In a deeply emotional scene in Princess Bride, Buttercup says to her rescuer: “You mock my pain,” to which he replies, “Life is pain, Highness.” He’s right. But pain has a purpose, and we benefit from the pain when we learn to look past it and see Christ.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine; no more can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and they are gathered, and cast into the fire, and they are burned.John 15:1-6
This is the Life
Everywhere you go these days you can see stickers on people’s vehicle windows that read: “Salt Life,” “Mountain Life,” “Lake Life,” “River Life,” “Beach Life,” “Mud Life,” “Country Life,” “Swamp Life,” “Music Life,” “Rodeo Life,” and the list goes on. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a window decal that says “Vine Life,” and yet that is the only life worth living.
I AM the Vine
Jesus said, “I am the vine” (v. 5). When you walk through the rows of a vineyard, you may become enamored with the beautiful green leaves and the luscious grapes hanging in clusters. But don’t forget to look down at the gnarled base of the vine from which all the branches stem. For those leaves, and those grapes would not be there at all if not for the vine that draws nutrition and water up from the roots and sends it out to every branch. The vine—the trunk—is the source of life for all its branches.
I AM the True Vine
Other men have tried to replace God with books, philosophies, religion, science, and the like. But none of these things measure up. None of them can fill the void. We were created for worship; we were created for God. There is no substitute for life in Christ. Period. Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (v. 1). The idea behind the word true suggests that nothing is concealed. With Christ, you don’t have to worry about fine print, exclusion clauses, expiration dates, inconsistencies, or broken promises. He is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praise-worthy. In other words, He is everything He expects us to be. He is our standard. And He is the means—the only means—by which we can hope to meet that standard.
Abide in Me, and I in You
“Abide in Me, and I in you” (v. 4). We have a symbiotic relationship with Christ. We are to abide in Him even as He abides in us. The word abide comes from a word which means “to be, or exist; to continue; to dwell, to rest, to be stationary for anytime indefinitely.” Thus abide means “to rest; to continue permanently; to be firm and immovable.” Those of us who have received the gift of eternal life have the assurance that Jesus Christ dwells within in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit; and He tells us here in John 15, as well as in other places in Scripture, that He will never leave us or forsake us. That is what He means when He says that He abides in us. That much is certain. The rest is a command, a choice.
We must choose to abide in Him. Is this hard? Let me put it another way. Does the branch upon which physical grapes grow struggle to remain on the vine? No. It is at rest. In fact, the branch is so weak in and of itself that it must be supported to stay off the ground, yet it needs no strength to remain attached to the vine; it simply rests. We too need only rest in the Lord.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him….Psalm 37:7
Bring Forth Fruit
Jesus says a lot about this point. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine; no more can you, unless you abide in Me…. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing” (vv. 4-5). How much can we do without Christ? Our daily routine? The easy tasks? Not even that much. Without Christ we can do NOTHING. The song goes, “I can’t even walk without You holding my hand,” but in reality, I can’t get out of bed in the morning, or take my next breath, without the Lord.” He gave me life, and He sustains my life. He gave me certain tasks to accomplish, and He gives me the strength to fulfill those tasks.
Although I have not tended a vineyard, I have cared for tomato plants and roses, and in the care of those plants, I have seen the benefits of pruning to bring forth much fruit. A tomato plant can get carried away with growing, and reach great heights. It will produce some delicious tomatoes, but the yield will be only enough for our family. However, if I pinch the tops of the new shoots, they will stop growing taller, and the nutrition will then be forced into the existing branches. Before long I’ll see more flowers appear, and if the bees pollinate them well, the branches will become heavy with luscious tomatoes, enough to share. The plant will not be as tall, but it will bear much more fruit, and the fruit is more important than the upward growth.
Pruning Yields More Fruit
The rose bush also needs to be pruned if I wish to extend the flowering season and see its branches full of color. I must trim away the withered buds so that nourishment can go to the new growth. And sometimes I have to cut away entire branches, when they no longer produce flowers.
Our Father, the Husbandman, or Keeper of the Vine, does that to us too. “My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (vv. 1-2). Purging, or pruning, is painful. Life is pain. Remember that. But pain has a purpose, and we benefit from the pain when we learn to look past it and see God at work in our lives through the Lord Jesus Christ. We may never fully understand what He is doing, or why. I don’t pretend that we can have all those answers now. God’s ways are much higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts. But we who trust Him with our eternity can surely trust Him with our lives.
Have you seen someone who truly loved the Lord, whose desire was to serve Him with all their heart, and yet they seemed to be going through one trial after another? Perhaps that was God purging them to bring forth more fruit. In higher education, the tougher courses have tougher demands. More is expected of someone who is earning a doctorate than of one who is working toward a two-year certificate. Even so, in the Christian life, the closer you draw to God, the more severe may be the purging. But that is only because He wants you to bring forth much fruit for His glory. And He trusts you.
The Branch That Will Not Produce Fruit
“Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away” (v. 2). Let me reiterate that if you are in Christ, He abides in you, no doubt about it. He will never leave you, nor can you ever be separated from Him. Your salvation is secure for all eternity. But if you choose to live for yourself—or worse, for the devil—instead of living for Christ, then the Father will cut short your life here on this earth so that you cannot continue to do harm to His eternal redemptive purposes. He took Lot because he loved the world above God. He took King Saul because he refused to obey God’s commands. He took Samson because he broke his vows. And He took Ananias and Sapphira because they lied to the Holy Spirit. All these people are in heaven today because they trusted in the blood of Jesus to save them; but while they were on earth, they soiled the name of their God, and they suffered the consequences. This too was painful.
The Branch That Was Not in the Vine
“If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and they are gathered, and cast into the fire, and they are burned” (v. 6). This has nothing to do with the Christian. This is the person who never was attached to the Vine in the first place. He may have thought he was in the vine. He may have been religious, as were Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus. But he is trusting in a false religion, or in his own works.
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out demons? and in Your name done many wonderful works?” And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity.”Matthew 7:21-23
Jesus did not say, “I don’t remember you.” He says, “I never knew you.” But He knows His own, and so we may conclude that many people worship a god that cannot see, or hear, or speak, or save. There is only one True Vine, only one source of true life, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord, He is God, and beside Him there is no other.
Know therefore this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.Deuteronomy 4:39
For thus says the LORD who created the heavens; God himself who formed the earth and made it; He has established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD; and there is none else.”Isaiah 45:18
Life Is Pain
Life is pain. I ask you, which kind of pain do you want? The kind that separates you from God for all eternity? the kind that shortens your life here on earth, taking you out of the way and hurting those around you? or the kind that makes you more like Christ now and lays up treasures in heaven so that you will have gifts to give to Jesus when you see Him face to face?
This concludes our series on the I AM statements of Christ. If you missed any of them, you may find them all here. Next week I look forward to sharing with you some new lessons that our Lord has been teaching me concerning the sufficiency of the Word of God for our every need.
Image credited to nikkiboruch.com