You’re scanning the ads in the classified you come across the following ad:
Help wanted. No experience required, as you won’t possess the necessary skills to begin the job and perform the work at hand. Must be faithful, enduring to the very end and endure whatever may come. Qualities to perform job given on a as needed basis. No salary given, but the rewards are eternal. Must be willing to endure ridicule, persecution, and being falsely accused for the sake of the management. Interested parties please reply with affirmation when called.
How many of us would answer an ad like that, if we were looking for monetary gain? Probably none of us looking for a job in the marketplace. But this ad is a calling of a spiritual nature. How would we respond? God is calling us into repentance and to being trained to work in His Kingdom, here on earth and the Kingdom to come. Where are we seeing this ad for service in God’s Kingdom? When we read our bibles. We are called for spiritual and eternal gain, but what if we are not willing to submit to the play book that was given by God?
Paul speaks of our calling in 1st Corinthians1 18-31. Let’s turn there:
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
He takes the foolishness of this world to confound the wise, as foolishness in God is stronger than the wisdom of men. Have you ever witnessed to an unbeliever and they look at you like you’re out of your mind? We all have, if we’re following the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. The world will not accept our message.
But do we follow the precepts that God has laid down in His Word? And if we are slow to learn, how does God respond to our unwillingness to take His instructions? More of that in a minute, but first……….
I’m reminded of a story of a young man who was on a hiking trip and walking along a mountain trail. It was a beautiful morning and the sky was clear. He was walking along a trails edge when he suddenly stumbled and went over the edge of the trails edge which was a cliff and a long drop below. Out of nowhere, thinking he surely was to fall to his death, he grabbed onto a root of a tree coming out of the side of the cliff. He hung on for dear life and started to yell for help…he kept calling when suddenly he heard a voice. I’M HERE. I’M GOING TO HELP YOU. Said a deep voice that sounded close.
“oh, thank goodness” cried the young man. “Who are you? Where are you? Cried the man. “IT’S GOD, AND I’M GOING TO HELP YOU.” “Oh, thank you God. Get me outta here, please.”…SURE, says the voice of God, “LET GO”….a long silence went on for several seconds, before the man called out……”is there anybody else up there?”
The man didn’t like the answer. Would he have been better to know that the bottom was only three feet below him. See, God knew the answer and he was too afraid to even look. God knows, but we fail to see.
That’s you, that’s me. When He gives us the answer, when He gives us instructions, we don’t like what we hear. If we follow His directions, our work produces the fruit, yes, the good works that God intends for our lives. We may or may not understand all of it, but we must have what is called faith in the eternal God our Father when He speaks.
Remember what Jesus said when He gave instructions to His disciples in the upper room, on that Passover before He must suffer? Jesus used an illustration to explain how God Works with us to produce fruit in our lives:
“ I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
In this passage Jesus speaks of four types of branches:
- branches that bear fruit
- those that bear no fruit at all,
- those that bear more fruit
- those that bear much fruit.
We will focus on one type of branch, the one that bears no fruit. But to get a clearer understanding, we need to cover a few points:
- Jesus is the vine. In the south and some foreign countries, a vine is any kind of long, trailing branch, crawling along a fence or up a wall and might wrap itself around a tree or a pole. In the vineyard, the vine is the whole plant. In vineyards, the vineyard keepers traditionally keep the vine 36-42” tall or waist high. The vine ends in a large gnarl from which branches grow in either direction along a support called a trellis.
- God the Father is the vinedresser: The vinedresser is the keeper of the vineyard. His task is to cultivate each branch so that it will bear as much fruit as possible. God will do this with love for our ultimate good.
- We are the branches, Christians who the Father through His Holy Spirit has called and has responded to that call. In our example, the branches are the vinedresser’s main focus because they produce the most fruit. They must be carefully tended to so they produce the highest quality grapes and the biggest yield.
What is the fruit analogous to in this metaphor? What are the fruits that we are suppose to produce? When we look at the words “fruit” and “good works” through the Bible, it produces the conclusion that the words are interchangeable. We can see this by turning to Titus 3:14:
“ And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
Also, Collossians 1:10
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”
In practical terms, fruit represents good works of godly living. If we are not doing such things, then we are like the branches that are not producing fruit.
Fruit or good deeds, are evidence of what is inside a person. As evidenced in Matthew 3:7-9
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
John the Baptist was telling these Jewish lawyers that they were to produce fruit worthy of repentance and not rely on their geneology of coming from Abraham, but they were to produce evidence in their actions that they had repented of their sins. So it is with us.
1st John 2:4-6
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
Some will argue that this is law keeping and it will not save us. In essence, they are correct, but when a person is called and repents, if he is truly converted, he will produce fruit, as John said “fruits worthy of repentance”.
So, is it possible to be in Christ yet produce no fruit?
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
This may seem to say that the Vinedresser cuts off every barren branch, but we need to look more closely at the words “takes away”. This Greek verb, airo, actually means “to lift from the ground,” “to lift so as to carry,” or “to carry off”. The translation “takes away” suggest cutting off, but in Greek literature, airo never means “cut off.” “Lifts up” or “raises” is more correct in terms of vinedressing.
In his book, Secrets of the Vine, Dr. Bruce Wilkerson has a conversation with a vineyard owner from Northern California, who said, “New branches have a natural tendency to trail down and grow along the ground, but they don’t bear fruit down there. When branches grow along the ground, the leaves get coated in dust. When it rains, they get muddy and mildewed. The branches become sick and useless.” Dr. Wilkerson, when thinking about this verse from John, he asked, “What do you do, cut it off and throw it away?”
“Oh, no,” the vineyard owner replies, “the branch is much too valuable for that. We go through the vineyard with a bucket of water, looking for those branches. We lift them up and wash them off. Then we wrap them around the trellis or tie them up. Pretty soon, they’re thriving.”
So are we not more valuable to our Vinedresser than branches in a vineyard? Certainly!
”And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
So if we are not producing fruit, how does our Vinedresser lift us up? Turn now to Hebrews 12:5-8:
You have forgotten the encouragement that is addressed to you as sons: "My son, do not think lightly of the Lord's discipline or give up when you are corrected by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he punishes every son he accepts."
What you endure is for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as sons. Is there a son whom his father does not discipline?
Now if you are without any discipline, in which all sons share, then you are illegitimate and not his sons.”
The intervention of the Vinedresser in the verse in John 15:2 is similar to the discipline a parent gives his or her child. God is our heavenly Father, and we are His children. The two metaphors are parallel.
When God disciplines us or lifts us up, it could come in degrees. One is more severe than the former. Kinds of like degrees of being close to a burning fire:
- 1st degree, Rebuke: A rebuke is a strong verbal warning. When our own children misbehave, we rebuke them. Some parents can do this with just a look. God rebukes us by pricking our consciences through His Word in Bible study, sermons, or interactions with each other.
- 2nd degree, Chastening: If the child does not listen to verbal warnings, a parent might intensify the punishment by sending them to their room, or restricting his activities, or take away privelages. When God chastens us, we may feel anxiety, frustration, or distress in our spirits. Pressures may increase at home or at work, maybe in our health, or finances.
- 3rd degree, Scourging: “to scourge” is to inflict blows, by spanking or some other physical punishment. When God scourges us, the pressure of our chastening may increase. Instead of being sick, we may become deathly ill. We may face family problems of separation or divorce. Financially we may be faced with loss of income or in the severe, bankruptcy.
These may be our Vinedressers way of lifting us up and washing us off. They are godly discipline designed to put us in the right position to repent of our rebellion and not following God’s commandments or following in the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus fleshed out the meaning of these commandments so that we may apply them to our individual lives and to return to producing the right kind of godly fruit.
What about the rest of John 15:2 when it speaking of purging/pruning? Pruning is indeed cutting and cutting hurts. When a vine is producing some fruit, but could do more by pruning it may seem like punishment, as mentioned that a vinedresser lifts up a branch in the mud and washes it off. So we need to distinguish the difference. The Vinedresser lifts up when we are not producing fruit to the fullest, so He lifts up, or disciplines, because we are not producing fruit. We have become spiritually sick and useless, so He needs to spur us to repent and to return to fruitfulness. The Vinedresser prunes, however, because we are fruitful. That is when we need to count it all joy and yield to His pruning shears, so that He may produce more fruit through us.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
We all remember the story of Job. Job was an upright man and that there was no one like him in all the earth. Yet God puts him through loss, misery and excruciating pain to increase his yield of godly fruit.
Why is fruit bearing so important and valuable? Jesus gives us the answer in John 15:8:
“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
Then dropping down to verse 16 of the same chapter, John writes:
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
Paul echoes this in Ephesians 2:10:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
We are called to be conformed to the image and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by following how He lived His life doing the will of the Father.
I’ll close with another analogy of our Father refining us, instead of producing grapes, but as silver is refined by fire.
“But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.”
Let me tell you a story some of you may have heard, but it illustrates in real life examples of what this verse means. This verse puzzles some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next meeting for Bible study. During the next week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were the hottest so as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse that says: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.
The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. She was silent for a moment. Then asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at her and answered, “oh, that’s easy, when I can see my image in it.”
Oh, to know that God sees His image in us. …each of us.
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you. God has called us to repentance and to work toward His eternal Kingdom, on this earth and the earth to come. May we submit to His will and become more fruitful as a heavily laden grape vine, or purer than refined silver.
Help Wanted!! He has called us to work toward His Kingdom. Will we submit to the Master?