The Vine and the Vinedresser

John 15:1-6 (New King James Version)

The True Vine

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Here we have Jesus’ words regarding the vinedresser and His actions. A superficial reading of this passage can lead to confusion, so I want to take a look at what is being said.

At first, it would appear that God simply removes those who do not bear fruit and prunes those that do manage to bear fruit so that they bear more fruit. Realizing that we are the branches, this seems rather harsh, and at first appears to to put the burden on us to at least bear some fruit before God can work to improve our fruitfulness (verse 2). Verse 3 doesn’t appear to fit, and then verse 4 returns to the idea of bearing fruit, stating that we must abide in Him to be able to bear fruit. To the casual observer, parts of this will make sense, but other parts will seem to contradict.

To better understand this passage, we need to realize that Jesus is talking to his disciples. The “you” in this passage is referring to Jesus’ disciples – those who have accepted Him as their Lord. If we are unfruitful, we need not worry about being “taken away” as stated in verse two. Jesus is more gracious than that. The word translated “taken away” is Strong’s G142airō. This is a beautiful word!

“Taken away,” according to the first definition of the Greek word, might also be translated “to raise up, elevate, lift up” as you would with a weak or hurt branch that has fallen to the ground. Further, the second definition of this word is ” to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear.” So, it is reasonable to say that if we are in Jesus, and are His disciples (one of His branches), and we are not bearing fruit, that the vine dresser will lift us up, and even carry us and bear us, and then, take us away (in His arms, as He has lifted us up and is carrying us). He will take us away from the junk that is stifling our bearing of fruit. This is a far different picture from the believer simply being cast off because of his or her unfruitfulness.

Ah, but as always with God’s Word, it gets better. Let’s look at the idea of pruning in verse 2, where we who are bearing fruit will be pruned so that we will bear more fruit. Horticulturist will tell you that pruning usually involves removing the dead or unfruitful branches which are stifling the growth of other branches. Looking at the Greek, we see that the word translated “prunes” is Strong’s G2508kathairō. This word literally means “to cleanse, of filth impurity, etc.” In vegetation terms, the word means “to prune trees and vines from useless shoots” and it also can refer to the removal of guilt. How beautiful! If there is an aspect of our lives that is not bearing fruit, God (the Vinedresser) will pick that part up, bear it on himself, and take it away). Those parts that are bearing some fruit, he will cleanse of impurity, removing guilt because He has atoned for our sins, so that we can bear more fruit!

With this, verse 3 no longer seems so random and out of place. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” It is the Word – abiding in the vine of the Word, who is Jesus, that strips away all of our junk so that we can be more fruitful for Him. Verses 4 and 5 make sense as well, and no longer seem to conflict with the being “taken away” of verse 2.

Verse 6 is the warning, but here Jesus is no longer referring to “you” – the disciples. He is referring to those who do not abide in Him. Here, “cast out” means just that – cast out, without regard. We are to abide in the vine, so that He will cleans us and remove our junk, so that we can be fruitful for Him, and in being fruitful, we will bring in others – the lost, lest they suffer the consequences of not being in the vine.

Rejoice!

I once had a bible in which I had marked every instance of the words “rejoice” with a symbol reflecting the original Hebrew or Greek word which had been translated as such. There are several deeper meanings to the word, and as worshipers, I believe it is important that we are aware of the fullness of the concept, as seen in various scriptures. Linking to the original Strongs from the King James version of the Bible, I will list them here, in simple order of Strong’s number:

  1. Strong’s H1523giyl: to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion), i.e. usually rejoice, or (as cringing) fear:–be glad, joy, be joyful, rejoice.
  2. Strong’s H1524giyl: a revolution (of time, i.e. an age); also joy:–X exceedingly, gladness, X greatly, joy, rejoice(-ing), sort.
  3. Strong’s H2302chadah: to rejoice:–make glad, be joined, rejoice.
  4. Strong’s H4885masows: delight, concretely (the cause or object) or abstractly (the feeling):–joy, mirth, rejoice.
  5. Strong’s H5937`alaz: to jump for joy, i.e. exult:–be joyful, rejoice, triumph.
  6. Strong’s H5938`alez: exultant:–that rejoiceth.
  7. Strong’s H5947`alliyz: exultant:–joyous, (that) rejoice(-ing)
  8. Strong’s H5965`alac: to leap for joy, i.e. exult, wave joyously:–X peacock, rejoice, solace self.
  9. Strong’s H5970`alats: to jump for joy, i.e. exult:–be joyful, rejoice, triumph.
  10. Strong’s H7440rinnah: properly, a creaking (or shrill sound), i.e. shout (of joy or grief):–cry, gladness, joy, proclamation, rejoicing, shouting, sing(-ing), triumph (Note: this word is not found as “rejoice” but only as “rejoicing” in the King James).
  11. Strong’s H7442ranan: properly, to creak (or emit a stridulous sound), i.e. to shout (usually for joy):–aloud for joy, cry out, be joyful (greatly, make to) rejoice, (cause to) shout (for joy), (cause to) sing (aloud, for joy, out), triumph.
  12. Strong’s H7797suws: to be bright, i.e. cheerful:–be glad, X greatly, joy, make mirth, rejoice.
  13. Strong’s H7832sachaq: to laugh (in pleasure or detraction); by implication, to play:–deride, have in derision, laugh, make merry, mock(-er), play, rejoice, (laugh to) scorn, be in (make) sport.
  14. Strong’s H8055samach: probably to brighten up, i.e. (figuratively) be (causatively, make) blithe or gleesome:–cheer up, be (make) glad, (have, make) joy(-ful), be (make) merry, (cause to, make to) rejoice, X very.
  15. Strong’s H8056sameach: blithe or gleeful:–(be) glad, joyful, (making) merry((-hearted), -ily), rejoice(-ing).
  16. Strong’s H8057simchah: blithesomeness or glee, (religious or festival):–X exceeding(-ly), gladness, joy(-fulness), mirth, pleasure, rejoice(-ing).

Notes: an “X” in a definition refers to a rendering in the King James that results from an idiom peculiar to the original Hebrew.

Though some are clearly from similar origins, we see that there are 16 unique Hebrew words translated “Rejoice” (or rejoiceth, or rejoicing, or rejoiced) in the King James Bible. They do not all simply mean “be happy” or “put a smile on your face.” Some of the words have implications of action. Much like fans at a football game, there are times when it is Biblically appropriate to be exuberant in our rejoicing. We are at times to “jump for joy” or “shout” and “laugh.”

My personal favorite is the first one on the list. Here we see several examples of scripture where in rejoicing, it is even scriptural to “spin around” in our excitement of Him.

Decision Making and the Deceptions of our Hearts

Jeremiah 17:5-10 (Amplified)

Verse 9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]

The heart is deceitful above all things. Yet how many of us, including myself, place our trust in our own hearts? “I feel…” is a constant phrase in our thoughts and on our tongues, and far too often we base our decisions and actions on the shallowness of our human heart and what we feel.

In this verse, “heart” is from the Hebrew word leb and refers to the soul of man; the mind; knowledge; thinking; reflection; memory; inclination; determination of will; seat of appetites, emotions, and passions. This word is not referring to the regenerated spirit of a man. Yet while we are on this earth, our corrupt human “heart” will still be with us, and we must learn to not trust it, even if all of our human nature tells us it is okay to do so. We must submit our hearts to God, for only he knows our hearts. We may think we know ourselves, but compared to God, our knowledge fails. God knows us.

Every day we are called to crucify our flesh, and allow God to create us new. This is a forever process as long as we are still on this earth. Consider the words of Jesus, and Paul to the Ephesians:

Mark 7:21-23 (Jesus speaking) says that evil comes from the heart of men, plain and simple. But that does not give us excuse! Ephesians 4:20-24 states that we are to “…put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness..” (NKJV)

But notice, this is not a get saved and be forever clean proclamation. The Word says to be “constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph 4:23, Amplified). It is a process that never ends as long as we are within this world. Neither is this a passive blessing that will force itself on us as we go about our daily lives. We are to “put on the new nature,” a phrase which suggests action on our part. The word “put” implies “to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one’s self.” This is something we are to do, just as we are to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Colossians 3 expounds on this, explaining that we are to put to death those evil aspects of ourselves, and to put on the character of Jesus.

So if we know we can’t trust our emotions, that we can’t even trust ourselves to truly know our own hearts, though we are continuously to be working towards greater Christlikeness, then what do we do? While some things are obvious in the scripture, there are several decisions we face in life that aren’t so clear cut. Should I take this job or that job? Should I donate to this cause? The list could go on forever.  How can we ever make a decision about anything? Verse 15 of Colossians 3 gives us a great insight. In the Amplified it says:

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always].

As we spend time in prayer over various issues, and as we learn to practice spending time in the presence of God, we will become familiar with His peace – and the Word says that it is that very peace which will guide us.  Just as an umpire makes the final call, we must let peace which comes from Christ rule in our hearts. If we are seeking God, and seeking His new nature and the crucifying of our old nature, then we can rest on His promises of guidance and peace.

Please note, however, that true decisive peace must be based on prayerful time spent in the presence of God. Seek God, and seek His presence to be sure you are not being deceived by your own heart and desires. While all decisions can’t be answered directly via the scriptures (think of the “which job should I take” question), a decision formed in the fire of true God sought peace will always be in accordance to the teachings of the Word of God.

Eyes Without and Within

Revelations 4

This is a beautiful chapter of worship at the throne of God. John has been taken up in the spirit to the throne room of God, and this chapter describes what he sees. It’s an awesome display, with thunderings and lightenings, and voices proceeding from the throne of God. Yet, despite all of this, a sea of glass, like crystal, is before the throne. Even in the midst of God’s power and splendor, a sea will be perfectly still, because with God, there is perfect peace.

I want to focus on the four creatures. Verse 8 says “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.”

These creatures are before the throne of God and in the presence of God, and they have “eyes around and within.”

This should be our vision when we are in the presence of God (and we should always strive to be in His presence). Eyes around and within. In our world, we have two physical eyes which look out, and with them we find it easy to see others, to criticize, to judge, and to be disappointed with the visage of the world in which we live – but this is the world’s way of seeing; it should not be ours.

As Christians, we should have eyes which look out, but we should also have eyes which look in. How often do we, in the presence of God, truly seek to look with eyes within – at our selves, our shortcomings, and our level of purity and commitment to the one and only living God.

Isaiah 6, verse five shows how Isaiah saw himself and realized his own sin (and, the sin of his people) when he was brought into the presence of God. It also shows God’s willingness to purify us as we come before Him.

Once Isaiah had been touched with the coal, and his lips cleansed, he went from “woe is me” to “Here am I! Send me.”

The creatures at the throne of God, “do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’”

And this is how it should be with us…

In the presence of God, we will have true, full vision – vision of God, and vision all around, and vision within. And with that vision, our response should be two fold while on earth. First, we should forever proclaim “holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” giving “glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne.” Second, we should cry out, “Here am I! Send me.”

I can’t state that in my life I regularly have such purity of vision. I’m sure few of us can. This just shows us that we aren’t there yet. But if we are seeking God, He will transform us, and our vision will become like those who are in His presence, and we will indeed be changed, from Glory to Glory, on the road to Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Worship With Lee

One of my favorite Leeland videos.