I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5
Jesus gives us a very simple but profound picture of how our relationship with God should work. Jesus explains that He is the Vine, the Father is the Vinedresser, and we, all believers, are the branches.
The Vine draws nutrition from the soil. The nutrients become sap, giving life to the Vine. The sap represents the Holy Spirit in this analogy. The Vine itself is completely dependent on the Vinedresser. The Vinedresser initially chose where in the ground to plant the Vine. The Vinedresser cares daily for the health and well being of the Vine.
We are the branches. As branches, we are also totally reliant upon the tending of the Vinedresser. The Vinedresser diligently prunes and supports the branches. He chooses foreign branches to be grafted into the Vine. He protects both the Vine and branches from harsh elements and dangerous predators. Fruit is the goal of the Vinedresser - maximum fruit production. It’s important to note that the Vinedresser is the producer of fruit, the Branch, is the bearer.
Just so we are clear on our role - the branch has a three-part job description:
1) Stay connected to the Vine - Abide
2) Cooperate with the Vinedresser - Obey
3) Bear whatever fruit grows as a result – Give it away!
That would be a good life mantra - Abide, obey, and give it away! Jesus emphasizes the necessity of abiding by saying, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” As a vine is to it’s branches, Jesus is to us. He is our ONLY connection to life itself.
So here’s an important question for us any of us in leadership capacities: Does anything change in this analogy when we become people in charge of people? Pastors, Mothers and Fathers, Community Heads, Club Captains, Teachers, CEO’s, etc…? Does our role ever shift into becoming at least Assistant Vinedressers? Do we take on dual identities and/or responsibilities? The answer is a resounding, NO!
When we assume authority roles and responsibilities in life, and in the Kingdom, we do so as branches. I wish I had learned this earlier in my ministry career. Have you ever felt pressured to produce fruit in the lives of others? In your congregation members, children, friends, or employees? Sometimes we put that expectation on ourselves. Other times, it’s imposed on us. However, the truth is, we are His workmanship, and so are the people we lead and serve (Ephesians 2:10). What a relief! It’s not our responsibility to fix the people we lead!
The Father is “always” the Vinedresser. It’s His job to do whatever is necessary to produce fruit in our lives. It’s our job to stay connected to Jesus and co-operate with the Vinedresser. As leaders, we serve our people the best when we help them connect to Jesus and learn to listen to and cooperate with the Vinedresser. Jesus goes on to say that the act of abiding involves abiding in His words.
“…if you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask what you wish, and it will be done for you.” John15:7
Giving attention to what God has said, and is saying to us, is an essential element of abiding. To abide requires giving attention to what He is saying. This brings us into the aspect of conversation - ongoing conversation with God, which helps us to remain in Him, and He in us. Dialoging with God and responding according to His directives. And trusting Him, the Vinedresser, to manage the tending, pruning, and fruit production operations – “working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:19).
Our role as Branches is to abide, obey, and give it away! And again, let me emphasize. We serve people best when we help them abide in the Vine, and learn to hear and respond to the voice of the Vinedresser.