In John 15, Jesus calls Himself the true vine. It was the last of His seven “I Am” statements before going to the cross.
The great I Am tells us who He is, over and over again, in earthly words that we can understand and experience.
I am the bread of life (John 6:35). I am the light of the world (John 8:12). I am the gate (John 10:9). I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14). I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
And finally, I am the true vine.
If Jesus told us who He is today, it might read something like this: I am the superfood. I am the solar power. I am the passport into the Dream City. I am the CEO. I am the CPR. I am the Advocate, the Judge, the not guilty verdict. I am the World Wide Web that holds all things together and connects you to everything you wished you could ever know and all the things you cannot even imagine.
Of course, these descriptions pale in comparison to Who our Savior is, but they make the association with things we dare not live without in our own society.
So why do we ever attempt to go about our day without Jesus?
"Stay connected to Me, and I to you …" (John 15:4).
As a branch on a vine, Jesus tells us to remain in Him.
In the sacred call to abide, we must cut off our doing mentality to be still and believe that Christ in us will do it for us (Psalm 46:10). The true vine of heaven, by His mercy and grace, will grow us and hold us securely to Him -- even when we’re dangling by a thread.
“You hem me in, behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me,” (Psalm 139:5).
Jesus cautions us to stay connected to the true vine, which implies that there are false vines that will try to wrap around us and strangle out the abundant life He came to give.
"A thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Before His crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples that He was going away to prepare a place for them. This place, of course, is the kingdom of heaven. Yet, He also sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within them. This is the abiding place He invites us into every day through the power of His Spirit, our Helper, Counselor, Comforter and Guide (John 14:2, 16-17, Ephesians 1:13).
But we can forget to keep coming to Him and then wonder why He isn’t transforming our lives.
We so often make the mistake of placing the burden to abide squarely on our shoulders. When we attempt to do it in our own strength, we quickly become frustrated and often fail by reaching for the false vines. These false vines may seem more convenient, comfortable or familiar in the moment, but they will never be preferable or profitable in the long term.
When we seek anything besides Jesus as our life source, lover, and peace, we create a distorted and sorry kind of savior.
In whom or in what are you abiding?
Is there anything in your life posing as the true vine - the thing you consistently take hold of - that is really a false vine deceiving you into believing you are thriving?
These false vines come in many forms: significance, busyness, appearance and body image, health, privilege, possessions, philanthropy, popularity, control, your career or a hobby, a relationship, your bank account….
These things can be gifts from above, but would you still faithfully follow Jesus if any of these things were taken from you?
Are there any vines that are strangling life from you – the thing that takes hold of you and seems to never loosen its grip, despite the longing to rid yourself of it?
Pride, insecurity, a spirit of comparison, jealousy, bitterness, self-righteousness, stress, worry, fear, anger, an addiction, materialism, perfectionism, a phobia, self-loathing, gossip or shame…?
A false vine - wanted or not - is essentially anything we most identify with, gain our value and worth from, put our hope in, or are comforted or controlled by that is not Jesus.
Are you abiding in the things of the world or the sure and steady Way of the Cross?
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
If you find yourself abiding in anything but Jesus and His Word, ask Him to unravel you from the false vines – the weeds of the world - and pull you back to Him, the true vine of heaven.
"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need" (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus will give us everything we need, and He will take away everything that we don't need, as we abide in Him.
If you have been asking God to relieve you from the clutch of a false vine with no apparent result, consider that perhaps this "thorn in your side" serves the purpose of keeping you desperate for Jesus (II Corinthians 12:7). Consider, perhaps, that He is teaching you to be long-suffering and is growing your faith in the process as you wait on Him to deal with it in His perfect timing (Romans 5:3-5). Consider that He is testing you to ensure that you are seeking Him more than the solution (James 1:3, Psalm 139:23).
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Jesus couldn’t be more explicit. We need Him, moment by moment. We cannot go about our day expecting to prune the false vines or produce spiritual fruit apart from Him.
Jesus isn’t satisfied with just the saving of us, although that in itself is miraculous. He’s not looking for a one-time transaction that reeks of cheap grace – because it was anything but cheap. He is offering an ongoing connection that will raise up the sweet aroma of Christ to God and to those around us (II Corinthians 2:15).
When Jesus said He was the resurrection and the life, He spoke of eternity. When He said He was the way, the truth and the life, He spoke of abiding.
It is on the journey of abiding and becoming more like Him that we begin to grasp a fraction of His abiding, never-ending love for us. And only then we will begin to produce His lasting fruit.
“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Let the True Vine of Heaven hold your heart today. Abide in Jesus.