The Real Vine and the True Branches

As I was reading John 15 one day, the Lord gave me this vision.  Actually, the vision is quite simple, not at all profound.  He showed me a large, strong, healthy-looking vine with thousands of branches attached.  Then, as I looked closer, I noticed that almost every branch I saw was dead.  They had no leaves, of course no fruit either, and they were falling off of the vine onto the ground.  Next to the vine I saw bundles of these dead branches stacked, bundle after bundle, as far as I could see off into the horizon.  As I watched, new branches would come out, grow a little, then wither and fall off.  Only a very few remained attached to the vine.  Those that did developed leaves and eventually bore fruit.  But, these branches never got very large.  They were continually cut back, but they always grew, they always had nice, green leaves on them and they always developed more fruit.  It was disheartening though, to see so few of them bearing fruit.  Most all the branches that came onto the vine quickly withered and fell off.

As I said, the vision is not profound.  It follows pretty much what you read in John 15.  It was what the Lord said to me that affected me the most.  First, He told me to paraphrase this chapter and call it "The Real Vine and the True Branches".  The Real Vine, of course, is Jesus; and the True Branches are those who remain attached to the Vine and produce the "fruit that belongs to the Vine".  The branches that wither, die and fall to the ground are those who profess Christ, then fail to develop a real relationship with Him through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  (Instead, they chose ritualistic, dead religion; legalistic, dead fundamentalism; fleshly, dead charismania; "bless me", dead materialism; or a host of other dead choices. And that’s how they end up, dead!)

The purpose of this paraphrase is simply to develop the proper context to explain verses 7 and 16.  However, don’t read it just for the explanation alone (which you will see at the end of this paper), allow yourself plenty of time to meditate on the importance of what Jesus is talking about in this chapter.  "Abiding in Him", "dwelling in Him", or "living in Him" is absolutely what salvation is all about.  And you cannot be "in" Him without the genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit active in your life, as it is explained briefly in verse 26.  Here’s the paraphrase:

John 15

  1. I am the real Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.

  2. Any branch connected to Me that stops bearing fruit He will trim away; and He will repeatedly prune every true branch that bears fruit so it will produce more and better fruit.

  3. You are going through this pruning process now, because you’ve believed what I’ve been telling you.

  4. And as long as you live continually in union with Me, consecrated to the same purpose (to be obedient to My Father), then I will live in you to help you carry out that purpose.  Just remember, no branch can bear fruit unless it’s properly connected to the vine; and in the same way, unless you are properly connected to Me, you cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, showing My character and purpose.

  5. I am the only real Vine, and you are My true branches.  Anyone who lives continually in Me, and I in him, will naturally produce this fruit.  But if you’re not properly connected to Me, you can’t produce the kind of fruit I’m talking about.

  6. When people won’t live continually in relationship with Me, consecrated to the same purpose, they’re thrown out like dead, dry branches.  All these dead, fruitless branches will be gathered together and be burned in the fire of Divine judgment.

  7. And when you live continually in Me and obey all the things I say, then you can ask what you want of Me and I’ll give it to you.

  8. Because, when you produce the kind of fruit I’m talking about, you honor My Father and prove that you’re truly following Me.

  9. I love you like My Father loves Me, so keep living on in the reality of My love.

  10. And this is the way you do it. Just keep listening for My instructions and be obedient, then you will live on in the center of My love.  It’s exactly the same for Me.  I keep listening for My Father’s instructions: so, I continue to live on in the center of His love.

  11. It’s pure joy to be able to tell you these things and watch them being worked out in your lives; and as they’re worked out, it’s pure joy to you too!

  12. This is My commandment: love each other with the same loyalty and dedication that I have for you.

  13. When you’re willing to live your lives only for the benefit of others, that’s the strongest loyalty and the greatest dedication you can possibly have.

  14. And we’ll be the best of friends, if you keep doing the things I’m telling you to do.

  15. Our relationship won’t be like servants serving their master, because he wouldn’t share personal things with his servants.  But, you’re My friends, so I’m telling you the most intimate details of My relationship with the Father.

  16. You didn’t ask Me to do this, I chose to tell you these things so you would have the opportunity to produce these fruits I’ve been talking about and continue to produce them over and over again.  This is how you’re formed in My image.  Then, you can go to the Father as a representation of all that I AM, and can ask what you want of Him, and He’ll give it to you.

  17. But always remember what I told you to do, love each other in the same pure way the Father and I love each other.

  18. Then, when the world starts rejecting you and opposing you for what you’ve become, don’t worry about it, they did it to Me first.

  19. If you’re doing what everyone else in the world is doing, then the world will love you, you’re one of them.  But you’re not one of them any more, I’m keeping you separated from them; so they’re going to detest you and everything you stand for.

  20. Just keep in mind what I’ve told you already, followers aren’t more important than their leader.  They’ll come after Me first; but, sooner or later, they’ll get around to you, too.  And the reverse of this is true: if they had listened to My Words and obeyed them, then they’d listen to your words and would obey them, as well.  After all, when you’re living in Me, you’re simply repeating what I tell you; just like I’m living in My Father and repeating what He tells Me.

  21. But you’ll suffer rejection and opposition when you look like Me, sound like Me, care only for the things I care for, and want only what I want.  The world doesn’t understand that I look like My Father, sound like My Father, care only for the things He cares for, and want only what He wants – but they don’t know Who He is.

  22. Now, if I hadn’t come and revealed the Father to them, they wouldn’t be guilty of rejecting Him. But now, they’re without excuse.

  23. When they rejected Me, they rejected the Father.

  24. And, if I hadn’t come and showed them first hand, all the good things the Father has for them, things no one had ever shown them before; then, they wouldn’t be guilty of rejecting Him.  But the sad fact is this; they’ve turned away from both!  They’ve ignored the things I’ve shown them; and, they’ve rejected My Father and Me.

  25. This is another fulfillment of their own scripture that says, They rejected Me for no good reason. (Psalm. 35:19)

  26. And when I send the Holy Spirit from the Father, He will minister to you as the Spirit of Truth and will prepare you to come into the presence of the Father.  This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, helping you produce this fruit I’ve been talking about so you can be like Me.

  27. Then, just like the branch that is connected to the vine produces grapes, you’ll produce My character and fulfill My purpose, and become a living message for all to see.  And because you were connected to Me from the very start and you didn’t give up, you’ve become a true branch, connected to the real Vine.

In this passage Jesus makes two promises that are, at the same time, exciting and devastating. Exciting, when properly understood, devastating, when misunderstood.  People in the traditional church today love to hear messages that tell them to "claim" the words of Jesus when He says, "…ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you." (Vs. 7); or "… whatsoever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you." (Vs. 16)  The so-called prosperity message thrives on isolated verses like this.  And there are many in the church today who have used this religious view to feed their lust for material things in the name of God.  

As we’ve discussed before, since they chose the things of the world (materialism) instead of the things of God (His character and purpose), God in His judgment has allowed them their deception and their materialism (or anything else they sought, instead of Him).  Because it’s what they asked for (in His name, of course), they think it’s His blessing, but it’s His curse. That’s the devastating part.  Professing Christians, who will never know God, never have salvation, because they were taught to "use" God as a means to their own end.  The Sovereign Lord will have the last word (if you want to know what it is, you can read it in Matthew 7:21-23; or Luke 13:24-30).  The apostasy of these last days is marked by people who insist on coming to God on their own terms (on the basis of what they think or what they want), instead of submitting to His terms (and giving in to what He requires).

The exciting part is having an understanding of these promises and tapping into them.  They are, of course, conditional.  All of God’s promises are.  As you read the paraphrase above, it’s easy to see from the context what the conditions are.  We have to abide in the real Vine.  We have to live continually in relationship with Him, consecrated to His purpose, dedicated to producing the fruits of the Spirit.  And in that context, as we obey His instructions, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, we’re changed into His glorious image.  And that’s the key to asking, "what we will" and having the assurance that either Christ (in verse 7) or the Father (in verse 16) will give it to us.

It’s amazing that people in the traditional church think all they have to do to get God to give them what they want is to ask for it "in Jesus’ name".  What a great gimmick!  Why would anyone not want to get in on this?  Receive whatever you want, whenever you want it.  Simply ask God, and put Jesus’ name on it.  Of course it doesn't work.  But it sure sounds good.  

What does it really mean to ask "in Jesus’ name"?  The term "in My name" found in verse 16 doesn’t mean we’re supposed to say "in Jesus’ name" every time we‘re through asking God for something we want, or through thanking Him for something we already have.  The Greek term onoma in the context of John 15 doesn’t mean simply to say His name.  It means to speak as a representation of all that the name implies!  I know the King James translators had a mandate to come up with a translation that was both poetic and easy to read, but what’s the excuse for all the rest of the boneheads that have taken a crack at it since.

Come on people; look at the context for crying out loud!  Jesus is using an illustration here – abide in the Vine and produce the fruit that naturally results from this union.  He’s talking about others living continually in a relationship with Him that is so close, so vital, that it results in them being conformed to His image.  The relationship is such that the character and purpose of Jesus is formed in their lives.  They literally become a representation of all that He is!  The point Jesus is making here is simply this: you can go to the Father as a representation of all that I AM, and can ask whatever you want of Him, and He’ll give it to you.  (And while we’re at it, let’s mention Matthew 18:20"For wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I AM in the midst of them."  Here, onoma means the same thing!  Just because a group of people get together to do their religious thing and say Jesus’ name at some point in time doesn’t mean He’s there with them.  But, when two or three are gathered with the character and purpose of Jesus on the agenda, He says He’ll show up.)

The bad news for everyone in the "bless me" crowd is, of course, that to become a representation of all that that Jesus is requires a lot of time, submission, obedience, sacrifice, self-denial and, yes, even some suffering.  It’s easy to say His name; it’s very difficult to become a representation of what His name implies.

The word of the Lord was very specific to me regarding verse 21 above.  He was describing what happens when we consecrate ourselves to the character and purpose of Christ.  We look like Him, sound like Him, care only for the things He cares for, and want only what He wants.  In this way we come to the place where we ask only for the things we know He wants us to have.  Our flesh is out of the picture!  Period!  Consider this for just a moment, do you think Jesus ever asked the Father for anything out of selfish motivation.  Or, did He only ask for what He knew was part of the Father’s plan and purpose for His life?

And how does God commit Himself to this promise?  The answer is found in II Timothy 2:13"…He (the Father) will always be faithful to His Word and to His righteous character, because He cannot say, no, to Himself".  Jesus came to reveal the Father, a flesh and blood example of the Father’s righteous character.  Jesus then reveals to us His secret of getting what He asks of the Father – displaying the Father’s character.  Then Jesus encourages us to live in Him and display His character, which is nothing less than an extension of the Father’s character!  Then, regardless of whom we ask (Jesus in vs. 7 or the Father in vs. 16), on the basis of their righteousness, which we have chosen to emulate, the answer must be, yes.

The Lord wants us to have what we need, and I believe in some instances, even what we want. But, material things can’t be our priority, and they can’t be idols that consume our devotion or affection.  The Lord sums it up nicely in Matthew 6:30b-34 when He says, "…you have such a little faith. You don’t need to worry, wondering, where am I going to get food to eat, or what am I going to have to drink, or how am I going to get clothes to wear?  Only godless people worry about these things, scurrying around, frantically trying to provide for themselves.  But your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  So, get your priorities straight. The first thing you have to do is learn how to be like God and do things His way, then all those other things, and more, will be given to you.  So, don’t worry about what you’re going to need tomorrow, just learn to trust God for what you need today.  That’s about all you can handle.  Besides, when tomorrow comes, it will bring a whole new set of problems and pressures to test your faith."  Isn’t God good?