John 15:1-5. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. 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.
When I was a kid we had a grape vine growing in our back yard along an old fence. I don’t know what kind of grapes they were, but they were delicious. In fact my knowledge of viticulture is quite limited. But I do know this – the grapes that fell off the vine would lay on the ground and rot. The same is true of humanity. Anyone not connected to Christ will rot and die.
But in Christ we are connected to the vine of eternal life. We are alive because we have decided to depend on Jesus. Jesus lived his life exactly this same way – dependent upon the Father (see day 134). Apart from the Father Jesus could do nothing of any eternal value. And Jesus is teaching us that the same is true of our lives – Apart from him we can do nothing.
How do we grow spiritual fruit? How do we live the life of faith? John 15 is our master class. Let’s consider three truths about spiritual growth from Jesus’ vineyard metaphor:
God’s part – Abide in me and I in you. Abiding in Christ is first and foremost the work of God. It is not a work that we perform. It is not a state of being that we advance to. By the Spirit, Christ is abiding in every Christian and every Christian is abiding in Christ. This is precisely what salvation means – us in Christ, Christ in us. Christian, you never have to ask, “Am I abiding in Christ today?” You are.
Our part – Our part is to relax in the work of Christ. We call it faith. We abide in Christ by trusting that we abide in Christ (see the previous paragraph). Notice how Jesus said “I am the vine.” All throughout the Old Testament, Israel was the “vine” (Isaiah 5; Psalm 80). A bad vine without any good fruit. But now Jesus declares that HE IS the vine. He has performed all that was required of Israel, and all of humanity. He obeyed every law. He fulfilled all righteousness. What is left for you to do? Receive his love as the life giving sap that flows from his vine to your branch.
Bearing fruit – If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches that are trusting and depending on him for our life, then the fruit of our lives will grow more and more into looking like Christ. But how?
John 15:9. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
The Spirit’s fruit of love is only produced organically by abiding in Christ’s love. As we trust Jesus love for us more and more, we will look like his love more and more. Just as Jesus lived and loved from the power of the Father’s declared love over him (baptism and transfiguration), we too can only bear fruit as we abide in Christ’s love.
But more often we try to grow spiritually through mechanical means – behavior change. We measure our spiritual growth by our “spiritual practices” and actions. I can tell I’m growing because I’ve read my Bible every day this week. I must be growing because I pray all the time. But do you love? Unconditionally? Do you have peace in the storm? Do you experience joy even in the midst of sorrow?
And Christian, here’s the good news – fruitfulness is guaranteed by your union with Christ. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. If every Christian is abiding in Christ (they are), and if every Christian has the Spirit of Christ (they do), then every Christian bears much fruit. It may take some pruning for the fruit to be revealed. But even this is the loving work of the vine dresser. By his grace you are being transformed. And by faith in his grace Jesus will do a great work of love in and through you.
“To live is Christ” means that we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us forever. Now apart from him we can do nothing. And that is good news! Because it means that in him we can do all things. All believing, all loving, all giving, all sharing, all hoping, all fruit born out of the life of Jesus in us.
Have you been measuring your spiritual growth organically or mechanically?
You in Christ
How does knowing that Christ abides in you allow you to abide in his love?
Christ in you
Where have you seen true spiritual fruit in your life recently?
Playlist: Songs for abiding.