Much has already been said about spring, and it has been said by authors ever so much more erudite than this writer. Suffice it to say, spring is a beautiful time of year when the apparent death of winter gives way to new life. How fitting that Easter is, usually, in the spring of the year!
My focus here is not Spring in the broad sense of the word, it is one type of flower that I see as I turn the corner to leave our subdivision … Wisteria.
I am definitely not a gardener. So, I don’t have any intrinsic knowledge about this beautiful plant, other than I love seeing it in full bloom along the fence line. I have lived in the same house for almost 30 years and have enjoyed these flowers each year. The vine uses any available support, here it is the fence, but it is also now climbing a neighboring tree and the telephone pole!
The wisteria vine makes my wandering mind turn to our Lord’s statement in the Gospel of John about the Vine and the branches.
Jesus was talking to His disciples, that is not only the original followers of Christ but us as Christians 2000 later, and He said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. … 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.”
John 15:1, 4-5.
Read that again – Jesus does not say that when we abide in Christ we might be fruitful! He says that when we abide in Him and when He abides with us, we WILL bear MUCH fruit. The distinction between unfruitful and fruit-bearing is made clear in the next phrase: “for apart from me you can do nothing!”
With Him, we can do all that He commands – we are fruitful. Without Him, we can do — nothing. Not even a little!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching on the fruit of the Spirit, specifically on joy, and he said:
Precious as the fruit is, do not put the fruit where the root should be. Please do remember that joy is not the root of grace in the soul, it is the fruit and must not be put out of its proper position.
While the fruit is important, and we are called to bear much fruit for our Lord, the fruit is not the source of power or of encouragement or of strength for the Christian journey. We must look to the Vine as the root of “grace in [our] soul”.
In England we saw this building with wisteria climbing up the front of it, the blooms simply beautiful as they decorated the façade of the building.
We are the branches. We are the ones who overcome the obstacles, even if they seem insurmountable, and cover them with love and the fragrant blossoms of the fruit of the Spirit. We are the ones who grow and twist around the people we encounter as we wrap our arms around them and reach out in love with the life-giving words of Jesus Christ. We are the ones who bear fruit for our Lord.
Be careful though — John 15 verses 2 and 6 contain a warning:
“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. … 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.”
Just as with the wisteria vine, for those branches that do not bear fruit, the Vinedresser comes with His shears and cuts them off. In his Commentary on the Bible, Spurgeon says this about John 15:2:
If there be any, who are only nominally in Christ, and who therefore bear no fruit, their doom is to be taken away; for, in order to final perseverance and eternal safety, there must be fruit-bearing.
As for John 15:6, Spurgeon further notes:
That is all that can be done with fruitless vine-branches. You cannot make anything of them. … It is useless if it is fruitless; and so it is with us, if we do not bear fruit unto God, we are of no service to him whatsoever.
This is a sobering thought. It is one thing to say that we are to bear fruit for Jesus, but quite another to recognize that if we refuse to do so, the Father will remove us, as one does an unproductive stick.
I must heed the warning when He is asking me to do something that is too big, that is outside my comfort zone, or that I simply don’t want to do. Rather than refuse, or drag my heels, I have to rely on Jesus’ promise that he is the Vine and that my power, my strength, my nourishment comes from Him. Then I can carry out His command in love, allowing His Spirit to control my words and actions so that His purpose will control.
Father, when I see the wisteria vine, I see beauty even through the twisting and turning of the vine’s branches. I pray that when my Lord sees me, He sees a branch that is growing through His strength and in His power as I read and rest in His Word and then obey His commands. Holy Spirit, enable me to do the tasks assigned for me in the strength of your power. May all my actions, thoughts and words be to the glory of my sovereign God.