“I Am the True Vine”
Home Church Devotional 5/3/2020
These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.
“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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8 (ESV)
It happens every year. In fact, it is one of the first signs that spring is approaching. It starts with an extension ladder propped against a tree. Then branches of all sizes fall to the ground around the tree. Some look perfectly normal while others are obviously dead or deformed. Its pruning time in Northern Indiana and Southwest Lower Michigan; the time of year when the gardener comes out to prune the trees and grape vines to prepare them for another growing season. By the time the gardener has finished his work the trees will be much healthier, though to the naked eye it appears to be smaller, maybe even sickly. But the gardener is wise and knows that without the needed pruning the overgrowth of branches will deplete the much need nutrients and the fruit at harvest will suffer greatly.
As we begin our look at the final “I Am” statement of Jesus it is spring time here, the spring rains have begun to fall, robins have returned, the grass is green, flowers and plants are pushing their way back to the warming sunlight and yes, the trees are in bloom. Jesus and the disciples have left the Upper Room following their final Passover meal with Jesus. They have been walking and talking as they approach the Mount of Olives. It is here, among the olive trees and grape vines that Jesus makes this “I Am” statement. Perhaps there is an olive or grape press nearby, perhaps a breeze has rustled the branches in the olive trees. Whatever the trigger, Jesus turns His attention to the familiar image of the grape vine, the vineyard and the branches.
Jesus begins by explaining the relationship between Himself, the Father and people. Jesus is the True Vine, not a false or counterfeit vine. In fact, He stand in opposition to the false, deceitful vine, the pretenders. God the Father is the vinedresser or the gardener. He is the One who carefully planted the vineyard, waters and feeds the Vine. He is he One who cares for, looks after, and watches over the Vine and the branches. The branches are mankind, all people. We are all judged on the basis of how we relate to the Vine. We are either attached or unattached; fruitful or unfruitful.
Many branches are unfruitful and consequently they are removed, taken away. These unfruitful branches, were at one time, attached to Jesus, but they bear no fruit. There was a time when they began to bud and sprout, they grew into branches. They listened to Jesus and the gospel; they opened their ears; they made a profession of faith in Jesus; they were even baptized and seemed capable of bearing fruit. However, they did not bear fruit. They are “in” the vine, but they simply bear no fruit. How can this be?
There are three characteristics of the unfruitful branch we need to be aware of; (1) unfruitful branches do not relate enough to Jesus. They do not draw enough of their nutrition from Jesus to sustain life, to become fruit bearing branches and to continue in the Vine; (2) unfruitful branches are not genuine enough to bear fruit. Their profession is more profession than possession, more pretending than being, more deception than truth and more counterfeit than real; and (3) unfruitful branches become apostate and deserters – these are men and women who will abandon the faith. These are the branches that are removed and taken away and a severe warning to every branch “in” the Vine to make sure their profession is genuine.
Jesus goes on to state that even the fruitful branches are pruned. All bad spots, useless buds, misdirected shoots and discolored leaves are pruned off. Every believer has areas and things that must be cleaned away and cleared up. The areas of thought, service, attitude, motive, commitment and behavior are but a few of these areas we must seek the Gardeners pruning to remain fruitful believers. This pruning is for one reason alone, to become more fruitful. It is not for punishment or to hurt or damage the branch, it is simply to produce more fruit.
There are three ways believers, or branches, are pruned to remain fruitful believers. First, the branches are pruned by the Word; the Word of God refines us by purging away all the dross, or imperfections, and contamination, pollution and dirt that clings to us. Secondly, branches are pruned by the mirror of the Word of God. When we look at the Word of God, we see a reflection of both ourselves and our shortcomings and of Christ and His perfection. The Word of God forces us to measure ourselves against Christ. Finally, branches are pruned by abiding, or remining in, Jesus. This can mean two things: first it could be a promise where we are cleansed by our position or being in Christ; second, it could mean a command where we are cleansed by continuing to remain in Christ and by remining faithful to Christ.Jesus goes on to talk about the unattached branches as well. Who are these unattached branches? What does it mean to be unattached to Christ? What will happen to the unattached branch?
The unattached branch is outside of Christ and off by itself, not abiding in the Vine and not attached to the Vine. This is the branch that buds off another branch but has no direct attachment to the vine. This branch could be suspended in mid air or lying on the ground without any attachment to the vine – it is lifeless! This is a picture of the carnal Christian who claims to know Jesus as Lord and Savior and yet is firmly attached to the world and material goods and possessions. They have no real attachment to Christ and are doomed to failure by seeking life outside of Christ Jesus.The unattached branch can bear no fruit, not real and lasting fruit that is acceptable or pleasing to God; this branch does not understand the nature of bearing fruit in life, the fact is they can do nothing – they cannot live and they cannot produce life – outside of Christ. This is true for all believers as well. We are nothing without Christ. The unattached branch will be gathered to wither and be thrown into the fire. The Greek for thrown into means to be disposed of or to be discarded. Simply put, God abandons the unattached branch. The unattached branch is cast out and left to itself to do as it chooses.
As our world continues to pull further and further away from God and the last days begin to fall into place, now is the time to make certain you are found attached to the True Vine – Christ Jesus. By abiding in Christ and bearing fruit we are able to partake of the promise Jesus makes to the attached branches – “whatever you wish…it will be done for you.” By this we will prove to be disciples of Jesus and bring glory to the Father. So, its springtime. A time of growth, a time of pruning. Ask yourself if there is an area of your life that needs to be pruned by the Gardener. Is there something keeping you from bearing fruit and glorifying the Father? AS the time for gathering and casting the lifeless and fruitless branches approaches may we all be found attached to the True Vine. Amen.