Dead or alive?

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….I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

(John 15 v 1,2 & 5)

It may seem an unnecessary point for Jesus to be making here – who ever heard of a branch bearing bunches of grapes unless it was a living, growing part of the parent vine?! The image is one which would have been familiar to his hearers, and they would immediately have got the message – either we are so intimately connected with and dependent on Jesus that his very life flows through us (as the sap of the vine flows to the branches), or else we are as good as dead wood.

But perhaps the disciples shared our human weaknesses in this area too, falling into the trap of thinking that somehow only part of their lives needed to be consciously lived in God’s presence – the ‘sacred’ bits, when they worshipped and prayed and shared the teaching they received. For the remainder – their day jobs of fishing, tax-collecting or whatever, could continue to be a separate activity, where God was not involved.

The picture of the branches remaining in the vine, as their very source of life, simply blows away such disconnected thinking about our own lives. We may not plug in to the vine when it suits us, for a top-up of energy or spirituality; either we are living in it, or we are not. In spite of the remaining faults, sins and weaknesses which we battle, and in spite of the troubles of the world which afflict us, the bible is clear that everyone who believes in Jesus as their saviour now lives with his life.

There is a power available to us, every minute of every day that remains to us, to live in a way that reflects Jesus to the world around us. As we live and grow as believers, the holy spirit works to transform us, so that our lives bear fruit – in godly character, love, perseverance, all the wonderful qualities listed in Galatians 5. It is not that we are to screw ourselves up to a great effort to make it happen, rather that just like the branches, we allow the life of the true vine, Jesus to flow to every area of our lives. I think we spend most of our lives learning this, struggling to believe it, applying the truth of it to each new situation in which we find ourselves. That’s ok, because our heavenly gardener knows that it takes time for the vine to mature, and he is so much better at patience than we are!

But I love this picture for another reason too.. It reminds me that every area of my life can potentially be fruitful. In his letter to the little church in Colossae, Paul wrote these encouraging words:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…..It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

(Colossians 3 v 17 & 24)

So when I am doing housework, organising meetings, catering for events, interacting with friends and strangers, loving my husband and children… all these things I can do in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to God, and seeking always to glorify him. All my living and labouring is a fitting offering of praise to my God, and he makes no false divisions between sacred and secular activities. As a branch of the true vine, with the life of Christ flowing through me, I am constantly in the presence of God and everything I do is an integrated part of a single whole.

I hope that this will help you as it does me, to rejoice in the work you have, in the people around you; trusting that a humble and quiet life is as valuable and fruitful in God’s eyes as the most high-powered or influential.  In all things, I serve Christ, and rest in his love for me.

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