Thursday, 18 August 2016

The true vine, and the true branches

John 15: 1-6
I Am the True Vine
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide 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. 5 I 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. 6 If 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. 

Whatever you do in Christian life, you're going to have bits chopped lopped off!

If you don't produce 'fruit' then you are removed from the 'true vine', that is Jesus. Your relationship with him is severed. It sounds pretty harsh, but for anyone who does gardening- you do the same. If something isn't producing fruit as it should, it gets removed. Why? To encourage the healthy growth of the rest of it. 
If you do produce fruit, you are pruned. You're cut back, which will hurt. It'll take time to repair, but long-term you will be stronger and more productive.
So it's worth considering; are you going to be pruned or lopped off? 

There's a lot of mention here about fruit and abiding so, what is the fruit we are meant to be producing? And what are we abiding in? 

'Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit'. 

Here it tells us we are to abide - live, dwell, take up permanent residence - in Jesus. How then are we meant to live in a person? It's more than living with someone. If you live someone, you are still a separate person, but to live IN someone, you are within one person. If you are a Christian, that is what you have chosen.  Your life is not your own. Yours and Jesus lives are intimately linked. You have chosen a permanent residence in Christ. 
That's a huge challenge. 
Everyday, it's not me/you that's walking around doing what we do, it's Jesus. How then, are we representing him? 
If he is me and I am him, then who others see is a reflection of Jesus within me - I'd better watch out how I live! 

The result in choosing to live for Jesus, in dwelling with him, is fruit. This fruit is a product of that intimate relationship, the dwelling within one another. So, what is it that living with Christ produces? What is the fruit? 
Well, one thing it must be, if we are going with this vine imagery is a deeper dependence on God. A branch becomes stronger when it's well fed/connected with the vine, without restriction. The fruit will then bear the characteristics of what it is fed by. So, what may be a better question is what fruit did Jesus bear? If we are connected with him, growing through him and living in him, then we will be bearing the same type of fruit as he did. 
Jesus depicted God's love throughout his time on Earth, so this MUST be demonstrated by those who follow him. 
This love though is not a warm cosy feeling, 'ooohh I love that person, they are so nice' it's not that. Jesus teaches of love that is demonstrated. It is not a feeling, and it is not easy. It is about putting others first. Even if it hurts. Do we choose to put others first? Do we show people we care when it's inconvenient? When we are; tired? Hungry? Lonely? Lacking finance? Sad? Busy?

A few challenges this week:
>are you being pruned or lopped off?
>how are you representing Jesus?
>do you love people even when it hurts?

V8 - By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

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