You will need a whiteboard, flipchart or similar.
(If you are using this for individual study, you will need something to take notes!)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
In this study we will be looking at ‘the fruit of the vine’, but before we look at the fruit I’d like to get you to do a quick test. On your chairs when you sat down there was a pretend piece of paper and a pen (so much easier to give out and no-one can see what you write!). Please take these now. On the paper you will see the numbers 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. This is the measure of your fruitfulness for God. I want you to take the pen and draw a circle round the number which best shows how your life so far has borne fruit for God. Zero is no fruit, ten is maximum fruitfulness.
(Wait for everyone to do this!)
It seemed that we were all able to do this, but I hadn’t explained what you were marking.
How did you measure your fruitfulness? (Accept replies without comment, or ‘I see’). (We’re looking for ‘What we have done for God’ - write that on the board)
Let’s talk about grape vines for a moment.
There are hundreds of different varieties of grapes. How could we group them? What are the main differences in the grapes they produce? (write on board – you’ll need to keep this)
White / Red.
For eating / winemaking / drying for Raisins / decorative.
With seeds / seedless
If you were a commercial grower, how would you grade the fruit you produce? What characteristics would you look for?
Variety, quality, size, flavour, ripeness (write on board – this will go in a minute)
There is only one reason for a branch to be in the vine – to bear fruit.
If you have John 15 open, notice the word fruit in v2,4,5,8,16. Fruit is mentioned 6 times in the first 5 verses.
Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. He is the rootstock and it’s only as we are in union with him that the sap will flow.
What is the sap?The Spirit of Jesus.
(Rub out the characteristics you just wrote up)
What (or who) produces the fruit in us?Jesus.
Is it right then to say
(Write on board) ‘Fruit is the outward expression of the life of Christ within’
Let’s look at what the bible says about fruit in the New Testament. As we read each passage, if it mentions a type of fruit, call it out and I’ll write it on the board. Write each suggestion on the board)
Where shall we start? Galatians!
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
You may have to think a bit harder for this next one
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Look at the fruit listed on the board. Would you say they are words you could use to describe Jesus? Yes
Is that surprising when you consider what the sap is? No
Are there any other attributes of Jesus you might like to add?
Possible suggestions: Beauty compassion faithfulness freedom gentleness glory goodness grace joy holiness immutability impassibility justice kindness knowledge love mercy order patience peace perfection power righteousness self-control sensitivity simplicity spirituality truth wisdom.
What was it that attracted people to Jesus while he was on earth (or even turned people against him)? His character. Read slowly:
Christ could not fail to exhibit the outward expression of his own Spirit within.
There was something in the life of my Christian friends which I recognised I did not have and I wanted.
What was it?
It was their fruit which I saw to be desirable, and which attracted me to Christ.
So a Christian’s fruit should be obvious and attractive to others, although the Christian themselves might protest ‘but that’s just how I am’. Yes – being the branch we were created to be!
Apple trees don’t think they are clever because they can produce apples – they are just doing what comes naturally.
We should point out here that there is another kind of fruit that is plastic, artificial and dead – like baubles hanging on a Christmas tree; fooling nobody. Some artificial fruit is very realistic, almost convincing. So what does it mean when we read:
1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.’?
To Imitate God is not to produce imitation fruit, but rather that authentic, Godly fruit will be formed naturally in us, by Christ.
16 By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.
I think it’s fair to say that those who do not have Jesus living in them often seek to discourage Christians – to drag them down, to injure their faith and to provoke controversy and divisiveness. Christians on the other hand naturally want to edify others in conversation, prayer and by the gifts of ministry that we ourselves have received from the Spirit of Jesus.
Let’s read two passages one after the other:
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Emphasize this last verse.
4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
When we marked ourselves it was as if we were looking at ourselves under law. Had we done enough to be acceptable?
In order for a branch to produce grapes, what does it have to do? Nothing. It’s what it was created to do.
God made us, God chose us. For what purpose? The pursuit of happiness and material gain? With God as a useful addition to that? – A life assurance policy that pays out at our death?
Some Christians live like that. But that kind of life is shallow and empty. God who knows us intimately, actually shaped and formed us with His purposes in mind – and that purpose is to bear fruit for him.
Now we’ve got a long passage so I’ll read it: Romans 12:4-18
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Because we have been called by Christ we can be confident that we will be equipped and enabled to fulfil the purposes for which we have been called. We are all different and our calling and gifts are unique. As a result of living the life to which we have been called, our fruit will grow and will be distinctive.
Look again at the different types of vine you can get:-
White / Red.
For eating / winemaking / drying for Raisins / decorative.
With seeds / seedless
Each has a specific purpose. For that purpose it must grow true to type. It must only grow the fruit expected of it. Not a poor copy of another branch’s fruit.
Now look again at the passage we are studying: John 15:8
8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
What does that mean?
We saw that the characteristics of Christ in our life is our fruit. Through it we demonstrate we are Christ’s disciples and this brings Glory to God.
I’ll read: 2 Corinthians 4:5-7
5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
So what have we learned?
If we allow Christ’s life to change us, and produce fruit, this in turn will bring blessing to other people and Glory to God.
Now, we said that in order for a branch to produce grapes it has to do nothing,
Well actually that’s not true. We can’t just sit back and hope fruit will grow. Fruit won’t grow on dead wood – the more vigorous the branch the better the fruit.
What does John 15:4 say? 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
How do we do that?
We’ll look at that over the next couple of studies.