Last week I did some clean up in my yard. I cut back some leafy branches and tossed them behind the garage. I forgot all about them until yesterday. When I went to dispose of them – it was no surprise to see withered, dry, brown, dead leaves. That is what happens when the branch is separated from the tree.
Jesus takes that principle and applies it to us spiritually. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4, NIV) A key issue in the discovery of the life that is rich in the evidence of the Spirit’s flow within us is the connection to Him, to His Body; with the Word living in us. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6, NIV)
When we make a priority choice to meditate and pray, to take in the Scripture, to be quiet before the Spirit, to gather for corporate worship: we strengthen the connection that sustains spiritual life. It should be one of those things of which would say, “That is a no-brainer!” And yet, how often do we find ourselves living at a distance from Jesus, neglecting the Spirit’s invitation, estranged from the Church?
Our American individualism makes us particularly susceptible to trying to ‘do the Christian life’ on our own. We like to imagine that we are self-sufficient, strong, able to stand on our own two feet. It’s a nice myth with very little support in real life and in matters of the soul. Those who would live the richest and best life build and maintain strong networks with others. When we ‘connect’ to Christ Jesus, to His Body, to His Word – our autonomy is limited. We do not have the freedom to do whatever we want, to give full expression to every whim, every passing thought. Connection requires – here it is – that difficult word – submission.
When we are connected to Him we are alive! What does that ‘life’ make possible? Fruitfulness. Read His words again – “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.” (John 15:5, The Message) Want to know rich love, real peace, joy, steady patience, renewing kindness, basic goodness, trustworthy faithfulness, a gentle demeanor, and self-control so that you can refuse temptation? There is only one way it can happen.
- Stay connected to Jesus and when His Way contradicts yours, bow your head and heart and say a ready, “yes” to His invitation.
- Stick with His people. Forgive them instead of walking off on your own.
- Engage with others who love Him, too, sharing the life found in the Spirit.
Here is the word from the Word. Jesus wrapped up His teaching about branches and the Vine this way. Before you read these words, pause for a moment and breathe a prayer for understanding. “Father, open my mind to this truth. Make it more than an ideal. Help me to ‘connect’ and stay connected – with You, with Your Body – so I can live.”
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:9-13, NLT) “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17, NLT)
Build Your Kingdom Here
Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church
We need Your pow’r in us
We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captives’ hearts released
The hurt the sick the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause
We are Your church
We pray revive this earth
Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here we pray
Unleash Your kingdom’s pow’r
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth
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