During this art session, we’ll work on a painting similar to this one.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5 KJV)
Jesus is the vine that produces life within us. I don’t know much about gardening let alone vineyards. But I do know you can take a healthy branch and graft it into a healthy vine. The branch adheres to the vine, grows, and produces fruit through the life-giving nutrients within the vine. The branch in and of itself withers and dies fruitless. If it rejects the vine’s nourishment, it withers and dies. Therefore, the fruitfulness of the branch depends on its connection to the vine. Through the process of grafting, farmers develop hybrid fruits and vegetables. One example of this is the tomato we use today. I didn’t know a couple hundred years ago tomatoes grew in clusters much like grapes. But through grafting, farmers developed the much larger single fruit that we now enjoy.
Similarly, Jesus has taken the unrighteous—you and me—and grafted us into Himself. He supplies us with spiritual nourishment and expects us to bear fruit. If we reject Him even though our fruit appears good to the human eye, it is rotten to the core and useless to the Husbandman (the Father, John 15:1). Only through our connection with Jesus will our fruit please the Father and serve His purposes.
Obviously, believers are the branches. When we come to Jesus for salvation, He takes us onto Himself as hen receives her chicks or a vine receives a grafted branch. This is but another aspect of being part of His body. We are many members as we are told in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. We all have different functions, but we are one. It is Jesus’ responsibility to supply both our spiritual and physical needs. Our responsibility is to receive His righteousness, which ultimately produces good fruit. As members of His body, we carry that same responsibility to supply the spiritual and physical needs to the world. And thereby, bring others to Christ who are merely branches without the Vine. These branches are withering and dying. They need Jesus.
God’s sole purpose in grafting us into the Vine is for us to be productive, according to Ephesians 2:10—For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Although Jesus warns the unproductive branch will be cut off (John 15:6), that is not His desire or purpose. According to Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson, vinedressers value every branch. If a branch falls to the ground, they carefully wash it and tie it up again. They mend broken branches by wrapping them tight to the vine in hopes of restoration. Only if the branch is diseased beyond restoration or dead, do they cut it off and burn it.
Every time I fail, I picture Jesus picking me up and washing me off like a vinedresser does to a fallen branch. Jesus doesn’t discard me as a useless branch. He picks me up, washes me off, bandages my wounds, and holds me close again.
Although Jesus doesn’t discard us as useless branches, He may prune us to make us more productive. Pruning may come through health issues, financial struggles, relationship difficulties, or a myriad of other trials. Pruning hurts. Pruning is necessary. Pruning is beneficial. It also means we may have times of little productivity. Grape vines produce in abundance for several years. Then they “rest” for a couple of years, in that they produce less fruit than before. But their vinedressers don’t cut them off and burn them. They watch them. They fertilize them. And they wait. The branches eventually produce an abundance of fruit again.
Now the question remains, what is the fruit of the vine Jesus requires from every believer? Some might say ministries such as teaching, pastoring, motivational speaking, and counseling. Others might think the fruit comes in the form of serving others as in nursing/doctoring, feeding the poor, and rearing children. While all these things are good works for which we were saved according to Ephesians 2:10, they are merely the byproduct of the fruit much like juice, jelly, and jam.
The Bible makes it clear the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit Jesus requires of the believer is love. Within love we’ll find joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. No matter what situation or occupation in which we find ourselves, Jesus requires love. Again, love consists of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Just as the branch on a grapevine produces one fruit—grapes—and the grapes consist of skin, juice, fiber, and seeds. We also produce one fruit—love.
With that said, when you feel unproductive by the world’s standards in regards to a ministry, vocation, or charity, rethink the problem. Are you a fruit-bearing branch according to the Bible? Do you approach life, those with whom you come in contact, and your current circumstances with love? Where are you on the joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control Richter scale? We may not have the position in this life we’d like to have, but if we’re working on love with all its components, we are in good standing with Jesus. However if we have lofty positions in our churches, at our workplaces, and in our communities and display little love for others, we may be in danger of being disconnected from the Vine.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Let’s be fruit-bearing branches. Let’s love one another as Jesus has loved us.
See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks
If your group is interested in this art class, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org