Remain Close to Jesus

In the setting of an agrarian society, Jesus uses a very easy agricultural illustration to help the disciples understand his truths. Jesus uses an illustration of a fruit producing vine (grapevine) to show how the disciples must be rightly related to Jesus. The idea is that they should remain close to Jesus if they want to produce fruit that glorifies God.


Jesus made his final “I am” statement, declaring that he is the true vine. A vine gives it’s branches nutrition and productiveness. Jesus is portraying himself as a vine and his disciples are considered the “branches.” As a “branch”, his disciples would receive Jesus’ divine strength, his unbelievable joy, and long lasting fruitfulness as long as they remained close to Jesus. 

We had recently purchased a little farm in the country. There was many grapevines already there. The one that I started to nurture was on a fence in our garden area. It ran up to the top of the fence and teed off each direction 25′. As summer came, it was beautiful with all of the buds and the promise of a lot of grapes. The grapes never even got as big as a pea before they dried up. The branches continued to grow longer and the leaves were beautiful, but no fruit was harvested. After doing some research, I found out that grapevines must be pruned to have a nice fruit harvest. Instead of letting the branches to grow as long as it wants, they continually need to be pruned back to the main vine. 

On a typical grapevine the main vine (trunk) comes up sometimes around three to five feet and tees off and the branches extend from the tee somewhere around four to six feet. The branches are pruned back to keep it close to the vine. Since the branches stay close to the vine, they receive more nutrition which produces larger, more impressive clusters of grapes. If you have ever seen a grapevine up close that is loaded with grapes it is a beautiful sight. 

Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:4-5 to:

“Abide (remain) in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.



If you want to produce fruit that glorifies God, 
Remain close to Jesus, because away from him we can do NOTHING.

Sometimes we think that serving and doing things is producing fruit for God. It can be (and should be), but if you are running off doing your own thing without God’s direction, you could be just like my 25′ branches on my grapevine that looks pretty, but are unfruitful.
Be like the picture above, showing how the branches are close to the vine drawing everything that they need from the vine. 

According to the text, there are three things that will come from Remaining close to Jesus:

1. Effectual prayer: 
  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

We all have heard this verse used out of context and for personal gain, but as your heart is close to God’s heart, you will be praying for the things that God wants. 

2. Continual (long lasting) fruit:
“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8 

When we produce godly fruit, the people around us see it and God is glorified by it.

(The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control;…  Galatians 5:22-23)

3. Unbelievable Joy:
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:11

No matter the outward circumstances, there is inner happiness and peace that only God can give. 

Remain close to Jesus 

Joy

As a child, Christmas could not come fast enough. The excitement, wonder, and magical part of Christmas is all that a child’s mind is focused on. As that child gets older, sometimes the excitement disappears. It could be the commercialism of Christmas, the long lines in stores, or the pressures that come this time of year. I know for me it is sometimes hard to enjoy this time of year. Half of my working years have been in retail jobs where you work an insane amount of hours, and you are too tired to enjoy Christmas. You would make good money, but you were never home and were too tired to do anything. The other half has been working in seasonal businesses where this time of year is usually very slow. Usually money is tight, but the positive is that you have lots of time. Occasionally, I need to be reminded what this season is really about.

In Luke two, an angel appeared to some shepherds who were watching their flocks at night. The angel said to them, “I bring you good news of great JOY which will be for all the people.” Several times in Luke, when “joy” is mentioned, it is talking about salvation. This is one of those verses, because the reason of this “joy” is that “in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord. The Messiah has come to save his people.

 

This is great news, because we can now have a relationship with the creator of the universe. Since man is sinful, he cannot enter into the presence of a holy God. Jesus Christ went to the cross and took on our sins so we can enter into the presence of God. This is the ultimate Christmas gift. God the Father gave his Son, Jesus Christ so we can have access to God (John 3:16). Now all you have to do is “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). This is a total trust that God has forgiven your sins and has given you eternal life with Him.

 

Even if you do not care for this particular season, you can still have joy because of what you have been saved from [i.e. hell (an eternal separation from God’s presence)]. Do not keep this joy to yourselves; tell others about the great joy that is within you.

Luke 2:10-11

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Joy

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us– what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.” (NAU 1 John 1:1-4)

Christ was from the beginning and he is the Word of Life. The surrounding witnesses of that time touched him, seen with their own eyes, and the things that they heard about him were still ringing in their ears. The reality of the resurrection was undeniable. Jesus’ life and resurrection was clearly seen, and because of the resurrection, the way to receive eternal life was clearly made known. (“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” John 14:6). An opportunity for a relationship with God the Father has been made because of the resurrection of Christ.

John wanted his readers to experience joy. What is joy? Sometimes we confuse joy with happiness. Happiness changes as your outward circumstances change. Joy is an inner peace that is with you no matter what your outward circumstances might be. Your joy must be founded in God. It is looking to our present fellowship and future eternal life with Jesus Christ. John was really expressing his heart by wanting his readers to experience this joy. This was written so your joy (delight) may be made full.

The Lost Keys

I have heard it said that you can tell a man’s stress level by how many keys he has on his key chain. If this theory is correct, then I would rate very high on the stress charts, because I carry two sets of key chains. Since I have run a business, I have keys for my trucks, padlocks, and many many other things. I carry every key that I might need with me always. I do not feel stressed having that many keys, but I did yesterday when I could not find my second set of keys. The stress level started to rise when I was at the auto parts store. This was when I realized that my second set was not with me. Then I started thinking back to the last time that I seen them. Oh no! It has been over four hours since I remembered using them. Within those four hours, I had been to multiple stores in multiple towns, getting in and out of an old truck with rusty floor boards. Those keys could be anywhere. I called home for the search to begin as I started back tracking, trying to follow all of my paths. Unfortunately, they were not found even with all of our efforts. All evening and night, my mind continued to think about where I might have laid them down at. This morning I searched the garage and walked the entire lawn, driveway, and around and in every truck. No luck again. Frustrated, I began untangling an extension cord. As I was walking backwards toward one of my trucks, I heard a jingle. I looked down and there were my missing set of keys. They have been there in plain sight the entire time. How did we miss them? A great sense of relief came over me, as I began letting everyone know that I found my keys.

It is funny how God uses episodes in our lives to remind us of his love and character. I was reminded of the parable of the woman with the lost coin in Luke fifteen. She searched for that missing coin extensively. Lamps were lit and she even swept the floor to be sure to get every corner. At last it was found! She let everyone know about her find and she wanted to share her joy with them. This story mirrors God’s character, as He does not give up on the lost one but pursues him. In the same way, there is great joy when that one comes into a right relationship with Him. What a wonderful joy it is to be in a right relationship with the Creator of the Universe.