1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:1-11)
Jesus is the Vine, We are the Branches
Though Christians are connected to Jesus like branches to a vine, we often settle for lesser forms of relationship with him. For example:
- Associate/associate relationship: We live our independent lives in vague association with him, mainly through church involvement.
- Customer/clerk relationship: We come to him for provision as needed so we can live our independent lives.
- Pupil/teacher relationship: We incorporate his teachings into our independent lives.
- Patient/doctor or patient/therapist relationship: We come to him to fix our physical and emotional brokenness so we can more comfortably live our independent lives.
- Rescued/rescuer relationship: We trust him for salvation, living our independent lives in gratitude.
- Subject/Lord relationship: We try obey his commands while living our independent lives.
Each of these has some validity; but they fall short of the real relationship:
Branch/vine relationship: We depend on unbroken connection to him to live and be fruitful.
Rather than independence, utter dependence. Rather than transactions, communion. Rather than occasional constant, constant connection. We awaken in Jesus, follow our morning routines in Jesus, work our jobs in Jesus, eat dinner in Jesus, sleep in Jesus. “For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28). We vines are extensions of the Branch; and like all vines, we were planted for a purpose.
Meant to Bear Fruit
Vines are utilitarian. Though they can be beautiful, they’re meant to be fruitful.
This is why the Father is always cutting. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). He chops the unfruitful and prunes the fruitful, cutting away that which hinders further fruitfulness.
Where have you grown the most fruit in your life? I’ll bet the Father once did some deep cutting in that very same place. From a season of loneliness may grow love for God’s word. From a difficult confession may grow humility, honesty and fellowship. Pruning is painful, but necessary for fruitfulness.
Abiding in Jesus
If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches meant to bear fruit, we ought to live like it by abiding in him (John 15:4). To abide means to stay, remain or live. Now we must admit that this is a strange idea. What does it mean to remain, stay and live in Jesus? Let’s look at some clues from the passage.
Clue 1: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” (John 15:7a).
We abide in Jesus by letting his words live in us. When you read or hear scripture, does it find a home in you or disappear? Does it live or die in you? Jesus’ words cannot change your life until they live within you.
Clue 2: “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7b).
We abide in Jesus by letting his words produce prayer in us. Prayer problems are often word problems. Jesus’ word supplies content and confidence for our prayers. Sew Jesus’ words, harvest effective prayer.
Clue 3: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:10; 12).
We abide in Jesus by letting his words produce love in us. Love problems are often word problems. Humbly loving one another is central to what it means to follow Jesus, and the only way to do so is through abiding in him. (More on this here and here.)
Clue 4: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
We abide in Jesus by letting his words produce joy in us. Joy problems are often word problems. Let the words of John 15:1-11 live in you and fill you with Jesus’ joy.
Jesus is the vine, we are the branches meant to bear fruit by abiding in him. We abide in him by letting his words abide in us, producing prayer, love and joy. The praying, loving, joyful Christian always has a well worn Bible.