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Seeing and Hearing 11: Cleansed by Word

“I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (Jn. 15:1-3)

We usually think “clean” means cleansed from sin. Sometimes it does. But in this text the word for prune and the word for clean are from the same root. “You are clean” means “You have been pruned.” Washing removes impurities. Pruning cuts back what has already produced fruit, not impurities. It is an act that prepares a branch to produce more fruit. It is not dealing with past sin but with future potential. If the branch is not pruned it will become unfruitful.

God has dealt with sin once for all at the cross. He no longer deals with your sin; his focus is on developing in us the fullness of what he created us to be. That fullness only comes by an intimate relationship with himself and his Son through the Holy Spirit. Our Father wants to partner with us to produce more fruit for his kingdom. Jesus died to deal with our past; he was raised to make a way to a future with his Father (Jn. 14:6). From our position in the Vine (Jesus) we produce fruit for Father here and now. Producing fruit is not about heaven; it’s about a fruitful relationship here and now.

The instrument of pruning for more fruit is the living, spoken word. Whether there is a cutting away of a dead branch or a pruning of a fruitful branch depends on how the “branch” hears the word that is spoken. If I am impressed with fruit I produced yesterday, I may be in danger of refusing to hear the pruning word. By refusing the new word I fail to bear more fruit. That’s why after the parable of the sower Jesus warned the disciples to take care how they hear (Lk. 8:18).

The spoken word is also what produces fruit.

Jesus continued, “If you abide in me [the vine], and my words [rhemata] abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn. 15:8). This is clearly not about “heaven some day.” Rhema refers to a spoken word. To abide in a spoken word means to live your life in positive response to that word. Bearing fruit and proving yourself to be a disciple are related to the way you hear and respond to the word he is speaking to you today.

In my 40 years of teaching on college campuses I never applied for a job. Each time I changed jobs it was because Father spoke a word to me, “You have done what brought you here to do; now I have a new assignment for you.” Each time it was a rhema to me. Someone would then call me and invite me to come. That would confirm the direction for me. I also received invitations at times when Father was not speaking to me about leaving. I refused several upgrades because I didn’t hear a word from Father. This is what it means to allow his rhemata to abide in you.

Rhema is from the root rheo which means to flow (like water in a river). In English, rheostat controls the flow of electricity in a circuit. In a vine there is sap flowing through the branches. That flow produces fruit. Apart from this sap the branch can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). The word picture in this text implies that the spoken word, flowing from his mouth, is what causes the branch to bear fruit.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Lk. 4:4). The word presently proceeding from his mouth is the word by which we can live. What he is saying is always in the flow of what he is doing. If we want to flow with him we must get in the flow of the proceeding word.

Now let’s look at the vine. Imagine me drawing a picture of a vine on a chalk board. Where is the vine? All you see is the branches. Jesus did not say, “I am the stock (or the root) and you are the branches.” The branches are the vine, the vine is the branches. Jesus is not producing fruit for his Father in this world apart from the branches. He is in the individual branches which are connected to him and to one another. Branches that are not connected do not produce fruit.

There is a difference between being attached and being connected. A dead branch is still attached to the vine but it doesn’t receive the flow of the proceeding word. It is dead-wood on the vine. A branch that is connected receives the life-flow of the proceeding word and produces fruit. It’s all about the way we hear and respond to what he is saying to us today.

“Take care how you hear.”

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries: http://onword.org

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