VINE AND BRANCH

Photo by Tracey Lewis

Jesus told his disciples “I am the true vine… I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”(John 15:1&5) I thought it interesting that Jesus qualified the vine by saying he was the “true” vine. This I believe is a subtle way of revealing that there must be a false vine.

Funny how this whole human adventure started in a Garden in front of two trees isn’t it? The one “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” and the other the “Tree of Life” and of course we know Adam ate of the forbidden one. Therefore God blocked the way to the Tree of Life and cast them out of the Garden.

When Adam ate of the tree he brought death into the human race. This is when Adam (We) were joined to the false vine and could only bear fruit for death. The only way we were going to be saved from this fate was to be broken off of the one tree and be grafted in to the other. This, by the way, is our death. After all if you break off a branch from its source it is going to die isn’t it? How did this happen you might say? Well I’m glad you asked.

God came up with a plan to beat all plans. He co-crucified us with Christ. When Jesus was on the cross we were too. God baptized us into Christ or in other words we have now been joined to his vine. We, the branch, have forever had a tree transplant. We no longer have to be caught up in that old “Good and Evil” trip brought on by the false vine. Now we have the very life of God flowing in and through us and we can bear fruit for God. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”(1 John 5:12)

So you see, for us who have been joined to Christ through death, burial and resurrection we have a new way of living. Before we tried to do good things or avoid evil now we just look to the vine. We have finally realized it isn’t about the branch as much as it is about the vine and the fruit.

Being a branch definitely has its advantages though. Our job is to simply receive the life-flow coming from the vine. It isn’t a struggle to bear fruit if we just let the vine have its way in us. Have you ever seen a branch grimacing with a furrowed brow desperately struggling to bear fruit? Me either. But I have seen them just resting in the tree haven’t you?

Written by Louie

WHO IS THE REAL DOER?

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Throughout the Old Testament there is law upon law that man seems to be required to keep. When it comes to the New Testament we discover the real purpose for these laws are to lead us to Christ. I guess the question is once we come to Christ then what is required of us?

For me the answer to this lies in the real meaning of grace. When the Apostle Paul taught grace people seemed to hear it as a “license to sin.” He said, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Paul recognized that the majority of people would respond with this question; “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” I think his response to this is marvelous he said, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” He then goes on to question whether they really knew that they had been crucified with Christ. Obviously this leads me to think that the reason we think grace is a license to sin comes from our ignorance of being crucified with Christ.

Paul goes on to tell us in Galatians 2:20 “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” When Paul tells us we have been crucified with Christ he is also saying when Christ arose we arose, and now it is really Christ, by way of the Holy Spirit, living our lives. I know that may sound heavy or confusing but let me use one of Jesus’ examples and see if it clarifies anything.

Jesus said in John 15 “I am the vine and you are branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” Humor me if you will. If a tree produced fruit because it was commanded to how would that happen? You might say, to the branches, I command you to bear fruit! Now if you thought about this at all you would understand that in commanding the branch you were really giving the command to the vine, or tree, right? I mean the branch can’t possibly obey that commandment can it?

This is the same type of thing for us in the New Testament. When God says to us “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” He doesn’t for one minute think we can, does he? As a branch joined to him, by way of Christ, now that’s another story. So when there is a command given in the New Testament I think it is safe to say it is really a command given to Christ within us. He is the only real fruit producer and the only one even capable of loving others, after all God is love.

Let me end with a couple quotes from The Apostle Paul he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” You see when the Spirit of God takes up residence within you it isn’t a matter of sitting around doing nothing. On the contrary you will be busy doing things it just isn’t you that is the prime doer. It is the grace of God, by way of his Spirit within, that inspires, motivates, moves and accomplishes what he wants in my life. When I sense God commanding me to do something I know I, of myself, am unable, but I also know he has placed Christ within me and he can and will accomplish all God asks of me. “For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I thank God that HE who began the work will be the one to complete it!

Written by Louie

LABOR PAINS

Our pregnant model Samantha Meeks

I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated lately, but I think it just dawned on me what it is. There are a number of people in my life that I know are believers in Christ and love God, but they don’t quite understand the fullness of what God has done for and in them. The Apostle Paul dealt with the same thing. He wrote the Galatians and said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.”

More and more I am seeing that my frustration comes from a desire for my fellow believers to know Christ in them. I’m not talking about just believing Christ can or did save them; I’m talking about him living his life in and through them.

There are so many that think Christ is there to “help them.” That may be a good start but that isn’t at all what God intends for their life. He isn’t into helping us he is into living in and through us. At first Jesus did tell his disciples he would send another helper to come alongside them. When it came right down to it though he told them He, the Father and the Spirit would take up residence within them. Thus fulfilling the promise given way back in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.”

Jesus went on to use the illustration of vine and branch to describe our relationship with him. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” While being a branch is great it really is only there to express the life of the vine is it not? I mean without the vine the branch couldn’t do anything but wither and dry up. We really are a vessel meant to be an expression of Christ to the world around us. A branch would never think the vine is there to help it would it? No. It would only forever be focused on the vine and letting the life of the vine flow through.

Sometimes I think the modern church is really only some new version of the Old Testament Temple. We have this idea that God lives in a building and every week we are to go meet with him there. I’m telling you that is a lie! Listen to what God says as recorded in Isaiah 66:1 thus says the Lord, “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. Where then is a house you could build for me?” I for one think Paul had it right. He knew God’s intention was to take up residence within each of his believers. Paul even said, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Let me conclude by saying this. If you are sensing a frustration because of “church as usual” never fear! Maybe it’s really birth pains. Paul described his feelings as “labor” in longing for Christ to be formed in the Galatians. What if this is the pains just before a great awakening, or birthing, in the very ones you are praying for?

Written by Louie