One of my favorite things to do is snowboarding - I love strapping the board to my feet, surfing through deep powder at the top of the highest lift and cruising through the trees - ah, its the best. There is one important ingredient to every snowboard trip, that if you don’t have it, you aren’t snowboarding: snow! It is the life-source to snowboarding. Just like snow is the source to any good snowboard trip, Christians have a foundational source of faith, that if you don’t have this, you don’t have a relationship with God: Jesus. Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be connected to our spiritual source, what it looks like to be connected to Him, and how to know if you really are connected to Jesus.
Our passage that we’re looking at is John 15:1-11, famous teaching of Jesus as He explains the importance of a relationship with Him, using a botanical metaphor. In order to understand this plant-talk, we need to grasp what the metaphors represent. First, there is the vine, which Jesus claims to be Himself in verse 1 and 5. Being rooted in this vine is the health source of our Christian faith. Second, we have branches, that represent people. We are either connected to the vine and flourish, or wither away and become completely useless apart from the vine. Third, there is the fruit which represents the way we live our lives. Good fruit on a branch connected to the Jesus vine is strong Christian living, dedicated life to Christ, holiness, purity, etc. Lastly, there is the gardener, who is God the Father - the ultimate caretaker.
In this passage, if you read it to completion, you see Jesus is talking about the relationship between the vine and the branches. Depending on the relationship with the vine will determine if we (the branches) will produce fruit or not. And depending on whether or not we’re producing fruit will determine if God (the gardener) will either prune the fruitful branches or throws out the branches with no fruit. Being the branches that we are, it would be of great importance to know: what does it take to produce fruit?
There is a word that Jesus uses eleven times throughout this passage, that is the absolute key to producing fruit. That word is “remain.” Some translations use the word “abide,” but the idea here is that in order to produce fruit that is pleasing to God, we must obey, observe, follow, dwell in, keep to, conform to, remain in Christ so that His life can work in us and through us to produce fruit. Just like how in real life, if you are at a vineyard, it’s natural to know if there is a branch that has fallen to the ground, it will not be sprouting grapes anytime soon - only branches connected to the vine will make delicious fruit - same with the Christian faith. If we remain in Jesus, we will naturally be more holy, we’ll glorify Him with our actions, thoughts, and words. If we abide in Him, we’ll be dedicated to Him and we will worship Him with our lifestyle. And if we don’t remain in Him, we cannot produce fruit.
John 15:5, “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.”
Now that we understand to be a fruitful branches requires remaining in Jesus, and if you do not abide in Him, you will be a fruitless branch - let’s take a look at what each branch can expect as a result from their fruit production (or lack thereof). First, the branches with fruit. In verse 2, Jesus says that for the fruitful branches, God the gardener will “prune so that it will be more fruitful.” In Wisconsin, where I grew up, many high schoolers would detassel corn as a summer job. On a blazing hot summer day, these workers would would walk through dense corn fields (infested with mega-sized spiders, mind you), and go one-by-one to pluck the top-most part of each corn husk off, drop it to the ground, and continue doing that for an entire corn field. Sound pretty terrible, right? In the end, however, this process allows for a greater crop for the following year. It is a difficult process to get to a fantastic end-goal for the corn farmers. When God prunes the fruitful branches, He is essentially removing sin, distractions, or things in our life that limit our ability to produce more fruit. It can be a painful process, but the end goal is to become more like Christ and have a closer relationship to God.
What about the impact on the non-fruitful branches that we’ve talked about? Jesus says in verse 6, “if you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” For starters, doesn’t sound good. The very essence of the Christian faith is to bear fruit. There’s no such thing as a fruitless Christian (Eph. 2:10, James 2:17). The fruit of salvation is good works. A person is not saved by good works, but if a saving faith is genuine, that faith is guaranteed to produce fruit. Since all Christians bear fruit, the fruitless branches are people who do not have a genuine relationship with Jesus. God as the gardener sifts through, cleanses, and prunes the fruitful branches, but the non-fruit branches will be thrown into the fire. According to God’s Word and the very words of Jesus, those who do not abide and trust in Jesus will not be spending eternity in Heaven with God, but in a painful, tragic place called Hell.
So this is where you take a hard look at your own life. Are you a branch that is producing fruit, remaining in Jesus to live a life that is glorifying to Him? Or are you not abiding in Christ and not producing fruit? The truth comes from Jesus’ mouth, you can only produce good fruit if you remain in Him. Reflect on your own life and see where you’re at - if you are producing fruit or not because it truly has a massive impact on your eternity.