"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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:6-8 NIV.
The vine leaves glistened silver in the moonlight as Jesus and His disciples made their way through the vineyard towards the olive grove. Jesus bent down and lifted up a fallen branch that had become disconnected from the vine. The leaves were withered and turning brown. The branch was dry and brittle. It was obvious that the branch was dead.
Turning to His disciples, He showed them the branch and taught them a simple object lesson. 'See this branch,' He said softly. 'It is lifeless because it broke off the vine. It has no value now; all it's good for is to be burnt. The only way a branch can bear fruit is to remain attached to the vine.
You are just like the branch of a vine. If you maintain your connection with me, you will bear fruit just like the branch that remains attached to the vine.' Amazingly, remaining attached requires no hard work while becoming detached takes effort. To break one's connection with Jesus means that you have to reach the conclusion that there is no value in continuing to trust Him and then actively to walk away from Him, renouncing the truth you once believed and turning back to the worthless ways of the world.
To remain in the vine is to keep trusting in Him and allowing His word to shape your thinking and acting. How does the branch remain in the vine? By doing nothing except receiving the life of the vine as it pushes up into the branch. The water and nutrients that flow from the vine into the branches provide the nourishment that keeps the branch alive and supple, and eventually produces the grapes in season which is the only function of the vine.
Like the vine, fruitfulness is the primary function of the believer. What is fruit? Many Christian teachers believe that the measure of fruitfulness is reckoned in terms of the number of "souls" one wins to the Lord, like Red Indians counting scalps. Is this what the Word teaches us?
Fruit is what reveals the nature of the tree. "'Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit...Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.'" Matthew 7:15-17; 20 NIV.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV.
The Pharisees had issues with Jesus because He healed on the Sabbath. To "work" on the Sabbath was abhorrent to them while, to Jesus, to do a work of kindness was what the Sabbath was all about. Why? Because works of kindness revealed His true nature as the Son of the Father. They called Him Beelzebub because of His good works. He called them children of the devil because of their hatred and plotting to murder Him. It was the fruit that revealed the nature of the tree.
Fruitfulness takes no effort but to remain in the vine and the fruit of remaining in the vine is answered prayer. The secret of answered prayer is not persuading God by much prayer but the branch remaining in the vine and the word remaining in the branch, the nourishment of the word flowing from the vine to the branch.
This is not labour but rest!
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