Knowing that his capture and death are imminent, Jesus spends his final free night with his closest followers. John provides us a recap of the conversation they had. It consists mostly of Jesus telling them things and them asking an occasional clarifying question. Part of that discussion is what we’ll look at here:
“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, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are 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 done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)
Utilizing a metaphor from nature, Jesus compares his people as branches and His and the Fathers’ work as the vine and gardener. Once we have made a beginning with Jesus, the point is to remain connected to him. Eight times in the first verses of John chapter 15 Jesus uses the word “remain.” If we are going to be his disciples (followers), the requirement is to remain in Him.
My friend Carl likes to say that living the spiritual life is 95% surrender and the other 5% is… surrender. Conscious surrender is how we remain in Jesus. We consciously surrender when we begin the day asking God to direct our thoughts and actions. We consciously surrender when we spend time in prayer asking that we might be useful and helpful and that others might be blessed. We consciously surrender when we choose to say ‘no’ to actions and attitudes which do not reflect Christ in us. When we boil it down, there are only two options: conscious surrender or conscious separation. We either relinquish ‘control’ of our life to Him or we live out the delusion of thinking we can manage our own life. Surrender remains impossible if we refuse to believe Jesus when he says we can do nothing apart from Him.
A favorable byproduct of remaining in Jesus is living a fruitful life. In a large part, this fruit looks like us being changed into the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:29) As we consciously surrender to Jesus, we are being shaped to think and act like Him. The apostle Paul says that those who seek to live a spiritual life in Jesus will have specific qualities developed: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22) Now, this growth and development is hardly automatic or without effort. Just like the gardener cleanses and prunes the branches to make them more fruitful, we too must be pruned and cleansed. We are cleansed by God when in obedient faith we commit to follow Jesus. Our sins are taken away and we are given new life. We continue to be pruned for a lifetime as Christ’s character is formed in us. This process is often painful in the moment, but for our own benefit in the long run. Also, Jesus promises power in prayer if we remain in Him and His words remain in us.
Jesus is the true vine and any attempt to live life apart from him is equivalent to expecting a cut off branch to be vibrant and healthy.
More good news in the I Am Series…
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