Tuesday, April 22, 2008
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. - John 15:3-5
Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
One of most outrageous beliefs in Christianity is the idea that God the most powerful, majestic, incredible being in all the world lives 'in' us. Corinthians 3:16 says this "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" That blows my mind! It is one of those paradoxical statements, how can x be in y but y be in x? Yet despite this Him living in me connection, I also need to be in Him. It is still up to me to remain or abide in Him. I read a commentary on John 15 today, and the main point the author made was that the focus of this passage is that we need to abide in him, the passage is about abiding, not about future judgement, or trying glean some magical formula out of connections with the world of viticulture. Jesus point is clear. Live your life for me, and I'll be part of your life. To borrow some words from Bono, "Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing".
Abide in Him, and He will abide in you. Sounds like a good deal to me, even if it does involve a little bit of pruning :)
Monday, April 21, 2008
Following on from yesterday with the second verse in John 15, Jesus begins to explain what the father does as the 'gardener' or as the ESV puts it 'the vinedresser'.
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 more fruitful.
The first part of this verse scares me, would God really cut people off from the vine? Just for failing to bear fruit?
While this should scare us a little, we need to put it in context. It seems likely that this cutting off would refer to the judgment day, when God would say "This one was never part of the vine" ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’ Surely if one has remained in God, he would have at least born some fruit!
When we are connected to the vine, we WILL bear fruit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self–control. Against such things there is no law. Think of it this way the 'fruit' or result of being in the Spirit (or in the vine) is Love, Joy, Peace etc. When we are living in the Spirit, the fruit will come, Our character has to change. Which begs the question, in your life do you see those fruit? What does that say about how connected you are to the vine?
The second half of the verse makes a very important point, just because we have had some fruit doesn't mean we can sit back and relax till the rapture. Jesus tells us that we will be pruned. I can't imagine that being pruned is particularly comfortable. It requires us to let go of things that we want to hold on to. For example, I may be being pruned at this very moment. Right now I'd really rather be in bed going to sleep that writing this, but I know that God has called me to spend more time with His word, struggling to understand it, thinking on it, writing about it. I don't have all the answers or all the right things to say, I'll probably one day look back on my thoughts here an laugh, Yet I'm doing my best to follow my God.
So how do we get connected?
Rico has made some good comments on what it means to be "Truly Connected to the True Vine" have a read of those, but as usual I have some thoughts of my own :)
Firstly we need to remember that maintaining a connection takes effort. Think about some of the people you used to be friends with, perhaps they moved to a different city? You started going to a different church? No longer see them at Uni?
You may have noticed that if you want to maintain relationships with people you have to put in some effort. You have to remember to think of that person, make time for them, put them before other less important things. Easier said than done (for me at least)
It is the same with our relationship with Jesus, many times we neglect him, forget about him, choose other much less important things over him. This is not good enough.
Secondly, We need to stand strong. As a vine branch if I don't hold tight and build a strong connection with the vine, and hold on to the truth around me at the first storm my connection would be severed. Too many people drop their connection to the vine simply because the feel like it would be easier to let go.
Well I think that's me for today, I'm going to keep thinking about how to strengthen my connection to the Vine. Let's get practical what are some things we can do to cultivate this connection?
Blogging all this for me is one.
What else can you think of?
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I'm taking him up on his challenge, starting, as he suggested with John 15.
"I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener."
The first thing that jumps out at me in this verse are the words 'I Am'. They make me think back to Moses and the burning bush where Moses asks God 'Who should I say has sent me'? To which God replies "Tell them 'I AM' has sent you". Now I'm sure that the two words 'I am' were spoken regularly in Jesus' day, as they are now, but I does give us a reminder of Christ's deity. John's gospel picks up on this "I Am" theme by including 7 different times when Jesus says 'I Am'.
1. “I am the bread of life” (6:35)
2. “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5)
3. “I am the door” (10:7, 9)
4. “I am the good shepherd” (10:11)
5. “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6)
7. “I am the true vine” (15:1)
Just as the words 'I am' were significant in that they signify Jesus deity, the vine is also suggestive. Throughout the old testament, prophets used the image of a vine to describe Israel, the chosen people of God. By saying He is the 'True' vine Jesus is really saying that only those in him are truly children of God. You are not a child of God by growing your own vine, nor by being a branch of the right pedigree, only by being connected as a branch of Jesus, the True vine do we really become Sons or Daughter of God.
Well that's all I've got time to write for now, but will write again tomorrow. Please feel free to comment on what I've written here, I'd love to discuss it with you all. Especially in how we can get truly connected with the 'True Vine'...
 - I have heard that the Greek for this is a emphatic (or forceful/notable) construction, suggesting that perhaps Jesus is saying this in a more meaningful that I might say "I am 23 years old"
 - Dunnett, W. M. 2001. Exploring the New Testament. Originally published: New Testament survey. Wheaton, Ill. : Evangelical Teacher Training Association, c1963, in series: Broadening your biblical horizons. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Ill.