John 15:5-6, NIV
5 "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. 6 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."


December 28. 2011
Abide/Remain in me--is that passive or active?
To remain may sound passive; bearing fruit sounds active.

On the eve of his death, Jesus presents a new image. He is about to
pass the mantle on to his disciples, and this is what they must know.
#1 is to remain in Jesus, at all times, no matter what. For what
purpose? To bear fruit for God's kingdom and bring glory to the
Father in heaven. The image of the vine and the branches combines
these two injunctions--live in me daily, and bear fruit.

This is about the future relationship Jesus would have with his faithful
followers. He wants them all to stay connected to him forever, and to
be fruitful and multiply (which is similar to the instructions to Adam
and Eve in the garden of Eden). 

A branch is an extension of the vine. It is at home on the vine, where
it belongs naturally. The branch has a role to fulfill. It's not a decoration
or an ornament. It is designed for the purpose of bearing fruit and
reproducing itself, so that the vine will never disappear from the earth.
The seeds of new life are held within the flesh of the fruit.

From heaven's perspective it is folly for a branch to cut itself off from
the vine. So foolish is that person, that they subject themselves to
self-destruction. They become like a dead branch that is gathered up
and thrown into the bonfire.

As branches we just have to hang on. To the One who is our center,
to the Source of all life.  Abide/Remain doesn't sound so passive
anymore!

 

                                              John 15:1-2, NIV
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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."


December 29. 2011
Forgive me for re-arranging these verses. I liked better the flow of
thought in this order.

We're talking and thinking about God's garden. Jesus is the vine, we
are the branches and the Father in heaven is the gardener. God does
whatever is necessary toward the goal of producing fruit.

This is about a relationship of love, as Jesus had just mentioned to
the disciples. Jesus is one with God, just as we are to be one with
Jesus and with each other. Many branches, all different but all
connected to each other via the vine. One Vine and one Gardener.

Within that loving relationship, the Father in heaven cares for the Vine
and does whatever is necessary for the branches to do what they
are admonished to do. The Gardener is busy - actively involved in
caring for his plants. And so he cuts and prunes. Nothing escapes
his pruning shears.


December 30. 2011
I think we need to balance the "cutting" illustration with all we already
know from reading the whole gospel. These words sound like it is
"Bear fruit or else!" "Give me what I want or you get the axe!" That's
hardly what Jesus meant. It's not good to formulate our theology on
one verse, but to view each text as one piece of truth within a much
greater picture.

Jesus is talking to his beloved disciples on the night before he would
die. He has already lost one disciple, Judas; he does not want to lose
another. Therefore what you must do is to remain in me, and never
forget what has transpired between us. Go on from here and you will
do even greater things than I have done. To that end, expect the
Gardener to keep you fit and able to produce.

A pruned tree is disciplined, maybe something like a wild horse who
has been tamed and trained to perform with a bridle. Anyone who
questions the value of pruning should compare a wild apple tree
to one within a well-cared-for orchard.

Everybody feels like a broken branch sometimes, probably more often
than we like to admit. But we must know this - Jesus is not pushing any
of us away. Rather Jesus is always trying to draw us in, to a closer
and more productive relationship with him.

 

                                              John 15:3-4, NIV
3 "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to
you. 4 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."


December 31. 2011
The disciples were already "clean", some translations say pruned.
They were already abiding/remaining in Jesus and Jesus wanted them
to stay that way even after he died.

Clean through the words Jesus spoke. Hearing or discussing the words
didn't make them clean, but applying and doing them did. Again Jesus
promised that if they remained with him, he would remain with them.

Bearing fruit is not a one-person job. It involves a trinity. Jesus the vine.
God the gardener. And disciples who are the branches. Fruit is the life
of the plant, or evidence that the plant is in good shape.

What is the fruit that we are to produce? The closest we get to an
answer in this chapter is that we are to love one another. Abide in me
and love each other. But can we get more specific?

We bear fruit, not by trying to bear fruit or being stressed about it, but
by abiding in the vine. While taking our nourishment from the vine, we
allow the "sap" to flow into our being and then out into the world around
us. When we are connected, the fruit comes naturally and wonderfully.

The vine can't do a whole lot with its own fruit, except maybe use it for
compost. The fruit is meant to feed somebody else. Then the question
becomes, "Who is getting fed from my life?"


December 8, 1982
Dear Father in heaven, You are the source of my joy and peace.
I abide in you and find rest. I look toward you and see all I need. Help
me to get that phrase off the paper and into the depths of my being.

I am weak; you are my strength. I am nervous, unprepared, scared
I will fail. You are the Vine. There's no magic involved to get me out of
a dilemma; you are not a panic button.

You are my home, my dwelling place. As I abide in you, I become what
I am meant to be. I am valid, worthwhile, filled, sufficient for the day.
I have something to share with others; my cup runs over. Thank you.

Today will happen whether I am ready or not. Jesus, you speak the
words of eternal life--Abide in me as I abide in you. If I can keep my
eyes on you and off myself, I shall triumph and not drown in my
anxieties. Hallelujah!  How great you are.  Amen.

 

                                             John 15:7-8, NIV
7 "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever
you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory,
that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."


January 2, 2012
I have faith and I believe. But I don't manipulate God with my belief.
God doesn't do whatever I ask in prayer just because I attempt to
believe this verse. That would make God the puppet of our prayers.

Those who abide in the vine adopt the same mindset as the vine.
Those who abide in Jesus begin to desire the same things that Jesus
did. Whatever we do that will being glory to God, Jesus will assist us
with. Since our bearing fruit brings God glory, Jesus will grant whatever
we need toward that goal. No other qualifications are mentioned.
When we produce fruit, that indicates we belong to Jesus.

That all sounds great. But is it true! I question why Jesus gave such
a promise as this? No one on earth has ever had all their prayer
requests granted. Not even these disciples. So then I need to move
away from taking too literally these words about receiving whatever
I ask for.

The heart of God loves to give all his children good gifts. But every
good gift deserves a responsible receiver (or in the words of this text,
a pruned branch). Maybe bearing fruit has something to do with us
giving an account of ourselves. Before we ask for more, we should
probably assess what we have done with all we have already been
given.

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