Fine Vines: Abiding in Christ

When Spanish missionaries arrived in California in the 18th century they planted seeds of truth and some other seeds too.  In order to have wine for communion, the missionaries established vineyards, which flourished.

After the Gold Rush of the 1850’s Northern California became a major wine producer. But when the 18th Amendment prohibited the production of alcohol, except for religious purposes, only 141 vineyards survived. No one on the international scene paid much attention to these wines. Connoisseurs the world over presumed that a region producing cheap grapes could never compete with serious wine countries like Italy, Spain, or South Africa, and certainly not France.

But that all changed in 1976 when the British merchant, Steven Spurrier, invited several California wineries to participate in a blind taste test in France, known as the Judgment of Paris.

The cheap wines were pitted against Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, considered the best in the world. There were eleven judges. Each gave every wine a score of out of 20, based on flavor notes, structure, and the nose of the wine.

Scores were tallied and averaged. The first indication that the Americans didn’t stand a chance was the composition of the panel. Of the eleven judges, one was American, one was British, and the other nine were French. This blatant bias was made even more unfair when they announced that the scores of the British and American judges would not even be counted toward the results! And yet, when the results of the blind taste test were revealed, the wine world turned upside down.  In every category, the French judges chose the Californian over the French wines, much to their own shock and horror. This was a national embarrassment of historical proportions!

However, an excuse was offered: the French judges conceded that the American wines were superior at the time but averred that the real test of a wine’s quality is how it matures. The truth would be only revealed 30 years later.

So, on May 24th, 2006, the panel of French judges was reconvened, many had been at the original Judgment of Paris.

Guess what? The California wines swept the win in every category again! The Times headline declared: “California reds win tasting rematch by a nose.”

In the spiritual realm the production of fine fruit is a matter, not merely of national pride, but of eternal consequence.

The Judgment of Paris was a reckoning and vindication of the quality of earthly fruit, but the Judgment of Christ will see a reckoning and vindication of spiritual fruit, and the results will echo into eternity.

In John chapter 15 we listen in on a private conversation that Jesus has with his disciples on the night before he went to the cross.



John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

This metaphor is perfect. A vine is a long, thick base, with leaves and branches. The grapes grow from the branches. God the Father is the Vinedresser, the one who has a vision for the vine, he has a purpose for the fruit, a strategy for growth and productivity.

Jesus is the vine that sprouts branches. The branches are his disciples. There are genuine and fake followers. The Vinedresser eliminates fake followers and cultivates the true followers.

What is the difference between a true and a fake follower? Fruitfulness.

Jesus said on another occasion, recorded in Matthew 7:16–20, “You will recognize them by their fruits. …Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

So, the product of a genuine Christian is fruit. But what is fruit?

Fruit is contribution – anything you do or are that adds value, that expands the kingdom, that brings glory to God, that is a benefit to God or his people. Any good change in your heart or your life.

The fruit of the Christian life includes what you become inwardly – your attitudes and character, and what you do outwardly – your actions and conduct.

–       Character – inward attitudes

Galatians 5: 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; …

After World War 2 the munitions factories were refurbished and retooled. They once made bombs, guns, and weapons of war, but they were refurbished to produce toys, kitchenware, and useful goods.

Similarly, our hearts were spewing out envy, lust, anger, gossip, and all manner of evil, and God refurbishes us into factories that crank out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, steadfastness, affection, helpfulness, generosity, evangelism, sharing, and other useful wares.

–       Conduct – external actions

Ephesians 2: 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Christians are salt and light, we take care of hurricane victims, we adopt orphans, we support widows, we bring peace into relationships, we counsel marriages, and teach parents how to raise godly kids. In short, we become fruitful, productive, and useful to the Vinedresser.

Are you fruitful? Are you productive? Are you stuck in the same sins of anxiety, greed, laziness, lust that you were in ten years ago? What would you do with a factory that isn’t producing? You’d shut it down.

Or, to return to our text, what would you do with a branch that is barely producing anything, or worse, is completely unfruitful? …


John 15:1-3 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

The Vinedresser eliminates dead wood and cultivates living branches that need attention.

If a person is not fruitful, one of two things is happening: they are either not saved, or they are immature and need God to work on them.

False disciples are those that hang around Christ but aren’t really his disciples. Like Judas.  John says this in 1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

This is one of the main purposes of trials: they prove who is truly a believer and expose who isn’t.

For believers, trials and difficulties are the way God works on us to make us more fruitful…… and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

So, trials cut both ways—they cut off the deadwood, and they prune the real branches to produce fruit.

Christianity isn’t for sissies. There’s the sacrifice of time and money, the humbling, the sanctification, the persecution, the loss of friends or jobs, or even sometimes your life.

But you know what happens as you endure all that? You prove that you are saved and you grow in your fruitfulness for the kingdom. Your witness, your character, your resolve, your holiness, all grow in trials.


At the Judgment of Paris, the test was a blind taste test. The California wines didn’t need a label, and they didn’t need American judges. The quality of the fruit spoke for itself.  Even the hostile French judges could not help but recognize the quality of the fruit.

As you seek to know and love and obey Christ, fill your mind with his word, and speak to him in prayer, you will see a growth in your character and that will spill over into your conduct.

So, what is the secret to enduring trials, and being fruitful for the kingdom? Check back next week when we will consider the how and why of producing fruit.

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