6. The Grapevine & the Gardener"Let us begin 2020 by remaining connected to the vine, which will produce fruit and bring Glory to God!"
As we begin a new year, it’s a time for resolutions. We review the completed year, recognizing our high and low moments, and prepare ourselves for the year ahead. For many, this involves setting goals that will mold our lives and character. For that reason Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is probably the one most read. And most likely more weight is lost in January than any other month. The gyms are crowded and we are bombarded with ads for weight loss programs.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of our resolutions only last a few weeks or, if we are very diligent, a few months. We usually find ourselves repeating our same habits and falling back into our self-destructive routines.
In John the fifteenth chapter, Jesus declares that He is the grapevine and that His Father is the gardener. His disciples in the upper room would have resonated with His using the image of a vineyard. (See Isaiah 5:1-7). Jesus acknowledges that the work of the gardener is to produce fruit, and this is accomplished by preparing the ground, plowing the soil, planting seeds, purifying the garden (removing weeds) and pruning the branches. An interesting fact about gardening is that to produce more and better fruit, dead and lifeless branches have to be removed.
Jesus continues this metaphor by stating that He is the vine and that we are the branches. Those branches that produce fruit, He says, are His true disciples. The sole purpose of a branch is to produce fruit and if it isn’t producing fruit it is pruned, cut off and gathered to be burned–completely useless. In order to produce fruit, the branch has only one responsibility–to stay connected to the vine! The branch is not to work hard at producing fruit. Fruit is the natural outcome of being connected to the source of life and nutrients–the vine.
So, what does this have to do with New Year resolutions? Jesus says to each of us at the beginning of this New Year, “Remain in Me and I will remain in you.” Staying connected to Jesus will provide all we need for living the Christian life, being a true disciple and producing fruit. It is not about how many resolutions we keep, goals we set or even promises we make. It is about staying connected to Jesus! He said that if you remain in Me and My Word remains in you, you may ask for anything and it will be granted.
His Word in us means not just reading a few verses each morning. It means that His Word takes root deep within us, recreating us in His image, shaping our conduct and character like His. By “hiding His word in our hearts” daily, we become more like Him. Resolving to remain in Him and in His Word is the best way to begin this New Year.
Jesus goes on to say, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing!” We run ourselves ragged trying to accomplish this or that or seeking new ways to change. We follow each and every fad, self-help routines and commercial that promises our lives will be better if we buy this new product. We race from here to there looking for fulfillment and happiness in all the wrong places. “Remain in Me,” Jesus says, because the alternative is a waste of time. There is nothing worthwhile we can accomplish without Him–try as hard as we might. No amount of resolutions or self determination will bring us the fruit we are seeking to produce.
One last thing. When His true disciples produce fruit, we bring glory to the Father. The praise for a beautiful garden or mouth-watering fruit doesn’t go to the plant. The glory goes to the gardener. Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Don’t look for praise or reward for yourself for any good you do. Since we can do nothing apart from Him, it seems silly to praise the branch for the grapes enjoyed by those around us.
J.S. Bach signed his works with the initials SGD. I’m told this stands for Soli Gloria Deo or Only God’s Glory. Let us begin 2020 by remaining connected to the vine, which will produce fruit and bring Glory to God!
Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson is secretary for Spiritual Life Development in the Southern Territory.