by Pastor Don Neighbours
Jesus told His disciples in John 15:1-8, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Branches are where the fruit is grown, but it is the vine (or the trunk of the tree) that carries the nourishment out to the branches. The vine can grow more branches, but the branches cannot grow any fruit without the life of the vine flowing through them.
A vine is a vivid metaphor for living the life Jesus calls us to live. He didn’t mail us a “To-Do List” of jobs to be checked off after we have completed each one. No, He called us to come to Him and remain connected to Him all the days of our earthly life. But, as some may say, we can’t see Jesus! How do we “remain” connected to someone we can’t see? God said we do that by faith, by trusting Him ahead of circumstances. We persevere in spite of the temptations and distractions that life in this world can throw at us. We do whatever it takes to remain in Him.
As the professional football season was coming to a close one year, I heard a sports commentator talking about the teams that were probable championship contenders. He said, “A championship team is the one who finds a way to win regardless of the difficulties.” A Christian is someone who finds a way to obey the instructions of Jesus and “remain” in Him, regardless of the difficulties. In the Bible, Romans 12:1 says: “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices…” We may have to sacrifice some of the time we spend in front of the television or time we spend sleeping in the early morning so that we make ourselves available to Jesus through prayer, Bible study and reading, and meditating on what He has told us in His Word.
It’s a personal relationship
Remaining in Jesus is about our relationship with Him. We can’t have a relationship with a car or a house or a cow; we can only have a relationship with a person. Jesus is a person, not some mythological figure from history, and He is alive! Every healthy relationship grows as we spend time communicating with the person in the relationship with us. Just because we can’t see Jesus doesn’t mean we can’t communicate with Him. When someone we love goes to a foreign land we still communicate with them through letters and telephone calls. Those are no substitute for the special times of personal contact, but they do keep the communication in the relationship. Our relationship with Jesus grows as we read the “mail” He sends us in His Word, the Bible. It grows as we talk with Him in prayer and listen to Him speak to us through His Word and in the thoughts of our heart as we meditate on His Word. Then when the special times of personal contact come, when the presence of God is strong and clear in our lives, we will have developed our communication with Him and can appreciate those special moments all the more. And through it all we will find that, more and more, we remain in Him.