With all the stuff, opportunity, and things to commit our lives to here in America, what gives you life? Think about it… What in your life, if it were suddenly taken away, would rob you of your joy and happiness? My guess is, many of us in this great country of abundance and independence would have a long list. Among other things, our lists would include loved ones, security, jobs, possessions, and health. The question is, do any of these things give you life? I am not talking about physical life, but life as defined by having vitality, vigor, and energy. Do these things produce in you what Jesus speaks of when He says in John 10:10, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full.” The correct answer is, NO! Further, these things do not produce spiritual fruit in your life.
The crazy thing is, God gave us all this stuff that we have become so absorbed with for our pleasure and as a result a portion of the abundant life can be experienced through this stuff. However, when the stuff becomes our source for life, we have turned the gifts of God into idols. Jesus paints a beautiful picture of this in John 15:1-8.
“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me-and I in him-bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.”
— John 15:1-8
If you were to look at a grape vine in a vineyard, you would see a trunk coming up from the ground that comes to a “T” and then spreads either to the left or right. Out of this thick trunk many branches grow. Out of those branches are more branches and so forth and so on. All of these branches are fully capable of producing fruit, but not all of them do. The branch that bears the most fruit is the branch that is attached to the life giving trunk. Jesus is the trunk or vine and we are the branches in this analogy. The question on the table is not whether you are a branch, rather what kind of branch are you? Are you a branch of a branch of a branch? Or are you a branch off the true vine? What are you connected to? If all the things in your life were “pruned” away, would you still have life?
Looking back over the years God has revealed to me that some of the fruit in my life has turned into branches that were attached to me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because these branches thrived and produced fruit on their own. Jesus calls us to raise up disciples, we see this when Paul urged the Corinthians to follow his example has he followed the example of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1), but there was an issue with the way I was discipling others. As long as I was pouring into them they produced fruit, but the moment that God pruned me/them away, these branches began to wither and dry up. They stopped producing fruit. My failed in this because I did not bring them full circle. They had become dependent on Jesus through me instead of Jesus Himself. Unlike a grapevine we have the ability to attach ourselves to whatever we want, whenever we want. For new believers it is understandable for them to attach themselves to the one who disciples them, but eventually they must set their hope on Jesus. This is the clear process of what Peter and Paul refer to as moving from milk to meat. Moving from being spoon fed to being able to eat on your own. As Jesus says later in John 15, we don’t need someone to teach us and hold our hand. We don’t need to remain attached to someone because the Spirit of God that lives in us will do a better job than any man or woman could ever do. This is not permission to go it alone, because we need accountability. However, it is permission to take responsibility for your growth and relationship to God. I would presume to assume that this is the problem for the majority of believers. We don’t “remain” in Him. Instead, we seek to find life in the things of this world. “[We exchange] the truth about God for a lie, and [worship] and [serve] created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:25)
On KSBJ the other day, the DJ on air was talking about how his pastor had used the image of a pie graph to depict our lives, with each wedge representing an area of our life and it’s importance. The size of the wedge represents that area’s importance and our devotion to it. The DJ went on to ask the question, “how does God fit into your life? Is He just a wedge on the wheel or is He at the center?” Although there is nothing directly wrong with this truth, I personally feel that it is misleading. If we look back at the picture of the grapevine, we can see that all the branches revolve around the true vine. No matter what God will always be the center of the universe. He created all things and all things were created for Him. The problem I see here is that we often think that as long as your life revolves around Jesus we are free to fill the wedges of our life with whatever we want. Though this is a matter of semantics, I believe that God wants more than to be just at the center of your life. He wants to be your life. He doesn’t want you to make a choice for yourself and then have you figure out how it fits into His plan. He wants all your choices to be based on His will, not yours. When we live this way we find ourselves with a life full of things that conflict with God’s will and purpose. When we live like this we have a million excuses of why we can’t be apart of that church event. Why we can’t go on that mission trip. Why we can’t give to that cause.
Is God trying to prune things out of your life? Go back to the list we made at the beginning of the post. If any of those things were to be pruned away, would you still have life? Would you keep the faith? This is no easy task. I have been in a season of pruning myself. It is excruciatingly painful, but it is worth it. Peace, contentment, and abundant life is only found in Jesus. It can only be found when He is all we need. The path to this way of living is not easy, but it is worth it! At the end of this path is a weight of eternal glory that will surpass any suffering you will go through in this life. It starts with surrendering all that you are, have, and desire to Him. It begins with letting go of this life and all of its stuff. Crucify your flesh today and find the life that you have been searching for. What will you choose?