[powerpress]I know very little about gardening. Really, about all I can do with plants and soil is to pull weeds. Even then, I’ve been known to uproot Cindy’s plants, having mistaken them for dandelions.
I remember my dad tending to his rosebushes at my home in Arizona. We had just a few lining our driveway. He would care for them, making sure they had enough water to endure the summer heat. Occasionally, he would clip a rose and present it to my mother (see my post “Spotting the Guilty”). I also remember when he would trim down the bushes, and I always thought they looked awful. Why would he butcher them so?
Here in John 15, Jesus is continuing with his final words to his disciples, to the Twelve (minus Judas). I’m uncertain where they are now, having left the upper room, when Jesus starts talking about vines and vinedressers and fruit.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” –John 15:1-8 ESV
I’d like to make two observations from this passage. (There are many more, as usual, but I try to keep these posts a little brief, relatively speaking.) What does it mean to abide with Christ? And what is this fruit?
We don’t use the word abide much, but it simply means to live, to dwell, to remain with. Abiding with Christ involves staying close. There is an intentionality, a discipline of remaining with Jesus. Sadly, this is difficult for us — with all of our distractions. We have a hard time abiding with Christ, though we know how to abide with our TVs and our cell phones. We know what nights our favorite shows are on, yet we’d struggle to recite Scripture from memory. We check our smartphones constantly throughout the day, but we seldom give the slightest acknowledgment to the presence of God.
[pullquote]The vinedresser is intent on cultivating more and more grapes at a higher quality, producing an unsurpassed vintage.[/pullquote]Jesus is calling us to stay close, to remain with him. There is nothing, he says, we can accomplish of any enduring value apart from him. So often I resort to what I know, how I’ve sensed God’s lead in the past. But he calls me — and you — to a fresh work today. He has ministry for us to join him in that’s new and unrecycled.
I’d like someday to take an excursion with Cindy through the vineyards of California, to stay at some B&Bs and inns along the way, while sampling various wines. When I think of wine, as Jesus alludes to here in his discourse on vineyards, I consider abundance and joy. “Wine gladdens the heart of man,” the psalmist rightly sang (104:15). The vinedresser is intent on cultivating more and more grapes at a higher quality, producing an unsurpassed vintage.
That is the purpose of the Father, to help me bear more and better fruit. When I abide with him, the Spirit of Christ cultivates in me more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more faithfulness, more gentleness, and more self-control (see Galatians 5:21-23). All of this to the glory of the Father, for when I continually bear more and better fruit, God is glorified. In this sense, the fruit we bear is the light that shines so that others might see and give glory to our heavenly Father (see Matthew 5:16). This fruit will bless others and draw them to God.
To be sure, this is not an easy process. Dad’s rosebushes looked to me like they’d been mutilated. The pruning process feels like that. But character growth is the result of such pruning. I’ve seen, and am continuing to see, this in my life. And so I welcome, if even trepidatiously, the vinedresser’s shears.
I encourage you to stay close to God, as the branch to abide with the vine, and allow him to cultivate a greater vintage with hints of blackberries and oak. Or if you prefer white, maybe pears and tangerines.