“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” John 15:5
For those who humbly embrace him as Saviour and Lord, Jesus offers a life-transforming spirituality characterized by two things: depth of intimacy and fruitfulness. However, many people find the experience of both to be out of reach. As a result some resolve to try harder, but quickly arrive at spiritual burn-out. Others simply give up, believing themselves to be insufficiently spiritual to “take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19). Then there are those whose hearts grow cold having believed the lie that the abundant life Jesus offers was never meant for them.
Sometimes the root of this disconnect lies in the fact that people expect the fruit without being connected to the Vine. Many who call themselves Christians have never personally surrendered their lives to Jesus. They understand Christianity as civic religion, a moral framework, or perhaps even as short-hand for “Western values.” They attend church, serve the poor, and are genuinely good people. Jesus, however, makes it clear that the term Christian (i.e. “little Christ”) is only for those in him through faith.
In John 15 Jesus talks a lot about abiding (i.e. remaining) in him, and the fruitfulness that comes as a result. However, the first condition of remaining in Christ is to place yourself in Him. No one is automatically “in Christ.” Jesus refers to himself as the true vine (John 15:1), and we are branches that have been cut off from God due to sin’s power. However, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus opened up a way by which we could be saved out of this separation from God and into a unique relationship with God. Like branches that are grafted into a strong and life-giving vine, by placing our trust in Christ we are reconnected to the source of life, hope, love, and truth. Then Jesus’ life begins to flow through ours in surprising and powerful ways.
A person is not a Christian if they are not connected to the Vine. And a person cannot experience the promises Jesus declares for those in him, while they choose to remain outside of his redeeming love.
Do you long to experience a spirituality of depth and fruitfulness that touches every dimension of your life in joyous, restorative, hopeful, and redeeming ways? Place yourself in Christ first, and then learn to abide in him.
Note: This reflection first appeared in Nelson Star News on January 5th, 2018.