September 6, 2007

Sticking to Jesus

When Jesus says, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” I think of the many varieties of plants that are grafted to a hardy stock or root, such as roses and fruit trees. Without grafting, the desired species could not survive our winters, but I think that Jesus had more than cold winters in mind.

In this vivid word picture from John 15, He says, “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.”

God put me in Christ and Christ in me. Even though this spiritual reality entails far more than a simple tree grafting procedure, Jesus picks out one important factor common to both a grafted branch and my relationship with Him. If the branch remains grafted to the tree, it will produce fruit and not wither and die. If I remain ‘in Christ’ I will be fruitful, spiritually alive and vital in my faith. I need Him just as much as a grafted branch needs the tree.

The words Jesus spoke are both objective and subjective. That is, God placed me in Christ and Christ in me. I cannot change that objective fact. However, I can stop drawing on the resources of the One to whom I am grafted. That will make my life fruitless.

The illustration ends there. This passage is talking about those who remain in Christ (true believers) and those who profess faith but do not rely on Him for all things. Such ‘branches’ eventually wither and die because they are not true believers, not abiding in Him.

My forays into trusting myself have always meant failure in some way or another. If I don’t sin blatantly, I will embarrass myself with some dumb stunt or other. Jesus wants me to survive trials and temptations, and certainly the wrath of God on my sin, but more than that, He wants His life to flow in me in such a way that what I do has eternal value.

That makes me think of grand tasks of great ‘spiritual’ significance. So how much of the life of Christ does it take to do household chores, weed the garden, fetch the mail, and answer the phone?

For me, I need Him for those things too. When I’m abiding in Him, He does make a difference. Without Him, I am grumpy, full of negative thoughts, resentful, rude (as in when telemarketers call) and generally unhappy. Abiding in my Vine changes all that—to joy, wholesome and happy thoughts, and a good attitude. I am pleasant even to those who call in the middle of my lunch trying to sell me a vacation to Cancun.

Spirituality is not just for Sunday at church or Christian ministry. It is also for daily life. Today, I’ve a to-do list a mile long (because I spent yesterday making a dress and bonnet for my great granddaughter), and I’m very aware of my need to abide. Otherwise, by the end of today I will be crabby and unpleasant, and if something unforeseen keeps me from getting my work done, I could very well be a stressed and raving maniac!

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