“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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 even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.'" John 15:1-8
This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, but it's also a pretty intense one. Last week, we learned about Jesus' introduction as the way, the truth and the life. Although at first glance that might seem a bit offensive, God, in His loving kindness decided to send His Son as the way to Himself. He loves you that much.
Now, in this introduction Jesus reveals to us another critical aspect of His identity, the Father's identity, and how it changes life for us today.
This passage reminds me a lot of a conversation I had with my dad when I was in high school. I was in way too many AP classes as a junior in high school, and I was beyond stressed about the ACT and getting into college. At the time, what became God's plan for my life wasn't even on my radar and I was losing sleep over upcoming exams and the stress of planning for life after high school while balancing all of my extra curricular activities.
I also had a part time job at a local salon where I did hair and nails for little girls for their birthday parties, and I loved it. I remember telling my dad about how stressed I was one night, and asking him if it would be ok if I just went to hair school instead of college. I loved my part time job and thought the easiest way out of my exams was to pick a different path, and I was poking at my dad with my questions essentially asking, will you still love me if I don't do the college thing?
I remember his answer so well, because my perspective shifted.
He essentially said, of course you could do that. But, I don't think you should. He went on to tell me about how as my dad, he saw so much potential in me, and he wanted me to go to college to continue to develop and learn and grow in the areas I was gifted in. I might love working at a salon now, but one day, he predicted I'd get frustrated with the potential I had but never used.
Our heavenly Father takes this a few steps further. He knows we have potential because He gave it to us in the first place, and He also knows we have limitations.
Parker J. Palmer wrote in his book Let your Life Speak,
"We must honor our limitations in ways that do not distort our nature, and we must trust and use our gifts in ways that fulfill the potential God gave us."
In this passage in John, we see both the limitations and the potential of humanity. We have the potential to bear fruit! But, we have the limitation of needing to be abiding in the vine in order to do so. We can't produce any good thing apart from God. Jesus is the true vine--He is the connection to the Father. Through Him, we are given full access to God, not just in heaven but also in our everyday lives.
The Father is the gardener. He's the one who created us with both potential and limitations, and He knows them all very well. He sees what needs to be lost or cut away, and He sees what is growing and needs to stay. As long as we are abiding in Jesus, we're connected to the Father and told we will bear fruit.
Fulfilling our potential is one of those big questions in life, but when you are abiding in Jesus, it's not really your responsibility. Fulfilling your potential is a natural product of a life of submission and connection to God.
As you're abiding in the true vine, you're connected and cared for by the Gardener, and fulfilling your potential or bearing fruit isn't a worry or a stressor. It just happens. This takes some of the pressure off, but we are still responsible for maintaining that connection. We won't produce good things without God, and to do so, we have to persist in our connection to Jesus.
God is a giver of good gifts, including His Son who He gave so we could bear fruit, produce good things, and fulfill our potential.
But He's also a Father, and like my dad telling me college was an expectation even though it seemed difficult at the time, our heavenly Father expects us and has entrusted us to remain connected to Jesus, so we will fulfill our potential and give God glory.
Jesus established the connection to the Father for us as the true vine, and we are told to remain in Him. To remain connected to Jesus, we worship, pray, become an active participant in the local church, read the Word of God regularly, and are obedient to His commands. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we nurture our connection to God by abiding in the true vine.
-What characteristics of God are revealed to you through this passage?
-How do you "remain" in Jesus throughout your week?
-Make a list of actions you could take to remain in Jesus this week. What do you expect the result of these things would be?
Take one clear step to nurture your relationship with Jesus this week.
Jesus thank you for connecting me to the Father. Help me to pursue that connection with you throughout the week. Teach me to abide in you in my day to day responsibilities and allow me to produce fruit and fulfill the potential God has given me, so that He may receive the glory. Amen.