Jesus is (7) the True Vine–Part 2

my father is glorified by thisWe all have a need to be useful. Christians fulfill that purpose by being connected to Christ and bearing fruit. But what if we are in a relationship with God and our branches are bare, if there doesn’t seem like there is anything to show for our Christian walk? Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches has the answer:

Two weeks ago, we began the seventh installment on Jesus and his ministry, a series titled “Jesus is …” In Part 1 of Jesus is the True Vine, we discussed the importance of being connected to Christ, he remaining in us and us in him. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing!

But not every believer bears as much fruit as she should. This week we discuss how even when we are connected to the True Vine, we sometimes need discipline and pruning to bear more fruit.

In John’s gospel, Jesus says,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2)

The disciples would have grown up around vineyards, but not all of us did. Here are some things the disciples would have understood about grape vines that would have helped them understand what Jesus was teaching:

If a grape vine is left unattended, the branches will grow and grow and grow, and they might be pretty, leafy plants, but no grapes will grow. There is no fruit. Too many leaves block out the sun. The branches grow too long and lie on the ground, covered in dirt and grime. Successful vinedressers know that the branches have to be pruned each year for there to be fruit.

Discipline and Pruning

Jesus describes three kinds of branches. The first type is a branch that is producing no fruit. These, Jesus said, are “cut off” by the vinedresser, according to most translations. But some (like Bruce Wilkinson, author of Secrets of the Vine) say that a better interpretation of the Greek word translated as “cut off” is “to lift up.” The picture is of God lovingly, tenderly caring for the branch, lifting it off the ground and cleaning it so that it is not choked by dirt and grime. God wants that branch to bear fruit, not to burn, so he gives the branch what it needs, even if it is temporarily painful to the branch.

It is never fun to go through God’s discipline, just as a child does not enjoy a parent’s discipline at the time. But if we have allowed unconfessed sin to make us unfruitful, God may discipline us in love. “The Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:12 ESV)

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. (Heb. 5:5-6)

The second kind of branch Jesus discusses is producing some fruit, but could produce much more. The vinedresser prunes these branches to make them even more fruitful. There may be things in our life that are not necessarily sinful, but are energy vampires, things that take too much time away from Kingdom work. God may prune us – cut away unproductive parts – and leave us healthier and more useful. If you’ve allowed social media, or hobbies, or even church activity to take an unhealthy priority, you may be ripe for pruning.

The third kind of branch, the ones that have been lifted up and pruned are producing “much fruit,” and that is the kind of branch we want to be.

Obedience = Remaining in Christ = Complete Joy

So how do we know if we are remaining in Jesus? What does it mean for a Christian to not just be attached to the vine – to be saved – but to “remain in” Christ? Jesus says that obedience to his commands is the key:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:9-11)

To remain in Christ, we obey his commands. What is his command? Love One Another.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

We may not always want to be obedient. It usually goes against our human nature. But God wants what is best for us, and He knows that only through obedience to Him will our “joy be made complete.”

We must be connected to Christ to be fruitful, but sometimes, to be as fruitful as we can be, we need the vinedresser’s discipline and pruning shears. The key to remaining in Christ is obedience, not in an effort to earn salvation, but as a loving response to what God has done for us. Only then can our joy be complete.

We attach ourselves to so many things in this world in an effort to find that joy, but Jesus, and only Jesus, is the True Vine.

~~~

More posts in this series:

Jesus is (1) the Son of God
Jesus is (2) the Son of Man
Jesus is (3) our Savior
Jesus is (4) Lord
Jesus is (5) risen. He is risen indeed!
Jesus is (6) coming again
Jesus is (7) the True Vine – Part 1

 

“You’re not good enough to be saved” (and other things Jesus never said)

you're not good enough (and other things Jesus never said)I don’t have time for you right now.

It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re basically a good person.

What can you do for me?

There are lots of ways to God. I’m just one of them.

I’m too busy.

God just wants you to be happy.

Love straight people, Caucasians, and Republicans, as I have loved straight people, Caucasians, and Republicans.

And lo, I will be with you most of the time.

I think God will understand if …

Just put me somewhere near the top of things that are important to you.

Keep those people away from me.

Nothing is more important to the Kingdom than winning elections.

Sorry, but I didn’t pick you before the beginning of time, so no salvation for you. “Whosoever” doesn’t mean everyone.

Go ye therefore into all Nations and make a stink about social issues.

After what you’ve done?

For God so loved the religious that He gave his only begotten son …

Don’t worry about hell.

Sell something you don’t need and give it to the poor.

The people I love the most don’t have any problems.

Just do your best. That’s all that matters.

By this they will know you are my disciples, if you don’t have drums in church.

Your sins are forgiven. Now go do whatever makes you happy.

I don’t love you.

Jesus is (7) the True Vine – Part 1

apart from me you can do nothing

It has been about 2000 years since Jesus was born, lived on earth, died on the cross, rose again, and ascended into heaven to be with the Father. As we've studied, the Bible says he is going to come again, and it could be any time, but we do not know … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (6) coming again

behold I am coming soon

Funerals stink. Death is part of this world, but it’s a part that doesn’t fit with the way our souls know it should be. The brokenness of it all feels off, on top of the sadness and loneliness that so often goes with a funeral. But the next time … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (5) risen. He is risen indeed!

for I know that my redeemer lives

Almost all self-professed Christians (96%) said they believe that Jesus died and rose again as the Bible says. That’s according to a 1998 Harris poll. The only surprise to me is that it wasn’t 100% (why do the other 4% bother?) What did surprise … [Continue reading]

Why did Jesus talks so much about work?

As a Bible Study teacher, I've made it my business to learn as much as I can about the way that Jesus taught. I found this blog post by Andrew Spence interesting: Why did Jesus use the language of vocation and economics in his teaching? By using … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (4) Lord

why do you call me Lord

Words mean things. To call Jesus “Lord” is more than a sign of respect. It is to acknowledge His authority over us. If our drives and impulses say one thing and Christ says another, we follow Him, not our desires. If His word expresses truth … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (3) our Savior

i have come that they may have life

My friend Jim Rives asked it this way: “If God asked you why he should let you into Heaven to live with him for all eternity, what would you say?” (In other words: What do you rely on for your salvation?) Would you point to your good … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (2) the Son of Man

hand4

Somehow, some way, Jesus is fully God and fully human. As we saw last week, Jesus gave up none of his deity when he became flesh. We must have faith in that divinity to be saved. But it is also critical to believe that the crucified and resurrected … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (1) The Son of God

we have seen his glory

Jesus has been called many things. His followers called him Prophet, Rabbi, Master, Lord, Savior, and Son of God. Those opposed to him have called him criminal, blasphemer, demon-possessed, deceiver, troublemaker, insane, and imposter. But he’s … [Continue reading]