Howard Mooney - The Perfect Way, Not An Organization - Great Falls Special Meeting - 1970

Isaiah 5, will you please open your Bibles to Isaiah 5:1, "Now I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress there; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes."

I would like to tell you why this vineyard brought forth wild grapes, but first I would like to talk about the greatness of the vineyard.

It was the church, God's people. If there is any question, read verse 7. I suppose you are conscious of the fact that he is speaking about the perfection of the church. When David was speaking about the church, he said, "As for God, His way is perfect." You are reading in these verses about God's perfect way. The Lord asks, "What more could I have done?" The God of perfection doing everything He could to produce a perfect fellowship. The reason it was not fruitful wasn't the fault of the church. If you are an unfruitful person, or if I am, it isn't the fault of God's way. This is still God's perfect way, just as perfect as it ever was. The fault lies in the error of the vines within the vineyard.

This vineyard was the workmanship of God. Salvation has always been the workmanship of God. Paul said, "Ye are His workmanship." One of the basic differences between the true and false religion in the Bible is: in the false religion, they are talking about what they are doing for the Lord. That is always the mark of false religion. The true worshippers were speaking about what God had done for them. In this chapter, you read of people for whom God had done great things. One of the reasons the church existed without an organization is because it is God's workmanship, and today it is still God's workmanship.

When we tell people we have a world-wide fellowship and yet no organization, no registered name, no officers, no earthly headquarters, and yet we are held together as one compact, loving family, people say, "That's impossible." Jesus agreed with this, "With men it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." One of the reasons God planned an impossible fellowship is that men and women could see the hand of God in the picture. When you see this, there is no question that God is still living.

We often tell people that if we were an organization and had an earthly headquarters, we would have no proof to give to the world that there is a God or that God is with us. The proof of that statement is that the unions and the international business clubs function on that basis. If we had an organization and a registered name and a board of directors and an earthly headquarters, we would have no more proof than they have, that there is a God.

The first thing it tells us was that God chose the site of the vineyard. In California where I had the privilege of laboring, there is a large vineyard that covers hundreds and hundreds of acres. According to the brochure they put out, the directors of this colony looked for two years to find a suitable place for this vineyard. The soil content, climatic conditions, and the humidity had to be just right. They didn't stop looking until they found the place where those vines would have every possible chance.

Even before the foundation of the world, God was concerned that you and I would have the proper chance. When He planned this fellowship, He planned a fellowship where every individual would have the best possible chance to be fruitful. If we are in this meeting unfruitful, it isn't God's fault.

When Paul was writing, he said this ground we are rooted in is love. The reason God planned it so is that the first fruit God expects is love. This would be the trademark of His people. The next thing it tells us is that the Lord put a protection around it. That fence is not a fence of restriction. If you don't remember anything else, please remember that that fence was not a fence of restriction. It is a fence of protection. When I was a teenager having my teenage struggle, I sometimes looked upon God's protection as a restriction. I used to wish that the wall wasn't there, that God wouldn't put a barrier around His people. God's people are not a restricted people. We are a protected people. I thank God for the protection that He has put around our lives.

Has your attention ever been called to the fact that the world is referred to in the Bible as a jungle? It is a case of dog eat dog. That is why the Devil is referred to as a roaring lion, Herod as an old fox. Natural brute beasts. The reason for these illustrations is to remind us that this world is a jungle. Cannot we be thankful that God has put a wall of separation between us and the jungle?

The next thing, He gathered out the stones. They were gathered out before a single vine was planted. They would have been a hindrance. When I look into the religious world that surrounded Jesus, a world with all its financial and social problems (I read about those conditions existing in the days of Jesus in the religious world) and then I look at the fellowship of Jesus and His disciples and I see that there are none of those stones there. Those are huge stones that are a hindrance even in the religious world around us today. This was to be a perfect way in which there would be no financial, no social, no business problems, and other problems that plague the organizations of mankind.

The question arises: here in a perfect vineyard under the care of a perfect husbandman - Why then did these vines bring forth wild grapes instead of the fruit of the Spirit?

Down in this part of California I told you about, we had a friend who had a large vineyard. It had been in the family for generations. I asked him what would cause these vines to bring forth wild grapes. He said, "There is one reason," and after reading this chapter, I feel this is the reason: lack of pruning.

These vines are all started with wild roots. They take a root of the wild grape, and after it gets a couple of years old, they cut off the natural branches and graft in the new variety that they want that vine to produce. Incidentally, I don't know of any illustration that helps me to understand better what it means to be born again. "Receiving....the engrafted word." When you listened to the Gospel, the first thing the Lord did was to cut off your old desires, opinions, ideas, and then He engrafted the love and Spirit of God and the mind and nature of His son. If we are what we should be, all of our energy is going to the support of this new life.

There is one thing in the picture you have to look out for: that wild root has a tendency to put out little suckers that will take over again, just like our human nature. It just puts out a little innocent-looking sucker to start with, but unless you nip it in the bud, it soon becomes a branch.

He spoke of the fact that He put a tower in the midst. That was so He would be near the vines. He could keep His eye on every vine in that vineyard and he was ready to meet any need. His eye is upon us by day and by night. "God is in the midst of her and He will help her right early." The reason He is so anxious to be in the midst of His people is because He looks for the needs of His people, and is right there to help them.

I want you to notice in this chapter that there are six woes mentioned here. I believe you will agree with me that these six woes are just six natural tendencies of branches that had never been pruned back. They probably didn't see the danger. Verse 8, "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth." This is a natural tendency to get ahead in the world. It is alright if it is controlled. There is nothing wrong with a person having a desire to get ahead, wanting a better home, a better car, or better furniture, if you keep it under control. If you let it grow out of bounds, then all energy goes to that natural tendency and the things of God are crowded out. All that natural tendency can produce is wild grapes.

Verse 11 speaks of the natural tendency toward pleasure. You read here of some pleasure-bent people. One of the greatest human tendencies is to go out after pleasure. The reason there are so many avenues of pleasure is just because there are so many people wanting it.

Sometimes people come to us and they will ask about this pleasure or that pleasure in the world and they will say, "What is wrong with it?" We sometimes tell them there is nothing wrong in the pleasure itself, but if you don't look out, that pleasure will crowd the Lord out of your life. It will take all your time that you should spend reading and praying and visiting with God's people, the things you should be doing.

We were talking at one of the Special Meetings about a study we had a few years ago with our young folks in California. We had talked together about the evils in the Bible. I was electrified myself before the study was over, because we discovered that there were far more good evils mentioned in the Bible than bad evils. Everyone can see the danger of the bad evil - drinking, and gambling, and carousing - anyone can see the danger of a bad evil.

But there are more good evils than bad evils. A good evil is just anything that hinders you from praying, from reading your Bible or going to meeting or writing that letter you should be writing, and you are too busy to do it. The thing that is making you too busy is a good evil. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." This time had been given them to prepare for Eternity.

I suppose we have all hung our heads when we realize that the good legitimate things of life have crowded the things of God out. Sometimes there are pleasures in the world that in themselves are harmless, but they can hinder your relationship with God, from praying, from getting ready for the Sunday morning meeting. Just like these people, it was a natural tendency that could only produce wild grapes.

Verse 18 speaks of another woe, another natural branch, natural tendencies that need to be pruned back. Verse 19 seems to refer to a natural tendency toward doubt. The world is filled with doubt because it is a natural tendency. It is the opposite from faith. Faith can crowd doubt out of the picture, but if we are not careful, doubt will crowd faith out of the picture. The world is filled with people who are doubters: they doubt the existence of God; they doubt the authenticity of the Bible: that God can do for them what He wants to do: that He can be to people what He was in olden days. Doubt is one of the fastest growing branches that is ever produced. It needs to be pruned back often because it will take over, and the things of God will be crowded out.

Verse 20 speaks of another woe, another natural tendency. This is a tendency toward compromises. In the beginning, God put a world of difference between light and darkness and between good and evil, and He never intended that they should be intermingled, between sweet and bitter. I can remember just a few years ago that even out in the ungodly world, people recognized the difference between light and darkness, between good and evil, between moral and immoral. I knew people without an ounce of religion, and yet they kept a world of difference between good and evil. We are seeing today the product of the natural tendency. There is no distinction between light and darkness, between good and evil, between bitter and sweet. The world has compromised. Every day the papers are filled with suicides, homicides, and scandal, the fruits people bring on themselves that haven't recognized the natural barrier.

One of the natural tendencies we have to fight against is the tendency to be like the world. You know what light is - in Jesus was light. Anything contrary to what Jesus lived and taught is darkness. Are you keeping that separation in the picture or are you yielding to the natural tendency until there is hardly any distinction between light and darkness? God isn't going to do the pruning unless you are willing for it. Any tendency toward compromise will only yield wild grapes!

Verse 21, another natural tendency, another branch that is the product of the wild root. "Wise in their own eyes." Six things doth the Lord hate. There is something else that is an abomination: it is a proud look. Proverbs 6:16-17, a natural tendency toward pride. There is nothing more obnoxious to God than pride. God has never left any room in this fellowship for pride. There isn't a child of God in this meeting today who won't say, "I am nothing in myself; it is only by the Grace of God that I am what I am." You can't take one bit of credit for what you are enjoying. All the glory goes to the One who had mercy on us.

If you want to make an interesting study, take your concordance and look up "pride" in the Bible and the many things that are the marks and offshoots of pride. Then contrast it with "humble." These are the opposite ends of the poles. Pride is an offshoot of the old, wild root. All it can produce is wild grapes. It can sap the strength of your life to the extent that the things of God are crowded out.

Verse 22, this is the natural tendency toward dishonesty. Everybody has to fight against this. The world isn't fighting against it, and that's why we are living in a dishonest world today. Sometimes in our endeavor to meet the dishonest competition, it is easy for us to yield to that natural tendency, too. I thank God for our brethren who are dealing with a dishonest crooked world and yet keeping straight.

We had a man in California in the real estate business, and I suppose in this business, you are facing crooked competition more than the average. One of our friends from out of state liked this location, and so he went to the Chamber of Commerce and asked about the possibility of locating there. The man in the office of the Chamber of Commerce said, "You go to a certain realtor and you can be sure anything that man tells you will be right." They went down and looked up this man and they found out they were brothers in Christ. We must remember that when we are living in a world of crooked competition that there is a natural tendency, that we all have to keep pruned back to meet that competition, and in the process a person could easily lose their testimony.

These six woes mentioned here are natural tendencies from the wild root that need to be pruned back. If they are not pruned back, they will take over and crowd the things of God out of a person's life. They can only bring wild grapes. I am glad we don't have to stop with that line of thought.

Isaiah 27:2-3, this is another picture of the vineyard. "In that day sing ye unto her, a vineyard of red wine." No wild grapes here. It is the same workmanship of God, but the difference is that the people in this picture are willing for pruning; they were willing to cooperate with God in pruning back any natural tendencies that only brought woe into the picture. They had come to the point of fruition as a result of the divine life grafted in. They were bringing forth love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, that God expects in His people, The only difference between the two pictures is that the vines in the first one were not willing for the pruning. They couldn't see anything wrong in these things. It pays to prune off the old wild tendencies.

You have here the picture of the vineyard of red wine. I would like to tell you something about grapes: the longer a grape hangs on the vine, the richer and sweeter and fuller it becomes. It is also a tendency of the growth of the divine vine, something that grows richer and fuller and sweeter with the passing of time. In this vineyard we were speaking about, they would go out and take a sample of the grapes here and there and take them into the laboratory and test them for sugar content and if there wasn't enough sugar, they just let them hang on a little longer.

You who are older in this meeting, you know what I am talking about, don't you? You are rejoicing that you have access to something that has made your life richer and fuller and sweeter with the passing of time. One of the greatest inspirations to me is when I can look into the faces of the older brothers and sisters and see the evidence that every day their lives are becoming richer and fuller and sweeter. That is what it will be if we let the Lord of the vineyard take over. They say there is never a time the husbandman is closer to the vine than when he is pruning.

Read Revelation 14. Death is the harvest of the grapes of the children of God. This is the perfect ending to God's perfect way.