Ian Rowe - A Well and a Wall

I would like to share some verses with you from John 15:1-15, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein, is My Father  glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.  As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is My commandment:  that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater lover hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.”

The first thing we learn about this vine is that it’s a true vine, and perhaps the first thing we begin to appreciate more as we go on in this Way is that we have found something that’s true. As we sing in that hymn, “In Jesus we have found the way that leads to God and eternal day.” We’ve found The Way. It’s a way that becomes increasingly more valuable as we walk in The Way and enjoy the benefits of The Way, and the goal and the result gets clearer and the things of eternity become more real to us than the things of time. We begin to invest our lives in a way that is preparing us for eternity. It’s wonderful that we have the true ministry to look to, because it’s a great comfort and joy to know that the ministry today is the same as what Jesus called His disciples into. It speaks of the unchanged way of God, the unchanged ministry, a simple ministry of leaving all and laying down our life and serving God. It’s God’s true and living way and we are thankful for the standard that’s the same today as when Jesus walked on the earth. Perhaps we don’t understand it all now but in future days we will be thankful for this unchanged way of God. In my first days of this work in New South Wales, I went to Silverdale Convention and took a visiting worker with me. When we arrived, a group of people were waiting and in that gathering were two elderly ladies. One was in the work and the other was accompanying her. I wasn’t feeling very special that day but I remember meeting those two elderly women and saying to the one who was in the work, “It’s nice you could be with us at this Convention.” She turned and said, “My sister, who is in the work, just told me (she was 85) that if she had her life to live all over again she would give it in the work.” That really helped me—to think that on my very first day and in my very first hours I had met an old lady, who was probably in the work some 55 or 60 years who would do it all over again. Without saying a word, she had spoken a very powerful message to me of the true ministry and true joy. I am thankful today, even after just a few years, that we belong to and have this true ministry that will always be the same.

The next thing we read about here is a true relationship. “My Father is the husbandman…” Jesus was the vine and God was the husbandman and we are the branches. It shows us the relationship we have with God through Jesus. We have been brought into a true fellowship and a true relationship with God and it has become sweeter because we have come in through the way that God Himself ordained. There is nothing of men or self to cloud the glory of our relationship with God—it is based on the time when we through Jesus, have entered this family. We are joined to the vine and through Jesus we have a relationship with the God of Heaven. It’s a living relationship. Isn’t it a joy to see people who are alive in Christ? There’s nothing worse than to see people who are lukewarm, who don’t really get any joy out of serving God. It’s like that church John wrote about—lukewarm, neither here nor there! Nothing is worse than trying to understand if a person is with us or against us. The thing that makes good fellowship is when people have a living, true relationship with God and are alive to Him, as Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, which were once dead in sin. But the thing that makes our fellowship so real is when we are alive to God. Some people never understand if it’s God’s voice speaking or if it’s the devil’s, but if we know His voice and have had a living relationship with Him, a real relationship from the very beginning, then we will know His voice. If God speaks in correction to us we will accept it, even if it’s through a brother or sister younger or older than us. We will understand and we won’t get offended. It’s for our benefit to enlarge us in the truth and we are thankful for that living relationship through the living Christ. Once upon a time, we heard this living gospel and it brought us into living fellowship with God. It’s so nice to be amongst a people who are alive and who are not dead. There’s always a tendency to compromise when we’re at work or school, but isn’t it a joy to see people willing to stand for the truth, who have been convicted of the truth. So in those first three verses we have a living God, a living vine and a living relationship with the God of Heaven.

Some of the parables emphasize the seed, but the parable of the sower and the seed refers to the soil. They, on the good ground, have a good and honest heart and bring forth fruit with patience. So they are of the good ground--they which have an honest and good heart. It speaks of the ground, the soil. There’s no better soil where this word will take root and grow then when the heart is honest. Honesty is the foundation of any friendship and any relationship—it’s the foundation of society itself! Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” It is the foundation principle of countries or there wouldn’t be stability—that’s honesty! In marriage, it’s the very core of the relationship—honesty. Even in friendships and in businesses. We go back to that basic truth that nothing grows where there is no honesty. When the prodigal son went down to that far country he was empty, desperate, and lonely, and the next step would have led to further confusion in his life. Sometimes the hardest words to say are, “I have sinned.” But these are the words that show repentance—words that brought the fruits of repentance into his life. They were the words that started him back on the journey to his father, because deep in his heart there was an honesty that God required. In all these parables where it speaks of growth and seeds and bearing fruit, the basis is that there would be honesty before God. We sing in that hymn, “My way is wrong, God’s way is right,”—that’s honesty! So in these few thoughts we have the parables of Jesus bringing us into a living relationship with a living God and the foundation is honesty. If there’s one thing I desire, it’s to be more honest before God. If there’s one thing that will bring forth more fruit, it’s honesty. It matches with truth and runs hand-in-hand with truth. There are some key words mentioned here: one is abide, which simply means to remain or to dwell. “Abide in me,” Jesus said. Later, it was a step further, “Abide in my life.” We can think of abiding in the life of Jesus. There was no life that was greater or carried more weight or touched more hearts than the life of Jesus. There’s a tendency to abide in self pity, but it’s helpful to think about Calvary. One of the things that keep our relationship alive with God is to think on His Word, to meditate on it, and to feed on it, and keep our spiritual life alive. It’s so easy to abide in wrong thoughts which lead to wrong actions and then we have a problem. Wrong thoughts lead to imaginations and it’s easy to feed the imagination that grows bigger and before you know it, all kinds of things begin to happen. Nothing adjusts our thoughts more than to think upon Jesus. Think upon His faithfulness, think on when He gave His life, think of when He was baptised and when He was tempted of the devil; think of when He went into the ministry and when He went up into the mountain and taught those wonderful parables. He gave us the foundation of Christianity and it’s something we should do more and more—abide more in His love. One life I thought of was Joseph’s.  If ever there was a man who could have abode in self pity and felt sorry for himself, it was Joseph. He was able to abide in right things all his life and it was the word that keeps representing itself throughout his life—that is how he prospered. He encountered difficult situations in prison, in loneliness, before the king and before his brothers, but he prospered because he was abiding in the secret place. In Genesis 49, we read of Joseph being a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall. The well shows his secret relationship with God. Joseph had a very deep well that was life-giving and he was drawing from it. In the well we see his relationship between his brethren. While Joseph was drawing from the well, his brethren were building a wall, and they added materials to that wall: envy, jealousy, and accusations. The materials were so effective and strong that the wall separated him from his brethren for 20 years. While they were building that wall, Joseph was digging that well, and while they were building, he was drawing from the well: growing, climbing, and covering until eventually it held the true vine, the type of Christ whose branches went over the wall. In Genesis 45:1, we read that when the branches went over the wall, Joseph wept and asked those with him to go out, and then he revealed himself to them. “I am your brother.” He could have said, “I am Joseph, your enemy,” but he didn’t. Maybe the reason he said that was because during those years of loneliness and separation while his brethren were building the wall, he was digging the well and feeding on the right things that fed his soul. He showed the same kind of love that Jesus showed toward Judas when Judas came to Him and kissed Him and said, “Friend, you are My brother.” When they hated him, he was abiding in the true vine. Aren’t we thankful today for those we have known in our fellowship meetings who draw from the well? Many people have problems in their relationships, but this is one true and helpful source that if our relationship is right with God, then our relationship will be right with one another. If we are drawing from that well of living water and abiding in His love, then we will have a living relationship with the God of Heaven and those we have fellowship with.

Genesis 41 speaks of the two sons Joseph had.  He called the name of the first born Manasseh, meaning "God has made me forget." The name of the second son he called Ephraim, for "God has caused me to be fruitful." The first offspring child meant forgetting, the second born meant fruitful—a picture of the offspring being fruitful because he had forgotten in the first place: “Made me forget all my toil. I have forgotten all the hatred, the envy, the jealousy and the strife, all the false accusations.” I don’t know of any other way of forgiving, but Joseph had it because he had a well when his brothers were building a wall of separation.  It was his secret, living relationship with God because he dug the well. Aren’t we grateful for a people who have seen Christ and are abiding in the true vine and that makes for unity? “Open all the store houses.” Famine walks free in the land of Egypt. At the time when his brethren were suffering back at home, Joseph had bread and opened the store houses.  When his brethren came to him in their need, Joseph could have so easily retaliated and said, “No, I won’t give my enemy bread.” Isn’t that like Christ Himself? They were the very words Jesus lived out in His life as a life of love, “Give them bread to eat.” In giving them bread, he would be feeding their soul instead of feeding their imaginations. Haven’t we been hearing from our youth in these meetings to keep our affections, our vision on Christ? Nothing gives us more strength to overcome some of the trivial problems that the devil will blow up into our minds. Joseph could have sent his brethren home, but there is an interesting thing to note that his brethren said, “We are guilty concerning our brother. We have sold him, we have betrayed him, and we have had envy towards him.” When they were building the wall, they said, “We are very guilty concerning our brother.” Joseph was drawing from the well that gave him strength to overcome and grow in a way that could never have happened otherwise. Joseph said unto his brothers, “This do and live because I fear God.” Why? Because he knew God was an Almighty God and there was no substitute. There’s one thing we see lacking more-and-more of in this world and it’s the fear of God. Joseph carried that fear of God through his life. His brethren said they were very guilty but they went right on building, while Joseph was climbing over the wall of separation and growing spiritually.

I am thankful for these thoughts of being a part of the true vine, the true and living way, and that we have found Jesus. I am thankful for the ministry, for the true fellowship and for one another. I’m thankful that we have been found in this Way and at the end of life we will go on proving it to be true. There’s everything in life that will disappoint you; whatever you put your time and natural energy into will disappoint, but this truth is an investment of a lifetime that, at the end of the day, we’ll have comfort in knowing that what we have believed in will prove true throughout all eternity. May we have a true and living relationship with the God of Heaven.