I Am The Vine
“[Jesus said,] ‘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. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’” – John 15:5,8
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
I was listening to a podcast, today, that was all about spiritual discipline. The question they were addressing is what spiritual discipline is and whether it’s a Biblical concept. In the podcast, they quoted Donald Whitley, the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, who said,
“The only road to Christian maturity and Godliness passes through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. “
Is that really true?
A lot has been written on spiritual discipline and many Christians spend a lot of time and effort trying to achieve spiritual maturity through spiritual discipline. You can find hundreds of books written on the subject. They give dozens, even hundreds, of things you can do which they say will cause you to become more godly and mature.
Some you may recognize, such as prayer, reading the Bible, and worship, and others which are less common, such as almsgiving, journaling, watching, silence, simplicity, and more.
Rather than making people more mature in the faith, however, it leads many to become frustrated and less sure of their salvation and others to become prideful about how “godly” they are. Simply put, rather than resting in the grace of God, we look to ourselves and our works for maturity and salvation.
So, what do we do?
Our passage for today keeps it really simple,
“Remain in [Jesus].”
This is one of my favorite descriptions of our life of faith. We are branches. As such, we can only live if we remain in the vine. We can only produce fruit if we remain in the vine. A branch doesn’t will itself to produce fruit. It does so naturally because it is part of the vine.
So, what do we do? We remain in Christ. Don’t cut yourself off from Him. He will give the spiritual water and nutrients we need to live and grow. He does this through His Word and Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). By these means of grace, God strengthens our faith, forgives our sins, and draws us to Him.
It’s all the work of God.
So, we can rest in the grace of Jesus Christ. We can take His yoke upon ourselves for his burden is light.
It’s not that discipline is bad or we shouldn’t do things like reading the Bible and praying. Rather, it’s the difference between thinking we need to do these things to become godly verses thinking we do these things because we get to, we love to, and we know God has given these things to us as a gift, all the while rejoicing in the fact that we have been saved and made holy by God’s work.
Then reading the Bible or praying become a joy rather than a burden and you can rest.
You have grafted me into Yourself, the vine. Keep me firmly attached to You. Feed me with Your supper. Strengthen me by Your Word. Produce Your fruit in my life by the power of Your Spirit and help me to rest in Your grace rather than place myself under the yoke of my own works.
In Christ’s Service,