Devotions

I Am: True Vine • Devotion #4: Vinedresser

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

I believe that for many of us who call ourselves followers of Christ, we have heard this “I Am.” I know certainly for me, growing up at a Christian school K-12th grade, this was a passage I knew very well and heard often. Over the years, I have made two observations from this passage which I think we should all evaluate within our personal walks with Christ. First, are you truly part of the vine? To be a part of the vine, Christ, means that we truly have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. It does not mean that we simply have said some words and believe in a higher power. This means that as Paul wrote in Romans 10:9, that we have confessed and truly believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and He is who He says He is.  

The second evaluation is this, are you truly prepared to be pruned? I am not sure about you, but cutting the grass and doing landscaping is hard work! However, the work is worth the reward to see those perfect lines in the grass, or that picture-perfect tree and hedge! Here, Jesus tells us that in order for us to bear fruit, in order for us to share His Gospel in a meaningful and impactful way, we must be willing to be pruned by our heavenly Father. This pruning is not to hurt or stop us from being effective, but to make us more effective for the cause of the Gospel of Christ. 

I pray that as you continue on today and the rest of this week, you will evaluate these two questions in your life and walk with Christ. I know that at times the pruning that has taken place in my life has not been easy. Yet, as I continue to prayerfully seek the Father’s will in my life and continue to stay in His Word, I am truly thankful for a Vinedresser who cares and loves me so deeply!

I Am: True Vine • Devotion #3: Fruits of our Labors

I grew up in a small town. In many ways, we were sheltered from the activities of people that live in more populous areas. Our summers were spent taking care of our farm animals, weeding in our sizeable vegetable garden, mowing grass, and helping out in our orchard and grape vineyard. Working in the orchard and vineyard was always my favorite as I always enjoyed the “fruits” of our labors.

One of the most important aspects of owning an orchard or vineyard is the discipline of pruning. Plants that bear fruit, in most cases, have to be pruned. The trees or vines start growing new branches every year and some of these branches must be pruned. We would always make a pile of these pruned branches, and when we had them all in one pile, we would burn them as they were useless. My dad always called the branches he cut away “sucker limbs.” When I asked him for an explanation, he told me that the branch, due to its location, would more than likely not produce fruit and would just suck the life out of the other branches that were actually producing fruit. 

To illustrate this to me, he took me to the grape vineyard next to our orchard. We had spent countless hours over the years in the orchard, pruning, and getting the trees producing beautiful apples, pears, and plums. The grape vineyard had not been touched for many years. The grapes it did produce were at best sub-par, and many times so unappealing to the eye that no one would even pick them, let alone eat them.

Jesus uses this whole process as an illustration in the New Testament. John 15:1-2 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Jesus describes Himself as the “Vine,” and that we as the “branch” need to be bearing fruit. If we are not bearing fruit, then we are to be pruned, so that branches that are bearing fruit can produce more. 

Jesus goes a little deeper into the illustration. Verses 4-5 say, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” By definition, the word “abide” means to accept or act in accordance with. Abiding with Jesus, or to accept and act in accordance with Him, allows Him to accept and act in accordance with us!

That should be enough to motivate us, but Jesus gives us a final warning. In verses 6-8, Jesus says, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” By abiding in Jesus, we are connected to the Vine. By being connected to the Vine, we will by default produce fruit. If we are producing fruit, we will glorify God, and people will know that we belong to Him! If we are connected to the Vine, our fruit will be the same fruits of the Spirit that He displayed. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul describes what our fruit should look like, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” By being connected to the Vine, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can produce heavenly fruit. That is the fruit that will make us appealing to humanity, and will give us the opportunity to share the only way to be connected to the Vine! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what grafts humanity into the Vine. 

Our vineyard through the skilled hands of my dad, though overgrown, over time started producing beautiful Concord grapes. The pruning process removed that which was taking away from the fruit growing in a fashion the way God designed it. Your life may look like an overgrown mess right now, but allow God to remove the things in your life that distract you from abiding with Him, and before long you will be producing beautiful fruit!

I Am: True Vine • Devotion #2: Pruning

As I write this devotion (April 2020), Spring is upon us and I am preparing to plant my garden. This will be my fifth year gardening and I have to admit I am kind of a hack when it comes to gardening. I should probably study more and plan more for crop location, ground preparation, and fertilization. There are a few things that I can actually grow and one of those is tomatoes. What I have learned about tomatoes is the importance of supporting the vine and pruning the shoots or branches. 

As Jesus was speaking to His disciples in John 15:1-5, He used an analogy or parable to illustrate the relationship of the disciples to Christ. In essence, it is a description of the relationship we are to have with Christ. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus describes Himself as the “True Vine” and His followers as “branches,” and that we first must remain connected to Him. Any branch apart from the vine can not and will not ever produce its fruit. He also identifies the Father as the “Gardener,” or the one that prepares the ground and cares for the plant.

The purpose of a garden is the harvest. I do not plant a garden in the spring, pull weeds all summer long, cultivate the soil, and water it just to look at it or to say I have a garden. The benefit of the garden is producing a crop or as Jesus says, “much fruit.” I have had some good years and not so good years at harvest time. The good years are directly connected to my effort throughout the growing season.  Jesus explains that the gardener pays close attention to his crop and through pruning increases the yield, Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

There are two aspects to pruning. The first is the removal of deadwood or those things in our life that will never produce fruit. Did you know there are 168 hours in a week, and if we remove time for sleep (56 hours) and our work (50 hours), that leaves just 62 hours of our week or about 8 hours a day? How are you leveraging those hours to produce much fruit? The second aspect of pruning is the removal of extra branches that would produce small fruit, so you can have fewer stronger branches that produce healthy fruit. Sometimes we have to let go of “good things” for “better things.” Are there good things in your life, those you enjoy that could keep you from investing time in the better things? Deadwood trimming is easy. Cutting away a good thing for a better future not so much, and it cannot be done without looking to your gardener.

Remember the Father is your gardener and He can be trusted to help you see where trimming needs to be addressed in your life. As you abide with Jesus, listen to the pruning He wants to do in your life.

I Am: True Vine • Devotion #1: Plugged In

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

Years ago there was a sad story that was being passed around. It was stated that there was a hospital room that was having a higher number of deaths than any of the other rooms. After weeks of testing the equipment, they found the flaw “in the system.” Someone noticed that the night shift janitor was inadvertently unplugging the patient’s life support system so he could plug in the floor polisher. 

Snopes.com has researched and found the story to be a fable, so it has a sense of sick humor to it. Even though it was not factual, it conveys an important truth. If we are not connected to the life source, we die.

John chapter 15 reminds us of the importance of being connected to Jesus. He is the true vine and we are the branches. As long as we are “plugged in” to Him, we have power, but as soon as we become disconnected, we start to shrivel up and die.

Verse 5 closes with such a powerful phrase, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Without Jesus, we have and are nothing. The crucial starting point is putting our faith in Him. By faith, and God’s grace, we can be restored and given real life. This salvation is the starting point, but we need to stay connected so we can be used by Him to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Basic ways of staying connected include prayer, studying God’s Word, singing praises, meeting with other believers, giving to the Lord, and serving the Lord.

Start each day making sure your spirit and His Spirit are connected. Most people regularly check the battery on their phone and make sure to recharge. Are we this focused on the Lord?

We need Jesus every day and every moment of every day. Stay connected! 

I Am: The Way, Truth, Life • Devotion #6: Jesus is Everything

Jesus is everything.

He is everything we need.

That is the summary of something Jesus says to one of His disciples in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. To understand what is said there, we have got to back up a little. The chapter begins with Jesus telling His disciples that He would soon be leaving them. He tells them not to be troubled and assures them that they would eventually be with Him. He says that He is going to prepare a place for them to be with Him forever. Then He says, “And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:4 NKJV). Now, what Jesus meant by that was simply, “I am going into heaven and the way you will go into heaven is the same way everyone does, through physical death.”

Thomas, no doubt speaking for the rest of the guys, does not understand. None of them did. They do not understand that Jesus came to die, they cannot comprehend that He would rise from the dead, and they never expected Him to leave by ascending into Heaven. It is safe to say that they have no idea what He is talking about here. This is why, when Jesus finishes speaking, Thomas immediately pipes up and says “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5 NKJV). The long and short of what Thomas said, “Jesus, we have no idea where you are going and we do not know how to get there either!” They were all thinking it, Thomas just said it.

It is to this confusion and question that Jesus says one of the most potent things that has ever been said. In verse 6 we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6 NKJV). Volumes have been written on this single verse, but we will do our best to summarize our Lord’s words here. 

First, He says, “I am the Way.” These are words that mean, “I am the way for or to everything.” So simple, but so rich. In this Jesus is saying, “I am the way a person is saved. I am the way a person is happy. I am the way a person gets through difficulty. I am the way a person makes the right decisions. I am the way a person makes the most of their lives. I am the way a marriage is healed. I am the way a relationship is restored. I am the way sin is overcome. I am the way to know God.” Jesus is the way to every good thing. Practically speaking, this means that Jesus and His words are like north on a compass. We check our direction based on everything He has done and said. If we are off, we must adjust back to Him and His ways to get back on course. 

Next, He says, I am “the Truth.” Again, words which mean, “I am the way you know what is true in life.” In this crazy world that is so full of deception, half-truths, and outright lies, it is hard to know what is really true. Yet, Jesus is always true. What He says is always true. His Word is the definition of truth. Practically, this means that we look at what He has said about any given subject and we can be sure that He is the truth concerning that thing. To use the previous illustration, it means that we actually have a “north” on the compass of life to compare everything to. Just try to imagine what life would be like if there was no absolute truth at all and you will begin to see how important these words are from our Lord Jesus.

Lastly, Jesus says, I am “the Life.” These words mean, “I am the way that a person truly lives here and the way that a person lives forever.” How do we avoid wasting our earthly lives? It is through being in a relationship with the One who made us. We find purpose, meaning, and fulfillment as we carry out His will and purposes for our lives. Life becomes beautiful as we walk with our Lord doing what He wants us to do. In this way, we become people who are truly fulfilled. 

It is not just physical and earthly life that Jesus refers to here. He is also referring to the eternity that is to come for every person. As people, we have been created in the image of God and as such we are eternal beings. This means that we will exist forever. There will never be a point when you and I cease to exist! The Bible tells us that we will exist in only one of two ways. We will be either eternally dead and separated from God in Hell or eternally alive in Heaven with Him. Here, Jesus makes it clear that He is the way that a person can live forever in Heaven with the Lord. It is received through the confession of our sins, in repentance to God, and the receiving Him as Lord of our lives. It is through Jesus and His work that a person lives forever. This is why the passage goes on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” It is through Jesus that we not only come to the Father but live forever with the Lord. 

Where are you at today? Would you say with Thomas, “We do not know how to get there?” Or, have you found that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life?” Have you come to see that He is everything?



Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 | info@theriverchurch.cc

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.