Updated: Oct 22, 2018
John 15:1–5 (NASB95)
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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
In John chapter 15, Jesus is talking with His disciples about abiding in Him. Since I don’t typically use the word abide in my daily speech I prefer the NIV’s translation of “remain”. It has the idea of continuing to live or exist in Him and allowing Jesus to continue to live or exist in us.
To bring home the importance of remaining, He uses the apt analogy of a grapevine. First, every vinedresser knows that an unfruitful branch is to be removed. Why? It is the purpose of the branch to produce fruit. In fact, the production of fruit is the only purpose that it serves. A vineyard that is overrun with non-fruit-producing branches is an uncared for vineyard. Second, it is impossible for a branch to produce grapes on its own. We all recognize that the moment you remove the branch from the life-giving source of the vine, it will at that precise moment stop producing any fruit. The branch’s whole reason for existence is taken away. In the exact same way, God cares supremely about the fruit of righteousness in our lives. In fact, if we don’t see the fruit of righteousness in our lives, it should be a strong indicator that there is something wrong with our connection to the True Vine.
What Jesus knew was that His disciples would have the tendency toward independence. Humans have always had this tendency. Independence is what drove Eve’s decision in the garden. She saw a chance for life outside of what God had provided and took it. This is what seems to drive the idea that we as believers have secular and sacred activities. Church on Sunday is sacred. My time alone in scripture and prayer is sacred. The business deal I am about to close at work, while it needs to be done honestly, has little or nothing to do with Christ. Jesus held no such distinction. Everything in our life is an opportunity for righteous fruit to be born in our lives.
The greatest news of all for Jesus’ disciples and for us is that we don’t have to put effort into producing the fruit of righteousness. In fact, your working and striving to produce fruit will only leave you frustrated and barren. That is the amazing, yet perplexing, thing about remaining in Him. It is more about trusting than trying. When I remain in the car while Melissa is driving 65 (or usually more) down the freeway, it is a choice (and a wise one), but it does not take work to do so. On the other hand, it does take trust. I can’t tell you how many times I wish she would leave more room between us and car in front of us, but most of the time I choose to trust…trust that she is aware of her and the car’s limits, trust that she has the experience to get us where we need to go, and most of all trust that she has my best interests in mind. Yet, as Melissa will tell you, sometimes I speak up, I yell out, or I complain. I want control.
I love how clear verse five is. When we live out our days moment by moment releasing the control we want over our lives and trusting in Him and what He wants to accomplish in our day, we will bear much righteousness, not out of our own resources but His. When we do anything (including “Christian” things) trying to accomplish them on our own, we will do nothing of any real, eternal significance. There is no middle ground.
May we choose today to lay all of our efforts at His feet and choose to trust in the source of all good things for His glory!