Monday, October 27, 2014
John 15:1-8 I'm a branch, you're a branch . . .
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.
5 “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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Here in the Southland, we love our grapes. You thought it was just the Napa Valley and such? Au contraire! Our vines are abundant and cherished; muscadines and scuppernongs are strange sounding names to those who are uninitiated, but many a southern girl or boy has fond memories of a late summer plucking of grapes from the vines. The heady scent of the ripe grapes is something that we never forget, and we love the taste of the thick-skinned fruits, as well. Moms and grandmoms cook pots of jelly on the stove, and some entrepreneurs make wine.
In Jesus' day, the vineyards were even more familiar and important. Grapes and olives were both cultivated on vines, and were a mainstay of the diet and of the economy. Children joined their parents in working the vineyards, and pruning was a skill that was much sought-after. After the pruning was complete, the vineyard needed cleaning up, and the discarded and pruned branches were gathered and burned. Jesus knew that His hearers would understand His words when He spoke this way.
He was using this as a picture to describe to people their relationship to Him, and to God the Father. It's a simple picture He is painting; He pictures Himself as the main vine of the vineyard, and we are the branches that grow off of Him. God the Father is the gardener, and there are different types of branches in the vineyard.
The first one is the "throw-away" branch. We can see in verse 2 that "He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit." And in verse 6, "If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned." When the gardener is walking through the vineyard with his tools in hand, and he sees branches that have never borne fruit, he cuts them off and throws them into a pile. Eventually that pile is burned. Jesus is painting a picture of people at one time were faithful Christians. Their lives reflected the relationship that they had with Jesus. But then something may have happened in their lives, and they stop producing fruits of faith, and stop obeying God. They stop living and talking like their faith is important to them, and instead they walk and talk just like the rest of the unbelieving world.
Why does this happen? The answer is in verse 6: "If anyone does not remain in me..." Jesus tells us that we must continue to have contact with Him, through His Word, and through His Spirit -- or we can fall away from Him and stop producing fruit. We're no longer a witness for Him.
Years ago, we watched as a child received a present -- a toy that had been wished for. Big smiles all around as we watched the toy move and the child was delighted. In moments, though, the toy had stopped moving, and all was not well! Why? Someone had placed weak, used batteries in the toy, and it wasn't able to keep moving along.
Too often, this is what happens to some of us as Christians. We break down in the middle of our lives, and stop producing fruits of faith. We start living like unbelievers. How does this happen? We have neglected the source of our strength -- the things that are needed to keep our faith alive, and keep the relationship with Jesus fresh and alive. We must not neglect the Word, and our study of the Bible, and our prayer life. If we do, our lives will not produce fruit for Him.
Of course, there are those who have never accepted His gift of salvation. They are not connected to the Vine, and they have not received His forgiveness and His new life. How good it is that everyone can go to Christ, repent of our sins, and receive His forgiveness; we Christians can ask forgiveness for our neglect of that special relationship that keeps us producing fruit. Non-believers can ask for forgiveness and begin a new life in Him.
Forgiveness, and life in the Vine, is there for the asking!