The Cute For The Fruitless Soul

So we repent of our self-dependence. We agree: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1). We say with Paul: “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

When we moved to Midland many years ago, I was sent out to the front yard to clear off all the vines that had grown up on the walls of the house. I thought they looked just fine, but the landscape artist who lived inside disagreed. So, being the hired help, out I went. I pulled at ivy and vines for hours, to little effect. Then a thought occurred to me: it would be easier to cut them off at the roots, then come back later. I did—a week later they were all dead. I didn’t have to pull them off the brick—I could brush them off. They had turned to dust. The branches couldn’t abide without the vine.

Admit that you need the vine, that you’ll shrivel up and die without staying connected to Jesus every day. “Abide” in him, choose to stay connected with Jesus every day, to “remain in me” (v. 2). A branch without the vine is Christianity without Christ. A branch in the vine climbs and grows to the sky.

Second, pray continually: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (v. 7).

I agree with John Wesley that God does nothing except in answer to prayer. The Lord of the universe has chosen to limit himself to the freedom he has given us. As a result, he can do nothing which requires our will, without our permission. He cannot guide us to the right decision unless we ask him to; he cannot meet our needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19) unless we ask him to; he cannot lead us into the abundant life (John 10:10) unless we ask him to.

How much do you pray? How often? Prayer is how we connect with the vine. We are never taller than when we are on our knees. We are never stronger than when we are surrendered to God in prayer.

Third, obey his word: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (v. 10).

Jesus was insistent on this point: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15); “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (v. 21); “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (v. 23). We are his disciples only if we obey our Master.

Is there an area of disobedience in your life? Do you need to confess gossip, slander, anger, lust, laziness, pride? Are you giving the tithe to the Lord? Are you using your spiritual gifts fully in evangelism and ministry?

Last, love his people: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (v. 12). How did he love us? Unconditionally, absolutely, no matter how we treated him. Our Master says it again: “This is my command: Love one another” (v. 17).

Here is how we “abide” in the vine, staying attached so that our lives bear spiritual fruit: stay humble, admitting that you need his help; pray constantly, surrendering your will to his; stay obedient to his word; love his people. How connected to the vine are you this morning?

What happens if we are fruitless?

Before we close, we must ask one more question: what happens if we don’t do as Jesus asks? What happens if we are self-reliant, pray seldom, disobey his word and will, hurt his people? We will not bear fruit—we will not glorify God, know his joy, or reproduce spiritually. What then?

Jesus warns us: God “cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit” (v. 2). This does not mean that fruitless Christians lose their salvation—such branches are “in me” and “already clean” (v. 3). As we have already heard today, whoever makes Christ his Savior “has eternal life” (John 3:16).

Instead, fruitless branches “are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (v. 6). Their wood was too soft to be used for anything. So they were cut off from the vine and burned. The same will happen to our fruitless works: “If any man builds on [Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

If we are fruitless Christians, we will suffer an eternal loss of reward. The holy Lord simply cannot reward self-reliant, prayerless, disobedient, hurtful lives. Whatever we think we have gained by refusing to abide in the Vine, we more than lose in eternity. It’s a bad deal.

Conclusion

We’ve covered much ground today. We’ve learned that Jesus is the “true vine,” so that only by being connected to him can we have eternal life. When did you make this connection yourself? He intends us to bear spiritual fruit: to glorify God, have his joy, and lead others to him. Does he find such fruit in your life? We bear this fruit by admitting we need him every day, praying constantly, obeying his word and will, and loving his people. If we don’t, we lose the joy of Jesus on earth, and his reward in heaven.

Now the choice is yours and mine. Our joy on earth and reward in heaven depend on choosing wisely. Only one life—’twill soon be past; only what’s done with Christ will last. Do you agree?