John 15 – Vines, Branches, and Gardeners

I remember a summer when my Mom and Grandma grew grapes in our backyard. The vines grew along a fence, tangling here, there, and everywhere. I was young enough I wasn’t much help, but I was only in it for the grape jelly, anyway.

I don’t remember much about how to care for them, but the vines fascinated me. The flow of one vine sprouting, spiraling, and flowing in every twisty direction made a maze of vines nearly impossible to follow.

In John 15, Jesus used the image of that tangle of vines to explain His relationship to His followers because they needed to understand three roles: God the Father’s, His own, and ours. If we’re going to follow Jesus, we need to understand where we fit in.

Jesus tells us His own role, first. He is the vine. The vine is the central artery, the dominant trail, the one carrying the life-giving water to the branches.

We are not the vine, not the center.  We are the branches, we receive life from Jesus, the vine. Our life depends upon staying connected to Jesus.

As branches, we’re not only supposed to stay connected but also to grow. Growth, for a Christian, is about becoming more like Jesus.

Ask yourself: do I look more like Jesus than I used to?  No, I don’t mean am I growing a beard.  Instead, am I thinking, acting, and talking more and more as He would? If so, I am growing like a good branch should.

If I’m to be a branch, I ought to be producing fruit, too.  One kind of fruit in the life of the believer is the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Galatians 5:22

How much are my thoughts, words, and deeds described with a list such as that?  Don’t beat yourself up over this, though.  Growing does not equal perfection.  Follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help you look more like Jesus, today than you did yesterday.  Ask Him to help you recognize when you’ve missed the mark, and help you see and take opportunities to do better.

Another kind of fruit involves helping others connect to the vine (otherwise known as sharing your faith.)  If we never share our faith, I question whether we have ever had any.  Jesus commanded His followers to go and make disciples.

Someone somewhere needs to hear your story!

Both kinds of fruit are the expected outgrowth of a life lived for Christ under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

If I’m not growing as much as I should or I am growing in ways I should not, I will find myself in the hands of the gardener, God the Father, who will (sometimes painfully) begin trimming away the bad growth to foster the good.

However, if you do feel yourself being pruned, take heart, God will only remove those aspects of your life that are not good for you to hold onto, and the snip here and cut there might be painful, but they will allow you to begin growing properly, again; and, at least He is still working in you.

If I stop growing and producing fruit altogether?  Well, dead branches are cut off and tossed into the fire.  Definitely not a good place to be.

So, how do we keep growing?  The key to success is not so complicated as you might think: stay connected to the vine. As our relationship with Him grows, so do we. If we are to become more like Him, spending time with Him seems like a great way to start.  We generally begin to resemble the company we keep, so let’s make spending time with Him the top priority.

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