” 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 ch 15 v 5 – 8)
I love this passage of scripture. For me it seems to some up what a Christian is all about. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. So why do we try? We put in a lot of effort to be all that God wants us to be, without, at times, actually being attached to the vine. We have this attachment in our heads through knowledge but our hearts are crying out for a real relationship with Jesus. It’s as if we flip in and out of a real connection with Him. Can you imagine a vine branch suddenly deciding to have a few hours off and go and join an orange tree or a rose bush, just for a change. I know it’s a silly analogy but often we are like that, we take time off to be attached to another tree.
When a branch starts to grow from a vine it starts as a shoot. It is part of the branch. The tiny shoot is not separate from the branch. The same DNA is in the shoot as in the branch. The structural support tissues of the vine provide the nutrients, water and everything that comes from photosynthesis. I hope you are suitably impressed, I looked it up!!! It means, simply put, that if the shoot isn’t part of the vine it withers and dies. What I love about the shoot growing from the branch is that there is no effort involved! It doesn’t strive to be part of the vine,….. it is. All that it needs is provided by the vine itself. Are you getting the picture? Say it to yourself again. ” All that it needs is provided by the vine itself”. Let that sink in. If we are a branch coming from Jesus then He has all we need!
The key to being part of Him is to ‘remain’! Jesus says it over and over in this chapter. Remain! Remain! Remain! I heard Pastor Mark Zschech speak recently and he said if anything was repeated in a passage of scripture, we were to “Lean in”. I loved that expression. It is so visual. Lean in, go towards it, observe it closely, give it more attention! In John chapter 15 where we find this passage there are eleven ‘remains’ in the first eleven verses. Obviously Jesus was trying to make a point!!!!!
Let’s ‘Lean In” on the word remain. Well first we need to be clear on one thing, Jesus didn’t speak English!! So He didn’t actually say ‘remain’. Jesus spoke Aramaic and although there are a few Aramaic phrases in the Gospels the majority of the New Testament is written in an old form of Greek. Scholars call it New Testament Greek! You would think that being scholars they would have come up with something more original than New Testament Greek! Any way the Greek word for remain is μένω. The Phonetic Spelling is men’-o. As in (A)men and OH! (dear), men -oh. μένω means : I remain, continue, dwell, endure, be present, stand, abide, stay, wait. You see the point. We need to ‘remain, continue, dwell, endure, be present, stand, abide, stay, wait‘ in Jesus for Him to work through us. Unless we ‘remain, continue, dwell, endure, be present, stand, abide, stay, wait’ in Jesus we can do nothing. All these words are verbs, doing words, words about action. We cannot just sit back and expect it to all happen around us, we do have a part to play. The exciting part of this, is that we have someone inside of us who helps us, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit our advocate. (John ch 14 v26). An Advocate is a champion, upholder, supporter, backer, promoter, proponent, exponent, protector, patron etc. I can honestly tell you that I cannot survive without the Holy Spirit in my life. God is so amazing that He asks us to do something for Him but then gives us the help to do it. What a Good Father we have! In a lot of churches the Holy Spirit is very rarely mentioned. God, the Father is talked about and so is God, the Son but God the Holy Spirit is talked about much less and yet He is on equal footing with both Father and Son. To put it simply, the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ replacement on earth. Just as the Disciples had Jesus to teach, encourage, help and even admonish at times, so we have the wonderful Holy Spirit to exactly the same. We have Jesus with us all the while.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt ch 28 v 20)
Let’s get back to the point. We have established that it is important to ‘remain, continue, dwell, endure, be present, stand, abide, stay, wait’ in Jesus and that the Holy Spirit helps us do it. We know that Jesus laboured the point, continually saying “Remain in me”, but why is it so important for us.
First of all let me remind you of this scripture,
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.“ (1 Peter ch 5 v 8)
Say no more! If we step outside of fellowship with Jesus we are more likely to allow our enemy to have a foothold. We have God’s protection.
“If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” (Psalm 91 v 9 -13)
Not only do we get protection from our enemy but also the power to crush him. (verse 13) Don’t you want that?
Not only do we have protection but we also have rest.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91 v 1)
Remember the word dwell means the same as remain. You remain in Him, joined to the Vine and He promises rest. Remember our little shoot? It doesn’t have to strive to grow because, ” All that it needs is provided by the vine itself”!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.“(Matt ch 11 v 28)
Unless we remain in Jesus we can’t produce fruit.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15 v 5)
We don’t produce fruit but ‘much fruit’. I love this. We don’t produce the fruit, Jesus does. Fruit refers to our spiritual lives and all that develops from that. Our character, our prayer lives, how we are outside church, in work or school etc. With Jesus, our lives will be fruitful. The Holy Spirit will show us how to be fruitful especially in the area of caring for the people God puts in our path. Just as an aside, God wants us to be there for each other and if we take time in our daily conversations with others to ask God what He wants us to say and pray during our conversations we will see much more of God in action.
By remaining in Jesus we have the privilege of being called His friend,
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.“ (John ch 15 v 15)
This is such an incredible concept. Quite mind blowing! The Son of God, the Great ‘I Am’ is my friend. The Apostle Paul goes one step further,
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians ch 4 v 7)
If we remain in the Vine we are called friends, sons and heirs.
It is obvious the blessings that come to us by remaining and of course I have mentioned only a few, but as I said earlier, we do have a part to play. The Holy Spirit will show us the way, definitely and the starting points for this are simple. Read your Bible and pray!!! You can’t remain in the Vine unless you know who the Vine is. You will definitely end up attached to an orange tree or even worse a thorn bush. If you don’t already read your Bible, start in the Gospels, which tell us about Jesus’ life. Perhaps even start with the Gospel of John which is where the teaching about the Vine comes from. Wherever you start keep going. Spend time each day. When you are reading, ask the Holy Spirit to show you new things. I can tell you, there are times when I read a passage of scripture perhaps for the fiftieth time and suddenly I see something completely new. One of the most powerful ways to see see the power in the Bible is to declare it out loud. If you look at the first two posts on this blog you will see some examples. Also pray! Praying is just talking to God. It is a conversation between Him and you. Tell Him how your day is going. Ask Him questions. Tell Him when things are not going well. Ask Him for help? The Bible teaches us that if we come close to God He immediately will be close to us.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4 v 8)
Jesus also says this about prayer,
“ If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John ch 15 v 7)
Now if that is not an amazing blessing I don’t know what is. Remain! Remain! Remain!
Without remaining in Jesus we will wither and die, producing no fruit. Blessing-less! It’s a choice as all our Christian walk is. To be (in Jesus) or not to be (in Jesus) that is the question? See what I did there? Not just scripture but a bit of Shakespeare’s Hamlet too! What will be next? Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw, Rogers and Hammerstein!!!!
Anyway what will you choose to do. There is only one answer really,
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John ch 15 v 9)
Prayer – God thank you that you love me so much that you call me your child. Help me today to remain in you. Holy Spirit guide me and encourage me in my walk with you daily. May I have all that you want for me in my life. Amen