THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES – II
by Bob Wheeler
As we say in our last blogpost, as Jesus left the upper room with His disciples He told them the parable of the vine and the branches, and how the vine dresser prunes the vine so that it will bring forth more fruit. Jesus then goes on to explain the underlying principle. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5; NKJV). Our success in the Christian life, whether as individual Christians or entire churches, depends entirely upon the quality of our relationship with Christ. He is the activating principle. Our ability to live the Christian life depends on the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in us. Our success in ministry depends on the exercise of spiritual gifts which Christ must give to us, and upon the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit as we exercise these gifts.
The problem with the modern church is that too often we seek to achieve spiritual ends through the use of carnal means. We are too self-confident and too self-sufficient. We plan, we organize, we publicize. But in the end it is all unlikely to achieve lasting results unless the Holy Spirit is at work, convicting and regenerating lost sinners and strengthening the saints.
God only knows how desperately we need revival today. But true revival will never come unless we first acknowledge our dependency on Him, and get on our knees and pray. We need to confess our sins and our shortcomings; we need to plead for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the words of the hymn writer,
“O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival – start the work in me.”
(J. Edwin Orr)
Jesus goes on to reinforce the exhortation with a promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it will be done for you” (v. 7). This is not the proverbial blank check (“O Lord, won’t You buy me a Mercedes-Benz”). The condition is that “if you abide in Me, and My words abide in you.” If the condition is present, if Christ’s words abide in us, we will not ask for anything contrary to His will. – Our desires will by sanctified by His words abiding in us. But if we are actively seeking His will and identify a genuine need, we have the promise that He will answer our prayer. We have not because we ask not! (James 4:2).
It sounds too good to be true. But then Jesus goes on to explain the underlying rationale to all of this: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (v. 8). God wants to see the church successful; He wants to see us bear fruit, because He is glorified in the process. To see the church blossom and flourish, to see darkness turning to light and life coming out of death, all of this is a monument to God’s wisdom, grace and power. That is, in fact the whole purpose of Christ’s coming into the world in the first place. Therefore God wants the church to succeed. But it can do so only to the extent that it abides in Him, and it is for that reason that God the Father “prunes” us. “So will you be my disciples” – students or pupils of Jesus, genuine followers of Him. In order to be a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ one must have close fellowship with Him.
The great weakness of the modern church is that we are too content to have only a nominal relationship with Christ. We do not pray; we ignore His teachings; we are guided by pure pragmatism. And we suffer the consequences. There is little sense of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our churches; there is little fruit. There are few conversions, and very little spiritual growth in professing Christians. It may very will happen that the vine dresser will come and begin His pruning. It will be painful to endure but it needs to be done. May Your will be done, O Christ, and may the Father be glorified as a result!