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. John 15:5
Did you know that tomatoes are technically fruits and not vegetables? We cook with them like we do other vegetables, but they actually have all the characteristics of fruit. Fruit or vegetable, tomatoes are a staple of my diet, whether cut up fresh in a salad, enjoyed in salsa, or poured straight from a can into a pot of soup.
At the insistence of my dad that any southerner could grow tomatoes, I planted some tomato plants in my backyard a couple of years ago. I babied them and did everything my dad told me to do – fertilize, water, pinch back, tie up, put my right foot in, take my right foot out, put my right foot in and shake it all about – and all I got was two tomatoes. (Granted, they were two of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. They made the store-bought ones taste like “synthetic tomato product”.)
I guess tomato cultivation isn’t necessarily the birthright of every southerner after all. With hardly any effort my dad can grow enough tomatoes to feed the entire congregation at his church; by the sweat of my brow and with herculean effort I grew enough for a couple of turkey sandwiches.
Obviously the secret to successful tillage is the right gardener. After all, my dad not only does all the fertilizing and pinching back, he also knows how to do it at just the right time in order to get the most fruit for his efforts.
In the first verse of John 15, Jesus (who is the speaker for the entire chapter) is pretty clear that, when it comes to the overarching cultivation of my Christian life, God is the gardener; and with God fertilizing and pinching back at just the right time, the result will be way more than fresh tomatoes. In John 15:5 Jesus goes on to say: “If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit.” So for me to bear real, lasting, significant, and meaningful fruit, I (one of the branches) have to continue to be a part of the vine (Jesus); likewise, Jesus has to continue to be a part of me.
Although he promises a life full of fruitfulness if I continue following in His footsteps, he finishes John 15:5 by breaking from the fruit-bearing analogy to provide a straight-forward “however” kind of caveat. He says very plainly that “apart from me, you can do nothing.” Nothing… nada… zip.
My brief and unproductive foray into tomato cultivation definitely illustrated that. Any of the branches I pinched off my tomato plants immediately ceased being productive parts of the plant. There was no way for them to continue to draw nourishment from the vine and produce tomatoes.
Sin can sever my “branch” from the vine and keep me apart from God, as can my self-centeredness and independence. If I fail to follow God’s guidance when I sit down to write a post for “clay,” forging ahead on my own, pleased with my own compositional cleverness, I’ll basically end up writing that post twice – once under my own “inspiration” and once under God’s. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which one of us writes the best posts… (I have to praise His name, though; in spite of those moments of willful independence, He still gives me the discernment to know when I’ve gotten off track so that I don’t make a fool of myself.)
So, just like my ill-fated tomato plants, I need the best gardener – and I need to remain a part of Jesus, the vine, in order to bear real, lasting, significant, and meaningful fruit. Otherwise, God may as well just go ahead and pinch me off.
Of course, all this begs the question: What opportunities do I have to bear fruit? (Except for tomatoes.) My fruit bearing opportunities include:
- Changing hearts and lives by sharing what God has done for me here on “clay” (some of whom I may not know about here in this life).
- Playing a part in people becoming followers of Jesus at home and abroad because I support my church through tithing and giving to missions efforts.
- Experiencing growth and maturity in my own faith by maintaining an active prayer life and studying God’s word.
- Leading others to Christ by sharing my pre- and post-salvation story and showing the richness of God’s mercy and the potential of a life totally surrendered to Him.
But that’s just me. We’re all called to serve God in different ways. What kinds of fruit are you bearing as a follower of Jesus? Leave a comment and share what God is doing through you. (I preview all comments before publishing; if you want to just share with me privately let me know in your comment.)
Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, the vine, and the source of my spiritual nourishment. Help me to remain in Him and bear the fruit you want me to bear over, and over, and over again.
Anybody else in the mood for a turkey sandwich…?