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Devotional Hours with the Bible, Volume 7: Chapter 27 - The Vine and the Branches

By J.R. Miller

      John 15:1-12

      When Jesus says, "I am the true vine," He means that He is the source of the spiritual life of His people, who are compared to branches. What the vine is to its branches, Christ is to all who believe on Him. The branches, down to the smallest twigs, are dependent on the vine. So every believer is dependent on Christ. He is the source of the spiritual life of every Christian.

      A traveler in Kamchatka who spent many nights in the poor huts of the people, tells of His experience. The hut in which he was entertained was dirty, and the people were in every way repulsive. But their kindness was beautiful. They were most attentive to the traveler's needs. The best morsels were put upon His plate. The best bed was given to him. When bedtime came there was family prayer, closing with these words, "Lord, bless our home and bless and prosper our guest." There was something almost heavenly in the spirit of the home, which deeply impressed the visitor. He had found a branch of the true Vine. The life of Christ was flowing in it. There was a vital connection between these kinds of hearts in Kamchatka, and Christ.

      Wherever a real Christian life is found, there is a little branch of the great Vine. There is no other vine to which any soul can be joined and from which it can be nourished. Other religions may present their legends, their ceremonies, and their rules of conduct; but there is no life in any of them. The religion of Christ is more than a creed or a system of beliefs, more than a set of moral precepts. It has a great stream of heavenly life flowing from it. All the fullness of God is in it, and of this fullness--we all receive.

      Another truth suggested in this figure, is the dependence of the vine upon the branches. It is easy to see how the branches depend upon the vine--but the only way a vine can bear fruit--is on its branches. So the only way Christ can feed the world's hunger--is through His disciples. We ought to think of the responsibility of being a branch. The only way to be a good branch--is to be full of fruit, the same kind of fruit that Christ bore on His life.

      The culture of the plant is also important. Jesus says that the Father is the Gardener. The care of the branches is in His hands. It ought to be a great comfort to us, to know that our life's training and discipline are under the Father's care. If an ignorant, inexperienced, unskillful man were to enter a beautiful vineyard and begin cutting the vines, he would soon destroy them. He does not know what he ought to cut off. But if the man who comes to prune knows about vines, and has had experience and is skilled, though he may sometimes seem to be destroying a vine, yet we know that he is not making any mistakes and that His most severe and painful prunings are for the good of the vine. We have similar confidence when God seems to be dealing sorely or even harshly with us. The Gardener is our Father; He has all wisdom and love, and never gives us pain, nor cuts away any of our joys--except when such pruning is for our good.

      The Gardener does not trouble to prune the fruitless branches--but only cuts them off and casts them away. "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit." All through the Bible uselessness meets God's disfavor and condemnation. The wicked are compared to the chaff which the wind drives away. Chaff is of no use; it feeds no hunger; it has no value and no beauty; it is fit only to be burned. The fruitless branch stands for the formal profession of religion. Merely nominal church members without spiritual life--are not of any benefit to the church. For a time the Gardener may be patient with them, waiting while He tried in all ways to bring them into real union with Himself, and to make the fruitful; but when due efforts have been made and there is still no fruitfulness, they are cut away.

      It is the fruitful branches, which the Gardener prunes and tends. The motive of His care--is that in this way these branches may become more fruitful. "Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful." The pruning process is a very important one. Dead twigs must be cut away. Sometime there is too much foliage. There is not life enough to nourish all the branches. Some of them, therefore, must be cut off, that what remains may receive full nourishment. There may then be less fruit for the present--but it will be better, richer fruit. The Gardener does not prune the unfruitful branches--pruning would do them no good. It is the Christian that the Father chastens and causes sometimes to suffer under sore discipline. Mere formal professors of religion are left alone, and often they grow very luxuriant, like unpruned vines. But in their luxuriance there is no spiritual fruit.

      Notice also that the object of the Father's pruning, is that the branch may be made to bear more fruit. It sometimes seems that the pruning is destructive. Great branches are cut off, and it seems as if the very life of the vine is endangered. But He who holds the knife, knows that what He is doing will make the vine in time more luxuriant and its fruit sweeter and more luscious. If only we would bear this in mind--when we find ourselves under God's chastening, it would help us to bear the pain in patience, and also to cooperate with God in His design to make us more fruitful. Earthly prosperity is often to a Christian like the excessive luxuriance of a vine, which the vine-dresser must cut away with his merciless hand, in order to save the vine's life.

      Jesus reminded His disciples that He had been acting as their Gardener and Caretaker. "Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you." For three years He had been teaching them, speaking to them words of correction, of counsel, of exhortation, and these words had trimmed off the faults, the evil habits, and the sinful things from their lives, leaving them now clean. The Word of God is the knife which is used in pruning the branches. This word, Paul says, is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Every time we read the Bible as we should, thoughtfully, yielding our life to its sway--the knife cuts off some twig or branch which is marring our life or hindering its usefulness. We never should shrink from the impact of the Words of God--but should let them cut deep as they will into our life, exposing hidden faults, secret sins, and unlovely dispositions.

      Since the branches draw life from the vine, it is essential that their attachment shall always be complete. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit itself, except in abides in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me." We might as well try to grow plants without roots--as to have a Christian life without attachment to Christ. The kinds of fruits Christian lives should bear, are indicated by Paul as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and temperance. These fruits can grow only when the life of Christ is in the heart. A branch torn from a vine--at once withers and dies.

      Two trees grew in the same yard. One spring, when the time for leaves came, it was noticed that while one of the trees put forth its foliage as usual, the other stood dark and bare, with neither bud nor leaf nor any life. The same warm sunshine fell upon both, and the same spring rains watered the roots of both--but in one there was life, while in the other there was no life. There are men and women, too, who have spiritual privileges in home and church and Christian friendship--but who bear no fruit. It is because they are not really attached to Christ, not rooted in Him, and therefore they have no life in them.

      Many are the blessings of abiding in Christ. One is answer to prayer, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you." This promise is a great key with which we may open the door of the divine treasury and take from it whatever we need. But we must not overlook the condition--the twofold condition on which the promise depends. First, we must abide in Christ--in close, intimate union and communion with Him. Secondly, Christ's Words must abide in us. This means that His words must be received by us into our hearts, that we must love them, meditate upon the, allow them to rule our actions and words, to color our thoughts and feelings, and to inspire our dispositions. Only when these conditions are fulfilled, can we claim the promise.

      It is very important that we should clearly understand how we may abide in Christ. Jesus tells us plainly, "If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love." Jesus Himself, in His incarnation, was under the same law of obedience. He says, "Even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love." Nothing can take the place of obedience in Christian life. In absolutely no other way, can we abide in Jesus Christ's love.

      One of the great privileges of Christian life is friendship with Christ. Those who abide in Him and do His will--shall become His friends. "You are my friends--if you do whatever I command you." That is the way we are to show our love for Christ. It is not enough to say we love Him. That is well so far as it goes, and if we prove it by our deeds, it is all right.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - Christ the Life and Light of Men
   Chapter 2 - The Witness of John to Jesus
   Chapter 3 - The First Miracle in Cana
   Chapter 4 - Jesus Cleansing the Temple
   Chapter 5 - Jesus and Nicodemus
   Chapter 6 - Jesus at Jacob's Well
   Chapter 7 - The Second Miracle at Cana
   Chapter 8 - Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda
   Chapter 9 - Christ's Divine Authority
   Chapter 10 - The Miracle of the Loaves and Fish
   Chapter 11 - Jesus, the Bread of Life
   Chapter 12 - Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles
   Chapter 13 - The Slavery of Sin
   Chapter 14 - Healing the Man Born Blind
   Chapter 15 - Jesus the Good Shepherd
   Chapter 16 - The Abundant Life
   Chapter 17 - The Raising of Lazarus
   Chapter 18 - The Supper at Bethany
   Chapter 19 - Jesus Entering into Jerusalem
   Chapter 20 - Serving, Following, Sharing
   Chapter 21 - Washing the Disciples' Feet
   Chapter 22 - The New Commandment
   Chapter 23 - How Christ Comforts
   Chapter 24 - Why Does No One See God?
   Chapter 25 - The Way, the Truth, and the Life
   Chapter 26 - The Comforter Promised
   Chapter 27 - The Vine and the Branches
   Chapter 28 - The Spirit's Work
   Chapter 29 - Alone--yet Not Alone
   Chapter 30 - Jesus Prays for His Friends
   Chapter 31 - Christ Betrayed
   Chapter 32 - Jesus Before Pilate
   Chapter 33 - Pilate Sentencing Jesus
   Chapter 34 - The Crucifixion of Christ
   Chapter 35 - "It is finished!"
   Chapter 36 - The Resurrection
   Chapter 37 - "Peace Be unto You!"
   Chapter 38 - The Beloved Disciple


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