I’ve managed to keep one tiny air fern plant alive for four years and I can tell you this is a personal record. You could say I have a “black thumb.” The new, beautiful orchid I received as a gift six weeks ago dropped all of its flowers and will most likely land in the trash bin soon. I have never kept up any sort of garden. I am not any sort of farmer.
Yet, farming, growing, harvest are constants in the Bible; therefore, it was time for me to learn.
As you probably already know: wine grapes grow on vines. When I look at pictures of wine grape orchards, with row upon row of vines, each elegantly draped upon its own trellis, I am often more distracted by the hills or mountains or the sunset in the background. I had never given much thought to the individual plants. However, I love John 15 and wondered why Jesus used the example of vines and branches…so this city girl did a little research on grape vines.
Before we dive into the vines, read John 15 in The Message version of the Bible:
The Vine and the Branches
15 1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.
Lessons from the vines:
1.Stay soaked in the Living Water: Jesus
Each vine has its roots soaked in water for at least a couple hours before the vine is planted.
Scripture is teeming with references to water. It is a rich symbol in the Old Testament, all pointing ultimately to Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus calls Himself “the Living Water” and it is through this water, Jesus, we receive eternal life. In John 15, Jesus calls us to live in Him, to abide in Him, keeping our roots soaked to the core in Him. His water is life and His water is grace. Keep yourself soaked in His presence and His Word.
2. Lean on your support: Jesus and then each other
Each vine is trained to keep growing on their own trellis for support and to keep their branches off the ground, protecting them from disease.
In John 15, Jesus tells us to lean on Him, to live in Him, and that apart from Him- we can do nothing. So we lean on The One who is matchless in power, The One who gives us strength. Then, we also lean on each other, to keep us from falling back to the ground where we are at risk for disease: the disease of trying to do life on our own apart from Him. From the ground, we lift each other up to Jesus Our Healer, so that we may grow and stay healthy again in Christ.
3. Let God cut away the dead things.
Did you know that if you don’t prune the branches, the vine just keeps growing and growing, reaching and grasping until it finally kills itself off by exhausting its roots? The vinedresser has to cut back the vines, so that the roots still have the requisite energy to keep the plant alive and to produce fruit.
I don’t know about you, but I can really identify with that vine. I have kept running and striving, kept launching into fifty different directions and kept reaching forward onto the next task, exhausting myself in the process. While I did all of this unfettered striving, parts of my life stopped bearing fruit. I knew God was calling me to allow Him to cut away the dead branches, to abide in Him and rest again on His power. I had been so determined to “do it all,” but He did not create us to do life without Him.
Instead of this ultimately unproductive mania and striving, Jesus calls us in John 15, to allow God, the vinedresser, to cut away the branches that bear no fruit. What areas of your life can you cut back so that you can remain fruitful in other priority areas?
4. Remember your roots.
Did you know that for the first couple of years, vines aren’t allowed to produce fruit? The vine needs to strengthen its root system before it can support the extra weight of the fruit. So that first couple years, the vinedresser prunes the vine back to only a couple strong shoots while the roots are well established into the soil.
Jesus tells us in verse 17 to remember our roots: LOVE. In John 15, Jesus is calling us, as believers, to remain in Him, allow God to cut away our dead branches, so that we will bear fruit.
What is exactly is the fruit we are to produce? Many Bible scholars have answered this many different ways. Some assert the fruit is new followers of Christ, produced from evangelism Jesus calls us to. Other scholars argue the fruit is the fruits of the Spirit, the ethical virtues that Paul expounds in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Yet still others say the fruit is something more basic: union with God.
I’ve gone through a season as a new vine, planted and trying to produce fruit too quickly- resulting in being weighed down with so many tasks that it almost damaged my roots. I was trying to lead one more small group, attend one more Bible study, serve in one more area… I was so busy striving to produce fruit that I was risking the loss of the root of everything: a love relationship with God and a love for God’s people.
I was so obsessed with being productive…so fanatical about trying to be strategic with my time and account for how I am prioritizing and spending it all, that I almost forgot the “why” … LOVE.
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be productive. Spending time wisely and prioritizing what you value most is essential. However, my preoccupation with being productive was at the expense of Sabbath rest and leaving margin for God to work.
Stay true to your roots: LOVE.
- Stay soaked in the Living Water: Jesus
- Lean on your support: Jesus and then each other
- Let God cut away the dead things.
- Remember your roots.
Extra Points of Study:
- Read John 15 in several different translations or versions of the Bible.
- Pick your favorite verse or two from John 15 and write it on a note or card and tape it somewhere you will look at it often.
- Memorize John 15 verse by verse…or just pick one verse to meditate on and memorize.
- Journal your response to this devotional.
~ Kristen Love