Stay Attached To The Vine
By Kim Butts
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I will 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. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. 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. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples” (John 15:1-8).
God is in the business of transforming His people into the image of His Son for the sake of the plans and purposes of His kingdom. In the passage quoted above, He gives us the divine instructions necessary to keep ourselves and our family members part of this grace-filled design. Perhaps the most intriguing and simple part of God’s directive to us is what we are not told to do. Many believers, when confronted with this passage, would suggest that He wants us to bear fruit for His glory; however, the only command given is, “Remain in Me....” The fruit will come only as we stay attached to the Vine that gives life to the branches.
It is always an enigma to me how often I attempt to produce “good” fruit through effort and striving in my own strength. When I struggle to do good on my own, the enemy tempts me toward pride in my own accomplishments. I never want to be in a position of ceasing to be useful to God. As believers we should seek to be like Jesus in our actions, our thoughts, and our words; yet, this is impossible without being an obedient branch, submissive to the will of the Father.
Who’s Who in the Garden
Jesus clearly stated that He is the Vine, and God is the Gardener. We, the people of God, are the branches. Jesus, in His role as Vine, can give life to the branches, but only if we choose to remain in Him. Children would have no trouble absorbing the analogy of the vine, the branch and the gardener, if we would clearly present it to them as the way to live a fruitful Christian life. We tend to make something very simple seem so difficult, which is why there are so many young people who decide they want to try life apart from the Vine, at least for awhile. Unfortunately, many will choose not to return to an abundant life in Christ.
What makes the difference? Obviously, as parents, we can only do our very best to nurture our children in the Lord, and ultimately, they must connect with Jesus on their own terms with a faith that is theirs alone. Yet, when children receive life-giving, transformational instruction, and are encouraged to remain attached firmly to the Vine tended by the Gardener, their potential to live fruitful lives is much increased. It is important for them to understand that apart from God they can do nothing that will bear fruit for the kingdom. If they learn that their joy and worth are not dependent upon their circumstances, they can more easily grasp that God’s pruning is meant to produce His good purposes in and through us.
Pruning Produces Fruitfulness
Are you recognized by the fruit you are bearing? Our children must learn that serving Christ means living out the life of Jesus for the sake of others. If we, as parents, do not live such a life, we have no right to expect otherwise from our children. We must daily examine ourselves to see if we as branches are bearing good fruit. Holy lives will be known as such. Hypocritical lives that are lived differently in the home and at work than they are at church, will not produce lasting fruit that will honor the Father.
Jesus teaches that “...every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:17-20); and “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:43-45).
What is stored up in your heart? Is there fruit-bearing righteousness so that every word from your mouth demonstrates the holiness of Jesus? Are you an encourager? Do you bless others with your words and actions? Are your thoughts pure? Do your actions and words bring honor to God? The spiritual condition of your spouse, your children, and/or others in your family, workplace, neighborhood or school is greatly affected by your obedience to the Master Gardener. Are you accepting His pruning by being willing to die to yourself so that you can be alive in Christ? Are you allowing the life of Jesus to flow through you for the sake of His kingdom? If not, then you are doing damage to His cause and putting yourself and your family at great spiritual risk.
Becoming Like Christ
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit translates the word of the Father through the life-giving Vine into our lives. Through the Spirit we endure pruning, and by the strength and guidance of the Spirit we develop fruit that brings life to those around us, touching them with the life-giving peace of Christ. Take time to see if you are bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Do you demonstrate this fruit in your daily life?
Bearing fruit that is useful to the kingdom is dependent upon surrendering all that we are in submission to the pruning process of the Father. Have the Word and Spirit of Jesus entered into the depths of all that you are to transform you into His image? Have you offered all that you are to this process so that God can form Christ in you? Are your thoughts, feelings, choices, body, social relationships, and soul healthy and functioning in Christ-likeness? Ask yourself questions such as those below to evaluate if your whole self is filled with the light and life from the Vine of Christ:
• Love: Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Do you love others as you love yourself? (Mark 12:30-31)
• Joy: Are you able to stay joyful no matter what your circumstances may be? (1 Thes. 5:16)
• Peace: Do you have the peace that transcends understanding? (Phil. 4:7)
• Patience: Are you patient in every situation, even if it means suffering? (Jas. 5:7-10)
• Kindness: Do you demonstrate kindness and compassion through forgiveness? (Eph. 4:32)
• Goodness: Do you live as a child of the light, filled with goodness, righteousness and truth? (Eph. 5:8-9)
• Faithfulness: Are you faithful to the truth? (3 John 1:3)
• Gentleness: Is your gentleness evident to all? (Phil. 4:5)
• Self-control: Have you learned how to be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray? (1 Pet. 4:7)
If this is the fruit you bear through staying attached to Christ, many people will be drawn to the garden of God. They will want the life that flows from Jesus, the Vine. You will be known by your good fruit. Are you willing to pay the price to stay attached to the Vine…even if it may mean there is suffering and less than ideal circumstances so that God can use your life in significant ways? It is not an easy road, and many have chosen to go their own way. “…Yet, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Pray for Good Fruit
It is the will of God that we bear good fruit – His Word confirms that. It is very appropriate that we pray for the strength to remain in Christ to that end. The Apostle Paul has given us some powerful prayers that can be adapted for God’s fruitful purposes. Pray them together with your family. Pray them for yourself, and over your spouse and children:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11).
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Col. 1:9-12).
Stay attached to the Vine and see what happens to the character of your prayers and the quality of your lives as the Lord transforms you into something lovely and purposeful for His sake.