(The book of John takes us through many deep discussions that Jesus gave at various times in His ministry. Please click herefor Study #1 — Jesus and Nicodemus; Study #2 — The Woman at the Well; Study #3 — At the Pool of Bethesda; and Study #4 — Bread of Life; and Study #5 — The Shepherd and His Flock. The next 7 devotionals are from John chapter 15, and they focus on the lessons we can learn from Jesus’ famous discourse, “The Vine and the Branches.” )
Last week, in The Vine and the Branches, Part 4, we discovered that the unfruitful branches must be cut back from the vine in order for the vine to produce optimal fruit. Thus, we need to stay connected to the vine, not only so that we don’t get cut back, but also so that we can contribute to the production of optimal fruit, and thus further the work of the Great commission!
But just how does one “stay connected” to the Vine? How do we stay connected to Jesus?
There are many Biblical ways to answer this question, but for the purposes of this devotional, let’s see what Jesus Himself says:
The first clue comes to us in John 15, vs 3, just after Jesus’ first declaration that He is the vine and we are the branches: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3 NKJV)
The first step to abiding in Jesus, then, is cleanliness! Spiritual purity!
Let’s remember that a sinner cannot be in the presence of a Holy, sinless God. There is no way we can be “attached” to Jesus as our vine without spiritual cleanliness! Before we can even hope to abide in Jesus, we must first humble ourselves enough to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We must accept Jesus’ gift of Salvation, and allow His robe of righteousness to cover all of our sin. And what then? “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you…” Then we are clean!
The next clue to staying connected to Jesus comes in vs. 4: “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” (John 15:4)
I find the wording of this verse very interesting. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine! Wouldn’t it be proper English to say, “on the vine?” I mean, when I speak of unharvested grapes, I say they are “on the vine!” Why, then, does Jesus use “in?”
In order to answer this question, I went back to Google. Yes, my teenage sons would be very proud of me! But this time I was bound for disappointment. My search for “In the Vine” came up with a beautiful farm in South Africa that offers a wedding venue.
I abandoned Google then and turned to my background in linguistics. Linguistically-speaking, “in” is a preposition that mainly denotes “rest at.” It is a place we are part of, where we “rest.” Take for example, the phrases, “we live ‘in’ the country” or “I’ll leave ‘in’ an hour.” And consider this phrase: “We are very happy ‘in’ our present arrangement.”
“On,” on the other hand, tends to denote proximity and position above or outside! Take, for example, “He sat ‘on’ the bench.” Note that he is not “part of” the bench, he is above it!
Let’s look at just one more linguistic example: “We went to Europe ‘in’ July of last year, and we left ‘on’ the 22nd of July.”
In this case, we went to Europe during the month of July, as part of July. Whereas we left “on” July 22, meaning, that was simply our launch date.
Does this seem complex?
Welcome to the world of linguistics! The point is this: If Jesus had said, “on the vine,” as I would have deemed correct in English, it would denote that we are somehow outside of the vine. His use of the word “in” helps us to remember that we are part of the vine!
Friends, when we accept Jesus’ gift of Salvation, we become the temples of His Spirit (“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” 1Cor 3:16, NIV2). That means that He is in us, and we, in Him. What He has is ours. His strength, His wisdom, His power. All ours. And it is only when we are “in” that great power that we, ourselves, have anything to offer! We can’t bear the fruit of righteousness on our own! It isn’t possible! Of ourselves we can’t bear any good fruit: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:18-19, NIV2).
Is it any wonder that Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing…” (John 15:5)?
In summary, then, the first clues we have for how to “stay connected to the vine,” to having a relationship with Jesus, are:
a. Accepting Jesus’ gift of Salvation;
b. Remembering that we are a vital part of the vine! We are “in” Him, and He is “in” us!
But the question remains, just how do we remain “in” Jesus?
Join us next week, for the next lesson from Jesus’ vine and branches discourse, The Vine and the Branches, Part 6: Remaining “in” Jesus!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
(To access the rest of this mini-series, please click here.)