Don't put the branches before the vine

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15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

To recap: In C13 Jesus eats His last meal with the disciples before He’s crucified (He celebrates Passover), in C14 Jesus tells them that he’s leaving them but won’t leave them alone- He’s giving them another Comforter the HS, and in C15 he charges them to remain or abide in Him.

So we transition from Jesus’ going - to the disciples remaining or abiding. Jesus uses this metaphor of the vine and branches to illustrate His connection to them and what that should result in.

So we have the Vine, the branches and the fruit.

Vine: Jesus begins with a profound statement “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser” in other words, Jesus is not just any vine – he is the true vine, the real vine as opposed to a false vine or a substitute.

The OT likens Israel to a vine: Hos 10:1 Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit, and Isa 5:7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel. Deut 32:4-5

But Jesus is telling us that He is the vine, the real and genuine vine that is prophesied in the OT. From now on, true believers will be identified by their relationship to Him, the true vine, and not anyone or anything else. Faith, not physical lineage, becomes your connection to this vine. Paul tells us in Gal 3:27 we are all Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

This vine becomes the most vital part of a believer’s life because as the vine, Jesus will nourish the branches (His people), and feed them what they need to produce fruit. The Father is also involved in that He is the vinedresser that cultivates and prunes the branches so that they bear more fruit.

The vine is the source of life for the branch and apart from the vine, the branch can do nothing – that’s not too flattering since we are described as the branches. Nothing-why? Deut 32:4-5 Luther nothing is not a little something.

Have you ever seen a tree branch on the ground? Not much happening there, they don’t do much outside of being picked up for kindling wood – you pick these up because they’re not connected to the tree. You generally don’t cut live branches off a tree to start a fire. Notice something else – the branches are twisted and crooked. (ruler illustration – stop dwelling on WWJD vs dwelling on WDJD, branches start off crooked)

Crooked branches yield crooked results

Branches: Remember, our connection to this vine is by faith and without faith it is impossible to please God, hence Jesus’ saying that a branch separated from the vine will remain fruitless.

J Calvin: "Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God's majesty." (True wisdom consists almost entirely of two parts: Knowledge of God and Knowledge of Self)

When you understand who God truly is (immortal-perfectly straight line), and then see yourself as you are (mortal-crooked line), you realize that you need to look more like Him.

The disciples, as well as us, are described as the branches, and the goal of a branch is to do what? Bear fruit! In verses 1-5 we go from no fruit, to fruit, to more fruit and eventually, hopefully to much fruit. V8 tells us that the Father is glorified in our bearing fruit – so this is important, we want to bear fruit and glorify God.

It immediately reminds me of the garden of Eden, the command to Adam and Eve – be fruitful and multiply – some of you will be very sad to find out that that doesn’t only apply to making babies - sorry!

It has a spiritual application: Our lives are to be spiritually fruitful out of our relationship to Jesus. But in order to bear fruit, the branch must be connected to the vine, it must draw life from it.

There are three things we need to know about the branches: 1) cannot bear fruit alone, 2) branches are pruned to bear more fruit, and 3) fruitless branches are thrown away and burned. (Basically they bear fruit or become fuel). Live branches are evidenced by live fruit – live fruit is the byproduct of a live branch.

Notice something VERY important, something that unlocked this passage for me that we need to understand in order to move forward:

branches bear fruit, they don’t make fruit! Fruit naturally flows from a branch’s connection to the vine. We tend to put the cart before the horse, or in this case, the branch before the vine.

Even Jesus, when explaining about His own fruit, His works, says twice in John 5 “I can do nothing on my own”, if Jesus says He can do nothing on his own, why should we think we can.

Later in Jn 14 He says that it’s the Father who dwells in me, He doeth the work – fruit flows from His connection to the Father.

Now for us, Paul says in Phil 2:12-13 to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. We work out our salvation, we don’t work for our salvation. We work out what He is working in us, God gives the increase – and the result is fruit bearing. The point is, we don’t make the fruit – God makes the fruit through us.

AND, 2nd thing we must also remember is this: the branches do not eat the fruit they bear – it’s always for someone else. We are not bearing fruit to feed ourselves but to feed or serve others. You were saved to serve. Prov 10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many and 1 Pet 2:10 live so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Fruit: So what is fruit, what does it look like? Gal 5 tells us what it shouldn’t look like first: the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. This is one kind of fruit (bad fruit), but Paul goes on to tell us that that the fruit of the Spirit is L J P P K G F G S-C – this is good fruit. Notice that fruit comes in two kinds and you will produce one or the other.

Jesus says Lk6 For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. Your fruit tells us a lot about your vine. Some fruit looks good outwardly but when you bite into it, it’s rotten. Nice appearance on the outside, inside rotting away. It’s the same thing with people and it’s actually understanding the difference between your reputation and your character –

Your reputation tells us what people think about you,

Your character tells us what God knows about you. No secrets. Paul closes with a warning that those who bear bad fruit will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Remember, we all start off with crooked hearts but God didn’t create us that way, nor does He want us to stay that way – we must be connected to the only thing that will straighten us out – Jesus the true vine.

Since fruit comes in two kinds and you will produce one or the other, where is your fruit coming from - what are you connected to? What are you abiding in, because everyone abides in something. Is it material possessions, a political party, a sports team, a drug, pornography, financial gain, a relationship, a divorce, food, television, your career, a feeling - guilt, loneliness, bitterness, envy, jealousy, pride, fear, you want to ask yourself what do you think about most. That will probably tell you what you’re abiding in.

Your fruit either comes from the True vine or an unhealthy substitute – our lives are filled with substitutes that are bad for us. Sugar substitutes – cause cancer in lab rats and some humans – but at least its not sugar! Butter substitutes- margarine is one molecule away from being plastic. Substitutes for the real thing. You gotta love some of these ads - orange juice made with REAL oranges – oooh! Fruit punch made from real fruit juice (.005%)! What a concept.

Here’s my concept, I want to be a real Christian made with the real Christ!! I want Christ, undiluted, running through my veins and not a substitute. But, in order to do that, I need to abide in the real thing, the true vine! (HA Ironside)

Christ is a substitute for everything, but nothing is a substitute for Christ (HA Ironside)

Here’s the dilemma: How do I know if I am? I’m not sure how good my fruit really is and we know where that could lead, or maybe it is that you have some fruit but want more fruit, much fruit. What do we do? Most people believe the solution is this: go make good fruit. Men are very goal oriented- good fruit = rewards, bad fruit=consequences, let’s make good fruit. I’ll do good things, I’ll make good fruit and bring it to the vine, and that will make God smile, it’s a win-win. And here’s where we miss the point. If you are a bad tree, you cannot produce good fruit, as per Jesus. If you’re not connected, you put the branch before the vine

What you would consider as good fruit, doing the good things you do, would be very similar to decorating a Christmas tree. You bring the ornaments to the tree and hang them on it. You make it look nice and you say how pretty. However if you cut open one of the ornaments you would find out that its hollow – it has no life in it – you bought it at Harrows. That ornament has no life giving connection to the tree, it has none of the tree sap flowing through it, therefore that fruit is not the product of that tree. Without a connection to the vine, the fruit you bring to the vine is described as dead works by the bible.

You bringing your dead works to the vine would be like decorating the cross of Christ with Christmas balls, tinsel and garland, as if that cross wasn’t enough without your decoration– an offense to God.

There must be resurrection life before there can be resurrection fruit. Real fruit contains real life, it also contains seeds that reproduce, that multiply. Vine connected, Spirit-produced fruit will last, it will go on reproducing from one life to the next.

When we’re concerned about our fruit, don’t miss the point of this passage and forget what God wants us to do, what we need to do, to ABIDE!

Abiding in the vine is the key – He will produce the fruit through us when we are connected to Him, and consequently we will bear it. Us in Him and Him in us – it’s about a life giving relationship between the vine and the branch. We become His conduit as He flows through us. Vine first, branch second, fruit third.

Fruit-bearing is a byproduct of this relationship, not the cause of it. Your job is not to make fruit, but bear fruit by abiding. I read the Five Languages of Love, I think God’s love language is quality time! It takes time to abide.

So, here’s the test-when they cut open the fruit in your life what will they find? Will there be life in it, or will it be hollow?

If you cut open the fruit of a Christian’s life, you should see:

the life of Christ - His obedience,

the blood of Christ – His sacrifice,

the love of Christ- His mercy and grace.

All the result of remaining in Him!

Look at V.8 again. Bearing fruit doesn’t make you a disciple, it proves you’re a disciple. If you understand this, it should transform the way you think about your relationship to God. He is working through you because you are connected to Him, not vice versa!

CS Lewis: A car is made to run on gas, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.

So, how do we abide, what does it mean and what does it look like? John uses the word abide, also translated remain, 10 times in this one passage alone! This is the heart of this passage.

Abide: means to continue in a place or state in which one is now, to be and remain united with him, one with him in heart, mind, and will; remaining steadfast, persevering, to remain and not depart.

I think it’s easy to read the definition and explain what it means, but I’d like to see it in action – I need a picture. I think a good biblical picture of abiding comes from Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ sister.

There is something very interesting about every time we see this Mary in the scriptures. Let me read for you three instances and see if you can pick it up:

Lk 10:38 Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

Jn 11:31 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jn 12 Six days before the Passover, Mary took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.

Did you see it? Do you think Mary was studying to be a podiatrist? or is there something else going on here – I think she’s a picture of abiding. She sits at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching (doctrine), she falls at Jesus’ feet when her brother dies dependent on Him for life, and last she bends down to anoint His feet in an act of devotion. Doctrine, dependence, and devotion. I also think her posture, at His feet, reflects the way we should approach the act of abiding.

Our devotion is a direct result of our dependence, and our dependence is a direct result of our doctrine. Each one is connected to the other and builds on the preceding one. So let’s take a quick look at each point and see how they illustrate abiding and connect to each other.

Doctrine: First, Mary’s at His feet listening to His teaching or doctrine. (Jesus was always teaching – in the synagogues, in the temple, on the Sabbath, in the form of parables, Mk 10:1 the crowds gathered to Him and again, as was His custom, he taught them”! The apostles followed suite and did the very same thing: in Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. The Greek noun didasko and the verb didaskalia are translated as teaching or doctrine 118 times in the NT.

At COS, we have guidelines that explain our commitment to sound doctrine. Why, because doctrine is teaching, it describes what we think and believe about God. It is very important that what we believe about God is accurate; we want to know Him as He truly is. We need our crooked thinking straightened out and conformed to His word (Rom 12:2).

As Protestants, our doctrine comes from the bible alone (we hold to Sola Scriptura), everything we believe or do must be measured in light of this standard (bible). We should be reading or abiding in God’s word every day, meditating on it and allowing the HS to illuminate it for us. It should go from facts in the head to truths in the heart – and when your heart changes, your conduct changes. Obedience is the mark of a disciple, it is faith in action.

Jesus says in Jn 8 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,

A recent study of adults who used social media found that one third of women ages 18 to 34 check Facebook before they use the bathroom in the morning. More than half of these women (57%) claim they speak to people online more than they talk face to face. Almost 40% call themselves Facebook addicts, 50% are Facebook friends with complete strangers, and 21% check Facebook in the middle of the night. Friends, too many of us are checking facebook when our faces should be in the book! Do you want a facebook relationship with Jesus, or face to face relationship with Him? We need to abide in His word!

Spurgeon says “a bible falling apart is usually held by someone who isn’t!”

A couple more scriptures and then I’ll move on: Great commission: Mt 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We have to make disciples – a disciple is like a Christian apprentice – learn a little, do a little. In the KJV, teaching is the only verb that’s in the imperative – do you know what it means when a verb is in the imperative – it’s imperative!!

Here’s how important doctrine is: The NIV 1Tim 4:16 says Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

You and I were created in the image of God and your life is of infinite value – Paul puts that side by side with doctrine-watch them closely! Can you feel the weight of that? What you believe can save you and your hearers, the converse is also true, false doctrine can damn you and your hearers.

Do you see how important it is to know what He taught!? Your life depends on it! Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth – I can’t say it better than that. But more importantly, is this a fact in your head or a truth in your heart?

There are so many more scriptures that convey the importance of this.

Tit1:9 give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it.

OT Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

I could go on and on – doctrine matters! As we make it a priority to spend time at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word, we begin to attune with Jesus’ mind and discern how, where, and in what ways we can serve him. We learn who He is and what He does.

The more we abide in His teaching, the more we understand about Him, the more we understand about Him, the more we become dependent on Him, which leads me to Mary’s next encounter.

Dependence: We now see Mary at the feet of Jesus dependent on Him for the life of Lazarus. She says “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died”. First, she understands that in His presence, death has no power over life - Jesus had authority over death. She knows who He is and what He’s capable of. She repeats exactly what her sister Martha said moments ago only she leaves out “I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

I think she was overcome with emotion and grief, and was weeping uncontrollably at the loss of her brother. When Jesus saw her falling at His feet, he too became deeply moved and wept himself. Mary was so overcome with emotion that she couldn’t get the words out asking for her brother back. But Jesus anticipated her request, her prayer – He understood that she was entirely depending on Him.

This is so precious because God desires, and actually encourages dependence on and communication with Him. If we look at V7, Jesus says if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you – Jesus repeats this in V16. He’s telling us that He knows that we’ll have needs, but we’ll also have access to Him and the Father, and will get what whatever we ask for if we abide.

Abiding in Him manifests itself in prayer. Prayer is actually a sign of our dependence on Him. A healthy prayer life is an indication of your dependence on Him. Again, is this a fact in your head or a truth in your heart?

Jesus goes on to answer the anticipated prayer of Mary and raise Lazarus back to life. Mary came to Jesus knowing that He operates in the miraculous. Life itself, physical and spiritual, comes from Jesus. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead physically. But when Jesus says “Lazarus come forth” does Lazarus have the power in and of himself to get up.

We often think that a command denotes ability, however Lazarus didn’t have the ability to get up - all the dead body of Lazarus had was the command of Jesus. Lazarus lacked the ability, but Jesus had the power, conveyed in the form of a supernatural command. And I think it is the power of the command itself that actually causes Lazarus to come to life and not anything Lazarus did – he was dead!

I also think it’s that same power, the command of the gospel itself that causes us to come to life spiritually apart from our ability. Unless, of course you’re the first person to change himself from a bad tree into a good tree all on your own. Jeremiah says “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” Does that offend you – It is because of Him that you are in Christ!

As believers in Jesus, each one of us had to be raised to life spiritually. Eph 2 even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ – spiritual resurrection - He raises us to spiritual life. Every real Christian has a real Lazarus moment! Paul goes on to say that it wasn’t a result of your own doing or your good works, so you can’t boast. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. We boast in Him

because we’re God’s workmanship, not our own workmanship, we’re created in Christ to do good works not because of them. Don’t put the branch before the vine. Again, you can’t say you made the spiritual fruit, you just bear it – you do the good works he prepared in advance for you by abiding.

I can remember when I was younger saying some foolish things. If I was mad at someone, I’d say “get a life!” Little did I know at that time that I had no spiritual life in me and that statement proved it. The vine I was connected to had poison running through it. The fact was that I needed a life, I needed to be connected to the vine - and God gave it to me in Jesus – he grafted me in, not in any way because I deserved it, but only because He is merciful

Mary came to the only one who had the power to change the situation – she demonstrated dependence, trust. Mary, Lazarus, Martha and the rest of us are all dependent on Him, dependent on His power for life itself. Paul nails it when he says “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Rom 9:16. When you boil it down there are really only two religions in the world – trust in something you do or trust in yourself, or trust in something done for you, trust in Jesus.

This type of trust, or dependence on Jesus, will determine if you are connected or abiding in the vine. When this dependence goes from a fact in your head to a truth in your heart, real devotion becomes be visible, which brings us to our last verse.

Devotion: In the final verse, we see Mary at Jesus’ feet in an act of devotion, anointing His feet with perfume. The perfume amounted to about one year’s wages and she gave it all for him – she denied herself and used it for His sake. However, her devotion to him came after her dependence on him. I don’t think you could ever really be devoted to something, wholly given over to a person or cause that you really don’t trust, that you really don’t have confidence in – there’s a hesitation. Remember, the disciples are being prepared by Jesus for a coming persecution. Their devotion would be tested. His command was to remain, IN HIM!

Did you ever get that question in your head about being persecuted for the faith – you’re given the choice: choose Jesus and die, or deny Jesus and live? I don’t know what your answer would be, but here’s what I do think – I don’t think you’d ever die for something you’ve never lived for.

When Mary poured out the perfume, she was saying I’m all in. Her dependence fueled her devotion. Money wasn’t her priority, all her chips were on the table. She was committed to Jesus and His kingdom – and her heart was in it. I mean where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My heart is intimately linked to my wallet. I bring up money because Mary gave up a year’s wages in that one act for Jesus (that’s a lot) and money is generally the last thing on the devoted list that people surrender to God. Money tends to get people’s attention. Do I have yours? See!

Earning money at work is probably what we spend most of our time doing. The only question I have about my wallet is “where am I opening it?” Do I exhibit fruit in this area, some fruit, much fruit. Am I as free opening my wallet for His kingdom as I am mine? Two week vacation, or build fresh water well in Africa? Blackberry IPhone with 3G super text messaging or sponsor a W Vision child. Vente double blended extra caramel frappucino or school supplies for Lighthouse Mission? Watch American Idol or teach Evangelism explosion. Which is the better investment of my time and money? Money and time are closely linked.

If I told you to sell everything you own and put it all, every cent, into a stock that was going to go up in value 100 fold, and it was guaranteed, would you do it? I don’t think you would do it unless you were totally convinced I was telling the truth. Now unless Jesus is lying, isn’t this how we are to approach the KOG?

Mat 13:45 "the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Money can be a rival with God for your affections. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil - the love of money is a seed that will bear a hollow ornament on your tree, but that wasn’t the case for Mary

We don’t give under compulsion, we give cheerfully because we’re confident. Our devotion to Jesus reflects our understanding of Him, which in turn reveals our dependence on him (visitors don’t misunderstand – goal to abide & work it out with Him because God loves a cheerful giver not a reluctant one). We give out of a heart that is convinced that there is a kingdom beyond this world, an eternal kingdom where the fruit we bare here will last forever.

Mary’s devotion was also evidenced by a shift in her priorities. His Kingdom went from the back of her mind to the front of her mind. As our devotion grows, our priorities should become Kingdom focused. It goes from a fact in your head to a truth in your heart.

If you believe what Jesus says, then you will store up for yourself treasure in heaven where moth and rust don’t destroy where thieves can’t break in and steal. Conversely, if you’re convinced, that this world is all that there is, then you will spend all your time and money here. Your life will revolve around you and your kingdom, not His.

Someone said it doesn’t take much of a man to become a Christian, but it does take all of him. Mary reflected a devotion to Jesus that expressed her complete dependence on Him. Her doctrine resulted in dependence, her dependence resulted in devotion.

Do you realize that in the parallel passages of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet in (Mt & Mk), Jesus ends the passage like this: And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done (Mary) will be told in memory of her.” This is astounding – Jesus says everywhere the gospel is preached, what she has done will be also told and remembered!

I want to be like Mary, I want fruit like that – I want my fruit to live on for eternity. I don’t want to be featured on VH1’s one hit wonders never to be heard from again. I want a devotion to Him that results in much fruit, eternal fruit, even at the cost of my time and finances. The kingdom is eternal - last I heard, eternity lasts a long time.

To sum up, Mary was abiding: in Jesus’ teaching, in dependence on Him and in devotion to Him. Each one was directly proportionate to the one preceding it.

There’s a 4th and final verse about Mary that I left out – Mt 28:9. This is the last verse we find about her in scripture and it reads: She came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. DD&D inevitably lead to worship.

We have to remain in God’s word, at Jesus’ feet, mindful of His teaching, we have to remain dependent on Him, at His feet in prayer, we have to remain devoted to Him, at His feet, carrying out His commands. we have to remain, at His feet, in worship of who He is.

In V9 Jesus tells us that He loves us as the Father loved Him - we receive the same love that the Father has for the spotless, sinless Son of God- there is no deeper greater love than this- Is that a fact in your head or a truth in your heart?

If you abide in this love, His joy will be in you and your joy will be full. What most of the world looks at and calls foolishness, Jesus says results in joy.

I think most people are familiar with the story of Helen Keller – many of you might have seen the movie The Miracle Worker. At 19 months old she contracted an illness that left her blind and deaf. With next to no speaking ability, she lived is a dark, silent, and hopeless world. At age 11 she wrote the first of her 12 books including her autobiography, at 24 yrs she had graduated cum laude from Radcliff College an annex of Harvard U, she was the first deaf blind person to earn a bachelors degree and went on to become a world famous speaker and an advocate for women’s rights.

She met every US President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson. She became world famous winning awards and accolades too numerous to list. I couldn’t imagine doing half these things myself with good sight and hearing.

But she didn’t do it alone, she was connected to a vine. The vine’s name was Annie Sullivan. She became Helen’s teacher at age seven, and tenaciously worked with her spelling words into her hand using sign language. Helen picked up quickly and absorbed everything Annie taught her.

Anne never left her side, she went so far as accompanying Helen to college signing every word the professors said into her hand. She was dedicated to Helen beyond the bounds of normal friendship. Sullivan went on to assist Helen and travel with her on all her lecture tours for a total of 49 years before passing in 1939. What Annie Sullivan did for Helen Keller is extraordinary, remarkable.

With an Annie in her life, Helen experienced a life of joy, she achieved the impossible. Without an Anne Sullivan in her life, Helen Keller would have remained in darkness, without fruit and devoid of real life.

Friends, with all the sincerity that I can muster, I can’t be more emphatic in telling you that:

What Jesus does for us spiritually is abundantly more than what Annie did for Helen in the natural! He doesn’t leave us blind, He gives us eyes to see. He doesn’t leave us deaf, He gives us ears to hear His voice. He doesn’t leave us mute, He gives us a voice to communicate to Him. He doesn’t stay with us 49 years, He never leaves or forsakes us – there is NO substitute for Him! That must go from a fact in your head to a truth in your heart!

Without abiding in the vine, in Jesus, you and I will remain fruitless and without joy. We will remain spiritually blind and deaf without the hope of salvation, without the hope of rewards in the coming kingdom, we will remain devoid of real spiritual life.

Jesus is this vine. If you’re not attached to Him, you are attached to some kind of substitute – you need to repent and believe the gospel. Ask Him to connect you to Him right now - to open your eyes and ears to hear His voice. Ask that His kingdom becomes your priority!

If you are a branch, and already attached to the vine, ask him for the desire, the hunger to abide more, so you can bear much fruit and serve others, to transform the people and world around you. Jesus says bear fruit, but stop trying to make it on your own, abide in Him and let it grow. He has appointed you to bear fruit that will last.

He’s the vine, we’re not. Fruit will prove our connection to the vine when we abide.

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