May 30,2024

Good afternoon Church family,  

I have enjoyed studying, meditating on, praying through, and preaching from John 15. I’ll  be sad to move on from this wonderful chapter within Christ’s farewell discourse. As always, there are many things that I don’t have time to say on a Sunday morning so I’ll use this time to write about them. 

I’ll share one extra insight from the Vine and branches metaphor that Jesus pictures for us in John 15:

(1) We talked about how we abide in Christ and the various evidences that we are abiding in Him for real. But I wasn’t able to talk about one of the areas that will prevent us from abiding in Him and thwart all of our positive efforts.

  1.  

In Hosea 14:7-8, God says this: “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.”

In this portion of Scripture, God is addressing His people of Israel who have       apostatized away from Him. They are compared to a vine that God planted,       blessed, but as a result, they turned away from Him (Hosea 10:1-2). 

Jesus is held in contrast to Israel, God’s vine, here in John 15. Jesus is the True Vine Who does produce fruit for God, and we are both His fruit and branches that stem from Him as our Vine in order to produce fruit throughout the globe.

Therefore, Jesus draws a contrasting picture of Himself in John 15 compared to the people of Israel in the Old Testament. They failed God’s mission to produce fruit for His glory and to be a preserving light to a dark world, but Jesus fulfills God’s mission by being the True Vine that spreads out across the globe, bearing fruit for God’s glory. And we are a part of His ‘vine reaching efforts’ to produce fruit throughout the world (“to fulfill the spiritual command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” – Gen. 1:26). 

In light of the contrast, it is important to understand how to avoid the mistake of Old Testament Israel in their refusal & failure to be the fruitful and productive ‘vine’ for God the Vinedresser.

In Hosea 14, God is describing how He will heal the apostacy of Israel and bring them back from their failed & fruitless ways: “7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow.”

Think of returning as repenting. This pictures how we are to abide in Christ and produce fruit: we are meant to return to Him & dwell in God’s shadow and stay there. The problem comes when we try to come out of His shadow for the spotlight. We’re not meant for a spotlight. We need to stay in His shadow and rejoice at His fruit (v8). Look at what shadow living in v7 produces in v8: 

“7They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; (& look at the result) they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine;…8 I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.”

It’s another way of saying what Jesus says in John 15:5, “whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can nothing.” 

So depending/abiding in Jesus could be pictured as “dwelling beneath His shadow.” As a result, we will bloom fruit for God. 

However, notice the aspect of “returning” in v8. This is talking about a need to repent from NOT abiding/depending on God for our fruit. And this is an issue of idolatry. You hear this in Hosea 14:8, “8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.”

In order for Israel to bear fruit for God, they needed to repent from their idols. They could not depend on idols for their success and God too. God is not syncretistic and He does not allow supplemental gods in our life. 

What is an idol? It’s anything in our life that we look to for ultimate answers that only God can give and for provisions that only God can grant, hence v8, “What have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.” 

We cannot depend on our skills to accomplish fruit bearing, our money, our family, our Church, our economy, our stuff, ect…to yield accomplishment, success, or fruit. 

God wants us to know this as He tells us to abide in Him. There is the positive aspect of abiding in Him, but then the negative attitude that needs cultivated in us which is to NOT abide in all of the other promising solutions around our life. 

As 1 Timothy 6:11 says, “flee these things (the love of $). Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

There is always something to flea and something to pursue. So while you pursue depending/leaning on Jesus, finding shade in His shadow, fruit from His Spirit and energy from His roots, make sure to flea from the other areas in your life that would be idols: that which you are looking to for answers outside of God’s Word and that which you are looking to for ultimate protection in supplement to God’s own. 

So it turns out that if we are to abide in Christ and bear fruit for His glory, we must pray (John 15:7) that God helps our hearts stay away from depending on other stuff for our success, worth, and fruitfulness. The best things are always the most dangerous for Christians, like your family, your career, your Church, your reputation, your health and things like that which we can depend on easily for ultimate fruit bearing. 

We need to flea those idols (by way of attitude) that become gods to us and make sure that we realize, “we can do a whole lot nothing without fully depending on Christ alone, ALONE!

And that is the issue that God was making in Hosea’s day. Those people would have said that they were depending on God, but they had their idols too. And God said, ‘that can’t be.’ 

Therefore, may God help you all to depend more fully on Jesus as your source of growth, catalyst for maturity, and basis for all satisfaction. I pray that our Church would not act like we are abiding in Christ while secretly hiding idols in our heart. It’s too easy to do. 

And yet that is something you could pray for and expect answers according to Christ’s words in 15:7: “if you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” 

You could pray Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

And God will say, “those are my words abiding in you, and you are abiding in Me. Wish granted.” 

Just be ready to expect some hideous motives and hidden thoughts that you weren’t aware of until God’s Spirit revealed them to you! 

But may it all be for the purpose of truly abiding in Christ ALONE with 100% purity and dependance. God knows that we’re prone to supplement our full dependance on Him for other ‘back up plans.” I am guilty of this myself. But praise the Lord that we are all “justified in Christ!” (Rom. 8:1), otherwise there would be no hope. 

With Christ’s abiding joy (John 15:11), 

Love Aaron

From Pastor Aaron

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