Friday, June 3, 2011

Just a Branch

The other day when I put up the post on the Sermon/Speaker Note Pages, my attention was caught by the picture of the cluster of grapes.  I'm sure that many of us are familiar with the passage in John 15 that begins... "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman..." and, in verse 5, "I am the vine, ye are the branches..."  This group of verses has been brought to my attention in many different ways this year and I am learning to appreciate it more and more.  I began the year reading a small devotional classic by Andrew Murray, "The True Vine".  It was such a blessing!  Daily encouragement to be surrendered to Christ, to abide in Him and to bear fruit worthy of our calling.  But on Wednesday, when I saw the grapes, I began to see the passage in a whole new light.  It was so exciting that I did some research online into grape growing, and, oh!, what a beautiful picture of our life in Christ it presented!!

May I share with you what I learned?  Let's start with John 15, verse 1...

1.  I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman.

Christ is the vine - not a vine like we think of, clambering over the wall of an old stone cottage, but a thick, sturdy trunk that has weathered storms and wind.  The Father is the husbandman - the vine keeper.  The one who plans, prunes, and harvests.

2.  "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:  and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."

Every year the owners of the vineyard look at their vines.  They look at the canes that have sprung from the main vine and cut back any that are not productive.  When a cane has not borne fruit for two years it will get hard and woody.  Those canes are removed.   They also figure out how many canes the vine can support to get the most productive harvest.  Then they look at each cane and cut it back so only the buds that will fully come to fruition will remain.  Interestingly enough, each type of grape will support a different number of buds... which reminds me of the verse in Matthew 13:23,  "But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it:  which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."  Although the owners of an earthly vineyard have to "guess" at the amount that will be - our Heavenly vinedresser knows perfectly the amount of fruit we will produce, and He will tend it faithfully to bring it to full maturity.  Isn't that a precious thought!!

3.  "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."

This verse always has puzzled me.  I wasn't sure how it fit into the picture Christ was painting.  Was it more pruning?  As I read through the grape growers journal, though, I found reference to another job of the vinekeepers -- applying insecticide.  Isn't that interesting?  The Word of God is heavenly insecticide.  It has power to kill the diseases of sin, and keep us whole, for, of course, many little pests like to bore holes through the leaves and into the fruit of the crop.  The only way for us to avoid the infiltration of sin in our life - sin that is often almost unnoticeable until it has become a full fledged infestation - is to be in God's Word and let it cleanse us.  Praise the Lord for His Word!!

4, 5  "Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches:  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:  for without me ye can do nothing."

This is what stood out to me the other day, that started this train of thought.  The cane that shoots out from the vine is a branch of sorts - but there is another branch that came to mind as I looked at the picture on the Sermon/Speaker notes.  When I go to the grocery store and pick a bunch of grapes, usually there is a branch, which then separates into individual stems and clusters of grapes.  For some reason I always pictured the "branch" that the Lord spoke of as a tree branch - long and sturdy.  But look at the picture again.  That little branch is short and close to the vine.  Tender and having no strength unless it draws it from the heart of the plant.  My life is not to be a tree branch... attached at one end to the vine, but then growing far away and yielding a couple of apples.  No!  It is to be close to the Vine.  Hanging on, as it were, for dear life.  Realizing that there is no way I can support the fruit that will be produced through me without His strength, His grace, His Spirit.  It is a life of true dependence...  and yet, it is a life of certainty...

Verses 8, 16 "Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples...  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:  that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

Each cluster of grapes begins as a bud, flowers, begins to form, and finally comes to maturity.  From that tender branch there are many little stems - each with a beautiful piece of fruit that will one day mature.  That picture was so alive to me!  As I abide in Christ as a tender branch, knowing that my only hope comes from resting close to Him, He will produce a multi-faceted crop of fruit through me.  Not just a single apple that encompasses one type of fruit - say, telling others about His salvation - but a whole harvest of fruits... love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, goodness, gentleness, self-control, diligence, watchfulness, discretion, obedience.   The bud of these fruits is implanted in me when I repent and turn to Christ.  As I am cleansed through His Word and grow in Him, they will begin to flower, and the fruit will start to appear in it's unripened form.  Slowly - in His time - as I practice in every circumstance and area of my life, and lean on him in dependence, each fruit will ripen to maturity.  Notice I say "will", not "might".  I am "ordained" to bear fruit that will "remain".  It will remain for all eternity, harvested by the Father to bring glory to God.  What a beautiful object lesson!!

May each of us be "short branches"today, cleansed by the Word, abiding in the Vine, and obedient to all of His commandments, that we may bear the fruit He has ordained for us.

May you be blessed and be a blessing today!

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