A Refreshing Reminder for Exhausted Christians
Written by Kris Wilder, Ministry Assistant
According to the popular phrase, there are 2 things in life that are inevitable…. Death & Taxes. If you live on this planet, you’re going to experience death and you’re going to get taxed. It’s natural. It’s going to happen. Under the right circumstances, there are many other things in life that just happen naturally. For instance, if you slice an onion, you’re going to start crying.. It’s natural. It’s just going to happen. If you stick your tongue on a frozen metal flagpole, your tongue is going to stick.. It’s natural! If you work at Chick-fil-A and someone says “Thank You,” you are going to reply with…. “My pleasure.” It’s natural. It’s going to happen!
Well, in John 15 Jesus gives an example of something else that is natural. He talks about how fruit grows. He says if a branch is connected to a healthy vine, it’s going to produce fruit. It’s natural. It’s going to happen! But why in the world is Jesus talking about branches and vines and fruit.. What’s going on here?
In the gospel accounts, we read that Jesus told his disciples that he was going to die, but they would not accept it to be true! He is teaching His disciples things concerning Himself and what will happen after He dies. In His teaching, He tells them that He will be leaving them soon. Maybe the disciples thought he was talking about his dying and then being gone forever…
But we know how the story plays out… Jesus dies, their hope is crushed, but then He rises from the dead! If death cannot stop him, nothing can! Their hope is back! But after he rises from the dead, Jesus is still planning on leaving them just like he told them. Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, He physically leaves them exactly as he said he would (Acts 1:9-11). So now they’re probably left thinking, “Now what?”.. It is at this moment that those disciples desperately need the words that Jesus was teaching them. And in the fast-paced world in which we now live, we find ourselves right in the middle of this story. We are in the same situation as the disciples. Jesus has physically left us, He said He’s coming back, but that has not happened yet. So “Now what?”
Back to Jesus talking about vines and branches… It’s a lesson as much for us as it was for the disciples nearly 2,000 years ago.
In John 15, Jesus refers to Himself as the vine and to believers as the branches. He then goes on to make the claim in verse 4 that “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
Obviously, a branch that is disconnected from the vine could never produce a fruit. It doesn’t matter how hard the branch tries, it won’t happen! But Jesus is claiming that we cannot produce fruit either unless we are abiding or living in close fellowship with Him. Well, if you define fruit as “church attendance,” “charitable giving,” “volunteering,” or some other external activity, you really don’t have to abide in close relationship with Jesus to perform those things. So that can’t be what he is talking about…
No, the fruit described in Galatians 5:22-23 is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” When we begin measuring ourselves by that internal standard, in our own ability, we fall miserably short. Matter of fact, in verse 5 Jesus says, “Without me, ye can do nothing.”
The imagery is vivid and unmistakable. Just as a branch has zero ability to bear fruit apart from the vine, outside of walking in close fellowship with Jesus, a believer has zero ability to have a heart of love, joy, peace, etc. It cannot happen and it will not happen.
However, if we are connected to the vine, we will bear fruit! It’s natural. It is going to happen! God’s desire for the disciples back then is the same desire He has for us today. In verse 8, it is clear that God wants us to produce a ton of fruit. Since we know we are incapable of producing fruit on our own, we are pointed back to the absolute necessity of walking in close relationship with Jesus.
I am often reminded of how easy it is to lose focus on that relationship. We often replace it with a dead religion and just go through the Christian routine. We go to church, we volunteer for service opportunities, we put on our Sunday best, we avoid the “big sins”… But if we’re honest, we have no deep joy, no real peace, no self-control, no love for our enemies… We’ve forgotten what this is all about. It’s about a person. It’s about Jesus. We’ve gotten disconnected from the vine. Trying to be a “good person” will leave you exhausted. Jesus lived the life you could never live. He died for the real condition of our sinful hearts. He now offers us true life in Him if we are willing to be transparent about our desperate need for His righteousness. When we accept His free offer of grace and mercy in the gospel, we no longer feel the need to “impress” others with our counterfeit fruit. We can return to what God has desired for each of us – to walk in the relationship as an adopted son and daughter of the King. Let’s encourage each other to daily return to the life source and stop trying to produce fruit in our own strength. Let’s exert our energy in pursuing after Christ and experience the joy of naturally bearing fruit in His power.