Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundanceby Bruce Wilkinson
In this powerful follow-up to his bestseller The Prayer of Jabez, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson explores John 15 to show readers how to make maximum impact for God. Dr. Wilkinson demonstrates how Jesus is the Vine of life, discusses four levels of "fruit bearing" (doing the good work of God), and reveals three life-changing truths that will lead readers to new joy and effectiveness in His kingdom. Secrets of the Vine opens readers' eyes to the Lord's hand in their lives and uncovers surprising insights that will point them toward a new path of consequence for God's glory.
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STORIES FROM THE VINEYARD
Have you ever been with someone very close to you who is about to die, someone who loves you and wants to leave you with a final word?
"Come closer." You lean close, straining to hear.
"I want to tell you something. I've waited until now…but I can't wait any longer."
You know that you'll remember every word for the rest of your life.
Now imagine that the person who is about to speak is Jesus. How closely would you listen? How long and hard would you ponder your Lord's last words to you?
In the pages to come, I invite you to encounter, perhaps for the first time, Jesus' words in John 15—the heart of His final message to His disciples on the night He was betrayed. By dusk the following day, Jesus would be stretched out on a cross, His body stripped and pierced, His life ebbing away.
Jesus knew the words He spoke that night would echo in His friends' memories for years.
In time, the truth of His "deathbed conversation" would lead them to a whole new way of thinking. These final words are so little understood today that I've called them "secrets," but I'm convinced that Jesus meant for their meaning to be clear. The time for parables and hidden meanings had passed. He wanted every follower for generations to come to know exactly how to live an overflowing life and understand what God would do to make it happen.
Watch how the Savior carefully and tenderly chooses the moment to speak.
THURSDAY NIGHT UPSTAIRS
If you've been a Christian for a while, you've probably heard a lot about the upper room—the scene of the climactic evening meal Jesus had with His disciples. You can
These final words are so little understood today that I've called them "secrets." easily imagine, then, the men around the table reclining on pillows, their faces turned toward the Master. You can hear the muted conversation. You can smell the aroma of freshly baked bread and of roasted lamb and onions.
It is the night before Passover, the Jewish day to remember the nation's escape from slavery in Egypt. Hundreds of thousands have come to Jerusalem to celebrate, and this year more than ever the city is buzzing with rumors about Messiah. More than one prophet has predicted that on just such a day, Messiah will arrive to deliver Israel from all of her oppressors forever.
But these men reclining around the table know something the crowds outside don't. Messiah is already here. He is with them here in the room.
The disciples have spent three years with Him, and one by one they've come to the same conclusion: Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah—the One worth risking everything to follow. In fact, the disciples are so certain about how the events of Passover week will unfold that they have spent a good part of the journey from Galilee arguing about who will get which position of honor in the new kingdom.
Peter, pass the lamb.
Hey James, let's get to the temple early. I don't want to miss ten thousand angels teaching those Roman legions a lesson.
Psst, Matthew! I'd say our money woes are about to be history!
The disciples expect that these lamplit hours among friends in the upper room will carry on into the evening, poignant but peaceful, full of toasts to the good years to come. But things begin to unravel.
The apostle John recorded the exact moment the mood changed:
And supper being ended…Jesus…rose from supper and laid
aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that,
He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples'
feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Shocked, the men can only watch in shame as Messiah swabs grime from between their toes. Water plinks into the bowl. The disciples shift nervously, not daring to speak. Why would tomorrow's king behave like tonight's houseboy?
It gets worse. "Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me," Jesus announces (v. 21). The stunned men look around the circle. Then comes the clincher. Jesus tells Peter that before sunup, he will deny his Lord three times. An awful realization begins to dawn: Their whole mission is doomed.
Of course, Jesus has been trying to tell them for months that His appointment in Jerusalem is with a cross, not a throne. But His warnings have been mixed with predictions that Messiah is about to return in power and glory, and the disciples have heard what they wanted to hear.
But tonight Jesus strips away their last hopes. "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more," He says, "but you will see Me." That rules out any public triumph.
Jesus presses on. The final blow sounds like a concession statement: "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming." That can mean only one thing: Jesus is not the ruler; He will not be King.
Now I see pain written all over the disciples' faces. Listen with me to Jesus' words. Out of context they seem serene, almost hopeful. But in the crisis of this room, each phrase mirrors the emotional devastation of His men. Listen to His words…then watch their faces:
Little children… They're feeling small and weak.
I have loved you… They're staring at Him in disbelief, mistrust, and fear.
Let not your heart be troubled… They're sinking in anxiety and dread.
I will not leave you orphans…They're slumping before Him like abandoned children, defenseless in a hostile world.
The evening in the upper room ends. The questions end. Into the silence, Jesus says, "Arise, let us go from here" (John 14:31).
LIGHT IN THE VINEYARD
Eleven dejected men follow Jesus down the stairs and out into the cool night air. Some of the disciples carry lamps or burning torches to light the way. Perhaps Jesus tells them where He is heading—to a garden on the Mount of Olives where they often spent time. Perhaps they already know. But I believe that as their footsteps echo through the narrow streets, not a word is spoken.
The disciples follow Jesus down the hill, through the winding streets of Jerusalem. Avoiding the temple mount and its noisy, celebrating crowds, Jesus turns right and leads them out of the city. Then they turn sharply left to follow the Kidron Valley up toward their destination.
Along the terraces that follow the curve of the valley, they pass through ancient vineyards. They walk in single file between rows of neatly tended grapes, plants that have been bearing fruit for generations. To the left above them tower the city walls and the ramparts of the temple. Ahead and to the right rises the Mount of Olives, where Gethsemane and betrayal await.
Here Jesus stops. Hemmed in by rows of vines, the disciples gather around. Lamps and torches sputter in the night air and flicker in their eyes.
Jesus reaches for a grape branch. Showing signs of new spring growth, its woody stem lies across His hand in the golden light. Now He begins. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser" (15:1).
In the next few minutes Jesus talks quietly about branches and grapes and how a vinedresser cares for his prize vineyard. It certainly isn't what His disciples expect to hear. But this is the moment Jesus chooses to reveal their surprising destiny.
THE CURTAINS OF HEAVEN
Too many Christians I've met are standing in the shadows of that vineyard. Like the disciples, they have discovered that following Jesus has turned out far differently than expected. They feel confused and disillusioned—maybe even betrayed by God.
Do you? If so, listen carefully—I believe that a major reason for your spiritual crisis may be that you have not heard and understood Jesus' words in the vineyard.
For decades of my life as a Christian, I didn't understand, either. And because I didn't, I fell out of fellowship. I struggled against God. I settled for a spiritual experience often characterized by disappointment, doubt, and even anger. Looking back, I see that I was still thinking about a God who would help me win on my own terms. I had failed to lean close and listen.
But over the years, I was drawn back again and again into that lamplit circle, and what I finally heard there has brought freedom and joy into my life. Now I understand what God wants from me—a fruitful harvest for Him. And now I can see how He has been at work all along in my life to bring that about.
Will you take to heart what Jesus said in those crucial, final moments? Every word matters. Jesus wants to pull back the curtains of heaven for you just as He did for His disciples.
You see, Jesus was thinking of you, too, that night. I'm sure of it. In cautious Thomas and reckless Peter, in guileless Nathaniel and scheming James, He saw and loved you, too. And I believe He has lovingly directed you to this little book just as purposefully as He led His closest friends into that vineyard.
The secrets of the vine that I will show you in the chapters to come are our Father's amazing plan to keep His children flourishing—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In fact, we could call them family secrets because they're really only meaningful to disciples like you who have followed your Lord all the way here…past the celebration, outside the city walls, straight into the dark.
Meet the Author
Bruce Wilkinson is the founder of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries and Walk Thru the Bible International. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Prayer of Jabez and Secrets of the Vine as well as 30 Days to Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs and numerous other books. Bruce and his wife, Darlene, live in Atlanta, Georgia, and have three children.
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Thanks to Bruce Wilkinson for being a faithful student of Greek words and meanings and for passing on what he has learned. I have just finished the book 'Secrets of the Vine' and want to relate how, when I read the part where Jesus said: 'Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away', I prayed and told God that I wanted to really take hold of this teaching. It seemed to be too good to be true that the 'taking away' means 'lift up' or 'pick up'. I reread that part of the book in particular so much wanting it to be so that God is picking me up and lifting me (rather than cutting me off and dicarding me). Very shortly after reading this book and having it very fresh in my mind, I was out in my garden and saw that the two rows of pea vines needed attention so that they could stand upright along the netted fence I had put up for them. I began to lift up the vines and hold them up to the wire so that their tendrils could grasp the wire. The vines themselves were so tender that any forcing or harsh treatment would cause them to pop and break and thus not be healthy. I had to treat them gently and be patient while training them to stand up. Any part of the vine that was damaged would not produce. I almost wept with thankfulness as I realized just what was happening as I was lifting up the vines to help them stand. I realized that God, the Vinedresser is that tender toward me....more so in fact. He wants to lift me up so I can stand and He will. I enjoyed the rest of the book as well, but this particular part was so alive to me at this time in my life. I've read a book that has led me closer to abiding with Christ and have seen how God's heart is tender toward me because He showed me in my own garden with another type of vine.
I enjoy hearing what others have to say about the Bible, especially those who have a knowledge of Hebrew. They can gather meanings that are not apparent to me from the plain words in the English translation. I was delighted to find that The Secrets of the Vine focuses on one of the most puzzling Bible stories I have ever read, and expanded my knowledge of what that story means. Through a combination of this new understanding and reflecting on The Prayer of Jabez, I have come to appreciate new choices concerning my relationship to God. That's a great gift, and I feel deeply moved by the experience. I think you will be, too. After the Last Supper, Jesus took His disciples outside to visit a vineyard in order to teach a lesson. Obviously, this was a most important lesson because it came as the last ordinary conversation they could have together in person. The story is told in John 15. 'I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.' John 15:1 'Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away . . . .' '. . . and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.' 'I am the vine, you are the branches.' 'He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.' 'By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.' Bruce Wilkinson does a good job of explaining about viticulture as a way of expanding the meaning of these passages. The vine itself is the bulky gnarly trunk that comes up from the ground and is kept pruned into just a few branches. The branches are tied up to keep them in the air. If they are not tied up, they fall to the ground where dirt and disease will keep them from bearing fruit. The branches must be cut back in order that the vine will produce fruit rather than leaves and new growth. The older the vine gets, the more it has to be cut back to be productive. But the older it gets, the better the grapes can be. If you have fallen off the wires, God will tie you back up so that you can once again bear fruit. Once there, He will keep you pruned. The book argues then that much of the time we will feel like we are being disciplined (in a loving way) when we sin or pruned (to become more productive) when we are doing God's work. The book describes how to tell when you are receiving the one versus the other. Both may be painful, but each provides a different lesson. What I got from this interpretation is that we should focus on how we can better do God's will. Mr. Wilkinson makes a fine point when he says that 'we don't really believe God likes us.' I often find it hard to imagine why God would be willing to put up with our tiny and incomplete lives. When we overcome that feeling though, we can realize that God wants us to strengthen our relationship with Him first to 'deepen the quality of my devoted time with God' and then to 'broaden my devoted time' until it is 'all the time.' A particular point that was revealing to me was that this means we should spend more time abiding with God and less time doing works. Most of us try to do more and more works. The final pruning causes us to bear more fruit. 'If your life bears a lot of fruit, God will invite you to abide more deeply with Him.' I also see this as an invocation to narrow our focus onto God, so that His will permeates our thoughts and actions more thoroughly. Obviously, one action taken through God's will accomplishes much more than all of our actions taken without His will. As a test of the validity of these thoughts, I was pleased to see that they made my experiences with the prayer of Jabez more vivid and moving. Thinking about this Bible lesson from John 15 also served to expand and sharpen my mental and visual focus. I took these experiences to mean that these messages were redirecting my life. I am very grateful for the experience. After you have read and prayed upon what you learn from this book, may you find ways to abide more and more deeply with God. God bless you!
Good Some liberties taken, but very helpful nonetheless. Easy to read and illuminating for those novice to John 15. I recommend it.
I will not attempt to replicate the troubling points in this work. I will say that most of the negative comments are overstated, and there is much to like in this book. Wilkinson notes with insight the disciplining ways of God, and while the author does take a few liberties with interpretation, his points are cogent and helpful to the suffering Christian. Without question, this book is more scripturally sound that the Jabez book. While this work is in the same genre, but not in the same class as 'With Joseph in the University of Adversity', or 'God Meant it for Good', it furnishes help to the hurting soul in time of need.
I would suggest that Mr. Wilkinson subtitle this book, "How to be at home in God's Kingdom." This excellent work doesn't merely point us to a higher spiritual plane, but, rather, entrusts the reader with the keys to the normal Christian life.
Bruce does it again with depth and honesty. He gives guidelines that anyone can and should follow to get the most out of their walk with Jesus. A must have for anyone wanting to be more in God.
I read this book in a few days---a quick and easy read. It will leave you motivated to walk in the direction the Lord wants us to walk. The author explains the different ways God tries to get our attention and the different choices we can make. Obviously the end result being that we bear more fruit for God (if you are a new Christian, this book will explain very well what 'fruit' is and why God wants us to bear it for him. Jesus taught a lot of great lessons, and this is an entire book on just one of them. Highly recommended.
I enjoyed Prayer of Jabez, but after reading Secrets of the Vine, fell in love with it! We sometimes need a reminder of his love, and to realize that when circumstances are not going our way, its not always because we are out of his will, but that we may be going through a 'pruning period' - which is God's loving way of helping us to become more like Jesus. Also, puts in proper perspective what our ultimate reason for being here is - to produce fruit for his glory!
This book is a sequel to THE PRAYER OF JABEZ which shows Christians how to ask for a life of abundance in service for God. SECRETS OF THE VINE instructs us how God works in our lives to give us that life of abundance if we cooperate with Him to make it happen. We can expect to go through three seasons. In the first one God disciplines us to remove sin and in the next season God does some pruning to allow us to better order our priorities. In the third one we will be invited by God to abide more deeply with Him. The author shows us how to recognize which season we are presently in and how to get the most out of it. The lessons of the book are easy to understand but the prescriptions for growth appear quite difficult to complete. It is important to remember that most worthwhile goals in life are not easy to reach. I recommend this book as a follow-up to THE PRAYER OF JABEZ - especially if you are serious about your walk with Christ.
Ihave read this book and would encourage others to. Bruce brings to light some ordinary truths that some how pass us by. He has a great gift for making these things even simpler to understand. I have tried the prayer in the Prayer of Jabez and it really works. I would encourage you to read Jabez first.
I truly loved this book. It has given me a whole new insight on the vine and the branches. I can now be able to decipher what season I am in, the pruning or discipline stage. A book you must read.
I WANT TO THANK MR. BRUCE WILKINSON ONCE AGAIN FOR WRITING ANOTHER OUTSTANDING BOOK. THIS BOOK IS HELPING ME UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD IS TRYING TO DO IN MY LIFE. MR. WILKINSON REALLY BREAKS IS DOWN SO THAT YOU CAN REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT IS REALLY GOING IN YOUR LIFE. I ENJOYED THIS BOOK AS WELL AS THE PRAYER OF JABEZ. PLEASE IF YOU HAVE READ THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, PLEASE READ THE SECRETS OF THE VINE IT IS A MUST HAVE BOOK! THIS BOOK WILL OPEN YOUR EYES. GOD IS SO GOOD AND ONCE YOU REALIZE THAT HE ONLY WANTS TO LOVE YOU EVEN MORE THINGS START TO CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE. I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THANK YOU TO MY LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST AND ALSO TO MR. BRUCE WILKINSON FOR BLESSING ME!
This author is completely misguided and exploiting people's desire to see the universe in a thimble as Yeats put it. Why turn toward superstition when the truths of nature provide guidance and fulfillment aplenty? It is through wine itself -that marvelous beverage of moderation - coupled with the enjoyment of the other arts, informed by science, that enables us to live the flourishing life. Humanism reveals the secrets of the vine and then leads to profound spiritual (=poetic) abundance not to delusion and poverty of the intellect. Leave the darkness and come to the light of reason.