Make Sure You Stay Connected

Elijah Hester lived two doors down from us when I was a child. Through the years, he had grown an enormous grapevine in his backyard. He allowed me to help him pick grapes when they were ripe. I remember little branches that were attached to the thick vine. He told me that as long as the branches were connected to the vine, each branch would produce grapes—hard, green and sour at first—but in time they turned soft, purple and sweet. The branch had to be connected to the vine, though, in order for that to happen.

Staying connected to Christ and His church is an arduous task. It could very well be the most difficult aspect of the faith. Why? Because it is a task that is personal. None of us is forced to stay connected. Each of us, however, has to make sure we stay connected individually and encourage others to maintain their connections. John 15:1-8 affirms this truth.

Jesus calls Himself “the true vine” (v. 1). This image is used several times in the Bible as a metaphor for the relationship between God and His people. Isaiah 5, for example, describes Israel as the “vineyard of the Lord” (v. 7), and Jesus picked up on this in His farewell speech to His disciples in the upper room on the night before Good Friday. The disciples were familiar with the imagery.

What imagery it is! Jesus is the vine; God the Father is the vine-grower; believers are the branches. Believers, then, are to make sure they stay connected to Jesus for various reasons.

Jesus Is the Source of Life
When Jesus said, “I am the true vine,” He was telling His disciples that He is the Source of life. The life connected to Him is abundant and everlasting—not necessarily in the physical sense but in that humankind is created in the image and likeness of God. He breathes the breath of life into us (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7), but there is more, punctuated with a sense of well-being.

In these weeks following Easter Sunday, it is good to realize life originates in Christ who has been raised from the dead! His raising ensures our own. Given that He grants quality life, we are to make the decision to abide in Him.

Abiding in Jesus Results in the Production of Good Fruit
Abiding in Him means staying connected to Him; staying connected to Him results in the production of good fruit. Some believe the fruit Christians produce means baby Christians, but propagation is not what Jesus is referencing. He was talking about the fruit of the Spirit that is produced by staying connected to Him. It is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:16-23).

That kind of fruit is never produced apart from Jesus. If the world is to be a better place—if more Christians are to be produced—there is to be a constant producing of fruit in believers so the world can experience the love, joy and peace that has its source in the Vine. That never will happen, though, unless one is connected to Christ. Nothing can be done apart from Him.

Disconnecting from Jesus Results in Judgment
While the image of the vine is powerfully provocative, contained within this metaphor is a strong warning from Jesus: Do not disconnect from Me. God the Father, who is the Vine-grower, removes branches that fail to produce fruit. The text doesn’t say how the Father does this, only that He does.

In that same thought vein Jesus said those who do not abide are cast aside as fruitless and withering branches and thrown into fire. Fire is often a symbol for judgment in the Bible. Again, the text doesn’t say what that judgment is, only that disconnecting from Jesus results in judgment.

Make sure you are connected to Jesus. You’ll avoid judgment. You’ll produce fruit. You’ll experience life that is everlastingly abundant.

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