Coming to Know the Vine Keeper

Know Vine Keeper

Sunday 01/09/22

Message –  Coming to know the Vine Keeper

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Coming to Know the Vine Keeper

We are still in John 15 where we are learning about our relationship with Jesus using the metaphor from the Old Testament which Jesus borrowed in His teaching. 

As you remember, the idea that Jesus was revealing Himself to be the Vine and we the branches was a revolutionary idea. Israel had always been told THEY were the Vine of God’s planting. Now Jesus is claiming that role as His Own and calling us His branches.

Now of course this is just a metaphor. Jesus isn’t really a plant and neither are you.

But this metaphor was used by Jesus to explain by way of illustration that our relationship with God the Father is ONLY through Him and that this relationship is for the Fathers glory. 

In this illustrative teaching – 

  • The Father is the Vine Keeper or Owner of the Vineyard.
  • Jesus is the Vine and 
  • we are the branches.

So far so good. Our family portrait is nearly complete except…where does the Holy Spirit fit into this picture?

Holy Spirit as the Vine life

Well last week we learned that even though Jesus does not specifically mention Him as such, we know that the Holy Spirit is the Vine Life that flows from Him to us, and it is that vine life that causes us to bear fruit.

Now let me define what I mean by “vine life”. Every natural grapevine grows and bears fruit by the water and nutrients which pass from the Vine to the branches.

So again, 

  • God is the Owner and keeper of the Vineyard, 
  • Jesus is THE VINE, 
  • we are the branches, but 
  • what connects us to the Vine and causes us to mature and bear fruit is the Holy Spirit Who therefore represents the water and nutrition which flows OUT of Jesus to us! 

In the previous chapter Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit is our 

  • teacher, 
  • our guide into the truth, 
  • our comforter, 
  • our helper. 

In fact, in the next chapter in John, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is only available to the believer and that the relationship we enjoy with Him is one where He takes of what defines Jesus as being Jesus. He takes of WHO HE IS – and reveals Him to us.

THAT is our water – that is our nutrition. 

It is what makes us grow and produce the fruit of being like Him in our lives…and that will become more apparent as we go further in these chapters. 

All to know the Father

Now that we understand the role of the Spirit in this family picture of a grapevine, let’s better understand the place the Father as Owner of the Vineyard holds because it is paramount in the life of a child of God. It is THE  focus for the entire Christian life. 

Many Christians are so focused upon Jesus that they miss the reason FOR Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I am about to point out to you using this passage in John and others, that the goal of salvation was, is and has always been intimacy with God the Father. 

That makes THE FATHER the focus of salvation

 – NOT us and not Jesus.

That is so poorly understood that most Christians would be offended at hearing that Jesus is not the focus of salvation but He truly isn’t. 

He is the Way of salvation. He is at the center of what God was doing in salvation – but He was not it’s point. 

Let’s begin with the very important New Testament concept of Eternal Life

Turn with me to John 17:1-3. It says, 

(1) Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, (2)  for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. (3)  This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent–Jesus Christ.”

So eternal life is to know God the Father AND Jesus – Who according to His Own words in chapter 14, is the very image of the Father. To know Jesus IS to know the Father because they are alike!

Now the word “know” here in this verse is the Greek word ginṓskō and in this sentence of Jesus’, it takes on the same meaning as the teaching in Genesis where Adam knew his wife and the two became ONE FLESH. 

So you can safely say that this word “know” – carries the meaning of naked openness, vulnerability, intimacy and union.

Eternal life is to come to know God the Father in intimacy & open vulnerability. 

To come to a place of union with Him by knowing Him and as a result – abandoning your heart to Him in total trust

That is why the Gospel makes such a big deal about faith

Faith is nothing more and nothing less, than trust produced by knowing the person and character of God. 

God desires to know and be known

It is interesting that Paul in Romans 1, points to creation itself as a way in which all men should begin to realize that there is a God and that He is worth knowing and can be trusted. 

The reason this is interesting is because there are some very well educated and trained secular astronomers, cosmologists & physicists who making observations and scientific study in their given fields have come upon something they did not expect and the number of these people are growing

It is the surprising relation between habitability and discoverability.

Some of the things they have found is that the universe seems fine-tuned for life and that our galaxy and solar system in particular is very, very unique. 

I’m old enough to remember science textbooks trying to sell our galaxy, solar system and especially our sun and planet as unremarkable and common. This was evolution’s attempt to make life on earth appear less of a miracle and more like what anyone should expect in just about any old place in the Universe. Of course, since then that lie is getting harder and harder to sell. The more we learn, the more unique we stand out as being.

If you were to look at the Milky Way, it is a spinning mass of light, cosmic gasses, dust particles and massive amounts of radiation. As such, there is much to see, but very few places to see them. 

It is akin to the phrase – you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Anyone ever really been in a deep forest? It isn’t entirely different from being a 5 year old at Disney world and getting separated from your parents. You’re in a veritable ocean of legs with no faces. You cannot see past the few people in front of you and all you are tall enough to see are knees, legs and feet! 

Nearly everywhere in our galaxy is like that. There is SO MUCH to see, that you can’t see much!

However, in our little corner of the outer western spiral arm of the Milky Way, is a tiny solar system called Sol. That is where we live. It is separated from the inner mass of the galaxy by a good 50,000 light years of distance. 

Where we are is conspicuous to say the least. 

By all accounts we shouldn’t be able to see very far away from our solar system at all, but the closest object we even can see  is 5 light years away! 

What this means is that we are at just the right place to be able to look backwards and see much of our galaxy as well as looking outward to see the universe

Now you might mistakenly think this is not so much of a unique thing, but the truth is – it is unlikely in the extreme. 

So that got these scientists to thinking…what else is unique about our place in the universe and they, over time came up with a crazy long list and this is the point – all of that list conspired to tell them something. 

The universe appears designed for discoverability. 

Meaning, the only places that even “could” support life, also make it possible to do science. 

That habitability and discoverability go hand in hand and there simply is no good reason why it should be this way…but it is. 

To quote one of them, it appears somebody has been monkeying with the physics which has led some of them to Deistic conclusions. 

It is just too coincidental to be an accident. 

It’s like the universe wants to be discovered or even more provocative is the increasing likeliness that it was designed to be this way by someone Who made it and Who themselves want to be known through what they made!

This last idea agrees with scripture – God wants to be known!

I’m going to regret using some of my time with you like this but some of the more simple things some scientists have come to theorize would be true, if all of this was made by a Creator is that – if the universe is finite in matter, space and time, then these are qualities which it’s maker must transcend. 

  • If the universe is finite, then its Creator must be infinite.
  • If the universe exists within time – then the Creator must exist outside of time and is therefore eternal. 
  • If the universe has a finite amount of energy then the Maker of the universe must be omnipotent. 
  • If the universe had a beginning then its Maker did not

…and on and on the list goes and the tenants of that list can be found in the Bible as attributes which belong to and are unique to God!

Now, back to earth so to speak. I said all of that to illustrate through nature what the Bible reveals is true about God and that is that He is discoverable and wants to be known!

Consider that this is the phrase Christ will use to those who rejected Him and will therefore bear the crushing weight of their own sins for eternity away from His presence. 

He doesn’t say – depart from Me you sinners, you disgust Me. 

He says, depart from Me, I never KNEW you. 

Meaning you and I have never been intimate. We have nothing in common. There is nothing that unifies us together as one. We are strangers and so you must go.

So the central focus of redemption and salvation, is not sin, is not righteousness, is not heaven…but intimacy and union with God. To know Him and be known by Him.

Examples of knowing God

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians said, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”

…and paraphrasing what he said to the Galatians

“…in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not really gods.  (9)  But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to your weak and bankrupt lives? Do you want to be enslaved to sin all over again?” – Gal. 4:8-9.  

Notice the focus on knowing and being known!

This also touches on whether we are really children or not. Last week we looked at what Jesus meant when He called His disciples “friends”. A friend is one who conditions their lives to be in concert with another and who does not deliberately do things which offend their friend. 

We looked at John 8 last week and it told us that whoever commits sin is a slave of sin and a slave does not dwell in the house forever, but a child does abide forever. 

Therefore, whoever the Son sets free from sin is really, truly free! 

Do you see why Paul asked the question… 

“Now that you know God and are His friend, and have been set free from those things which offend Him – do you really want to be in bondage to them all over again?”

That question makes sense if you understand the reason for it.

Salvation is about knowing God

Now, perhaps the most famous passage regarding salvation is the one found in John 3:16

As always I encourage you to think as you read. If you don’t, you will do a lot of reading past important points. John 3:16 tells us that it was specifically the Father Himself that so loved the world – not Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong, of course all of the Trinity loves us, but the entire purpose and force behind redemption was the love the Father had and has for the World.

Let me set forth a few examples in scripture to press this initial point, so that as we continue in John 15 we can do so in a meaningful way.

Beginning with the one in John 3:16. What does it say,

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever placed the whole of their reliance upon Him, would not perish, but have everlasting Life.” to have intimate knowledge of and union with God the Father!

Two things of note here. 

  1. It was the Father Who sent the Son out of His love for us.
  2. The goal was everlasting Life which Jesus defined in John 17:3 as intimacy and union with God.

Now before I give a few more examples – remember that what we are doing here is defining by way of illustration the role of the Spirit of God in our metaphor of being branches in our Vine AND that His goal is to cause us to know the Father and glorify Him

I told you that the Spirit was the Vine Life that flows from the Vine (Who is Jesus – to us the branches). So if we were looking at a real grapevine, the “vine life” would be the Spirit of God Who Himself, causes us to know and be known by the Father.

In the very next chapter Jesus tells us,

“(25) I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. (26)  In that day you will ask in My name. I am not telling you that I will make requests to the Father on your behalf. (27)  For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. (28)  I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” ~ John 16:25-28  

Again, notice the emphasis on the Father!

The passages about the Father are huge in number. Just searching the words, “the Father” gives over 326 references in the New Testament alone.

References like:

  • Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt. 5:16   
  • “that you may be children of your Father in heaven”
  • Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. 
  • “pray to your Father Who is in the secret place; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly.” 
  • “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” 
  • “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” 
  • “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you yours.” 

Those references just get you to the 6th chapter of the first book of the New Testament. 

Suffice it to say that the Father IS the focus!

One more reference I will reference from the Old Testament in the prophetic book of Isaiah says that when Jesus offered Himself on the cross for our sins, it was the Father Who… 

  • laid the weight of the sins of the world upon Jesus. 
  • It was the Father Who turned His back on Jesus when He became sin for us and 
  • it was the Father Who saw the travail of Jesus’ soul on the cross and was satisfied that the debt mankind owed had been paid once for all.

If you remember, as we began chapter 14 in John a few weeks ago, Jesus said, “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” …and the reason this was true is because Jesus lived to please the Father. 

He was always about His Father’s business

He did nothing, said nothing – but that He saw and heard the Father doing and saying it. 

He did this in order for us to have a visual of the Father. To come to know Jesus is to come to know Father God!

Bearing eternal fruit for the Father’s glory

So, Jesus is our Vine and those who are united together with Him are the branches and we bear fruit of His likeness.

Things like…Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, patience, gentleness, kindness…etc.

These are the fruits born through us, because we abide in union with our Vine Jesus, but it is the Spirit Who teaches us and enables us to abide in Him.

Now you can take analogies like this one offered by Jesus, too far, and I realize that but I believe there is room to take this one step further so as to illustrate how the Spirit operates in this relationship of Vine and branches.

In natural grapevines, what flows from the vine to the branches which enables them to grow, mature and bear fruit is water and nutrients as I mentioned earlier.

The water and nutrients of course are the Word and the power of the Spirit of God Who enables us and empowers us to live for God.

God did not send Jesus so that He could have a group of people perform FOR Him, He didn’t want a circus for entertainment, He wanted to have a people He could live and do life WITH – to do eternity with!

Going back to John 15:16

“(16)  You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”

The idea here is that once a character trait of Christ has come to fruition in the life of a believer it should remain there quite literally forever… or for an eternity!

Again this is a far cry from the notion of having a “good day” “week” or “month”. 

It isn’t something practiced and put on

The word here quite deliberately is PRODUCE and it is used here in the precise same way as one would use it in agriculture. 

It means to bear fruit in season, due to maturity and such fruit which is an outward expression of an inward reality. 

In other words, when I bear the fruit of love, I do so not to impress others, or to gain something from them, or for notoriety, or because it makes me feel good, and not even so I can make God happy

It is because it is a genuine outward expression 

of WHO I have become in Christ. 

In order to NOT love, I would have to make a decision 

to act contrary to my nature.

The idea of bearing fruit in “Season” for a child of God means once you have reached a certain level of maturity in Christ it is expected of you to produce fruit. The idea of “season” would mean any time when such a fruit would be warranted. 

For example:

Patience is a constant fruit of the mature in Christ, but it only becomes apparent that you are bearing that fruit during times when one would be tempted to be impatient

THAT is the “season” for the fruit of patience.

Fruit may be on a tree and it go completely unnoticed until THAT fruit is needed, then the fact that the tree already has that very fruit, ripe and hanging on it – becomes obvious to the hungry.

We are being told here that we were appointed to bear fruit and that once we begin to bear fruit of a particular variety, it should remain from that day forward!

Stepping out of our analogy for a moment – this means that as a child of God matures, it is naturally anticipated that they will increasingly become more and more like God in their actions, attitudes, desires and character.

It also means that once we mature, we do not regress back into the nursery again. Once we are out of diapers, we stay out of diapers.

All of this is in direct connection with the “WHY” behind all of these truths.

And the reason why is – IT BRINGS GLORY to the Father!

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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