Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Vine and Branches: This Is What I Live For!

We live to bring glory to God. Our lives are a testimony to his love, mercy and grace. He manifests himself through us in power so that he may be glorified and the world will come to know him. This is our purpose. It is what makes it possible for us to fulfill our mission of making disciples. We are not to live weak and pathetic lives but instead to walk in the greatness of our God in order that he will glorify himself through us. This is possible when we understand the “oneness” we have with Jesus.

As Jesus was preparing his disciples for the events that were about to unfold he gave them some intimate instructions. He wanted to make it clear to them how things were going to work after his departure, when the Holy Spirit would arrive. He gave them the image of the vine and branches so that they could understand the “oneness” relationship that would be necessary for them to live for him:

“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.” (John 14:1-3)

It is made clear here that we have been brought into a relationship with Jesus that produces something. It is not simply for our benefit, so that we have someone to complain to or so that we can get whatever we ask for to meet our own wants. It is not a selfish relationship but instead a sacrificing relationship. Jesus gave himself to us and we have given ourselves to him and from this the Holy Spirit produces good things. Take this seriously because Jesus makes it clear that anyone who does not bear fruit will be pruned from the vine.
Here is the vital part that we need to clearly understand:

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. (John 15:4)

We have to put effort into our relationship with Jesus, we should have no other desire greater than this. We must desire to know him more, to understand his love and to be filled by his character of mercy, grace and forgiveness, flowing from his love. We must understand that we are in him and he in us every moment of our day and our fellowship should be a thing of joy. This is the “oneness” relationship that allows the Holy Spirit to work through us, producing what needs to be produced. We cannot do anything apart from Jesus, at least not anything that will honour him and bring glory. Intimacy in this relationship is not an option but a necessity. Anything that hinders it must be set aside or put back in its proper priority. This is the reason Jesus said:

 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

It needs to be absolutely clear that God does not want us out building monuments to him. He does not want our sacrifices. He does not want us running about doing our thing. He wants obedience that comes from an intimate relationship with him. He wants children who take great delight and pleasure in being with Daddy and from that delight are overjoyed to obey his instructions. Jesus promises and also warns:

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. (John 15:5)

What would you say; are we bearing “much fruit” or are we doing our own thing? Are we walking in a close and intimate relationship with Jesus or is it a back and forth type of thing? Are we keeping in step with the Holy Spirit or do we keep losing sight of him? Jesus says that if we remain in him, remain, we will bear much fruit. Apart from him we are useless and he warns what happens to useless things in the Kingdom:

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. (John 15:6)

I don’t want to dwell on the thought of failure but it is a good warning to keep in mind. I am looking for success in my relationship with Jesus. I am looking to be the bearer of lots of fruit. I want Jesus to produce through me so that I am proved to be a useful worker in the Kingdom of God. I want to please Jesus with my obedience because I love him above everything else. Look at what happens in this relationship of “oneness”:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7)

This does not happen in a vacuum. We don’t pull this relationship of trust out of the air. This only happens when we have been dwelling in Jesus and he is dwelling in us, and we have come to know him in intimacy, in spirit and in truth. It is then that we have the wisdom and discernment to know what we need to ask for. This is when things of great power, wonders, signs, miracles take place as Jesus loosens his power through us. And there is a purpose. There is a purpose in all of this and it is not for our selfish gain, for our fame and fortune:

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

Read it again. This is to my Father’s glory says Jesus. Through our “oneness” with Christ the Spirit produces the fruit that we bear and the Father is glorified. This means that the Father’s love is revealed through us. More than love, his entire character is seen in us and the world sees for themselves that God is real, that he is good and that is love is what we live for. Obviously we can’t do this ourselves. None of us can bear the character of the Father but it is what is done through us as we remain in Jesus and he remains in us. It is a powerful thing, awesome in magnitude and scope.

The world needs to see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through us. God needs to be glorified through us. It is our purpose as we live out our lives in this place. It is only possible when we understand and live the intimate relationship we have been called to live with Jesus; Christ in us and us in him. We cannot do anything apart from Jesus. Our life is a waste and the Father disposes of waste, he does not allow the Kingdom to become cluttered with junk. Our life is to be lived with the purpose of intimacy with Jesus so that the Spirit will produce the fruit we are to bear which reveals the Father to the world in all his glory. Expect the unexpected to be done through you today, in power, in miracles, in smallness, in largeness, in complication, in simplicity, in whatever manner that God wants to bring glory to himself. Remain in Jesus today so that he may remain in you and you will bear much fruit.

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