Vine and the Branches
I got my first Tattoo last month (3 actually), but here’s the story behind the vine and branches.The tattoo is a vine and it’s my reminder of two things:
I was created to be dependent on God.
God sometimes disciplines us to strengthen our character and faith.
In John 15, Jesus teaches about the Vine and the Branches.
‘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. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.’
The message is that Christ is the vine, and God is the gardener who cares for the branches to make them fruitful. The branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ.
Branches are dependent on the vine for nourishment. In Paul David Tripp’s book New Morning Mercies, he describes two kinds of foundational lies that typically convince us that we, as the branches, can be independent of the vine.
The first lie is autonomy. This lie tells you that you are an independent human. But the truth is creation portrays ownership. If I write a story that’s my story because I created, it. Unless I sell it or give it to someone else it’s mine. God created us. We belong to him. Autonomy is a lie.
The second lie is self-sufficiency. This lie tells you that you have everything within yourself to be what you’re supposed to be and do what you’re supposed to do. See creation demonstrates the need for dependence. If I plant a flower it needs weeding and watering to grow. We were created to be first dependent on God and then dependent on others. This lie makes us resist the help of our Creator. Self-sufficiency is a lie.
So, the fact of the matter is that we were created to be dependent on God. It has taken the grace of God and continues to take the grace of God to remind me daily that I am not sufficient in my own strength and more importantly that I don’t have to be.
The vine on my arm also reminds me that God sometimes disciplines us to strengthen our character and faith. Over a year ago, God convicted me to give up alcohol. At first, I didn’t understand why. But I stepped into obedience and committed to abstaining from alcohol. And through the miracle power of Jesus Christ, I am still sober today.
See, Alcohol had been something that had become deeply embedded in my social interactions. Whether that be a wedding, holiday, happy hour, family dinner, or a Saturday night bonfire cocktails were included. Now in my mind, I didn’t have the typical characteristics of an alcoholic. I had never been arrested. I wasn’t drinking every day. I could have one drink and be done. So why would he ask me to do this?
Well, being over a year out I can look back with a little bit more clarity on the matter. I think alcohol and the social interactions of this world had begun to take precedence over God. Alcohol was a way for me to cope with things that were hard. It had a way of making me complacent. When I consumed alcohol the Holy Spirit’s voice became dim. It was as though a vale was put over my eyes. I had loose lips and my inhibitions were lowered. It not only put me in physical danger at times (especially in my younger years) but it also hindered me from being the person God aspired for me to be.
So being the gardener he is. He pruned the branch.
But I couldn’t have done it without the resurrection power that Jesus Christ provides. In the past, I had tried to be “good”, to moderate, to abstain. But outside of my pregnancy, I hadn’t gone more than 2 weeks at any given time without an alcoholic beverage. Jesus says that the only way to live a truly good life is to stay close to him. Apart from Christ, our efforts are unfruitful.
So, what does it mean to stay close to Jesus? Remaining in Christ means: Believing he is god’s son (1 John 4:15), receiving him as Savior and Lord (John 1:12) doing what God says (1 John 3:24), continuing to believe the gospel (1 John 2:24) and relating in love to other believers (John 15:12). And with these things, we receive the special gift of nourishment that Jesus’ life provides.
I think my story could have gone in a very different direction.
See, there are two kinds of branches one that is fruitful and one that is not. The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit. But those who become unproductive, turn away from Christ, or make a superficial commitment will be separated from the vine because they are worthless and might infect the rest of the tree.
When I look back, I’m not sure I was producing any fruit. If I was, they probably tilted more towards those of the flesh. In Galatians, Paul describes acts of the flesh as sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, and drunkenness to name a few. My family has historically described me as “scary.” I was confrontational at times, quick to share my opinion, and usually harsh in my judgments. I had moments of drunkenness to the point where I couldn’t remember what I did or said. But Paul goes on to share the good news. He says, but those who belong to Christ Jesus have been crucified to the flesh with all its passions and desires. We now live by the Spirit. Some examples of fruits of the spirit include joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control. This kind of fruit is the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit in us. These are the very character traits that are found in Christ. We can’t obtain these things without his help. If we want the fruit of the Spirit to become an abundant part of our lives, we must join our lives to his.
It wasn’t until I asked God how I could draw closer to Him that he revealed the stumbling block in my life. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. So, the question I want to pose to you today is…Is there anything that’s holding you back or standing in the way of stepping into a more fruitful life? Maybe a bad relationship. Or a bad habit or addiction. A bad relationship with food. Or unresolved bitterness. Don’t know? Ask. Ask with the faithful expectation that he will show you the way to step into obedience so that you too can become a fruitful branch.
Over a year ago God revealed a simple truth to me. God chose me and appointed me so that I might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last (John 15:16). So, I am going to continue to work to know him, love him, remember him, and imitate him. And remain in him. Because if we do this, we will not be cut off from him and cast aside. The Holy Spirit will begin to do new work in us, and the fruits of the Spirit will begin to show up in abundance. And when a vine bears “much fruit” God is glorified. Because he sent the sunshine and rain to make the crops grow. He is the one who nurtured that plant and prepared it to blossom. So, let us enjoy the harvest.