Lessons from the Vine (Part 2)

green grass field during golden hour

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  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 15:1-2

I’m no gardener, but as I understand it, gardeners prune off the errant shoots that rob nutrients from a plant’s primary purpose.  Jesus says that his Father will do that for you and me also.  I don’t know if plants feel pain, but cutting off misdirected shoots doesn’t sound pleasant.  There’s some Christian truth in the slogan: No Pain, No Gain.  If partying or shopping or whatever else you’d rather do than what you need to do is taking up too much of your time and attention, God loves you enough that he may take the fun out of it or the funds away from it.  Ouch!  If you tend to forget what’s really important when times are good, a little suffering may be good for you.  Ouch!  If there’s a particular temptation that has your number, God can make that sin so abhorrent, the guilt so distressing, that you don’t ever want to go there again.  Know what I mean?  You’ll never realize the potential God has invested in you when you’re chasing rabbits of temptation and wasting energy on what’s unimportant.

Maybe you’re thinking, why do I have to reach my potential?  What’s wrong with just being a good Christian, whatever that means?  Can’t we be satisfied with being saved and wait for heaven to realize our potential?  That thinking turns spiritual life into a religious obligation and has us looking for minimum requirements.  It takes the love out of our relationship with God and the excitement and energy out of our life in the Gospel.  Does an apple tree ever think that remaining a seedling should be good enough, that apples are optional?  Jesus used an illustration from horticulture because growing up to be what he designed us to be is just the nature of things.  Of course, unlike plants, you and I have a will.  So, while it is in our spiritual nature to grow and bear fruit, we can actually decide not to.  We can leave behind our relationship with Jesus and Christian friends and get caught up in careers and agendas and self-centered lifestyles. Ultimately, that is the decision to become what Jesus called “dead branches.”

So, what’s the key to becoming more of what Jesus has made us?  Listen to verse 5 of John 15: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.”  Growing in faith and Christian life is simply staying connected to Jesus, the Vine.  We do that as we hear his Word and – as the Old Testament encourages – seek his face.  In worship and prayer, in devotions and discussions, we confirm our connection to Jesus and grow closer to him.  And as we do that, we become more of what he died to make us – branches to his Vine.

PRAYER: I want to be more like you, Jesus.  So take away the desires and habits that would lead me away from you.  Draw me closer to you through your Word and center my life in your will.  Help me to find joy in my life of faith and make me more focused on what you have designed my life to be.  Amen.

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