"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."
John 15:1-2 ESV
Good afternoon CW,
I don't know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed the snow on Monday. The perfect conditions existed for snow that not only looks pretty, but is also useful. Useful for what, you ask? Snowmen and snowballs, of course. As fall gives way to winter, the conditions will change and the snow won't always be good for these important purposes. Yet, for now, my boys and I will enjoy the "compactible" snow (for lack of a better word).
I wonder if God created snow with snowballs and snowmen in mind? Don't get me wrong, I know that snow has other important purposes, but maybe, just maybe, snowmen and snowballs are a couple of them. I don't know for sure. I do know, however, that God's purpose for you and I is not uncertain. Jesus has made it clear that our purpose is to be fruitful.
In the first 17 verses of John 15, we find Jesus presenting the purpose for his church in the metaphor of a vineyard. The Father is the vine dresser (the person who takes care of the vine and reaps its fruit). Jesus is the vine. The church is the branches. In very clear language, Jesus states that the Father, as vine dresser, attends to us, as branches, for the explicit purpose of increasing fruitfulness.
"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."
John 15 vs. 2
That is our purpose. That is God's focus. However, be carefulyou don't stop short. There is a critical mistake that too many Christians make. We can so easily stop at understanding our purpose and not go on to recognize our part. Jesus describes our part, and although we should be aware of the fruit, or lack thereof, in our lives, we shouldn't make "producing fruit" our focus. On what then are we to focus? Rather than fruit, we are to focus on abiding.
"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."
Healthy branches produce grapes. Let that profound truth sink in for a minute. Think about it again. If you want to know the secret of fruitfulness, there it is. For us, as members of Christ's body, as branches in the vine, this truth is even more profound. The branch of an actual vine may not produce fruit if the vine is unhealthy due to lack of care or nutrients. Some vineyards suffer at the hands of negligent vine dressers. We have no such concerns. Our vine dresser is perfect. The vine (Jesus) is perfect. We can know, beyond any doubt, that if we simply remain connected to Him, we will bear fruit.
Our focus then is remaining connected to Jesus. In His words, "whoever abides in me...he it is that bears much fruit." Eleven times in 17 verses, Jesus uses the word, "abide," to describe our part. That's all we have to do. If we will abide in Christ, we will become more loving, we will have peace, and we will experience joy; all of these are fruit produced - part of that purpose the father has for us as branches in his vineyard.
So what does it mean to abide in Christ? King David wrote Psalm 34, a psalm that captures the essence of abiding in Christ. I encourage you to read the entire Psalm, but here are a few verses to get the gist.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
In poetical language, David captures the idea that abiding is a persistent placing of all of who we are in God's presence so that He can place all of who He is into us. "Taste and see." "Take refuge in him!" "fear the Lord." "seek the Lord." Jesus called this loving him in such a way that you keep his words. Then and only then - again in the words of David - we will be "blessed," "have no lack," and "lack no good thing."
How horribly complicated human beings have made the Christian life, when throughout history the simplest of minds and the weakest of wills have glorified God and enjoyed Him in all His fullness. Are Jesus' words important to you? Do you organize your life according to His truth? When Jesus calls, do you beckon? Do you even hear his voice? These questions all relate to the big question: Are you abiding in Christ? If not, begin right now. Seek Him with all that you can. Whatever that is.
This need of ours, to abide in Christ, is all the more important as we approach Christmas with a gospel focus. If we are going to reach the lost this Christmas, we must first keep on reaching for Jesus. That is what Jesus told his disciples at the end of our passage for the week.
"I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide..."
An amplified version of this statement by Jesus could read, "I chose you and appointed you that you should keep going, keep bearing fruit, and keep abiding..."
The last of the three is the key to the first two. Do you want to keep going in your walk with the Lord? Do you want to keep bearing fruit? Then keep abiding.
For His Glory,