A powerful and beguiling picture of the vine and the branches is now presented by Jesus—a picture that teaches important truths about our relationship with God. The vine resonates with reflective imagery from the Old Testament about God’s people as a vineyard. But now Jesus himself is the vine. He is the perfect Son, fulfilling all that God’s people did not perfectly obey, and being the righteousness and satisfaction for all that is required. He is the vine, and we are the branches. This simple truth, this powerful picture, is resonant with gospel imagery. Our task is to remain in him, or abide in him. And therefore all fruitfulness in the Christian comes from our relationship to Jesus. Simple truth, powerful and profound, eminently practical.
The first question that need be asked when we find ourselves drifting from God is when we stopped reading the Bible and praying. Because we can do nothing on our own, the first tool for revitalizing our life is dust off the Bible, open its pages, and read it regularly—that is each day—in a personal time with God. We are not reading it simply to gain more information; we are reading it to abide in Christ, to be fed spiritually by the nourishment that stems from the vine, and can flow through to us the branches. He can speak to our hearts; he can address our deepest soul concerns; he can redirect our affections; he gives us power to reshape our characters. All through abiding in him.
The Father, as the vinedresser, has two approaches to branches. Those who do not bear any fruit he cuts off. There is not place for a pretense of being a Christian. If someone claims to follow Christ but in practice denies him, then in the end that reality that he is not truly a Christian will become evident. But the other approach encourages us: If we bear fruit—even some fruit, just some fruit—the Father prunes us. We are pruned so that we might bear more fruit. The painful cut of pruning, the discipline of the Father, is for the purpose that we might yet be more fruitful. Sometimes circumstances in our lives are used by God the Father to prune us—sometimes relational matters, sometimes disappointments. He is pruning that we might bear more fruit.
Those are the Father’s actions. Our action is singular: abide in Christ. Why? “For apart from me you can do nothing.” Pray. Read the Bible. And then: Trust!
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