“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples." (John 15:5, 8)
A few moments this morning pondering this passage may help us to understand just how much God is concerned with our growth - not just our statements of faith or acknowledgements that he is God. He really wants us to know that he is a 'fruit inspector' - he looks for us to bear fruit! Yes, it will be over time because no fruit is instantaneous, but he still looks for signs of a harvest! Jesus points out the 'connection' that results in fruit-bearing without which we will be barren - something he refers to as 'deadwood'. I don't know about you, but if someone labeled me as 'deadwood' I would be pretty offended because I know it carries the connotation of being useless or a burden. In terms of writing, deadwood refers to those words that are added, but that may not always be necessary. For example, if I were to say, "The lamp on that table that is brown with a white shade", there is some 'deadwood' in that sentence. I could say, "The brown lamp with the white shade on the table", eliminating the 'deadwood' entirely. Deadwood serves very little purpose - it just 'takes space'. In God's kingdom, he doesn't need 'space occupiers' - he needs vital participants.
The relation we have with God is described as 'intimate' and 'organic'. When we hear the word 'intimate' today, it probably conjures up different meanings as it is used in different settings, but Jesus uses this to describe the closeness of the union necessary for growth to occur. A branch of a tree may be able to sprout roots and grow in a totally different location, but when the connection is lost there is a danger of death occurring. Closeness to the 'life source' is essential. Organic may simply refer to us being 'living' beings - participating in a close family relationship in God's kingdom. Both describe evidence of growth - of being alive. Separate we cannot produce a thing - that is pretty telling as to the necessity of maintaining a living (vital) connection with Jesus on a daily basis. Lose that connection and you lose the capacity to 'produce' - we become 'deadwood' - useless. How do we maintain this close union with Christ? We get to know the one we are in relationship with!
How is it we get to know each other on this earth? Don't we spend time with each other, listening to stories we each tell, recalling events of our lives so that we learn more and more about what went into who we are today? Don't we observe the movement of the other person - observing if they are hunched over and displaying fatigue or worry, or perhaps bouncy and giddy as though their world was about to explode with fireworks all around? We 'take note' because we want to understand what makes them 'tick'. We hope they do the same in getting to know us - so the 'union' or 'relationship' grows and has permanent roots that hold us through thick or thin, good or bad times. Why would it be any different in getting to know Jesus? It isn't! We need to take time to get to know him just as we do getting to know each other. In time, we won't even need to ask what he is thinking we should do right now because we will just sense it and move when he moves.
Make God's Word at home in your heart. This isn't just us doing a little bit of reading every day and then expecting the short passage we take in will somehow change us. It is continual contemplation of the Word we are provided as 'intake' each day. Honestly, this is why I journal - writing this blog is a form of me journaling what God is speaking to my heart. In contemplating the passage, I am allowing it to impact those areas of my life where I need to have God's attention focused more intentionally. It is 'pruning' me so that I am readied for the production of the fruit in the right season! How about it? You up to a little 'pruning' today? Get close enough to Jesus, allowing his Word to be at home in your heart, and you might just be surprised what fruit you see produced over the next year in your life. Just sayin!