I’m continuing the series on: How God Sees Us, which commenced here.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener … Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4
These verses are about remaining in the vine or abiding. Elsewhere in Romans we read how God has grafted us into the vine when we believed in him. Jews were very familiar with vines and vineyards. A modern illustration would be to compare ourselves to a light bulb. A light bulb only produces light when it is plugged into an energy source. Likewise we can only produce light when we are connected to God. We cannot produce fruit, or light, unless with abide in him. Our confidence has to be in the Lord if we are going to produce fruit, even when we have been trained to run a particular ministry. Training is good, and gives us tools and ideas of things we could do, but if we solely rely on a program or a technique we are not relying on the Spirit. “If God isn’t in it, the best humanly designed program won’t work. If God is in it, almost any program will work.”
The downside of being a branch of the true vine is that: “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.” The reason for pruning a vine is that left to itself, it will produce leaves and not fruit. The leaves look good and the vine appears to be healthy, but the leaves sap the vine of strength so it doesn’t produce grapes. God wants us to produce fruit, and not just any kind of fruit but fruit that will last, fruit that will have an eternal impact. We have the opportunity by our presence, by our prayers and by our finances to be involved in ministries and mission projects that are changing people’s lives. We can have an eternal impact. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last … ” John 15:16
God is looking at the long-term, he wants fruit that will last, not a bunch of leaves that look good, but doesn’t produce anything. Fruit that will last, speaks of significance. We saw previously that significance is measured not so much by the size of the impact but by how long it lasts. God wants us to live lives that will have an eternal impact and we do that by abiding in the vine. We abide when we are more concerned about God’s purposes, than looking good in the eyes of the world. We abide when we look to his Spirit for his enabling and empowering.
God is not able to satisfy us with a sense of significance if we are busy trying to satisfy ourselves with the things of this world. How can we tell, how well we are abiding in the vine?
When people are asked how well their spiritual life is going, they tend to answer by measuring their spiritual activity. How much they pray and read the Bible. How many Christian activities they are involved in. The problem is when we do this, the Pharisees always win. The Pharisees were very disciplined, and were experts at keeping up a good appearance. But they were also self-righteous and mean. So how can we measure spiritual growth so that the Pharisees don’t win?
John Ortberg in his book, The Me I Want to Be, shares two questions which helps us assess the well-being of our souls:
• Am I growing less easily irritated these days? If the fruit of love is growing in me, I will be less irritated.
• Am I growing less easily discouraged these days? If the fruit of peace is growing in me, I will be less discouraged.
We could add more:
• Am I growing less easily depressed these days? If the fruit of joy is growing in me, I will be less depressed.
We could go on, but the point is we measure spiritual growth by spiritual fruit, not by spiritual activity.