6) ""As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love." (9)

Jesus and the Father love each other and are inseparably connected. We and Jesus love each other and, if we too are inseparably connected to Him, abiding in Him, remaining in Him, keeping His commands and remaining in His love, we can be fruitful due to the connection. We are fruitful because of who He is and the relationship we have with Him; not because of who we are.

No matter how much the wind blows, I want to remain connected to Him. I have no sap or nutrients in myself with which I can bear good fruit. I need to be attached to the Vine. My love, joy, peace, patience, wisdom, knowledge and understanding is simply inadequate. I need to stay attached; I want to remain connected.

4. Personally, I would rather be busy than to rest (vs. 2), rather work than play; rather be productive than relax. This places unnecessary self-imposed pressures on me that God never intended for me to experience. This may not fit the situation of others, but, in my case, when my Shepherd makes me lie down, though it is against my instinctive desire to accomplish or do something, I obey. I don't want to trust in my ability to work, but rather rest in God's ability to do something through me.

4. Prayer

"ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (7) "and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." (16) Some people remove this wonderful promise of answers to prayer from this context of vine, branch, connection and fruitfulness, and believe they can randomly ask for anything—whatever. But to interpret this part of our text correctly, we need to consider it in its context. Jesus is saying we will be fruitful if we are pruned, connected, obedient, joyful friends of His; intimately involved with and partnering with Him. We are involved with the family business as insiders, not just as hirelings working for what we can get. If we are purely interested in Kingdom matters, we will not want or ask for anything that is not helpful to the Kingdom. In this context we can ask for anything we want because we will only want what God wants. Augustine said, "Love God and do as you please." In the same vein we can be dedicated, loyal, God-honoring friends and co-workers with God and ask for anything—whatever is in line with our insider position in Him.

5. Love

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love." (9 & 10) "Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. " (12) "This is my command: Love each other." (17)

Not only do I want to remain connected to the Vine because I need the nutrients I receive from Him, I also want to remain connected to Him because I love Him. I know He loves me. The Father and Jesus love each other and Jesus and we love each other. Out of such an abundance of love, affirmation, encouragement and mutual and shared happiness we are enabled to be more loving persons. We can love each other more; God increases our ability to love each other.

The ultimate test of love is the willingness to lay down something for the sake of another. Jesus laid down His life for us proving His great love for us. We may not be required to lay down our lives for another—few are faced with such a challenge—but we can each lay down something of our lives for others. Time, care, prayer, concern, help, encouragement and affirmation are all ways we can turn our attention from ourselves and our needs to others and their needs. Everyone needs acceptance and affirmation.  We can give it to them.

6. Joy

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (11) Elsewhere Jesus says that He gives His peace. John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Here Jesus says He gives us His joy. How do we know what the joy of Jesus is? One hint is found in Hebrews 12:2 which says, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Believers in the early church experienced this kind of joy. Even when enemies spoiled their goods, they endured the difficulty with joy. Hebrews 10:34 says of them, "You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions."

There is joy in serving Jesus. When we willingly give of ourselves in His service He gives us His joy.

7. Friends

"You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (14 & 15)

The attitude of the servant toward the success of the owners business is very different than the attitude of the friend of the owner whose heart is in his work because of the close relationship between himself and the owner. Jesus' invitation to partner with Him as friends has enormous implications and consequences.

There is a difference between attitude of a servant of the boss and the perspective of his friend. A servant is obligated to do his duty even if it is against his will, while the friend does whatever is needed out of his love for his Friend, the Lord (boss). Those who follow the Lord with understanding have been lifted out of being merely a servant with a dutiful mindset to actually become His friend with a willing demeanor and posture.

All Christ's friends are His servants, but all His servants are not His friends. This was perhaps the distinction between Moses and Aaron (Exodus 33:11), You see the difference at once between their characters. In Aaron it was attention to the rituals and ministry at the altar; in Moses it was jealousy for the Divine law.

Much of the difference between joyful friendship and mere faithfulness to duty has to do with the difference between being a forced servant, and being a friend of God—who has come to love his Savior, Friend, and older Brother.

If we are to live out the dreams and desires God has placed in our hearts, or even if we're in a place where we can't really sense any dreams or desires in our hearts from God, then the answer isn't to force ourselves to just get out there, grit our teeth and serve Him. We rather put our focus on our Father, Friend, Savior and Lover. We realize that it's not about trying to bear fruit for Him, because He has chosen and empowered us to bear His fruit. We submit to Him, not to score points, but as we grow in His love and grace, and understanding that we're His friends, not involuntary servants, it becomes more of a desire for us to submit to Him so that His wonderful fruit—fruit that lasts—comes out of our lives. This fruit comes out of our union with Him, our connection to the Vine, rather than humanly-produced fruit resulting from own efforts.