Alan Hall, associational missionary
Mulberry Baptist Association
This is pointless. What a waste of time. Why am I doing this?
Ever had those thoughts? I’ve heard it said before about church services and Sunday School classes (ouch!). Maybe you have heard this one: “The reason they don’t come to church is because they have been before” (Double ouch!). Have we been clear enough about our purpose?
The dictionary defines purpose as the reason for which something is done, or created, or for which something exists.
The writer of Ecclesiastes studied all aspects of life and after seeing the pointlessness of many of the things that consume our time, came to this conclusion: “to fear God and keep His commands for this is the whole duty of man.” I heard a memorable sermon on this text once titled: “Jesus makes the matter of life matter.” What a purpose statement!
The setting for our lesson today, John 15:1‐8, is the same as our previous study, the Farewell Discourse. Jesus’ departing instructions to his disciples are delivered as the scene moves from the upper room to the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane. Last words carry important truths.
Pruning for productivity ‐ John 15:1‐3
Jesus makes the last of the seven “I am” statements here: “I am the true vine.” The allegory of the vineyard is a familiar illustration depicting great spiritual truth. The practice of pruning, both then and now, is necessary for proper fruit production. It is best accomplished by those who know what they are doing – I have learned this by experience.
Little or no pruning and a plant grows wild. Too much pruning and you kill the plant. The Father is the vine keeper that prunes as needed. The Father knows our individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses. He knows how to best shape our lives to be productive.
Each of us has a unique requirement for pruning. We are shaped, molded, and pruned through our individual experiences of life. My life doesn’t require the exact same pruning that someone else’s might. Different people learn, suffer, and grow as they are cared for uniquely by the vine keeper (the Father).
It’s important to note in verse 2 and again in verse 6 that those non‐producing (dead) branches – removed, cast aside and burned – are those without faith to begin with. The eternal security of the believer in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message states: “All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”
“You are clean” in verse 3 refers to Jesus’ previous statement in John 13:10‐11 at the foot-washing. Judas was a dead branch to be removed; Peter was a branch in need of pruning for productivity.
Abiding for ability – John 15:4‐7
The words “abiding” and “remaining” used multiple times here point to a relationship that is constant, continuing daily. We see the progression from producing fruit to being pruned and producing more fruit (verse 2) to abiding/remaining and producing much fruit (verse 5). A branch not connected to the life‐giving nutrients of the vine withers and dies. The branch pruned and abiding increasingly produces fruit.
Nothing operates properly when disconnected from the power source. Jesus said it this way, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” In Philippians 4:13 Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In Hebrews chapter 10:25 we are told “do not forsake the assembling together of yourselves” because it is a bad habit through which we and others miss out on much-needed nourishment and encouragement.
The lone ember away from the burning coals quickly loses heat. God’s plan is for us to stay connected to Himself and His people enabling fruitfulness.
Fruit for the Father – John 15:8
“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”
Stay connected to bear the fruit of new converts, to grow in grace and knowledge, to bear fruit through the utilization of spiritual gifts. Bearing fruit glorifies the Father. That is a meaningful purpose!
Here is a simple formula that may be helpful: Purpose + Plan = Productivity
- If we know the purpose for what we are doing but don’t have a plan to accomplish it, we will not be very productive.
- If we have a plan of action but don’t really know why we are doing it, we will not be very productive. Fruit: Are either of these scenarios true of your life or of your church?
More fruit: Our purpose is to glorify God by producing much fruit and proving to be His disciples. The plan is to stay close to God, allowing Him to shape us (prune us) so we can be ever growing, ever producing fruit, ever productive. What is your purpose statement?
Much fruit: In light of our scripture text evaluate your productivity‐examine the fruit. Is God’s plan being followed? Is your purpose clearly defined? Are we impacting others purposefully? How is God being glorified?