by Angela Posey-Arnold
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ďI am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."(John 15:1-8 NKJV)
Abide. Abide. The word jumps off the page as a loving invitation from Jesus. As Christian disciples we strive to abide, but possibly we need to look deeper into what it means to abide. Websterís Dictionary defines abide as: to dwell, reside or wait for something, to accept, adhere to keep a promise, accept, as an agreement in a constant and enduring manner. To dwell, inhabit, live, reside, sojourn.
The opposite of abide is to depart, move, reject or resist. Jesus calls us and invites us to live in Him and He in us, every day, 24/7. He wants a relationship with us. If you were the only person on the planet He would desire this relationship with you. As His children we wait for Him, accept Him, adhere to His Word and keep our promise to allow Him to be the Lord of our lives, constant and enduring. What a wonderful gift He has offered to us; the gift of an individual relationship with the Almighty God through Jesus.
Jesus gives us the parable of God as the gardener and He as the vine. We can clearly understand how to live and abide in Him. Unless a branch is attached to the vine, it is lifeless and dead, incapable of life and unable to bear fruit. If the branch is not attached to the vine it is worthless only to be thrown away and burned in the fire.
In our world some people work all their lives like a dog chasing their tails. Never catching on to what really matters in this journey, never being attached to the vine. They believe bearing fruit is something material or earthly. Good fruit is not green. It is not about money.
People allow weeds, bugs, drought, or anything else the devil can offer to block their way to Jesus, the true vine. Some become blinded by the world. They are as dead branches. Away from Christ their work is in vain. The fruit of their labor is not actually the fruit that Jesus is talking about.
They may have a fine car, a big fat bank account and the best house. Inside there may only be a void. This void can only be filled by Jesus. Never feeling satisfied these fallen branches work and stress for money, fame or fortune and die without ever bearing any real eternal fruit. Nothing they have worked for will go with them to eternity.
This reminds me of the scripture referring to laying up treasures. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." (Matthew 6:19-20 KJV)
The treasures laid up that bring glory to God are the true treasures, the true fruit. It is difficult to understand why humans work so hard for things they will only leave behind. God tells us in His Word to lay up treasures for heaven and we can only do that by serving Him, by abiding.
Imagine a huge basket of fruit, every deed done for the glory of God adds another piece of fruit to the basket. This is the fruit of the Vine, the real Vine, fruit that matters. The treasures that some lay up for themselves on earth will all pass away, but the treasures laid up for ourselves in heaven are eternal.
This is why we must stay attached to the Vine. We must stay close to Jesus. Without the Vine we have no living water or nutrients to grow. Without the vine, our fruit never produces and our basket remains empty. There is no peace or purpose in laying up treasures on earth, there is no lasting eternal fruit. Even the richest man on earth can be the most miserable because there is no abiding for him. His riches cannot buy the happiness, peace and joy that comes from living and working for Jesus. Without Jesus he will never know the sweetness of the fruit.
Jesus helps us to understand these principals by giving us messages in parables such as the vine. Imagining God as the gardener we know that He full of grace and mercy inspects the fruit as it grows just as a good gardener would do.
Here in Northwest Alabama we are blessed with a wild vine that produces some of the sweetest fruit. They are called Muscadines. In our southern dialect some say musky-dines. No matter what we call them they are scrumptious sweet fruit which makes the best jam you ever put in your mouth. They are just a sweet gift from God to us every summer. They grow wild but if you tend to them they are better and sweeter.
My husband and I are blessed with a multitude of muscadine vines on our land. They were almost overcome last year by weeds. After carefully securing the main vine on a fence row we worked to remove the weeds so the vine could grow and flourish.
The weeds were steadily working to block the sunshine and steal the nutrients and water the vine needed to grow. The same thing can happen in our lives. Weeds in the form of stress, worry, fear, or material things or even other people can block us from the abundant life Christ has for us. Anything we allow to grow in our lives apart from the Word of God can choke us and steal our joy. With Jesus as the center of our lives these weeds canít grow, there just isnít room for both. All we have to do is pray and abide. He will do the rest.
My husband removed the pesky weeds from the muscadine vines. Then we had to take care of the bug problem. Japanese beetles were eating away at the leaves and left to their own devices they would have completely destroyed the vine in a matter of days. Just like the devil these bugs and weeds came to steal, kill and destroy and they are relentless. We treated the plants for bugs and continued to pull weeds during the entire growing season.
Like the muscadines being attacked by bugs, unfortunately we have an adversary in this journey of life that seeks to destroy us as well. By abiding in Christ the devil must flee. As Christians we have a barrier a hedge of protection much like bug spray is to bugs, our hedge of protection and our armour resist the devil and he has no choice but to flee. By applying our armour everyday, we are protected.
As the muscadine branches grew the new branches required support. We tied them up close to the main vine along the fence row. Like new Christians the new branches needed careful attention. When they accept the Lord they are like a new branch, they need love, support and nurture on a continuous basis. They are tender and young.
All disciples need each other to encourage one another and support one another in our journey here on earth. As we grow and learn we need each other to lean on and depend on in good times and bad. Muscadine vines grow close together, they pollinate each other. Christians need each other in the same way.
For the vines to produce the sweetest fruit they cannot be neglected. The weeds need pulling, the branches need supporting, the bugs need killing, and the vine itself requires tender loving care with water and fertilizer. And donít forget the Miracle Grow!!
Jesus said He is the Vine and we are the branches. We must stay close and attached to Him to grow. The closer we are to Him the healthier spiritually we will be and before we know it, His Words are our words and His heart is our heart. Soon our work for Him will produce fruit. But, we must keep a constant check on the Vine.
Even as we are producing fruit the world continues to throw things into our path to knock us off the fence row. The winds will come. The fence may fall.
As the summer progressed and our muscadines were almost ready to produce sweet fruit disaster struck. To my complete surprise, someone had come along the road and cut the vine right down the middle. I have no idea why anyone would do that, but they did.
The vine had grown to about 10 feet long from the base to the end. It was almost ready to have golden muscadines fully ready for picking. As I pulled the dying vine from the fence, I realized that if we had moved the vines closer to the house this probably would not have happened. The vines were planted by the road, too close to the world and outside our realm of sight.
The dying branches were cut off and thrown away with green immature muscadines drying up from being cut apart from the root.
Just like those vines, we have to stay close to home, close to Jesus or the devil will come along and cut us off right down the middle.
We continued to care for the remaining part of the vine and eventually it recovered from the trauma and produced a small amount of fruit which I made into a very sweet jam. Our work paid off in the end and we did have fruit, but not without obstacles.
Abiding. Now I know exactly what Jesus meant by abiding in Him. He means for us to stay as close to Him as we can. Read His Word. Pray. Assemble together and support and encourage one another, love each other and nurture each other. Stay close to Him and His protection, under His wing, in His garden, on His vine.
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I love the illustration of the Muscadine ó it fits beautifully into the theme of your article. I'll PM you with a few details. Blessings.