I hope each of you are being blessed this week! I’d love to take the opportunity to share some of our highlights from Stepping Stones on John 15 this week, so let’s dive right in.
Some of the most beautiful scriptural references can be found in John 15 and, in particular, we find Jesus’ profound illustration of the vine and the branches. Clay led our discussion and brought out the fascinating point that the disciples had spent the last three and a half years with Jesus thinking that they were the vine, that they had the responsibility of generating the sap needed to produce the fruit of good works and more disciples. After all, we find many references in the Old Testament comparing the Israelite nation to a vine or a vineyard. (See Psalm 80:8 and Jeremiah 2:21, for example.) But then Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser…and you are the branches” (John 15:1-5). Christ wanted to take his disciples through a radical paradigm shift: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (verse 5).
As we take some time to step back and consider this awesome truth, let’s think about our responsibilities in this relationship. As a branch connected to the vine, do we need to tell the vine when we need more sap? Perhaps when we’re ready to grow more fruit? No! All we need to do is abide - to stay connected! The Vine takes care of everything else. When it really comes down to it, this illustration spells out the difference between salvation by works and salvation by faith. When we realize that there is absolutely nothing we can bring to God but that instead that we receive everything from Him, we discover what it truly means to rest and abide in His love and redemption.
At the same time, however, we also read verse 2: “and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” That sounds a little unconformable, doesn’t it? Maybe even a little scary? It makes me, for one, worry that I simply won’t be up to the task when the season of pruning comes. But Clay shared a really neat story about a time when he had the opportunity to observe the vineyard and orchard workers in California. As he watched the workers go through the laborious processes of pruning and grafting, he paid particular attention to the branches. It was then that he realized that the branches did absolutely nothing the entire time! Everything depended on the skill and mastery of the vinedresser. Even in the rather dramatic grafting process, he noticed that it was not the branch but the Vine that was cut open and “wounded” to receive the new member into itself. Friends, we know that God will sometimes allow us to go through trials and tough times so that we can grow in Him, and sometimes it’s very uncomfortable. But we can rest easy and trust in the skill and tenderness of the Master Vinedresser – no matter what life throws our way!
I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week. And don’t forget to keep abiding and stay connected!