This week’s theme has been “What kind of soil are you?” taken from the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. The last line of that parable was “still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” The Message versions says, “Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.” So, keeping in mind the question of soil and harvest, today’s reading is from John 15:1-17 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. 2He 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. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in Me, and I will 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.”
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown in to the fire and burned. 7If you remain in Me and My words remain in you ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”
9 “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. 10 If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name. 17This is My command: Love each other.”
Wow. That is a lot of words to absorb. There is no way to blog about it all. So I will share what journey God led me on as I struggled with John's words.
My 1st reaction when I read this tends toward self-condemnation. I feel Fear. Hopelessness. Worry that I am going to be cut off from the Father because I have not been “good enough” or have not “done enough” or have not bore enough fruit.
Which leads me to my 2nd thought - what is the “fruit” is that this refers to? Is the fruit people I have “led to Christ?” Is the fruit my good works? Is the fruit keeping the laws and commandments? Or is the fruit the “fruit of the Spirit”, you know – that list that has fruit in it like love, patience, kindness, gentleness…. I can’t remember the list. So I look it up.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
I like the “feeling” that I get when I read this! I don’t see condemnation – but instead I see a very gracious “Gardener” God bringing gifts into my life – like in an orchard – fruit - a gift of Fruit from Him to me! That “tastes” so much sweeter than my default reaction of - “I am a hopeless branch – I haven’t bore much fruit – I am going to be cut off and thrown into the fire!”
So the next time…
When I am having trouble loving someone, or when my patience is gone… When I have no kindness inside of me, no goodness whatsoever… When I am faith-less, when I am full of harshness, bitterness and nothing resembling gentleness at all… When all self-control is gone and I am on the brink of complete rage and immediate gratification…
Instead of turning to the condemnation – the scary thoughts of "cutting me off and throwing me into the fire” parts of this verse – I will read it with a different approach – and look at the PROMISES in the verse…
“Dawn, you are not clinging to Me, your Vine... you are trying to make it alone without Me… you are not remaining in Me…. Dawn, apart from Me, you can do NOTHING... that is why you are having trouble loving this person, having patience… that is why you are not being kind right now, why there is no goodness in you…
But, with Me, Dawn, when you remain in Me - I will bring into your life the fruits - of love, and patience… with Me, Dawn, there will be kindness in you, and goodness… only by remaining in ME, will you be faithful, full of gentleness and self-control.. by staying completely attached to ME.
Isn’t that a big difference?
My hope of producing a harvest beyond my wildest dreams? REMAINING IN HIM!