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I Am the True Vine

Grapes on the vine with the words "I am the true vine" overlayed

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NIV)

Jesus and His disciples are gathered in the upper room for the Passover celebration. He has reordered the seder into what we now call Holy Communion, giving it meaning based on the coming Cross. The words He speaks in John, chapter 15, are some of His last words to His disciples before His death. What Jesus chose to teach them - and us - is that He is the true vine, and we are the branches.

The relationship between the branches and the vine is complete interdependence. The branches depend on the vine for all the nutrients that are collected from the soil and channeled to the branches to bear fruit. The vine depends on the branches to collect the sunlight that produces food for the plant and also to produce the fruit.

Without the vine, the branch only shrivels up and dies. "Apart from me, you can do nothing," Jesus says. Apart from Him, we have no life. Apart from Jesus we can only go through the motions of religious activity that produce no actual fruit for the Kingdom of God. The single most important relationship any person can have and invest in is the relationship of faith in Jesus Christ. Apart from Him, we can do good works. Apart from Him we can be religious. Apart from Him we can only live a life focused on ourselves and what makes us happy and fulfilled. And sadly, apart from Jesus we remain shallow and fruitless.

Apart from Jesus, we die. As a matter of fact, apart from Jesus we are already dead, spiritually. Cut flowers may look beautiful and smell fragrant, but they are already dead. They are cut off from the source of their life. That's the kind of radical dependency Jesus says we are to have with Him. The number one thing any follower of Jesus Christ can do is to go deep in our relationship with Him. Deep people bear fruit.

God does not need our abilities to bear fruit for His Kingdom. He has ability far beyond our human powers. God does not need my talent. He created all that exists. What God needs is my availability - my spiritual depth - so His Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus living in our lives) has free rein to love others through me. Jesus living in my heart means all the love of God is present and available to pour out of my life and affect the lives of others, drawing them to Himself. The fruit of the Kingdom of God is changed lives.

I went directly from high school to Taylor University, majoring in Philosophy of Religion because I had already received a call to pastoral ministry. I then received a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary and was ordained as an Elder in The United Methodist Church. I have taken countless continuing education seminars over the years of my ministry. I have 50 years of ministry experience as a Youth Pastor, Student Pastor, solo Pastor and Lead Pastor of churches. And with all that training and experience, I do not have the power or ability to change a person's life. Only Jesus can do that. "Apart from me you can do nothing."

The number one thing any of us can do to bear fruit for God's Kingdom is to go deep into the True Vine, Jesus Christ. Deep people bear fruit. Shallow Christians pose and do good works - at least enough good works to feel good about ourselves and our faith. Jesus wants more than that. Jesus wants our hearts. Jesus wants our allegiance to Him as Lord of our lives. Jesus wants to make our lives all about something far more important than our happiness or our bucket list. Jesus dares to set out to use our everyday human lives as agents of transformation and witness for His Kingdom.

How does one go deep in Christ? We surrender our lives and our will to Him - daily. We soak in His Word, the scriptures, so we have the mind of Christ. We pray, maintaining open and deep communication with Him. We allow the Holy Spirit to change our priorities and root out of our lives any secret sins and habits that keep us far from Jesus. We engage in community with other followers of Jesus because spiritual depth is exponentially increased in accountable relationships with other Christ-followers as we watch over one another in love. And we obey Him.

Jesus is Lord. And that means saying "No, Lord," is a contradiction in terms. If He is Lord, we will not say "no." If we say "no," He is not really our Lord. Spiritual depth is a question of Jesus' Lordship in our lives. The more we love Him, the more we want to honor Him. The more we honor Him, the more we know and love Him, and the deeper we go in our relationship with Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Deep people bear fruit. How is the depth of your life today?


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