Maintaining A Strong Connection
Read John 15:1-2, 7 (ESV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
What are some practical steps that you can take to ensure that you are maintaining a strong connection to Jesus, the True Vine? Is there anything in your life that is hindering your spiritual fruitfulness?
Good gardeners know the value of a good cutting back and pruning. If plants have vines or branches that aren’t producing they should be cut off right away because they are using up valuable nutrients and resources that the rest of the plant could put to better use.
But what has always been trickier for me is to cut back branches that are underproducing. It seems counterintuitive to cut a perfectly good branch off a tree or deadhead a flowering plant in bloom. But the truth is pruning stimulates new growth. It results in larger, fuller plants and in the case of fruit-bearing plants, more fruit. It is worth cutting back in order to get more in the long run.
In today’s verses, Jesus used an agriculture analogy that would have been particularly relevant to the Israelites at the time. They were very familiar with vine crops such as grapes. In His analogy, Jesus said that He is the true vine. Throughout the Old Testament, the vine was a common symbol for the nation of Israel and God is always the caretaker of the vineyard. For example, in Isaiah 5:1-30, Isaiah compared the nation of Israel to a vineyard that God planted and cared for but instead of bearing good fruit it produced only sour grapes. As a result, God stopped protecting and caring for this vineyard. He allowed Israel to be invaded by the Babylonians.
It is significant then, that Jesus calls Himself the “true vine.” He is saying that God’s chosen people are the people who abide in Him, not the nation of Israel. In essence, Jesus is calling Himself the “true Israel.” Everyone who abides in Christ truly belongs to Him and will experience the care and protection of God the Father. But everyone who isn’t a true believer will be cut off.
Jesus then described how to determine a true believer from a fake and it all has to do with fruit. Those who don’t bear any fruit or only bear bad fruit, are not truly connected to Him, the vine. But true believers will begin to bear good fruit because they are connected to the source, Jesus.
So how do we abide in Christ? Abide means to remain or live in. It means we stay connected! If we remain in Christ, we won’t fall away when following Him gets too hard. We are faithful. If we live in Him, that means that we do life with Him. We prioritize our relationship with Him. Jesus also said that His words should dwell in us. True believers know the Word of God and seek to obey it. They submit to His commands and commit to His will.
But sometimes, God allows true believers to be pruned. Why? So that we bear more fruit. This pruning process may seem painful at first but because it feels as if things we like, enjoy, or even love are being taken from us. But God is removing anything that hinders us so that we can produce the most amount of fruit possible. It will be worth cutting back in order to produce more good fruit!
Friends, Jesus is the source of life. He is the True Vine. But we have to maintain a strong connection to the True Vine. We have to abide in Him and His Words have to abide in us. We can’t be spiritually alive and fruitful in our own strength or power. Anything that gets in between us and Jesus should be cut out. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5).
Lord, I want to remain a strong connection to You. Help me to remain in You. Strengthen our connection. Prune away any areas of my life that hinder me from producing fruitful work for You. I want to be useful for the Kingdom and the promotion of Your Gospel. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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