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God’s Agenda? Your Growth

September 11, 2022

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: John 15:1–11

God’s Agenda? Your Growth

John 15:1–11 – Series: God’s Agenda? Your Growth – Sep 11, 2022

Introduction

Reading of John 15:1–11.

The series, “God’s Agenda? Your Growth.”

  • One our four core values is “spiritual growth.”
  • Where did we come up with that?
  • In spring 2020, a group spent hours thinking about who we are as a church.
  • What defines us? What do you bump into if you bump into the people or ministries of Cornerstone?
  • One aspect that stood out is “spiritual growth.”
  • The story of people who stay at the church is that they grow.
  • They leave more mature than when they come.
  • And…we really care about that!
  • We care a new believer will become more mature…a mature believer will keep growing…a non-believer becomes a believer and has his life transformed.

But the thing about growth is that it doesn’t just affect us.

  • It starts INTERNALLY but it becomes EXTERNAL.
  • Starts personal but then it affects the people in my life.
  • Growth results in us becoming SERVANTS… EVANGELISTS… MISSIONARIES.

This series, “God’s Agenda? Your Growth.”

  • We have individual spiritual growth in mind.
  • But especially the way it extends out and blesses the people in your life.

Our passage is from John 15.

  • Right in the middle of John 13–17, Upper Room Discourse.
  • The lengthy teaching of Jesus on last night w/ disciples. When he celebrated Last Supper. Hours before crucifixion Friday morning.
  • His last words.

On his heart at this late hour was the spiritual growth of his disciples—and of us.

  • We’ll learn three key truths about spiritual growth from this passage.
  • (1) Growth begins with God, (2) Growth requires work, (3) Growth brings great blessings.

Prayer – for the spiritual growth of our men, women, and children. From the youngest to the oldest.

I. Growth Begins with God

Jesus begins this passage with a profound statement: “I AM the TRUE vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (15:1).

To make sense of this we need to hear it in the context of the OT. He’s saying he’s not like Israel in the OT. E.g., Jeremiah and Isaiah:

Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? (Jer 2:21)

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! (Isa 5:7)

Israel was the original vine but had no “justice” or “righteousness” and “turned degenerate.”

Jesus is “the true vine,” the Son always doing the will of the Father. Always walking in submission and obedience.

He is the faithful vine, the genuine vine, the one bringing “choice grapes” and not “wild grapes.”

And then just like the OT, it is God who is “the vinedresser” (John 15:1). “My Father,” Jesus calls him. Jesus is speaking here as the Son about his Father.

And then he develops the image further. Jesus is “the true vine,” but what about us? Where do we fit in?

We are the branches. We are branches in the true vine. This is a big deal, because it’s the branches where you find the grapes. The grapes grow on the branches that sprout from the vine itself.

So, if there is going to be fruit in this vine, it’s going to come from the branches in the vine.

And it’s clear in the passage that GOD IS AFTER FRUIT! 6 times Jesus mentions “bearing fruit” (15:2, 4–5, 8).

  • Verse 2 says the Father is working that we might “bear more
  • Not a surprise: There’s no other purpose for a grapevine than to produce good grapes.
  • If there’s no fruit on that vine, it’s essentially a weed. It’s not fruitful.
  • But this is no ordinary Vine and no ordinary Vinedresser.
  • Jesus is the Vine, and God the Father is the Vinedresser: There’s going to be fruit!

God’s Agenda? Your growth—fruitfulness.

This idea of bearing FRUIT as a Christian is an idea that gets used all over the NT.

  • It means good works, evangelism, character, worship, acts of service.
  • When you see someone who is actively serving as a Christian and growing in their faith, you call them “fruitful.”
  • One thing about “fruit” is that it’s evident to others.
  • Just like fruit on the vine, right?
  • You can easily tell if the vine is fruitful: There’s fruit on it!
  • In our Christian life, when we’re being “fruitful” it will be evident: growing in godliness, actively serving more than we used to, more self-control and humility, more faith, more worship, more thankfulness.

The key idea for this first point is that “Growth Begins with God.”

  • God the Father as the Vinedresser.
  • God the Son as the True Vine.
  • And you can add God the Spirit who is responsible for any FRUIT we see—we call it “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22–23).

First step of becoming a fruitful Christian is to get connected with Jesus.

  • If you’re not connected to the vine, you can’t bear fruit.
  • Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5).
  • Nothing of eternal consequence, no spiritual fruit.

Question for reflection: Is your agenda for your life the same as God’s agenda for your life?

II. Growth Requires Work

Since growth begins with God, we’d like to think it was a passive thing.

  • Like plugging in a lamp.
  • The electricity is just there.
  • You flip a switch and the light is just there.
  • In that situation we’re the lamp and we get plugged into the wall and Whamo! Light anytime we want.

Mechanical things are sometimes like this—but not organic things, living things.

  • For living things to grow, a lot has to come together.
  • That’s why so few places in the world are suitable for growing really good grapes.
  • Napa Valley, CA is famous throughout the world because of the exact right conditions there to grow grapes for wines.
  • Soil + water + temperatures + sunlight.

Not just the right spot—also takes a ton of work.

  • Preparing the soil, proper irrigation.
  • Diseases and insects—a mistake by vinegrowers in France in the 1800s almost brought about the total end of its wine industry.
  • A bug from America brought on vines…but then vines from America helped save the stock as well.[1]
  • Active and skillful management by a vinedresser.

Growth requires work—the work of the Father, the work of the branches

A. FIRST, the Work of God the Father: Pruning—Read John 15:2.

  • Pruning: cutting away what is preventing the branch from maximum fruitfulness.
  • Sometimes it’s cutting off dead or diseased twigs.
  • But sometimes it’s cutting off a healthy part of the vine to allow what’s left to “bear more fruit.”
  • But either way, it involves cutting off something that’s a part of us.

That’s a vivid idea, isn’t it?

  • God the Father comes up to us with his spiritual shears.
  • With his omniscience in general and complete, personal knowledge of us in particular, he knows what is harming us and hindering growth.
  • And he carefully cuts it away.

He has a variety of methods of doing this:

  • Circumstances: Don’t get the promotion, or maybe you do get the promotion and get more responsibilities.
  • You get married and have children, and the only way for the family to thrive is for you to stop doing certain hobbies.
  • Your “me time” gets reduced.
  • What happens then? You’re forced to grow in character.
  • Forced to become more of a servant than you would be otherwise.
  • Aging
  • Consequences for actions—the feelings of guilt when we sin, or maybe we sin and the consequences are far reaching in our lives.
  • These are God’s pruning shears designed to make sin less appealing.
  • Even things like allergies can be God’s pruning shears—not punishing you. But maybe you become allergic to a food you love. That food is cut away. This isn’t God punishing you. It’s God cutting off something to help you “bear more fruit.” Help you become more content in him and less dependent on the things of the world for your happiness. Work in your more character and more faith. Make you more dependent on Christ.

When this cutting away happens, it’s tempting to think God hates us and has a terrible plan for our lives.

  • Not at all. This is God the Father who is the Perfect Vinedresser, doing his work.
  • He knows you completely and knows all things completely.
  • He brings blessings and hardships into your life to help you “bear more fruit.”

That’s God’s Work as the Vinedresser.

B. Second, the work of the branches: ABIDING (John 15:4–5).

To bear fruit, we need to do what branches do, stay connected to the vine. “Abide” in the vine as the passage says. See it in vv. 4–5.

So, for us the branches, everything depends on “abiding” in Jesus. But what does it mean?

  • The verb (menō) used is translated “abide” in the ESV (and NASB, KJV).
  • Other translations use “remain” (NIV, CSB, NLT).
  • The verb gets used earlier in Jesus’ teaching.
  • 14:10 is important, for there Jesus speaks of “the Father who dwells (menōn) in me.”
  • In 14:17 it is the Spirit in us, “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells (menei) with you and will be in you.”
  • Then there’s the image of the vine and its branches, the way a vine is “in the branch” and the branch is “in the vine.” The connection is complete. Where they connect there’s no way to tell where the vine stops and the branch starts. They have grown together.
  • Because we’re talking about what connects us to Christ, we know that believing in Christ will be part of abiding in Christ.
  • You can hear that in 1 John 4:15:

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)

“Abide” adds something more.

  • “Abiding” emphasizes that part of “faith” which is an active, ongoing reliance on Christ.
  • It is a total dependence.
  • A. Carson captures this well:

No branch has life in itself; it is utterly dependent for life and fruitfulness on the vine to which it is attached. The living branch is thus truly ‘in’ the vine; the life of the vine is truly ‘in’ the branch….The point is clear: continuous dependence on the vine, constant reliance upon him, persistent spiritual imbibing of his life—this is the sine qua non of spiritual fruitfulness.
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John[2]

As part of this work of ABIDING, and to help us ABIDE in Christ, Jesus mentions two other things that are part of it.

“My words abide in you” (John 15:7): The active, ongoing part of abiding requires Jesus’ words to be in us.

  • God’s Words in this book need to “abide in you”—live in you, take up residence in you.
  • This book is filled with God’s Words.
  • It’s unique in all the world because of that.
  • These words alone are “breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16).

These words contain:

  • Truth about God and ourselves we can’t find anywhere else.
  • Promises and warnings connected to our behavior and our future.
  • What God wants from us—and what he doesn’t want from us.
  • Power to change us:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17).

Second, the active, ongoing part of abiding in Jesus requires OBEDIENCE (John 15:10,“keep my commandments”).

  • “Keep my commandments” means just what it sounds like it means.
  • God has commandments he has given to us and recorded them in his word.
  • And these commandments he intends for us to obey.
  • Sometimes we have to do some homework to understand a commandment, especially in the OT.
  • But the moral commands in the OT and the commandments from the NT are directives from God.

We don’t like commandments.

  • We don’t like to think someone else can tell us what to do.
  • We submit to it at times because we have to.
  • But it isn’t comfortable.
  • We like to think we can be free of any authorities—“Don’t tread on me.”
  • But that’s a fantasy.
  • From birth to death, we are people under authorities of various kinds.

But it’s critical to remember that God’s commandments are not the words of a slavemaster telling us what to do.

  • They’re the words of a loving Father who knows what’s best.
  • We find freedom and joy in obeying God’s commandments.
  • We find slavery and heartache in disobeying them.

Spiritual growth, fruitfulness requires work:

  • God’s pruning and our abiding.

Question for reflection: Are you resisting God’s pruning shears?

III. Growth Brings Great Blessings

All throughout this passage Jesus is talking about “bearing fruit.” Spiritual growth that’s evident to others. That is evident to others.

But in the passage he holds out to us tremendous promises attached to this fruitful life—Joy and Glory.

A. Joy — A fruitful and growing Christian life will be one where we know true joy—John 15:11

  • At this point Jesus leaves the vine and branches metaphor.
  • To capture the full reality of our life in Christ means “JOY.”
  • And no branch in a vine ever experienced anything like joy.
  • Isn’t that amazing? The God of all holiness and all authority…wants us to be joyful!
  • Not just “joy,” but Jesus’ joy is what’s “in you.”
  • That’s Jesus’ desire for us—his joy in us.
  • And even more: “your joy may be full.”
  • A sense of having Jesus’ joy in us and a sense that we’re filled to the brim with it!
  • Leon Morris:

“The joy of Jesus is the joy that arises from the sense of a finished work. It is creative joy, like the joy of the artist. It produces a sense of unexhausted power for fresh creation. This joy in the heart of Jesus is both the joy of victory (15:11), and the sense of having brought His Church into being” (R.H. Strachan). It is an inspiring thought that Jesus calls his followers into joy. The Christian life is not some shallow, insipid[3] following of a traditional pattern. It is a life characterized by “unexhausted (and inexhaustible) power for fresh creation.”
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John[4]

This JOY includes a true experience of the love of Christ—John 15:9

  • Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14, 17–19)

B. Joy for us…and Glory for God—John 15:8

  • “Glory” = doxa.
  • When we bear fruit and demonstrate ourselves to be disciples, God is glorified.
  • How could he not be glorified?
  • For hell-bound rebels to become worshipers and servants of Christ, they don’t need a small change…or tweak…or slight adjustment.
  • They need a total transformation—they need a resurrection! A new birth!
  • A new heart, a new mind, new goals, new ambitions.
  • When this happens, God gets glory because he has done all the work.

Spurgeon said that God changing a person like this is even greater than the work of Creation.

  • In Creation God wasn’t working against an opposing power or enemy.
  • There was no sin and no evil to overcome for him to create the oceans and skies and stars.
  • He just did it.
  • But for us to become new people in Jesus, God overcomes the devil, our sin and rebelliousness, and even the world itself.
  • So, yes, “by this is my Father glorified!” (John 15:8).

Question for reflection: Do you believe that God is really after your fullness of joy?

Conclusion

Recap:

  • Growth begins with God
  • Requires work—God’s to prune, ours to abide
  • Brings great blessings— joy and glory

Our 3 questions for reflection:

  • Is your agenda for your life the same as God’s agenda for your life?
  • Are you resisting God’s pruning shears?
  • Do you believe that God is really after your fullness of joy?

Sing! 2022 Conference this week.

  • Joni (Johnny) Earekson Tada[5]
  • As 17-yr old dove into the Chesapeake Bay. Water too shallow. Paralyzed neck down.
  • Pruning like no other.
  • But hour-by-hour, day-by-day, she went from depression and being suicidal to being determined to glorify God as much as she could.
  • It is a powerful story of spiritual growth, of bearing fruit—whatever God brings.
  • And so at the conference, as a 72-yr old who had been in a wheelchair for 55 years, she glorified God.
  • As we all heard her talk about how she found grace in the middle of the night by singing hymns, she glorified God.
  • And as we all sang along with her, “My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou. If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now,”[6] she glorified God.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

Prayer

[1] https://www.winespectator.com/articles/how-the-worlds-vineyards-were-saved-2462.

[2] Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 516. Pronunciation of sine qua non: sinā kwä ˈnōn.

[3] I.e., flavorless.

[4] Morris, Leon, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 598.

[5] https://davidjeremiah.blog/finding-your-purpose-through-pain-the-story-of-joni-eareckson-tada/

[6] “My Jesus I Love Thee.”

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