I am the vine…
John 15 Amplified Bible
1I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.
2Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.
3You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].
4Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.
5I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
The covenant is a powerful biblical metaphor for our relationship with God. Another metaphor for life in Christ is that of the vine and the branches. Reflect on the spiritual meaning of Jesus’ words “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (v.5a) What does this mean to you?
The vine is representative of the nation of Israel, but here Jesus fulfills the scripture again by becoming the true vine. We as gentiles are not grafted into the vine that is Israel, but into the vine that is Jesus. Jesus does not do the pruning, but God, our Father, prunes the vine and the branches that it becomes healthy and strong. By being grafted into the vine, we receive the same strength, the same love, the same root system as the original vine. We are planted into the same soil and receive the same nutrients, (the Word of God) water (the Holy Spirit) and light (enlightenment that comes from hearing the Word and spending time with other Christians.)
Dwell in me and I will dwell in you is not a simple invitation, it is a covenant. The only way we can bear fruit is to continually abide in Jesus. What fruit do we produce? We will have a god-like spirit, and we will seek after God, or as A.W. Tozer said, “follow hard after God.”
What is the relationship between abiding and pruning? Why is it that some United Methodist leaders and some United Methodist congregations are fruitless? Why are other leaders and congregations fruitful?
Abiding means to wait, to withstand, to endure, to tolerate, to continue in a place or to remain stable, in a fixed state or condition. I think abiding also means to rest. When we rest in Jesus, we are allowing Him to take control of our lives. But resting does not mean we are doing nothing. In fact, abiding in Jesus takes a commitment and it is something we do intentionally. Otherwise, we tend to branch out into other areas and soon find we need pruning in order to produce the big, beautiful fruit which Christ intends.
Perhaps the reason we sometimes fail to produce fruit is because we have stopping abiding in Jesus and started abiding in programs–for some churches it is building programs, for others everything is centered on the youth, and for still others we keep people so busy they neglect everything else, including their family. I also think that even in church we find people who abide in gossip rather than abiding in the Word, and others who rest in the certainty (at least for them) that their way is the only way, and still others who are simply waiting to see what happens. We fail when there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we behave, and when we allow people whom we have covenanted to shepherd to slip through the cracks.
I think the churches that are growing are faithful to the Scriptures, are careful to reach out to others and always put Christ first. I think the leaders are godly men and women who seek God’s will before and above all else. And I think the people of the church that grows show love and encouragement rather than criticism and judgmentalism. There is an urgency in a growing church, and a complacency in a stagnant church.
If we abide in Jesus we will bear fruit, and part of that fruit will necessarily be reflected in the life of our church. How is your fruit looking today?
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