Week 34: The Vine: Life as it was Meant to Be

John 15

 

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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

                     As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept 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. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

 

Amazing symbolism. The Vine. God.

My life has been filled with the irony of the Vine – from the passage written on the kitchen wall at the home I grew up in to the service I played at through Campus Crusade and now the new church we’re planting in Minneapolis…could God be any clearer?

I’ve been studying the passage above for quite some time…at least many times during my eight months in Minneapolis. We (The Vine) recently completed our second and final service at Kingswood Church in Blaine, MN (our sponsor church for those of you just starting on this adventure with me). We’ve each been in the area for different amounts of time (me, 8 months and the majority of our group, just over 6) and I’ve already seen this passage come to life in all of our lives.

Jesus’ reference to the vine provides us with a beautiful scriptural picture of the relationship we can have with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. Through this, one basic truth emerges: Christianity is primarily a relationship between God and man. It is not primarily a theology or religion. Yet, Christians today tend to think in terms of what they believe, the creed they repeat, the doctrines they embrace or the theology they believe. Yes, all of these things have a place in Christianity, along with the words spoken by Jesus in His Word, but if we make religion our primary focus, we may miss the real truth and purpose of the Christian faith. That being the relationship we can have with God through Jesus. 

Without that relationship, all the doctrine in the world will be useless. Doctrine and theology are correct only if they produce the correct fruit. The parable of the Vine reveals the total nature of the Trilogy – the representation of all that is truly God. Through the parable of the Vine, we see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

My own relationship with God didn’t fully take flight until my freshman year of college, even though I had been calling myself a Christian since the age of four. Since that fateful night at Fall Getaway, my life has been fuller than I imagined it ever could be. Granted, there are times when I find myself in rut and wonder why I haven’t been blessed with that desire yet or why a ministry was taken away, but God continues to pursue me most in those moments, forcing me to look around and truly see all that I have. Without that relationship, Christianity loses its purpose and means nothing.

He has done the same for each one of us. Holly has the growth of China in her life, Rick – the many things he’s faced in coming to terms with the fact that God was removing the college ministry and bringing forth a new church, the fruits of which will be absolutely amazing! God has taken Ben on quite the journey as well the last several years since he began following Christ and God will continue to bless that. His promises never fail.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

In a living vine, there has to be sap which flows from the roots, up through the trunk, bringing life into the branches and leaves. If the sap doesn’t reach the branches or leaves, they whither and cannot produce fruit. The sap is the Holy Spirit, which is the life of Christ (Romans 8:10). Jesus is the Vine. God the Father is the Vinedresser and we are the branches.

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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Just as the care of the natural vine requires pruning, so do we. God corrects and disciplines His disciples, which removes that which is bad. This process can be very, very painful, but that is not pruning.  Pruning means to cut away good fruit to make way for better fruit. That process is not painful, but exciting. Many believers feel that when God prunes the good fruit out of their lives, they are being punished when it’s the exact opposite. We need to learn to distinguish between being disciplined and pruned. Discipline comes when we’ve done wrong. Pruning, when we have done what is right. Many just do not know how to respond.

They feel “put out” when God ends a successful ministry. They do not realize God has been pleased with their efforts and is pruning that ministry, or pruning the good to make room for something better. God only prunes away good fruit when He knows that we are capable of producing better fruit. There may be some time lap between the removing of good fruit and the growing of better fruit (it needs to grow; have time to mature, after all). It’s during periods like those that we become discouraged. We may need to wait a year or two before the next, better, opportunity opens up. During that time, we may feel useless…I’ve been there. I’m sure you have too. I went from serving every week at Oasis, back in Brookings, to hardly playing or singing at all, except within the confines of my apartment or space. I’m learning to continue my worship without being up front. I don’t need an audience that seems to need to be pleased. I just need Him; an Audience of One is better than a room full of on-lookers.

As long we remain in Christ, we are spiritually and eternally safe. If we ever drift away from God and ignore the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we become like the branches that whither up and will need to be removed as they aren’t producing fruit.

What is the purpose of the Vine? What does God require of us, as “branches” of the Vine?  The purpose of the Vine is to produce fruit for the glory of the Lord. Without it, all of its efforts are wasted and the vine has no purpose. God requires that we produce fruit (the fruit of Christian character); not just good fruit, but excellent fruit. In Matthew 7:16-27, Jesus teaches that others will know we are His by the character displayed in our daily lives. This doesn’t exclude every other day of the week, preserving Sunday as the day we are holy. We cannot hit up the bars on Friday and Saturday nights and get drunk, then turn around and lead a worship service (or attend church) on Sunday morning and expect to have credibility in our witness for God. Remember, we are accountable for our actions and will one day give an account for all that we’ve done or said. God commands us to be holy and righteous…all the time.

Colossians 1:10 reads, Walk, that is to live and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. We are to be witnesses to the unsaved, both in word and action; working hard to bring people to the Kingdom of God. We are also to be fruitful in the lives of our own brothers and sisters in Christ.

God is primarily looking for the fruit of love in each of our lives. Jesus commanded that we love God first, with all that we are. We are then to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. John 13:34 reads that we are to love each other as Jesus loved us.  

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept 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. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

Love is not an option. It’s a command. If we do not love, then we are being disobedient and not bringing forth the fruit God requires of us. Love always comes first. The fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 reveal manifestations of love, with love leading the way: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace , patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is the Christian character that God requires in us as being fruitful branches of the Vine.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We must remain in Him. If we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit. We don’t have to spend our time focusing on religious activity or programs; we have to focus on our personal relationship with Jesus primarily. He has guaranteed that if we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit. Fruit doesn’t come by our own individual effort. It comes as a result of remaining in Him – maintaining that close relationship with God. We only have eternal life through Jesus, not through the creeds we recites in church or the doctrines we live by.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

It is one thing to say that we are Christians. It is another to prove it by the way we live and serve God. This proof is shown by the bearing of much fruit; good fruit.

What does this mean for our church, The Vine? The Vine Church needs to remain in Christ as we patiently wait for a facility, more members and on God’s timing for all things in regards to this venture. We need to remain in Christ as we each individually deal with the junk in our daily lives (our past and present) so that we can grow as He needs us to. Through Him, we can do all things.

We also need to learn to love one another and focus on the community that we’re building within this church as well the community that we will be planted in. We want to see and believe that God will come through 100%, as He always does, the community in southwest Minneapolis changed for the better.

I mentioned before that God would require us to give up one ministry, or something, (a good one, at that) so He can bring us into a better ministry. I truly believe that The Vine Church will be just that. It’s bigger than any of us could have dreamed and, although some of us feel like we’re along for the ride (personally, I pray that God will show those who do that He has a greater purpose than, for example, my just  being the keyboardis), I know that God will use this venture to the greater good of His glory. May His light shine brighter in Minneapolis!

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