Today: Sunday, August 18, 2019
 
 

I am: The vine    (9/16/2007 )

When we bought our house, which was built in the 1870s, it had a large Victorian greenhouse. Inside was a huge grape vine, with a gnarled and knotty trunk—probably as old as the house. Trained into a symmetrical pattern across the full roof, it produced lush leafy shade in summer and an abundance of grapes in autumn; we even made our own wine.

We read up on how to care for the vine—and discovered that it's quite a task! It needs the cold in winter, to lie dormant. It needs pruning back hard, but only at the right time, or it can bleed to death. In spring, you have to check for new shoots every day, pinching off those in the wrong places. And all the right shoots need training.

Around the area of the Mediterranean , where Jesus lived, vines are an everyday sight. So it's no surprise that he used a vine to help illustrate God's relationship with us; people around him would have understand all the implications of what he was saying.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener,” said Jesus, as recorded in John (NT) chapter 15, verse 1. For those of us unfamiliar with vine-growing, what does Jesus mean?

He explained that branches which bear no fruit—in other words, those who refuse to enter into a relationship with the Father, and cannot live out a Christian life—are cut off. Once a branch is cut off from a vine it loses its nourishment; it withers and dies. Then such branches are thrown onto the fire.

On the other hand, he says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus is the life-force we cannot do without if we're to have a fruitful life on earth and an eternal life afterwards. However, he points out that it's the Father, God himself, who is the gardener; the creator, the one in control, who chooses and plants the vine. He tends it patiently and lovingly, ensuring it produces abundant fruit.

Given the chance, vine branches do what they want. But if you've ever seen a commercial vineyard you'll have noticed how the branches are trained into precise shapes, and how heavily they're cut back in winter—virtually to stumps! God is the gardener: “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful”.

Such discipline is essential. If we truly want to live the life of a disciple, there are behaviour patterns we should avoid, and others we should develop. Those who become Christians later in life often describe how God showed them which sinful aspects of their life should change; pruning, if you like, wrongful and damaging activity from their lives.

Discipline doesn't mean being without freedom; in fact, Jesus shows us the very path to freedom, and to fruitfulness and belonging.



Pray: Lord, discipline is always difficult to take. But you are a loving Father, who disciplines out of nothing but love—knowing we can't have abundant life unless we submit to you. Teach me how to remain a living and fruitful branch on your vine. Amen.

Think about: Imagine the behaviour of two young dogs: one which has been to obedience classes, and another which hasn't. Most puppies love such classes, especially because of the deepening of the bond with their master. They enjoy learning. What they will never see for themselves, however, is what not taking those classes might have meant to them, because of the potaential impact on their happiness and freedom.

Challenge: Think back to three occasions in your life when you've suffered disappointment—only to realise later, with hindsight, that something good came out of it, or even that it was for the best. Perhaps something much better came along? Consider what your life might be like now if you'd got everything you wanted at the time. Would that have limited your options? Would you have learned as much? Consider whether, in light of your deliberations, God might have been at work behind the scenes.

Look up the full ‘I am the vine' passage

Watch the video clip Vine and Branches

Watch the video clip I am the Vine

Read the book Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance by Bruce Wilkinson

Read the book My Father Is the Gardener by Colin Urquhart

Read the book The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg

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