Jesus was a master with the use of symbolism as he shared with the common people of His day.  He knew picture messages and easy to understand illustrations where key to understanding, but so profound with spiritual significance and revelation.  Jesus often talked about planting seed into the ground, tiny mustard seeds with pervasive power to grow out of rocks and crevices and not the size of our faith, and seeds that must die to be able to be fruitful in God.  Jesus was a master of painting a picture and molding thoughts and impressions in our mind to convey a spiritual truth.  Funny how the religious people of His day never got His messages.  All of the famous preachers and teachers (you know them I do not have to call their names) of today that seem to regularly appear on Christian TV miss the mark when they try to mix their new age humanistic philosophies and Jesus’ time tested method of sharing simplistic truths. I am ever amazed and greatly saddened when I hear about well-meaning Christians that are deceived by their crafty words of deception; by these liars and charlatans, yet their popularity and fame grows day-by-day.  They have learned if you want people to like you and give you money then just tell them what they want to hear and what they already know.  But fear not my friends, God is not mocked their day is coming.  I fear for their eternal souls, Hell has special places and levels of torment for all of those preachers and teachers who have willfully deceived the children of God by willfully leading them into “err” not error, but “err” – to willfully and for personal gain lead people out of the truth of the word of God.

I think the best example of Jesus’ use of symbolism is when He talks about vineyards.  In John 15, Jesus was sharing with the disciples their incredible need for them to be plugged into and pruned, which speaks volumes of their need (us today too) for total dependency on Jesus.  The symbolism is rich, each word and thought screams to us of our critical need to be grafted into the “true vine” and only vine of life, Jesus Christ.  I wonder what John was thinking about when he heard Jesus share these words?  I wonder if John was thinking about a vineyard of lushes grapes, green leaves, on brown thick trunks?  I wonder what John thought when he heard Jesus say, “I am the true vine, and my Father (God) is the husbandman (the gardener). 2Every branch (now we, the individual Christians, are the branches) in me (Jesus) that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”  (John 15:1-2)  Did you get that in verse two?  “Every branch (us) in me (Jesus) that beareth not fruit he taketh away: (Strong’s #142, to raise or lift up and then cut away; to be set aside for destruction) and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth (Strong’s #2508, to cleanse of filth impurity, to prune trees and vines from useless shoots) it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”  Every Christian that does not bear fruit is removed for destruction (we see this happening in verse six)  from the vine and every Christians that bears fruit is “purgeth” or cleaned through cutting away; not a cleaning by water, but a purifying by fire in a similitude like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit.  Now unless you are a gardener or farmer and especially if you prune your vineyards or fields this way you will have no real understanding of this process, but every gardener and farmer listening to Jesus as He taught the disciples that day knew exactly what Jesus was saying and His words were quickened to their spirit.  Jesus goes on, “Now ye are clean (pruned) through the word (what symbolism) which I have spoken unto you. 4Abide 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. 5I 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.  6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; (Strong’s #3583, to dry up or pine away) and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, (Strong’s #4442, fire) and they are burned. 7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”  (John 15:3-8)  In verses four through eight Jesus was really bringing His message home to the hearts of the people.  In verses six and seven Jesus says, 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. 7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. So much for the once saved always saved doctrine of the Southern Baptist Church, be not deceived.  Now verse seven has some of the most amazing words written in the Bible, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” I will be honest I have never in my life time yet, met someone who can walk in this promise of God.  Jesus does not qualify His words here He says, “ye shall ask what ye will and it will be done unto you.”  When Jesus said, “what ye will” He means that.  What a place in God to be able to say whatever we want and God will do it for us.  I am not sure if I would want such a responsibility.  But can you image the disciples and the crowd hearing Jesus give them this promise?  At one moment Jesus was talking about pruning a vineyard and then He ends His words by saying, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Oh only if we could walk in Jesus words today.  Did you know Jesus meant it when He first spoke these words and guess what Jesus still today means these words, but to what degree do we desire for His words to abide in us? Now that is the measure of the effectiveness of Jesus’ words in our lives?  At the same measure we are dedicated and committed to Jesus and His words at that measure (no more no less) His words will be able to abide in us.  When Jesus speaks His words to us they are always His intention for our lives, but whether or not they come alive in us and produce fruit depends not on Jesus and His power, but on us and our willingness to be obedient to walk in what it will take to be able to make His words come true or not.  Jesus told us, “nothing shall be impossible” and “all things are possible” was He just saying these words? I think not. Jesus has already done His part, but are we willing to do our part is the question.

There is another great example of a vineyard used in the Bible.  In Isaiah we read how the gardener (God) prepared the borders of the vineyard with a fence and cleared and tilled the ground, planted only the best vines, provided a tower for safety and a winepress to be able to use the grapes to make the best wine, but when the grapes came forth they were not seed of the finest of grapes they were wild grapes.  My good friend Pastor Rick Moser said, “The Church of today teeters on the edge of insanity.”  Oh how this is true my friend. All that God has done for us and all God has given us, yet we today in the church often are like those wild grapes.  Please notice the love and the detailed work the gardener (God) put into his vineyard and his response. “Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill (canopy)2And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. 3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. 4What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” (Isaiah 5:1-4) The gardener was shocked, he was hurt. All of the love and attention he put into his vineyard and he got something he has not intended.  His reaction quickly was turned from nurturing and love to judgment and punishment.  My friend what more does God have to do for us?  He has given us all we need to follow (with a willing heart) and serve Him, yet we are still like those wild grapes. Now please notice the gardener’s reaction, look hard at his hurt and disappointment. Also please do not lose sight of the spiritual significance and the warning to us today from these verse. The vineyard today is the church internationally, the gardener is God, and if we do not get serious and love God back as He has loved us (sent His precious Son Jesus Christ to die for us) then the only thing we can look forward to from God is not His mercy, longsuffering, and grace, but His judgment, wrath, and punishment.  Again, this depends not on God, but on us.  “And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down6And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. (Isaiah 5:5-6)  Look at the spiritual significance of these verses for our lives.  As God loved the vineyard when it had much promise (given everything to develop only the choicest grapes), but He hated the vineyard at the same measure of loving it because it did not produce as it should have.  My friend, please do not presume on God’s grace and mercy too long, there is a time when God’s longsuffering runs out. We must grow up in God to be able to take responsibility for our actions and come to the place where we are accountable. How can we imagine God not holding us accountable when He held soulless grapes accountable?  God gives to us His goods and we must be responsible.  I know this is not taught today in most churches, but please read the Bible and see for yourself. Thus, God’s punishment was poured out on the vineyard, so too in our lives if we do not produce.  God (the gardener) goes on (in verses 7-12) to describe the habitation, productivity, and heart condition of the vineyard; twice God uses the word “woe” to warn the people (like today), but His words fall on deaf ears. “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.  14Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. 15And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:” (Isaiah 5:13-15) The way in God is down my friend, one way or the other.  In the next chapter God makes Isaiah eat his words.  Did you know God is good at making us eat our words?  Take heed my friend to what we say God is listening.  In the sixth Chapter of Isaiah we read, “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:  7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” (Isaiah 6:5-7)  After Isaiah had a revelation of God (verses 6:1-4) Isaiah had a revelation of his heart.  Please notice God did not say, “Isaiah you are wrong, you are a wonderful prophet,” oh no God send a seraphim to retrieve a lump of coal to “purge” his lips and sin, the verb form of the word for Strong’s #2508 in John 15:2 to cleanse of filth impurity, to prune trees and vines from useless shoots. I would think while all of this purging was going on Isaiah’s thoughts were turned back to his words in Chapter five about God’s vineyard. God does have ways of making us eat our words.

Who do we think we are to play fast and loose with God?  Denominations and religions of today do you think God is not watching your folly and foolishness?  Nations of the world do you think God will not judge you? God is not mocked, there is coming a day in all of our lives where God will be God (no matter what we believe) and will be exalted over all of what we think and say.  In my life I seem to get caught up in many distractions (ministry and non-ministry) that I find myself seemingly far far from God.  Strange how we think God has moved, but in reality it is not God that has moved it is us who has moved in our thinking and heart condition.  I see the real spiritual battle is not against demons or principalities and all of that stuff, but is fought between our ears (in our mind) and to the victor goes the supremacy of our heart.  Let us not be concerned about all of the trappings of life and all we do for God in ministry.  But let us just purpose in our lives to let the gardener of the vineyard sing to His “wellbeloved” a song of a simplistic love and righteousness and we can answer back I hear Lord and will obey.  This is what God is listening for and nothing else.