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Friday, May 11, 2012

I am the Vine and You are the Branches

I Am the Vine and You Are the Branches
(John 15:5)

Jesus said: “I am the Vine, and my Father is the Gardener.  He removes every branch in Me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes to make it bear more fruit.  You have already been cleansed by the Word that I have spoken to you.  Abide (remain) in Me as I abide (remain) in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the Vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the Vine and you are the branches. Those who abide in Me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from Me you can do nothing.  …My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”  (John 15:1-8)

We define a Christian perhaps as a person who believes in Jesus, studies the Bible and tries to follow Christ.  Somehow that definition sounds dry and intellectual.  But having a relationship with Christ is a living joyful adventure.  Jesus tells us here in John 15 that He is the Vine and we are the branches.  We are part of each other!  

The Vine –Jesus- provides the nutrients and water – the very essentials of life- to us – the branches.  And our job as a branch is to remain in the Vine and to bear fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, faithfulness, gentleness, patience, self control, kindness and goodness. (Galatians 5:22)  Our relationship with Jesus is dynamic- a living and growing thing!  An amazing mystery beyond our understanding- that Christ’s Spirit lives in us and we live in Him and bear fruit.

Paul prayed that the church –that his fellow Christians- would experience the love of Christ as He lived in their hearts.  Good relationships are based on love – love flowing both ways. “May Christ through your faith abide in your hearts!  May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love in Christ.  …that you may know the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God,” (Ephesians 3:17-19)  

When we abide deeply in Christ we begin to experience and feel secure in His love for us and we know that we belong, and that God is our Father. (Romans 8:15)  Once we begin receiving God’s unconditional love, we can begin not only loving Him in return, but we can also begin loving others.  We may know intellectually that God loves us, but if that truth hasn’t sunk down deep into our hearts and our emotions then perhaps we can pray and ask God to help us receive His love more fully. 

Perhaps we are insecure because parents or friends have been cold or critical of us.  Instead of letting these things bring us down we can throw ourselves onto the unconditional love of God and find security and worth in His love.  Romans 8:38 describes His love this way.  “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come.  Nor height nor depth, nor any other thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  We have a God who loves us and He wants us to love one another.
Intellectually I know that God loves me because the Bible tells me so and because God has been there for me during my life.  But often I need to “wait” on the Lord and listen for Him to speak directly to my heart before I can “feel” that love more deeply.  Only the Holy Spirit can take my intellectual knowledge of His love and cause it to go from my head into my heart.  I think when Paul prayed that we “be rooted deeply in love and founded securely on love in Christ” (Eph. 17:18) he was praying that we all know God’s love deeply in our hearts. 
You may notice in the John 15:4 passage that Jesus asks us to abide in Him.  “Abide in Me as I abide in you.”  There must be things that we can do to “abide” or remain in Christ or He wouldn’t need to ask us to abide or remain in Him.  For one thing we have to choose to remain in Christ.  Jesus stands and knocks at the door of our heart, but He won’t force His way inside.  Paul prayed that his fellow Christians might be “filled with all of the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19)   we can be “lukewarm” Christians or we can be hot – filled with all of the fullness of God!  So the choice is ours. 

But what can we do to help this process of being “filled with all the fullness of God?”  There are things we can do that will bring us closer to Christ and things that we can do that diminish our walk with Him.  God always seems to give us a part in our walk with Him.   
First (1) of all we can try to obey God and stay away from the activities that take us away from Him.  Second (2) of all we need to take time to pray and time to listen to His voice. “Be still and know that I am God..”  (Psalm 46:10)  Third (3), we can take time to study the Scriptures.  The Bible, God’s Word, is powerful and alive and is food for our souls.  And fourth (4), we can join a group of believers in worship and praise to God and in fellowship and ministry.
Paul says in Ephesians 3:17, “May Christ through your faith abide in your hearts…”  There’s that word “faith” again.  We are asked to have “faith” – to believe that Jesus does what He says He will do – live in our hearts. 
We live in a society that pushes individualism.  We like to be independent, do our own thing! Sometimes we feel like we are out there doing it all by ourselves.  But Jesus tells us that without Him we can do nothing.  We are not alone after all.  Individualism really doesn’t work.  He is the Vine and we are the branches.  He wants to be with us in everything we do.  Isn’t that exciting? 






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