Howard Mooney - "The True Vine" - Tacoma Special Meetings, 2004

John 15:1-5:  "I am the true vine."  If you would like to make an interesting study time, you might like to make a list of the "True Things" that are mentioned in the John Gospel. You will find reference to the true light, true worshippers, true bread, true vine, true witness, etc. The reason why Jesus emphasized these true things is because the world has always been full of false things - false lights, etc.We do not need to worry about the false side of things though we can rejoice that we have a clear and wonderful outline of these things that are true. I understand John wrote this book near the end of his life, and that it was written in response to a request to tell the "Highlights" of the life of Christ. He is the only writer that gives the details of the new birth; the sheep fold true and false shepherds, which was the issue in that day. In conclusion, he mentions there are many other things which Jesus did, if they should be written, everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. For around 60 years, he had walked with the Lord and during that time he had proven that these things were indeed true. The word "True" not only suggests something that is right it also speaks of something that is right, it also speaks of something that is genuine, something that is sound, through and through. Perhaps that is the reason why our own enthusiasm grows with the years - for each year we prove more fully the depth of these true things. I often find myself coveting the ability to make the gospel as simple as Jesus did. Nothing could be simpler than this story of the vine. Jesus said "I am the vine" "My Father is the husbandman" - looking into the faces of the apostles, He said "Ye are the branches" and indirectly He referred to the little groups of the Lord's people as the cluster of grapes that the vine produces. Nothing could be more easily understood than that.

"My Father is the husbandman."  The husbandman has full control of the vine. It was He who decided the kind of vine that was to be planted. He chose the time to plant it. He took care of the necessary pruning and purging and He decided when the fruit should be picked. One of the things we can greatly rejoice over and rightly so is that our Heavenly Father is the husbandman of this vine. He has never turned the control of it over to anyone else. It was He, who before the foundation of the world, decided the kind of vine He would have on the earth. It was He who decided the right time to plant the vine. It was He who has done the necessary pruning and purging along the way and it is He who decides when the fruit should be harvested. This vine is His sole investment. His future is invested in it, and for that reason He has never left in the hands of someone else. His people are the inheritance - the apple of His eye. Some have expressed their fears that this thing might change. They see so many of the older workers passing away and they fear that with them the Truth might pass away. But the vine has never been in the hands of the Workers - they are the branches - not the husbandman. The reason we have valued the older Workers so much down through the years is because they have been so useful in the hands of God. They may pass away from this scene, but the hands of God will still be there, the everlasting arms will still be there. He will raise up others branches to take their place. When Moses was taken, Joshua was raised up to take his place. Elisha took the mantle of Elizah. Timothy followed Paul. God will never let the vine down, because His future is invested in it. He lays aside the workmen from time to time, but takes up the work again by the hands of others. I understand the word "husband" and "husbandman" come from the same Greek word. There is a close resemblance. The husband cares for the wife, because she is wholly dependent on him. No doubt that is the reason why the wife is referred to as the fruitful vine in the scripture. There is one great difference in this picture, however. The husband is often unable to do for his wife all that he would like to. So often circumstances beyond his control make it impossible for him to provide for his wife as he would like. Not so with the husbandman of this wonderful vine. He is the master of every situation and so nothing can hinder Him from giving to His vine, all that it needs whenever it needs it. Paul said, "My God can supply all your needs." There is no limitation on His part.

In this connection I have enjoyed Daniel 2:20-21. He changes the times and seasons - God has never had to change His plan to suit the times - if any change is necessary, He can change the times and seasons. It gives us every assurance that He will never change His plan. It is eternal. All that we need to be concerned about is that we invest our future in it. Then Jesus said, "I am the vine." This vine is the medium that takes the God - given substance out of the soil, makes it living in itself, and then shares that living substance with the branches - the branches share with the grapes. This is a most important part of this fellowship. No wonder Jesus said, "Without Me Ye can do nothing." We can be very thankful for the time when Jesus came to be the vine. To take the God - given things (which were so far beyond our reach) making them living in Himself, so that He could share them with us. He is the only mediator between God and man. (1 Timonthy 2-5)

There are two wonderful things about Jesus, the vine that Paul mentioned in his letter to the Hebrews:  [1] He ever liveth (Ch 7:25); [2] He never changeth (Ch 13:8) I have learned to look upon this letter to the Hebrews, as a letter of fear."  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Ch 10:31)  He mentioned also, that we should fear, lest we would not enter into His rest - lest we should be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin - lest there should be, in any of us, a root of bitterness - lest we should sell our birthright as Esau did, etc. We need to fear all those things. However in these verses we read of two things we need never fear - that this fellowship will die out, because He who is the vine never changeth and He who is the vine ever liveth. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. This assures us that the Truth could never change - also that our future hope will never change, as long as we abide in him. We, too, will be cared for by our Father, the husbandman.

Then He looked into the faces of his Apostles who were with Him in the upper room that night and said, "Ye are the branches." You are the only avenue, the only channel through which this life can be extended into the lives of others. There were only eleven apostles with him then, Judas has already gone out into the blackness of darkness forever. These remaining men seemed so pitifully few to carry on that great work - but then the Lord's servants have always been too few. There never was a time when we should pray more earnestly - as Jesus asked us to do, that the Lord of the harvest would thrust forth more labourers into His harvest - we could use many more. Some of you could be living in isolated places, and not able to do much, but if you would take time to pray every day, that the Lord would send forth more labourers and preserve those who are in the field, you would be doing a wonderful work. These branches are a wonderful picture of the true servants of God. They represent lives that are wholly lived for others. The branch has nothing of itself to offer - it is only a channel through which the life of the vine can flow into the grapes. That is why Paul wrote, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake." (2 Corinthians 4:5) The branch also gets nothing out of this for itself - only the joy of service - the joy of knowing that others are receiving life through them. This is the greatest privilege that men and women can enjoy in this life.

Then the grapes are the product of the vine. These clusters represents the little groups of God's people, to whom the branches have extended the life of the vine. This is the only way in which grapes can be produced. Science has never found any other way to produce grapes, other than through the vine - the source that God planned in the beginning. Religious science, with all their ingenuity, have never developed any other way in which Christians can be produced either, only through "the true vine" that God planned in the beginning. It might be a consolation to you, who are grapes on this vine today to know that this whole thing has been planned for you that you might have life and have it more abundantly. The sacrifice of Jesus - pictured in 2 Corinthians 8:9 - was for "your sakes."  When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians reminding them of the sacrifice that he and his companion had made in bringing the truth to them, he mentioned it was for "your sakes." (1 Thessalonians 1:5) The combined efforts of the husbandman, the vine, and the branches is that fruit might be produced and that the fruit might remain. All that the grape has to do is to hang on - "to holdfast to your profession." That sounds easier than it really is. Solomon said, "Our vine has tender grapes." So many conditions can arise, that would cause that tender grape to let go. Down in the grape growing area where we have been labouring, we noticed three things that cause the grapes to fall off. They become too burdened under the weight of the dust and spray that collect on them - they sometimes are severed from the vine by the velocity of a heavy storm - sometimes the birds pick them and rob them of their vitality, until they become so weak they fall off. These are dangers we are all aware of. Some times people become so burdened under the cares of life that they "let go" of the only source of life. If you let go of the vine, you have to let go of the lifeline. Then there are the storms of life. Often in the midst of a storm there is a tendency to become discouraged and "let go." 

Then there are the little birds. When Abraham placed his sacrifice on the altar, he had to drive the "little birds" away - they came only to rob. A bird does not take much in one bite, in fact they take so little, that you hardly miss it at the time, but they give a peck here and a peck there and the tender grape lets go to perish forever. What are the little birds we have to look out for? They are the things that rob us of the time to pray each day, or a little time to read each day - or they hinder us getting to the meeting. This does not sound like much, but it can so easily take from us the life that the vine has given, and, in weakness, we would lose our hold on the only thing in life that is really worthwhile. Then there are the talking birds. Someone came to us with a story and when we asked how they could possibly have heard such a thing, we received the answer a little bird had told me. God never used little birds to tell people anything. If a little bird tells you something it is not of God. God tells from the housetops, never uses a little bird, and the devil uses that tactic. In the parable of the sower, it tells of the birds of the air coming [devil] to take away the seed. The tragedy of that picture is that the devil, through the medium of the little birds, was robbing the soil of what the lord was trying to give. Remember the dangers of these three:  [1] Cares of life; [2] storms; [3] little birds.

David said, "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped" When discouraged, read John 15 "Abide in me" or just hang on. If you are ever tempted to let go. Notice in this chapter, the promises to those who hang on. In verse 7, Jesus assures us if we abide in him, His words will abide in us. Those words are His promises. You can have that assurance that, even though you are the smallest grape, every promise of God will be fulfilled in you. It is nice to look into the future, not knowing what the future holds and knowing nothing can arise that would hinder these promises from flowing in to your life. In verse 11, He says, "My joy will remaining you and your joy shall be full."  This is the only place where the fullest of joy is found. There are many temporary joys in the world, joys that last for a moment, but none of them are full - they are blended with too many heartaches. Heavenly fullness of joy comes from our living contact with the vine. There is another encouraging thought here - the longer the grape hangs on the vine, the fuller and sweeter it becomes. When the time of harvest draws near, it is not uncommon to see the chemists testing the grapes for their sugar content. If they are not sweet enough, they let them hang on for a few more days - the longer they hang on the sweeter they become. Isn't it wonderful, that this fellowship with the vine has that effect on us. It is nice to know that every year we hang on, our lives become a little fuller and a little sweeter. That is true right to the end. Then, when the fruit is ripe, the husbandman cuts it loose and takes it home. This is what we speak of as death. Have you ever noticed that death and the harvest of the grapes are associated together? In Revelations 14:13-16, we read here of the sickle being applied and the grapes gathered home and, this death to the children of God, is a blessed experience when you look at it in this light - it means the end of the storms, the end of the struggles and the end of the coldness and gathered home where we can enjoy a closer fellowship with the husbandman, throughout all eternity.

In the last four verses of Revelations 14, it speaks of another harvest - where the grapes are gathered and cast into the winepress of the wrath of God. Some times people find it hard to realize that God has one definite way. It is hard for them to realize that any religious vine is not good enough, but when you read of these grapes from these other vines being cast into the winepress, it helps us to realize that, with God, it makes all the difference in the world which vine we are hanging onto. May God give us grace to abide faithfully in the true vine, so that our future can become richer, fuller, and sweeter?