Key Verse- John 15:5
“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.”
My neighbor Lu is a beautiful gardener. Her lawn is lovely, her yard is tidy, and when her roses are in bloom the fragrance is breathtaking. Every spring her crocuses, tulips, and daffodils peak out through the dark garden mulch announcing the coming season. I freely admit to having a bit of envy when it comes to her carefully, lovingly manicured lawn. The old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side” is literally true for me.
I ask myself ‘what makes Lu an exceptional gardener? What makes her garden grow? How does her yard shine among the others in the cul-de-sac? And the most obvious question is why does her green thumb make me green with envy?
In All Reality
The reality is Lu puts in the time, discipline, and passion for the things which bring her joy and satisfaction. She lives a life which reflects what she holds dear. The evidence is strikingly obvious.
In John 15 -Jesus explains to the disciples to bear fruit they must be connected to Jesus. Jesus says ““I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.”
On Whom Do We Depend
When we stake out specific time with our Master Gardener, we boldly declare a dependence on God. Making a daily time commitment to stay connected to God in meaningful ways shows. It is evident in the way in which we respond to the challenges of the day. Time is not a renewable resource for us. His mercies are fresh each day and yet we can choose to squander this blessing.
Lu spending time in her garden reflects the devotion she has to what she loves. As Christ followers we are not called to give God what is leftover, but rather our best time to be with our maker, not the last 20 minutes before drifting off to sleep. Our time spent with God can clearly be demonstrated by being connected to the vine. And in this connection God, the Gardener is either cutting or pruning.
Who Likes the Word “Discipline”
I have not met many people who like the word discipline. It sounds harsh and punitive. The word “discipline” summons memories of being called to the principal’s office. It feels suffocating when discipline is pressed upon us; but there is something about the intrinsic value of discipline. Discipline, when doled out upon us feels restraining.
I think of Lu in the discipline she practices each day. Not many of us enjoy the back aching work of weeding a flower bed, but there is such exhilarating accomplishment when like our faith like our garden grows. There is a self-discipline which is beautiful, inspiring, and God honoring. The discipline in which we embrace the pruning and the cutting to be something different, the process of sanctification. The journey in which we begin to look more like and reflect more of Jesus. This process does not happen easily or in a foolhardy way, it happens with confession and repentance, and it takes both time and discipline.
The Bible tells us in John 15:5-8. “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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Jesus does not mince his words. Jesus clearly tells His disciples, those who follow his teaching, apart from the Father “we are like branches picked up, thrown into the fire and burned”. Ouch! Discipline is hard, but it is not rocket science. Moving from sin to grace each day is a choice to make moment to moment. The act of surrendering our independence and relying on the Master is a declaration for sanctification.
Sanctification The B.C and the A.D
Sanctification is a fancy word. The Oxford dictionary defines sanctification as the “action of making or declaring something holy.” When we journey from seeker to believer, there is a clear line in our story. If we consider our lives to be a chronicle of events, there is a distinction between our B.C life and our A.D life.
Before Christ, passions and desires may have been self-serving rather than God honoring. In a life where the year of our Lord prevails (A.D) our relationships are spirit filled rather than filled with hidden agendas. Our life before Christ tax returns may have had white lies and shortcuts. In the record of our A.D. life, the fruit we bear is above reproach. The life of a Christ follower becomes one which glorifies God in all things.
Like David of the Old Testament, we want to be a man after God’s own heart. We desire to be in step with God and seek to lean into His leading over our lives. e want our passion to be one in which our dependence on God is not only declared, but also lived out. It should be a life in which God, the gardener is exalted and Jesus, the vine is revered. The life cultivated is one of passion for the teaching of Jesus.
A Deeper Connection
John records for us in chapter 15 verse 9-17:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
15 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. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”
The passion of Christ is palpable. His love for us is so intense. Jesus commands we stay connected and, in that connection, there is life, abundant life.
In this life we make daily choices to waste our time or cultivate it. We choose to live as true disciples of Christ or mere spectators. We decide which passions and desires we choose to indulge in. There are moments in the autumn where we can plant a few bulbs and know come the spring tiny buds of crocuses will peak out and bloom. Each day we have a choice to declare dependence to the Gardener and stay connected to the vine or take our chances and be independent from God’s sovereignty. God gives us freely the choice to grow our faith, shine our light, cultivate our gifts, and bear much fruit. How are you declaring your dependence on God today and each day moving forward?
How often do you see your “Independence” as the very thing which keeps you from the true freedom you seek?
In what ways or areas of your life do you feel you are still in the “Sanctification” process?
How are you declaring your dependence on God today and each day moving forward?