Taken Up – Not Taken Away!
Taken Up – Not Taken Away!

Taken Up – Not Taken Away!

Just this week, a fresh revelation from the Word opened my eyes to behold a bit more of God’s awesome character…
Up until now, reading John 15:2 (“Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away…”) always caused me to tremble inside. With everything in me, I long to be fruitful for my Savior; but with that longing, I always find myself wondering if perhaps God just might decide that it is “Taking Away Time” due to some unfruitfulness in my life. The New International Version comes across far more judgmental, “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit…” In fact many Bible commentaries group John 15:2 together with John 15:6 which states: “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (NASB). Cut off, dried up, thrown away and burned – Whew! How frightening is that!
Well, this week, I was preparing a teaching series from Jesus’ intimate last supper discourse with His disciples in John chapters 13 to 17. While reading over John 15:2, I felt my heart once again going down that path of wondering whether God would consider me fruitful or not. This time, though, while browsing through Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, I was totally shocked to discover that the words “taketh away” (“cut off” in NIV) is the Greek verb, “airo” which has the following meaning:

“to take up, to lift, to raise up, to elevate, to raise upwards from the ground, to bear, to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised”

“Airo” is used in Matthew 11:29, “Take My yoke upon you…”; and in Matthew 4:6, “He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”It is a “taking up” – not a “taking away”! Suddenly, for the first time, John 15:2 took on an entirely new meaning for me! Rather than cutting off and throwing away a branch judged as fruitless, our Heavenly Gardener and Vinedresser actually takes up this barren branch in His arms. Studying a bit more, I discovered that in a vineyard, it would be a rare occasion for the gardener to chop off a branch. Quite the contrary, when a branch does not appear to be bearing fruit, the concerned gardener will pick that branch up, clean it off, and water it. Then he will prop it up and fasten it in just the right position so that it can receive the full sunlight it needs to be able to bear fruit once again. How awesome is that!
Then, upon a closer view, I suddenly saw a huge difference between John 15:2 and John 15:6. In verse two, Jesus says that the barren branch is “in Me”; but in verse six, Jesus says, “If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch…” The branch in verse six has disconnected itself and lost all vital connection to the vine. It has no more life. It is withered, dried up, and consequently only good for one thing: fuel for a fire!
This new perspective on John 15:2 can be appreciated much more by taking a moment to consider all that God chose to do in order to graft us into His only Son, the True Vine.
To begin grafting, both vine and branch must be cut skillfully and deeply enough to allow the branch to be inserted snugly into the vine while the sap is still flowing. The surgical procedure of being grafted into Christ, the True Vine, is a process that was extremely costly for our Heavenly Gardener. The kind of cut required and inflicted upon the Vine was extremely deep – all because of our depraved state! Isaiah tells us: “He was wounded for our transgressions…Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him…” (Isaiah 53:5,10) What a wonderful Savior!
When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit uses the sharp two-edged sword of the Word to work skillfully upon us so that we can be perfectly inserted into this wounded Vine. Paul used this expression:“I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). We are crucified with Christ, buried with Him in water baptism, and then raised up to walk in “newness of life” (see Rom 6:3-4; Col. 2:12) by the “glory of the Father” in the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Once the branch is grafted into the vine, it needs to be bound tightly there until the life of the vine heals the wound and unites the branch to itself. This begins the “abiding” that Jesus spoke about. Now here is an important truth we must understand: Scripture says that we are a wild branch plucked from a wild plant and “grafted contrary to nature” (Rom 11:17-24). Therefore, being originally of totally foreign and incompatible composition (see Rom 5:10; Eph 2:1-3; Col 1:21), there is no way that we could ever adapt ourselves to the divine DNA of the True Vine. No gardener would ever consider grafting two totally incompatible plants; but our Gardener is no ordinary gardener! He promised that if we “abide” in Him, we would bear fruit. This ability to “abide” in the Vine is certainly nothing we can learn on our own. Due to this absolute incompatibility, it takes a supernatural ability to “abide” – one which only the Holy Spirit can teach. This is exactly what John tells us in his epistle:

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. Now, little children, abide in Him…” (1 John 2:27-28 NASB)

Throughout John chapters 14, 15, and 16, Jesus explains to those eleven disciples about the important work of the Holy Spirit. He tells them that the Holy Spirit would soon take up residence in their lives and they would enter into an new kind of life – an “abiding life” – a life within a life:

At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you” (John 14:17,20).

This is precisely why Christ commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the “Promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5) referring to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which they experienced on “that day” of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Peter’s explanation of “that day” was: “This Jesus hath God raised up…Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).When we reflect upon the cost and complexity of process that our Heavenly Gardener undertook in order to graft us into the Vine, how could anyone come to the conclusion that He could so quickly dispose of a branch upon which He has lavished so much tender love? The unfruitful branch may truly deserve to be cut off, thrown away, and cast into the fire; but for any branch at least showing willingness to abide, our loving and patient Heavenly Father will surely persist in doing everything possible to ensure that this branch, regardless of its barrenness, is tenderly cared for until it is so united with the Vine that it produces fruit unto maturity! And not only the Gardener, but the Vine Himself, “ever liveth to make intercession” in order to be “able also to save them to the uttermost” (Heb 7:25).
As we long and yearn to glorify God by yielding fruit unto maturity, what a comforting and encouraging revelation this truly becomes! Listen to how Isaiah describes the Lord’s loving care of His vine:

“In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day” (Isaiah 27:2-3).

Looking out upon our branch, it is so easy to become discouraged by areas of unfruitfulness. And to make things worse, the devil, the accuser of the brethren, is quick to remind us by pointing a gnarly finger at what we perceive to be barren areas on our branch! Nevertheless, let’s no longer concern ourselves with fruit, but rather with our loving and supernatural union with Jesus, our Vine, our Divine Source! Let’s choose not to focus on the lack of our ability, but rather upon the abundance of provision and tender loving care our Heavenly Gardener is taking “every moment” to ensure that even in our “old age” we will be “full of sap and very green,” bringing forth mature fruit all for His glory!

“Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is righteous…” (Psalm 92:13-15)

How wonderful to be grafted in and then planted in God’s own garden! What an awesome salvation and what a marvelous Savior who saturates our entire life with the powerful transforming sap of the precious Holy Spirit! Hallelujah!

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