John 15:5,8 (NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you 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.
Our Verse of the Day provides one more “I AM” declaration to us to ponder: I AM the Vine! It is a great metaphor to communicate to us our absolute dependence upon Jesus for life itself! What Jesus is teaching is that we are simply branches … an extension of Him who is the root … the foundation … the core being of the vine that God (the sole Gardener) planted for Himself. Branches do not sustain the root or the structure of the plant; rather, they are an expression of the internal seed … of its DNA if you will. Branches arise out of the vine … extend its breadth and height … and provide positions where fruit can be formed and harvested. Indeed, a grapevine is the perfect picture of our relationship with Christ Jesus and reflects how we are to abide and function through that relationship….
John 15:1-12 (NIV)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain (abide) in me, as I also (abide) in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain (abide) in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain (abide) in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain (abide) in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain (abide) in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain (abide) in me and my words remain (abide) in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain (abide) in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain (abide) in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain (abide) in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
I see some key concepts for us to consider from this teaching. One is that we must abide or remain in Jesus. We must live in Him and He in us through His Spirit. And how do we know if He is living in us? We will be bearing fruit … much fruit. If you or I are not bearing the fruit of His Spirit … I believe it can be concluded that we are not abiding in Him. Fruit bearing is not a decision or an option; rather, righteousness and bearing fruit is the outcome of abiding in Jesus. We cannot help but bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives when we abide in Jesus and He in us. As Paul in his experience affirmed: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Cf. Romans 8:9) Just as Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
So, what is the fruit of the Spirit we will bear as branches of the vine? Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22-23 the following: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And though this fruit will be manifested in different varieties, each unique fruit derives its expression from its seed which bears the image of Christ Jesus. The Apostle John exhorted: “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:3-6)
Question? Do we live as Jesus did? Well, if we obey His Word and abide in Him, we are empowered to do so. The Apostle Peter affirmed: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And to receive that divine power (the Holy Spirit), we must come to Jesus and abide in Him … in order to bear much fruit as He appointed us to do … as we were created in Him to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Remember, it is for the Father’s glory that we bear much fruit and show ourselves to be disciples of Christ. So, let each of us take delight in being a branch in the vine! You and I are in ordained positions to be nurtured and nourished … to grow and spread out … and to bear fruit!
Another thought that came to mind is that these I AM claims reveal an emphasis that I had not really considered; namely, each I AM statement requires an interactive response on our part. Let me explain. Here Jesus chooses the metaphor of a vine. He is the “true” vine and we are the branches. There is a connection … an intimate relationship between us. What is the invitation or response? Abiding – in order to bear fruit. We cannot produce any fruit except that we abide in Him. It provides great word imagery; and I thought that perhaps I should apply this same idea to the other “I AM” declarations we have studied.
For example, John 6:35 reads: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” What is the invitation or response? Eating – in order to be filled! For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. In John 6:51, Jesus stated, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world.” What is the invitation or response? Following – in order to leave the darkness! In John 8:12 we read: When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus declared, “I am the gate.” What is the invitation or response? Entering – in order to receive salvation. In John 10:9 we read: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
Jesus declared, “I am the Good Shepherd.” What is the invitation or response? Knowing – in order to hear HIS voice. In John 10:14-15 we read: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What is the invitation or response? Believing – in order to experience eternal life! In John 11:25-26 we read: “Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
I believe you get the point. And I am excited that these patterns were shown to me in my study. I encourage you to consider each “I AM” claim Jesus made and to consider your own personal response in order for His declarations to have application for your life. Can you anticipate a response for “I AM the way and the truth and the life?” (Cf. John 14:6) What is the invitation or response? And what about “I AM the Alpha and the Omega?” (Cf. Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13) What is the invitation or response? Indeed, I believe you will find this exercise both enlightening and faith building…. If you have the time, please send me your responses to the study exercise. I would be interested in your thoughts….