It seems God doesn’t mind getting messy…
Jesus coming to earth as an infant, born in a place not far from where animals were kept, was messy. The work He does in the lives of those who commit themselves to Him, is messy. And one of my favorite passages that shows the kind of mess He’s willing to get in comes from John chapter 15 where Jesus shares, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1, NLT).
Dick Brogden pointed out to our Leadership Team a few months ago that God the Father is willing to get on His knees, put His hands in the mud and get dirt under His fingernails in order to lift us up out of the mud, wash us and help us become productive again as disciple makers.
You see, Jesus shares,
“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” -John 15:5
And later in verse 8, Jesus concludes, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8, ESV).
The interesting thing about the “fruit” John is writing about is this word is used in the context of harvest. Dick shares, “John—especially in chapter 15 of his Gospel—seems to emphasize that the fruit of abiding is a harvest of people.”¹
In other words,
We prove to be disciples of Jesus by making disciples of Jesus.
And we make disciples of Jesus by abiding in Him, by being lifted up to Him by the Father. The gardener lifts us out of the mud and washes us off so that photosynthesis can happen and reproduction can occur once again.
I would like to encourage you to listen to the full devotional Dick shared with our Leadership Team, his “Devotional on Abiding” on the Connection Point Church Podcast for a deeper understanding of this content.
But let’s go ahead and take a look at the first eight verses of John chapter 15 to better examine the implications for our lives. John writes, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:1-8, ESV).
From John chapter 15 come three different kinds of branches:²
1. The branches in Christ that do not bear fruit (v. 2), He lifts up. In verse 2, “take away” literally means “lift up” in viticulture. The vinedresser finds the non-fruit-bearing branch dragging in the mud or shaded by other branches from the sun and thus hanging down. The vinedresser ties that fruitless branch to the trestle so that it can escape the mud, access the sun, and ultimately bear fruit. God does not throw away the branch that does not bear fruit; He teaches it to abide.
2. The branch in Christ that does bear fruit (v. 2), He washes. The word for pruning means “washing” and is the same word used when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. For those who are bearing fruit, the promise to them is that they will be washed by suffering (pruning) so that they can become more fruitful. Suffering may be painful in the moment, but it always carries long-term benefits for the worker and their disciples if they will endure the “washing.”
3. The branch in Christ that does not abide (v. 6), He lets fall. The word “cast out” means “let fall.” Jesus teaches us to abide that we might make disciples. But if we refuse to abide, we will ultimately dry up and wither spiritually due to our own foolishness. Jesus does not force us to abide; He invites us and woos us. Those who do not abide marginalize themselves. They may remain in Christ or in mission, but without divine power, they are good for nothing.
Shellie and I have been in a process of being “lifted up” and “washed” by the gardener in order to be better disciple makers of Jesus. The process has not always been pleasant and some have wondered about some of the decisions we’re making as a result of that divine work.
We’d like to invite you to the better understand the journey Jesus has had us on as we compose weekly articles to unpack what this process has looked like in our lives.
We’d also like to invite you to be lifted up with us and others by joining us for prayer on Sunday mornings from 6:15-7:15am, 7:45-8:45am or from 9:15-10:15am in the Connection Point Prayer Room.
You can also join us for First Friday, half-night of prayer, starting on Friday, October 4th from 8pm-12am. We will simply gather in the sanctuary of Connection Point Church to pray; asking God to lift us up and wash us so that we might be equipped to better display our love of Jesus (John 14:23) and others by obeying the command of King Jesus to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We will do this the first Friday of every month, knowing it is the desire of our Lord to lift us up.
Thank you God for loving us enough to get involved in the messiness of our lives so that your name is greater glorified in us (John 15:8)!
We’d Love to hear from you!
Of the branches listed above, which one best describes your current reality? Share your comments below.
1 Brodgen, Dick. Live|Dead The Journey. pg. 32
2 Brogden, Dick. Live|Dead Trip Guide. pg. 7