Genuine Vines: Abiding in Christ, Part 2

Detecting fake wine is a specialized business. When collectors purchase wines with historic value, they never open them. As long as the bottle remains sealed, you can claim the wine is good. Opening it reveals if it’s turned sour. So, wine forgery is all about the bottles, the labels, and the corks. Forgers who get their hands on old bottles will carefully distress a cork, color a label, and then offer the product at an inflated price.

The most infamous example was the Jefferson Wines. In the late 1980s billionaire William Koch bought four bottles of wine from collector, Hardy Rodenstock, for a total of $500,000.

Rodenstock claimed to have unearthed the wines from a bricked-up cellar in Paris, and said they dated back to 1787 and belonged to the 3rd US president, Thomas Jefferson. The bottles were engraved with the initials, ThJ, like others in Jefferson’s collection.

Jefferson was well-known as an oenophile, having imported much French wine from his days as Ambassador to France. Jefferson also kept meticulous records of every bottle of wine he owned. The curators of Jefferson’s estate at Monticello informed Mr Koch that there was no record of those four bottles.

Koch hired retired FBI agent, Jim Elroy, to sniff out the truth, without opening the bottles. Carbon dating was done on the glass, labels and corks were scrutinized, but still there was no sign that the wine was fake. That’s when nuclear scientists got involved.

There is a radioactive isotope, called Ceasium-137 that didn’t exist until 1940, when it was formed as a by-product of nuclear fission. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 the nuclear fallout contaminated the entire world’s water supply with Ceasium-137. It is present in everything that has water in it, and every grape grown after WWII. Instruments scanned the wine inside the bottles and determined that the wine in there contained no Ceasium-137. The wine was indeed older than 1945. Then one more detail was examined, namely, Jefferson’s initials that had been engraved into the bottles. A microscope was used to analyze the lettering and clearly revealed that the engraving had been done by an electric dental drill, invented more than 150 years after Jefferson. The forgery was exposed.

Well, fake wine is only a significant problem to billionaire collectors – a tiny fraction of the world’s population.

But the world has a bigger problem than fake wine, and that is fake Christians. There are countless people out there calling themselves disciples of Jesus, but who are producing no evidence. They are fakes. They are forgeries, and they don’t even know it. How do you know if you are a fake or a genuine disciple?

we listened in on the private conversation Jesus had with his 11 disciples, recorded in John 15. We saw the product and the pruning. We continue today.

John 15:4 – 7 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. 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. … If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Almost everybody tries self-improvement. The problem is, it doesn’t work. You can’t improve yourself. There is no such thing as self-help. You need help. But it doesn’t come from self.

The branch bears the fruit, but it gets the ability to do that from… the vine.
Did you notice the source of the true disciple’s power to do anything productive for God? Did you see how many times Jesus says that we must “abide in him”?

It seems patently clear that in order to be productive in our inward character and outward conduct we need to abide in Christ and have his words abide in us. So, the million dollar question is: What does it mean to abide?

To abide means to dwell, remain, stay connected to.

It’s the difference between a tourist and a local, a visitor’s visa and a permanent resident.
The difference isn’t location, it’s intention.

The permanent resident wants to buy property and a dog and wants to dress and talk and act like a local. The tourist wants to benefit from the location, but not remain forever.

Jesus says, abide in me, don’t be a visitor, be a permanent resident. And that will result naturally in fruitfulness. Otherwise, you can’t change…apart from me you can do nothing. …

So how do you abide in Christ? John 15: 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.

Being fruitful for the kingdom, which results in assurance of salvation, can only happen if you stay connected to Jesus.
By hearing from him all the time.
By talking to him all the time.
By obeying him all the time.

If you neglect to read and study your Bible, if you neglect to pray, and you neglect to obey and so live in sin without repenting… you are not part of the genuine vine.

You are a dead branch. You are in the right location, bur you are not connected to Christ.

And it is only in Christ that you can bear fruit.

John 15: 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.

John 15: 8 – 11 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

See if you can spot the purposes of fruit…

• Fruitfulness gives God glory.
John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit

• Fruitfulness proves you are genuine.
John 15: 8… and so prove to be my disciples.

• Fruitfulness brings joy to you.
John 15: 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Fruitfulness in your life is so exciting. This is what warms a pastor’s heart, when people’s lives are changed, people are maturing and repenting and their faith is growing.

This is what warms a parent’s heart – when your kids start showing signs of genuine interest in Christ and start showing fruit of salvation.

People think becoming a Christian means giving up enjoyment. …. It does not!
It’s having new enjoyment you didn’t know existed before.

Your joy starts to come from hearing truth, praying and seeing God answer, and from obedience and the maturity and blessing that comes from it.

Wine fakery is a pretty trivial problem (except for billionaires) and the consequences are merely financial.

But spiritual fakery is a problem for everyone, and the consequences are eternal.

How about you? Are you a genuine part of the Vine of Christ? Or are you a dead, fruitless branch that is good for nothing but destruction?

The good news is that anyone can be grafted into Christ. Any branch that plugs in can stay in. Anyone who truly repents and trusts in Jesus’ death on the cross for their forgiveness of sins, will become part of the Vine.

Come back next time as we consider the danger of being fruitful!

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