The Monstrosity of a Faith that is Alone

I am currently reading John Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied published in 1955 by Eerdmans Publishing Company. This little book (180 pages) is an amazing dissertation on the meaning of the atonement, how it was accomplished, and how it is applied to sinful man. Murray, a Scottish theologian who died in 1975, spent most of his career at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

In Part 2 of this book, Murray explains what he sees as a Biblical sequence, or order, of application of redemption. I highly recommend this little book.

He walks the reader through each of these sequential steps and explains how one follows the other with Biblical evidence. I was particularly struck with this section in the chapter under Justification and wanted to share with you and explain it further.

Quoted from page 131: "It is an old and time-worn objection that this doctrine ministers to license and looseness (he is speaking of the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone). Only those who know not the power of the gospel will plead such misconception. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone."

This is an argument we often hear and Murray challenges it strongly by claiming those who make this claim do not know the power of the gospel. Those who say that justification by faith alone will lead to a life of looseness, continued living in sin, and an attitude of living free have a point, but it is short sided in that they do not know how this same justifying faith powerfully changes the person.

Continuing with his quote: "Justification is not all that is embraced in the gospel of redeeming grace. Christ is a complete Savior and it is not justification alone that the believing sinner possesses in him. And faith is not the only response in the heart of him who has entrusted himself to Christ for salvation."

So, the believer puts his faith and trust in Christ and then he is done?

Is he complete?

Is his work finished or is more expected?

Is there more to the story?

Murray points to the fact that there is more to the response of faith than just believing.

Will we go on sinning?

Or will our lives be different?

Our faith cannot be alone, there must be a response of holiness and works of the faith along with their belief (James 2:17-20). But then does that mean we are saved by works? Not even close.

Continuing with the quote: "Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20)."

The so called believer who has faith without works is a MONSTROSITY that can't exist in the kingdom. Faith comes with works. Fruit will follow faith.

Are we without the response of holiness, service, and works of the faith?

Are we a deformed monster that is not actually part of the kingdom since faith cannot exist alone?

Are we living a lie?

Has there been a fruitful response to our belief?

More from Murray: "It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

Wow, do you hear that? No one has entrusted themselves to the deliverance of the GUILT of sin (i.e. forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ) who has not also entrusted themselves to the POWER OVER SIN…or in other terms the power given to us through our faith to NOT SIN. This is awesome. Shall we live in sin then since we are free not to? God forbid! Let it not be so! We must embrace and trust the power we have over sin that comes with our faith and justification in the eyes of God. Because we have faith we will fight the temptations that come and we will wage good warfare against sin (1 Tim 1:18-19). We will also love others, serve others, die to self, and give sacrificially because of our faith. We possess these things as an integral part of our faith. It is the natural response to our faith.

Examine yourself as I examine myself. Are we mutant Christians who have a dead faith because it is without works? Are you a monstrosity in the kingdom of God?


A Healthy Diet – Spiritual Nutrition and Fitness for the Church (Part 2)

A Healthy Diet – Spiritual Nutrition and Fitness for the Church (PART TWO)
The importance of personal character development in the proper functioning of the church.

Proper function of our physical body

Most people would agree that there are two essential things for strong bodily health: nutrition and exercise. We need to eat the right food and we need to move our bodies in some form of exercise to strengthen our bodies in order to see proper function, health and fitness.

Eating the right kind of food in our modern world is a challenge with all our fast food and processed foods. Man was designed by God to function physically on natural foods found in fruits, vegetables, water, and meat. At the grocery store you have to spend double in order to buy organic foods that make an attempt at natural foods. Our bodies will function better when we eat the correct portions of natural foods; we’ll just feel good. In contrast, however, if we eat pizza for breakfast, heavy greasy excess calories for lunch, and a massive feast of processed foods for dinner, we won’t feel so good. Ironically, we may not realize it, but we’ll feel rotten but we have adapted to it and consider the weight gain, lack of sleep, and exhaustion as normal. So it is with the Body of Christ.

Matthew 4:1-4
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus, in refuting the Devil’s temptations, compares the importance of the Word of God to food. In fact, Jesus elevates the Word of God above sustenance, claiming that we live alone on the word of God. This is a spectacular statement and continues to weave the body analogy throughout scripture. Again, Jesus deals with our need for physical nutrition in John 6. The crowd was looking for Jesus having just the day before been fed through the miracle of the fish and loaves, and Jesus challenges them by stating that they are looking for him for food. The crowd then wonders if Jesus will produce a miracle similar manna from heaven as during Moses’ days in the desert. Jesus responds like this:

John 6:31-66, 48:
31 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…48 I am the bread of life.

This passage from John Chapter 6 would take weeks to flesh out completely, but, Jesus makes a very important point: “I am the bread of life.” Jesus is the bread of life and alone we’ll live on the word of God. The Body of Christ will only find its nutrition and proper sustaining food in Christ and the Word of God.

I propose then, that the proper function of the church is dependent on what’s on the menu and what is in our diet. Are we a church that eats fast food sermons full of shallow useless trans-fats? Are we a church that eats processed purpose driven Bible studies? Are we a church that lives on 30 second microwavable frozen prayers? Or are we a church with deep biblical sermons, that finds is true knowledge, wisdom and sustaining truths from the Word of God? Are we a church that only eats meals from the bread of live, Jesus Christ? The body of Christ that fills itself with weak Christless Christianity will not function properly. However, the Christ driven church will be empowered and functioning properly. We must fill ourselves with solid biblical preaching, deep beneficial Bible studies, long personal and intimate prayers, and frequent intimate fellowship with other believers. Proper function of the church is dependent on proper nutrition and proper nutrition for the Body of Christ is reading the Bible, prayer, and fellowship. Building these character traits into the members of the church is essential for the church’s health and fitness. All the members must be healthy and their character being developed in a godly way.

The other element to caring for our fragile earthly bodies is exercise. When we are young and active our bodies react well and are functioning properly. However, as we get older we realize that focused purposeful exercise is required to keep it functioning properly. Walking, jogging, playing basketball, and many other options are useful for keeping the body active. Without strength building our muscles will atrophy making us useless. Without aerobic activity our lungs will also become weak and unable to handle any difficult activity. Imagine after not exercising for years having to suddenly run five miles to save your life. Just running the five miles would kill you. You would not be able to get through the challenge. Exercise also helps fight off injuries and illnesses. So it is with the Body of Christ.

Paul tells his readers about training in godliness and building up the Body of Christ in several places. In Ephesians he deals with growing strong to avoid being tossed around. The body must be equipped to handle the false doctrines to come.

Ephesians 4:11-16
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul compares physical exercise and training to spiritual training:

1 Timothy 4:7-8
7 Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Bodily training is of some value, but training in godliness is everything. The Body of Christ must be exercising spiritually in order to stay strong against false doctrines, spiritual storms, and spiritual injuries or illnesses. So, how does the church exercise spiritually? There are several ways.

Discipleship is a form of exercise for the church. Within discipleship training, the mature Christian (teacher) must work through teaching and discussion points and transferring one’s faith and Biblical knowledge to the disciple. The disciple will be challenged on many topics stretching them and making them grow. Another exercise is ministry. Whether teaching Sunday school, ministering at the elderly homes, visiting someone in the hospital, or cleaning the church toilets the Body of Christ will be exercising its individual gifts and unity. These are both great benefits to the church. Prayer is another obvious exercise (probably more of an exercise than nutrition described as above). Other ways the church can train and exercise is evangelism, outreach, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and giving to the poor. The act of giving and serving builds strength in godliness.

The church body will not be able to stand against false doctrines or trials and tribulations if it isn’t actively working in the areas of discipleship, serving, teaching, ministering, evangelism, and prayer. The body will be weak and when a challenge comes, the church will be like the person trying to run five miles. It will be a sad display of weakness. Again, as with our spiritual diet, our spiritual exercise is a major part of character development that needs focus in order to keep the church healthy and fit.


Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit uses the picture of the church being like a body in order to give the Corinthian church a simple example of unity and how the church shall function, since they were in complete disarray and dysfunction. We, as readers today, can learn just as much from this analogy. It is a blessing to Christians that the Holy Spirit would use language that we can so easily relate to. I have stretched Paul’s analogy to look into how we develop the character of believers in the church in order to function properly in love and unity. The properly functioning church will glorify God above all and will be a beacon of the gospel to the ends of our dark world. The proper function of the church starts with character development of each member, from the newly saved to the senior pastor. With the proper healthy diet, the members will grown in the proper character traits such as dependence on the Bible, dependence on Christ alone, a life of prayer, and regular intimate fellowship with other believers. With proper exercise and training the members will gain strength and endurance through discipleship, ministry, prayer, serving, giving, and evangelism. A church loaded full of strong healthy and fit members will make for a strong, fit and properly functioning body.

-Keller Hackbusch


A Healthy Diet – Spiritual Nutrition and Fitness for the Church (Part 1)

A Healthy Diet – Spiritual Nutrition and Fitness for the Church (PART ONE)
The importance of personal character development in the proper functioning of the church.

The Church as the Body of Christ

The Christian Church is an assortment of many different people from different places and backgrounds with different testimonies and levels of maturity. Each believer is a member of the generic global church and each of these members has an impact on the church as a whole. The leaders of the church are faced with this reality and have a duty to influence the character development of each member by teaching and discipleship training. So, how important is character development in the proper functioning of the church? Let us first look at a picture of how the church functions as outlined by the Apostle Paul.

Paul uses the analogy of the Church as being similar to the human body; the Body of Christ. He writes about this in his first letter to the Corinthians in Chapter 12, verses 12-30. The Corinthian church was fractured by divisions in thought and behavior. Paul’s teaching of unity and the working together of the members as one body is as relevant today as in the first century. Paul introduces his letter in an interesting way, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with a all those who in every place call upon the name of our lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Cor 1:2). Paul calls them out in how he addresses the church as those who are called to be saints together – they must not have been “together”. Clearly, the Corinthians were a model of a church not functioning properly.

The word picture of the church as a body is obviously not a literal description of the church, but is a very helpful depiction of how the members of the body work together for God’s glory and the proclaiming of the gospel. Paul argues, just as the body is one and has many members, and all members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor 12:12).

1 Corinthians 12:12-30:
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

The body is one with many members and as one member of the body is injured or broken it will greatly impact the effectiveness of the entire body. Take for example a broken foot. Anyone who has had a broken leg, ankle or foot knows that you become immobile very quickly. A small body part such the foot can immobilize the entire body for a long time. You can barely get around the house. You can’t drive your car very well. You can’t play basketball. You can’t go on a hike. You become handicapped. Consider pneumonia, which is an inflammatory condition in the lungs. Your body will not function properly when you have pneumonia. Proper function of the body requires the health and fitness of each member. So it is with Christ.

Without taking it literally, we could see that maybe the arms of the Body of Christ could represent the deacons and elders who do the work of the church. Maybe the legs could represent the evangelists and missionaries taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. The mouth might be the preachers proclaiming the word of God to the rest of the body. Most children would claim that their mothers are the eyes and ears of the body, always catching them in the act! There is no Biblical definition of what the body parts represent and it would be foolish to stake claim on knowing that the thumb is represented by any person in the church. There are many members and all the members work together as part of a unified body. However, Paul extends his analogy in his letter to the Ephesians and does define one body part; the head:

Eph 5:23:
23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

Although this passage is specifically dealing with marriage, Paul is describing marriage as a picture of God’s relationship with us. Christ is the head of the Church and therefore the head of the Body of Christ. Christ is the leader of our unified body, all unified with Him working together for the Glory of God.

So it is with Christ, Paul states.

In Part Two, we will extrapolate Paul’s analogy by considering the effects of character development on the proper function of the church in terms of the effects of diet and exercise on the proper function of the body.

by Keller Hackbusch
October 2010


Part 4: What Vine Are Your Abiding In?

Part 4: What Vine Are You Abiding In? Why does Christ tell us these things?

Why does Christ tell us that he is the true vine? Why is he stopping the disciples late at night to teach them good gardening tips? Is it so that we will bear fruit? No – God produces the fruit when we abide, and we abide if we are in Christ. We will quickly look at three reasons why Christ teaches these things.
First, look at v 8:

“…by this my Father is Glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

We will be seen as Christ’s disciples by our fruit and our fruitfulness glorifies God. It is about God! Our fruit good works, love, joy, patience, and all these things, are to glorify God - to the glory of God alone. We prove to be his disciples meaning that we are proven to be in the family of God by who we are...it is a family resemblance to the ultimate fruit bearer.

Christ’s second reason...verse 11:

John 15:11
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Christ wants us joyful. When we abide in him, we will have true joy. In fact, we will have his joy in us. The verse states specifically, “than my joy may be in you.” This is a big deal. Think about who we are talking about:

Jesus Christ – the one who the universe was made through and made for
Jesus Christ – the one who defeated death and is savior of all who believe.
Jesus Christ – the infinite and holy son of God
Jesus Christ – the one who holds the stars and molecules together with the word of his power

What do you think his joy is like? Is that something that you desire? Do you want to have the all powerful, infinite, and holy God’s joy in you? I do! So, just abide in him. He is telling us how.

Ok, now, the third reason...verse 12:

John 15:10&12
“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…this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

We used these verses early and remember what we said…you don’t keep his commandments in order to abide, but because you are abiding you end up keeping his commandments. Because you are abiding you end up loving one another as he loved you. Again, don’t miss this bombshell. If we abide, we will love one another as CHRIST LOVED US! This is huge! Again:

Jesus Christ – the one who the universe was made through and made for
Jesus Christ – the one who defeated death and is savior of all who believe.
Jesus Christ – the infinite and holy son of God
Jesus Christ – the one who holds the stars and molecules together with the word of his power

Do you want the love he has for us in you for each other? Yes! Christ loved us by:

Coming down from Heaven – loving us before we even knew he existed or needed him
Becoming nothing by his humanness
By stripping away all his glory for humility – ultimately humble
By dying on the cross in our place – loving sacrificially

Do you want to love like that? I do! – Then abide in Christ and God will bear this fruit of supernatural love through you.

4th Point: How Do We Abide?

Who do you spend the most of your time with? Do you love that person? Can remember being a little child when something scary happens and you run to your dad and jump in his lap and he makes you feel safe. Can any of you remember what this feels like?

This is abiding. How then do we abide?

If you love Christ you will stay near to him. You spend time with those whom you love. You abide by loving Christ and staying with him.

Abiding is the act of resting in Christ. You can’t rest in him if you don’t trust him to provide and keep you safe first. You can’t trust him until you know who he is and where his heart is. You can’t know who he is without spending time with him.

To know him, you develop a life of reading your Bible everyday and put the words inside you. You can’t abide if you don’t spend time getting to know him. You develop a life of continuous prayer. You can’t abide if you don’t spend time getting to know him.

Once you know him and trust in him, you will have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…God will bear fruit through you in spite of you.


Finally, in closing, let’s look at a bunch of verses to pull it all together:

1 John 2:24-25
"Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us —eternal life."

Eternal life. Abide in the vine and let the gospel abide in you.

Matthew 13:3-8
"And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

The first two soils (people) here reject Christ outright. However, the third is our branch that is cut off and thrown into the fire. This seed grows, which is parallel to abiding in Christ, but this seed never really has a full connection and is choked out by other things as a vine that does not bear fruit. However, the fourth seed grows and bears much fruit.

Non-Abiding Branches - Don’t get comfortable and don’t get a false confidence – Be sure. Look at this Psalm from Asaph:

Psalm 50:22-23
"Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!"

Those who forget God are not abiding. Those who offer the fruit of thanksgiving are and see the salvation of God! Don’t forget God in the little things.

More non-abiding branches from Psalm 28 – these Psalms are God speaking to us through his prophets and drawing a line in the sand. In this case we read a passionate Psalm from David:

Psalm 28:5
"Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands, he will tear them down and build them up no more."

Do you hear the similarity to Jesus telling us that those who are not bearing fruit will be cut off the vine and burned? Here, the message is the same, he will tear them down and build them up no more…they will not be attached to the vine.

Non-abiding branches and the abiding branches from the Psalms is a constant theme as we from each of these passages. This is David again:

Psalm 27:4-5
“4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock."

One last uplifting Psalm:

Psalm 33:20-22
"Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you!"

Now that is abiding in Christ.

As everyday goes by, you will be challenged more than ever in your life. You will experience things that test your faith and pull you in directions that you didn’t expect. Don’t let this world derail your faith. Abide in the true vine. Keep looking and praying for areas for God to prune in your life. Hold fast to your faith and be at peace in all things in Christ. Don’t try to put on fruit superficially – no fruit suits - but abide in the vine and everyone around you will see the fruit develop in huge clusters. This will glorify God.

Keller Hackbusch


Part 3: What Vine are you Abiding In?

Part 3: 2nd Point: What fruit are you bearing?

Back to our passage in John:

John 15:4 “…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.

So, what kind of fruit are you bearing? Are you bearing any fruit at all? Surely you are.

The purpose of this useless branch – notice how the branches are pruned and taken away, but never the vine – is to bear fruit. There is no other purpose. In order to bear fruit the branch must be fully connected to the vine. The branch gets all its sustenance from the vine. All the water and nutrients come from the roots to the vine to the branches in order to bear fruit. If the branch is disconnected or partially connected, it will NOT bear fruit…and we know what happens to that branch.

Jesus mentions “FRUIT” 6 times in this passage, do you think he is serious about it?


Are you abiding in one of these unTRUE vines? One of these FALSE vines described earlier and are you bearing BAD FRUIT? Give me some examples of BAD FRUIT…

Romans 1:28-32
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Any of these sound familiar?

Colossians 3:5-10
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Any of these sound familiar?

Galatians 5:16-21
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

That is some BAD FRUIT. Rotten, horrible, deadly fruit.

Do you really want to be bearing the fruit of the world? Do you really want to be bearing the fruit of Satan?


Now, let’s talk about some good news, those branches that are truly connected to the vine and are abiding in the vine will bear GOOD fruit. When you have the Holy Spirit in you, you will be free from this bad fruit. These vines get their nutrients and water from the vine and the fruit will grow. Your fruit may be meager and weak…maybe one little sickly grape. Will you be able to spend your life like this? No, God will prune you. But even that meager fruit bearing branch will get the attention of the Father and he will move you to be more fruitful. He will work in you and on you.
Give me some examples of GOOD FRUIT…

Best verse is of course Galatians 5:22, which is the continuation of the verses on Bad Fruit above...the fruit of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Does any of this sound familiar?

How about 1 Corinthians 13:
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Now, pay special attention to this:

John MacArthur asks a great question: “Can we put fruit on?” He describes the Christian who reads Galatians 5:22-23 and decides to work hard to bear fruit. He spends all week working to love everyone…then he spends next week trying to be joyful…then the next being patient…you get the idea. None of his efforts will be lasting or real. John 15:4-6 you CANNOT bear fruit on your own…you can do NOTHING without Christ.

You can do nothing without abiding in the vine. You can’t put your fruit on…and run around like the Fruit of the loom guys in big puffy fruit suits. Put on fruit isn’t real and it doesn’t fool God. Jesus isn’t saying, “abide in me by working really hard to bear fruit. Let’s look at verses 15:4-5 again.

John 15:4-5
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.

Now, let’s couple that with verses 10 &12 to for more detail:

John 15:10&12
“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…this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Do you keep his commandments in order to abide? Or do you keep his commandments because you abide? Do you love one another in order to abide? Or do you love one another because you abide? You love one another because you abide…keeping his commandments is subject to your abiding. You can’t keep his commandments on your own.

So, how do you bear fruit? How do you bring forth godliness and holiness and Christ-likeness? You simply abide in Christ and GOD will bear the fruit through you. Stay near Christ, rest in him, abide in him and you will naturally be fruitful.

Again, this is very important:

You don’t bear fruit by doing things…doing things (being obedient and doing good works) is the Fruit! The fruit is what you are doing…you only do things because God works in your through the work of the Holy Spirit in you. Obedience to God is the fruit from abiding, not the act of abiding. I want to say that again. Obedience is the fruit from abiding, not the act of abiding. Abiding is resting in Christ fully.

Praise God it isn’t about you! Praise God you don’t have to work at being fruitful, you just have to be IN HIM!

Keller Hackbusch


Part 2: What Vine are you Abiding In?

Part 2: What vine are you abiding in?

Jesus looks in the eyes of his disciples, who are probably a bit shell shocked, and tells them:

John 1:1-2
“I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away…

Jump to v 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.

AND BURNED! Do you see this? Jesus is comparing the non-abiding branches to the abiding branches and those that do not abide do not bear fruit and are completely worthless and he cuts them off and he burns them. Just an hour or so earlier, Christ pointed out how one of his disciples was going to betray him: Judas. He is telling the remaining disciples about Judas – the betrayer of Christ. He is comparing the abiding disciple to the non-abiding disciple represented by Judas.
Think about Judas, he was with Christ everyday for 3 years. He heard every sermon, went to every Sunday school, did every bible study, and he went to every retreat and every church event. He may have even gone to the singles dinner. Here is the unbelievable thing: I’m sure he even sat in a quiet place with Christ – his loving mentor and teacher – listened to him teach about himself and his fulfillment of prophecy and the law.
Can’t you see Jesus and Peter or John sitting along the shore of Galilee talking intimately? Or Philip sitting with Christ under the shade of a big tree? Judas did this as well. He was face-to-face and sitting close to Jesus learning one-on-one with the creator and savior of the universe…he sat listening to Jesus. Can you hear it? “Believe in me, Judas, and it will be counted to you as righteousness.”

Do you hear it?


But, he was with Christ and never abided. He didn’t stay close to Christ. His life was not for Christ. His heart was set on something else. He was not IN HIM. Judas didn’t abide in the true vine.

What are you abiding in?
  • Are you abiding in Christ?
  • Or are you abiding in yourself?
  • Are you abiding in video games?
  • Computers?
  • TV?
  • Sports?
  • Your friends?
  • Your parents?
  • How about religion and good works?
What is it for you? – What false vines are you abiding in?

For me it is usually work, family, house, computers, and books that I am drawn to abide in.

No matter what you are abiding in, you’ll bear fruit. But you’ll notice that Christ quickly points out that the vinedresser – who is the Father – takes away the branches that do not bear the spiritual fruit of godliness. These fruitless withering branches are worthless. Think about this – the branches from a grape vine are the most worthless of all trees and wood products. They serve one purpose only…to bear fruit. The withered branches can’t be used to build a house. They can’t be used to build anything. They can’t even be burned for heating a house or cooking. They are worthless. The withered branches are tossed in God’s rubbish pile and are BURNED.

C.H. Spurgeon put it this way in his sermon, “The Fruitless Vine,”

“If it were any other kind of a tree he would at least reserve it for chopping up to make a fire within the master’s house, but this is much an ignominious thing, he throws it away in the corner and burns it up with the weeds. If it were a stout old oak, it might have the funeral of the Yule log, with honor in its burning, and brightness in its flame; but the fruitless vine is treated with contempt, and left to smolder with the weeds, the refuse, and the rubbish. It is a miserable thing.”

DO NOT become one of these branches. You must abide in Christ to have eternal life. If you don’t abide, you will fall in line with those like Judas who knew Christ, but never abided. They were never in Him. They will never inherit the promises of eternal life.

Jesus uses the word ABIDE – 11 times in this passage (if you count v 16). You think he is serious or what? Listen to the definition of abiding:

a) to remain
b) in reference to place: to sojourn, tarry, not to depart, to continue to be present, to be held, kept, continually
c) in reference to time: to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure
d) of persons: to survive, live
e) in reference to state or condition: to remain as one, not to become another or different, to wait for, await one

This is such a blessing. Wait on Christ. Do not depart. Continue in him, endure…Abide in Christ is the point. He wants you abiding in him. He does not want you abiding in other things. Find rest and peace in Christ.

Moses, in Psalm 91, provides a great definition of abiding for us (my favorite).

Psalm 91:1-2:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Abiding in Christ is to rest in him, to rest quietly without fear or anxiety to the point that you doze off comfortably in your savior’s arms – at peace.


Now, even the branches that are abiding in Christ and are showing fruit get some treatment from the Vinedresser. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes. The Father will prune you in order that you bear more fruit. Do you hear this? God wants you to bear fruit and he will prune you so that each season you bear more and more fruit.

Pruning – this is another one that you have to hear the definition: “to reduce especially by eliminating superfluous matter for more fruitful growth.”

Each one of us here this morning and me have superfluous matter in our lives and the Father is coming to reduce it! He will. I have been through this. I can speak of personal experience on this one. God does not want you to remain where you are…he wants you to be more fruitful. He will remove things from your life so that you will be more fruitful.

Pruning hurts. No doubt about it, pruning is a painful experience that God will take us through. The Father’s desire is to conform you into the image of Christ and he’ll do that be cutting away the junk from your life. That junk might be a job, or a friend, or money, or comfort, or luxuries, or your health. These things will hurt when they are cut off, but you will become more fruitful the next season IF you are abiding in Christ.

James 1:2-4
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

2 Corinthians 3:18
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The word “changed” or “transformed” here is Meh-ta-mar-pha-toh, which is obviously related to our own English word of metamorphosis, which means to change in appearance, condition or character. Here is another passage dealing with the Father transforming or pruning us:

Hebrews 12:7-11
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

When you abide, you will bear fruit, but God will prune you in order that you are made perfect and complete lacking in nothing – IN and THROUGH CHRIST.

Keller Hackbusch

Part 1: What Vine are you Abiding In?

Part One - What vine are you abiding in?

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Jesus’ teaching on the vine and the branches. Recently I had a chance to work through this passage with the high school group at our church and look at what it means for Christ to be the Vine and for the believer to be the branch in relation to the changing and transforming nature of their young lives. Here is the passage:

John 15:1-11
15:1 “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.

Background and Context

Before we get into the meat of this passage we need to consider the context and set the stage a bit. Just two chapters previous to this we see Jesus and the disciples entering the upper room to celebrate the Passover together. This was probably a few hours before Jesus teaches on the vine and the branches. In the upper room, Christ knows he is on his way to the cross and he knows the misery and suffering that is to come. He takes time during this last supper to teach the disciples massive truths. From chapter 13 to our passage in chapter 15 we see all of this:

- Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and introduces servant leadership – love one another (John 13:1-17) – remember this
- Jesus tells of a disciple who will betray him. (John 13:18-30) – remember this
- Jesus introduces communion – (Mat 26:26-29)
- Jesus introduces the new covenant of his blood (Luke 22:20)
- Jesus introduces a new commandment – love one another (John 13:31-35) – remember this
- Jesus foretells of Peter’s denial (John 13:36-38)
- Jesus drops the deity bomb by declaring that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through him…and if you have seen him you have seen the father. (John 14:1-14)
- Jesus promises the Holy Spirit (John 14:16)

After all these huge topics that Christ slips onto his unsuspecting disciples during this little Passover dinner, says in v 31: “Rise and let us go from here!” The disciples I’m sure are sitting at the table looking at each other asking, “What did he say? Another is coming? A Helper? What was that about eating his body?” – and Jesus gets up to move on…probably leaving the disciple scrambling to catch up with Him.

According to Harry Ironside in his commentary and also in Morgan’s commentary, there are a couple of possible reasons why Christ compares himself to a vine and defines himself as the TRUE Vine.

1. As Christ and the disciples leave the upper room at night – probably dark by then – and walk past the Temple, they would have passed by the temple Gates which have a huge golden vine with hanging fruit – representing the Old Testament references of Israel (Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah,, Ezekial) as the vine. You could see Christ stopping the disciples in the tracks and point up to this vine above the gates and say, “I am the TRUE VINE – abide in me.” Now, there is a whole rabbit trail – more like a freeway system to follow related to Christ as the true vine in reference to the Old Testament passages, however, we don’t have time to deal with now.

2. The second possibility is that as they were walking through the Kidron Valley on their way to the Gethsemane, they passed a vineyard along the path, and again, you can see Christ stop the disciples and say: “I am the TRUE VINE!”
Neither of these can be confirmed historical or biblically, but they provide us with a nice picture of this late night adventure.

This passage, John 15:1-11, is about as famous of a scriptural passage as you can find in the Bible and we can’t get anywhere near being able to deal with everything, so I have boiled it down to four points that I want you to learn, own, and live out:

Point #1 - What vine are you abiding in?
Point #2 - What kind of fruit are you bearing?
Point #3 - Why does Christ tell us these things?
Point #4 - How do we abide? – The practical side

Keller Hackbusch