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!
In the first book: The Prayer of Jabez, Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson explains how we can have an abundant life by knowing how to pray to God. In this second book of the BreakThrough Series, he takes the verses in John 15 and explores the four levels of "fruit bearing" in order to show you how God works in your life to answer your prayer.
This is the message Jesus gave to his disciples on the night he was betrayed. As he was about to defeat sin, he was explaining how his followers could also defeat sin and live an abundant life.
"The disciples knew grapes like an Englishman knows tea." pg. 59
So, it is no wonder the story of vines would have made complete sense to the disciples and be perhaps a bit of a secret to those of us who have never been taught how to grow grapes. Dr. Wilkinson brings the story alive as he tells of how the disciples followed Jesus to a vineyard. There he teaches them about how he is the true vine and his father is the vinedresser/husbandman (gardener). The fruit God desires of us is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When God works through you, others will see these qualities in your life and want to know who God is and perhaps become Christians themselves.
When a Christian does not bear any fruit, it is often thought that perhaps they are not a Christian after all. Jesus says that if a branch does not bear fruit he takes it away. Dr. Wilkinson delves into the Greek translation to bring more understanding to the words used. He brings a new meaning to the word "airo" and explains how it could mean "take up" instead of "cut off." This was enlightening in many regards and is an explanation of this verse as I have never heard it before. You will never read John 15 in the same way again! I recommend this book for pages 34-35 alone. There are also three main secrets of the vine that are revealed in this book.
The Bible has such beautiful messages for our souls and Dr. Wilkinson expands on that beauty and helps us to have a deeper understanding. I enjoyed reading this devotional even more than the first one. You will come away with a renewed sense of love for God and a deeper understanding of what your purpose is in this life.
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy may might be full." John 15:11
I wish you joy and hope you will also look for The Prayer of Jabez, which is the first book in the series. I look forward to reading each book as they are published. If you enjoy reading companions to the Bible, The Complete Bible Handbook by John Bowker is one I have enjoyed reading. The New Open Bible Study Edition is also extreemly helpful if you want to study the Bible.
~The Rebecca Review
on June 30, 2001
Bruce did a wonderful job of expounding on Jesus teaching about the vine and the branches. His analogy of the four baskets--from "no fruit" to "much fruit" is enlightenng. And his insight into the difference between discipline and pruning shows that both processes are painful and how we can discern between the two. Something we can all benefit by knowing, because at some time in our lives, if we are truely in the vine, we will experience both. I have.
It's encourageing to know that even during times of discipline the vinedresser--our loving Father--is caring for us in a tender, loving way, in order that we might bear fruit. If only we would choose to bend in the way that He chooses. And when He prunes us, even though it's painful, it's so that we will be more fruitful.
While reading this little gem, I was able to recognize that the pain I suffered a couple of years ago, was a result of God's pruning in my life. It brought me joy to be able to recognize the fruit that's sprung forth as a result of that pruning. Now, all I have is the task of living in obedience and abiding in Him, waiting for the pruning shears to cut again, in order for more fruit to come forth. What could be better?
But because I'm not perfect, at some time I'm sure the hand of disciple will touch me again. Only after reading this book, now I know what to look for in discering why the pain is there, whether it be pruning or discipline.
By applying the Prayer of Jabez and the principles in Secrets of The Vine my life has been enriched. But something that struck me as I read this book, was how often I miss out on understanding a spiritual truth because I didn't take the time to really study. I have a Strong's Concordance, so I have no excuse. Why do I like so many others, leave it to someone else to do the footwork for me?
Jesus gave the analogy of the vine and the branches for a reason. But how many of us have looked into what tending a vineyard is all about? If we had, we wouldn't need Bruce to show us.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." NIV How can we correctly handle the Word if we don't read it--study it? Each of us has a responsibility to study for ourselves. I want my life to be as enriched as Bruce's, because I took the time to find out for myself by thorough study.
By Bruce's faithfulness, he is bearing "much fruit", and I am thankful that God is using him to help others have a better understanding of what scipture teaches, including myself.
This comprehensive book can help your understanding of the vinedresser's work in your life. Do you desire to bear fruit and then more fruit? Do you want to learn what it means to abide in the vine? Are you suffering through painful circumstanes and wonder why? Then I highly recommend you read this book, along with careful personal study, and begin to bear the fruit you were destined to bear. The Lord Bless You until He Comes!
on July 30, 2001
"Secrets of the Vine" offers readers another uplifting dose of Bruce Wilkinson's positive preaching. You come away from "Secrets" and "Jabez" invigorated by God's grand vision for your life, desiring to do more for God and be more in God. This is a wonderful gift Wilkinson offers to readers, both Christian and others.
I have some major theological critiques of "Secrets" when placed beside the Greek text of John 15:1-17, the portion of John's Gospel from which Wilkinson draws his secrets of the vine.
1) Wilkinson empasizes a distinction throughout the book between "discipline" and "pruning". This distinction is not found in the Greek text of John 15. Raymond Brown, the great John scholar writes in his definitive commentary on John, "Verse 2 describes two different actions of the vinedresser. The first, that of cutting off branches that cannot bear fruit, takes place in February-March. Sometimes the vines are so completely cut back that one sees in the vineyards only the stalks bereft of branches. Later (August), when the vine has put forth leaves, comes the second stage of pruning, as the vinedresser pinches off the little shoots so that the main fruit-bearing branches get all the nourishment" (The Gospel According to John, Vol.II, pg.675). Both verbs describe pruning activities of the vinedresser.
2) The imperative (command) word in the Greek text is NOT "Bear Fruit!" Wilkinson places his major emphasis for our lives upon bearing more and more fruit, upon producing. This emphasis is not in the Greek. The word, "abide" or "remain" (Gk:menein) is found 10 times in the Greek. Fruit is found 7 times. Twice the word for abide is a command, "meinate"! Here is the true emphasis of Jesus' teaching: not upon production of more and more fruit (good works according to Wilkinson), but upon simply abiding in the Vine (intimacy with Christ) and having the Vine abide in us. You must read through 88 pages before this central teaching on abiding from John 15 is found in Wilkinson's writing. I would recommend readers to skip over pages 1-88 and go directly to "More with God" on page 89. Fruit is a by-product of remaining in Jesus and having Jesus remain in us, not the goal of our lives.
3) I don't know where the 4 baskets come from. They are not found in the Greek text of John 15. There is enough in John 15 to interpret without adding in more imagery to distract readers from Jesus' teaching.
4) Fruit for Wilkinson equals "good works", both outward and inward. The context of John does not favor this understanding of fruit. John's gospel emphasizes the fruit of Christlikeness, eternal life and being filled with grace and glory, NOT mere good works.
5) Even in Wilkinson's teaching on "Abiding" there are some disconcerting human-centered viewpoints which are not found in the Greek text of John 15. He writes on page 95, "In abiding, it's always our move!" No. Both Christ and Christian can move. In fact, Jesus emphasizes his choice and appointment towards the end of his parable when he says, "It was not you who chose me; it was I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will remain" (John 15:16). Wilkinson also offers a dangerous understanding of "abiding" on page 122 when he states, "If you are in a season of abiding..." Abiding is never a mere "season" in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ but the vital relationship which keeps us alive and growing. Wilkinson envisions three seasons in the believers' life: a season of discipline, a season of pruning and a season of abiding. This is a forced interpretation of the Greek text. Abiding is a lifelong, intimate, growing relationship with Jesus, the Word become flesh, full of grace and truth.
Apart from these textual concerns, I found "Secrets of the Vine" a refreshing, uplifting sermon on fruitful living in Christ. I'm delighted to see millions rediscovering the life-changing person of Jesus Christ through such writers as Bruce Wilkinson.
For two more books on the life-changing person of Christ and fruitful living for parents, look into "The Family Cloister: Benedictine Wisdom for the Home" (New York, Crossroad, 2000) and "The Christian Family Toolbox: 52 Benedictine Activities for the Home" (New York: Crossroad, 2001), both by David Robinson.
on May 4, 2001
I first heard the substance of this book in several video lectures by Wilkinson about seven years ago. At the time, it was very impactful for me. I was especially blessed by seeing the difference between chastening and pruning.
Wilkinson uses John 15 and the analogy of the Vine and Branches to develop three basic principles for Christian living, which he names "Secrets of the Vine." Starting with the premise that there are four levels of fruit-bearing in the lives of all Christians (barrenness, fruit, more fruit, and much fruit), coupled with the presupposition that every branch spoken of in John 15 is a true believer, Wilkinson teaches:
1. If your life consistently bears no fruit, God will intervene to DISCIPLINE you.
2. If your life bears some fruit, God will intervene to PRUNE you.
3. If your life bears a lot of fruit, God will invite you to ABIDE more deeply with him.
The book is pretty much built around these three concepts: disciplining (chastening), pruning, and abiding. There is no doubt that there is much truth here. God DOES discipline his sinning children who for a season may not bear fruit, as Hebrews 12 makes clear. (But I am not absolutely convinced that this is what John 15:2 is describing.) Again, God DOES prune (or purge) his children, as the text makes clear. And Wilkinson does well in drawing distinctions between chastening and pruning. They are not the same. It is also true that we have a command to "abide" in Christ. But I think all Christians will do this to some degree, whereas Wilkinson seems to think that many, if not most, Christians never attain to "abiding." I think he may go wrong here, not in his description of Christian experience(for it is without dispute that there can be vastly different degrees of closeness in people's relationships with the Lord), but in his interpretation of this particular passage.
There are some subtle theological beliefs which seem to be underlying this book, which I think are dangerous. Wilkinson seems to believe that it is possible to have Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord,and that perseverance in faith is not essential to eternal security (hence, the author's denial that John 15:6 refers to hell), and that there are "levels" in the Christian life (the old higher/deeper/fuller Christian life myth popularized by Keswick).
For a balance check out: D. A. Carson's Commentary on John: he gives a better interpretation of these verses. See also John MacArthur in "The Gospel According to Jesus" chapter 15. And to combat the Keswick-type deeper-life teaching, see Packer's "Keep In Step With the Spirit." I think the teaching in these books is more true to Scripture.
HOWEVER, (to be fair) I will say (though I was quite surprised to see it) that A. W. Pink takes essentially the same interpretation that Wilkinson does. But Pink's Exposition of John was written in the early portion of his ministry and may reflect a position which he eventually discarded.
Anyway, with all of that said, I enjoyed my reading of this book. It has some very good lessons for us. I just wish Wilkinson had grounded it in a more accurate exegesis of Scripture.
on July 25, 2001
"Secrets of the Vine" is a sequel to Bruce Wilkinson's best selling "The Prayer of Jabez". In this book he uses grapes and vineyards as analogies for our lives and the fruit we are called upon to produce. He tells about 3 "secrets" or stages in life where God can intervene and help us to bear more fruit. He details the stumbling blocks we can come across in our Christian life and shows us how God can rescue us in any stage of despair or period of life when we are not bearing fruit. As always, Wilkinson has a way of encouraging the reader to look deeper into himself and shows how we can live life more abundantly in the way God intends us to live.
on May 17, 2001
The most profound lessons are most often the simplest. That's true of these lessons/secrets of the vine. Discipline, chastening, and pruning are things we try to avoid, no matter how often God tells us it's for our own good. Are you are follower of Christ? Is there sin in your life? Then pay attention because God wants to change you.
An excellent follow up to the Prayer of Jabez.
on June 28, 2002
The Secrets of the Vine shows Christians how they are to have a personal relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Using the parable of the vinedresser from John 15 in the Bible, this book provides valuable insight into the ways in which we are to become more intimate with the Father. The reason for the parable is to learn how God "prunes" us in order to prepare us for bearing more spiritual fruit.
By allowing us free will, God has allowed us to make our own choices throughout life. This book shows us how to see just how close we can become to our spiritual Father in heaven. It provides valuable information for developing the relationship that we should have as opposed to the "fire insurance" of having Christ as our Savior alone. There is so much more to a relationship with Christ than just saying a prayer to accept Him into our lives. Building that relationship is exhilarating and necessary for us to live as productive Christians throughout the rest of our lives.
This book has value for Christians and non-Christians alike, allowing them to see that there is more to life than to just exist. This book is the second in the series but more than adequately provides beneficial information to be read by itself. Pick up "Secrets of the Vine" and see why this book is a crucial part of any believer's life.
on April 27, 2001
Not a sequel, but truly the next step. The Prayer of Jabez had opened my life to God's blessings in unexpected and inconceived ways. The Secrets of the Vine provides us with direct teaching and scriptural references on how to open our lives up so that we can be ever more able to expand our reach, be prepared, and not to block God's work in our lives.
I'm thinking of planting a grapevine in my yard as a physical reminder of the powerful lessons in this book.
on August 16, 2001
Was referred to Secrets of the Vine after reading Prayer of Jabez. Secrets of the Vine patiently explains where you are on the "Vine" and you will personally realize why you are experiencing specific life challenges. When you are finished with this book, you will have a concise plan to make your life and the lives of others more fruitful. Don't miss this opportunity to expand your understaning!