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The Vine

By David A. DePra

I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

In John 15, Jesus is not discussing being saved vs. being lost. Rather, the entire passage is addressed to the saved. Jesus is talking to those who are already branches, and talking about their relationship with Him as such.

He says, "I AM the Vine, and YOU are the branches." That is the relationship between Christ and those in whom He dwells. Note that: It is THE relationship. It is the ONLY relationship there is. Any other attempt at relationship with Christ is not according to the Truth.

What is the nature of this relationship? Dependence. But not merely dependence upon Christ for THINGS. Rather, dependence upon Him for LIFE. Indeed, what we see in this relationship is not Christ giving to the branches a THING called life, or merely things that are needed in life, but we see Christ AS the life of the branch. The Vine is the life – and consequently the source of all pertaining to life – for the branch. The Vine is the ONLY source of life.

Certainly, if there is one thing we should see about this relationship is that it is error to ask Christ for THINGS that we need for life -- to the neglect of Christ AS our life. Herein is one reason for confusion in the walk of many. It is one reason why God may seem silent to our prayers for help. We ask God for help, and for provision, and for things, but don’t realize that ALL is already IN CHRIST. All is in LIFE – HE is our life. But in our ignorance we have made a separation between the things we need and the Person in whom are all those things. God cannot take us far. He must bring us to where we embrace Christ as our life before He can give us that which is IN CHRIST.

Jesus told us, "Lose your life to find true life in Me." Can we see how this directly relates to this picture of the Vine and the branches? We cannot hold to our life and expect God to equip our life with things, blessings, and purpose – when it is only the true life IN CHRIST that carries these potentials. No. We have to lose possession of ourselves. We have to come to the Cross and take our place in His death. And then we have to be risen with Christ as our only life. In HIM ALONE are all things that God has for man.

Many sincere Christian people have assumed that God is going to bless THEIR life. He is not. He has already told us to LOSE our lives. The blessings of God are found on in the Vine – only in HIS life. This is not maybe. It is the only Truth.

The Vine is the life source for the branches – that is, the branches partake of, and live from out of the Vine. Again – Christ doesn’t merely give us a THING called life – no – Christ gives us Himself. He IS our life. This necessitates the severing of OUR life. But it is the only relationship and reality we are going to find if we go on in the Truth.

The Branches

The picture that Jesus gives of the Vine and the branches carries much Truth that is intended to impart to us an understanding of the real relationship we are to have with Him. The first thing we note is that the branches DRAW life from the Vine – the branches do not contribute life to the Vine. In other words, our relationship with Christ is one based upon GRACE – this is about, yes, what He has done, but more so, it is about who HE IS.

We are to abide in Christ and draw from Him to the complete disregard of ourselves. We do this, not by keeping up good works, or by making ourselves worthy, but by FAITH IN HIM.

Now, that is simple. We have all heard it. But do we truly recognize what it really means to abide in Christ by faith? It really does mean that we completely by pass our own worthiness – whether we think ourselves good OR bad – and to the completely disregard of ourselves, we take possession of Christ as our Vine. We base this on nothing about ourselves, but simply upon His offer or promise. Nothing more. It is because all is of grace that we can abide in Him.

Jesus said, "Without Me you can do nothing." Do we believe Him? I believe if you read the passage you will see that He means, "Without Me you can be BE NOTHING." Sure. What is a branch without the Vine? Dead. You will wither spiritually.

God has never based the life of Christ upon us. Thus, if we based the life of Christ upon us we are in error. It is all based upon HIM. We are to step outside of ourselves and leave ourselves alone, and put our dependence for life upon HIM, and keep it there. We are to realize that all that we have allowed to hinder us to this point is already dead. HE is our life.

Many of our problems arise from trying to take hold of ourselves – of our natural man and religious flesh – and from trying to make THAT be the source of life. Or, if we know that Christ is our life, we think that this means that Christ is going to somehow enhance US, and make US into the spiritual specimen that we ought to be. No. God is not using Christ to make something out of US. Rather, He is telling us to LOSE ourselves – so that Christ might be seen.

Herein is a Truth that has become almost totally lost today. Christians think God wants them to look like Jesus – act like Jesus. So we try to develop character. We continually monitor ourselves to see how we measure up to Christ. We keep score. But this is error. We will never look like Jesus, nor has God ever intended us to look like Jesus. He wants Christ to be seen in and through us – not us looking like Jesus – but Jesus looking like Jesus through us. Yet this means WE must be crucified so that Christ might be seen.

How much effort does a branch put forth in order to bear fruit? No effort at all. The branch simply abides in the Vine and fruit happens. It is like this with a real relationship with Christ. Abide in Him and draw from Him by faith. Then He will be seen through us. And the irony is that we may not even realize it – for we have left ourselves alone. Someone once said the truly humble don’t know they are humble. It is like that. Abide in Christ and fruit will happen – but that fruit won’t be made out of flesh. It will be HIM being made manifest through our mortal bodies.

One of the results of being crucified with Christ – one of the results of losing your life to Him – is that you leave yourself alone. You are no longer fussing with yourself. You are no longer trying to present yourself to God in a way that you think will fake Him out, or please Him. You are simply willing to be completely exposed before Him. You are willing to be exposed before God because God has exposed you to yourself, and the results is that you see there is absolutely nothing you can do about yourself – which is the ONLY Truth you are going to see about yourself. Thus, because you have seen this as the Truth, you are able to stand naked before God and embrace Christ solely by grace.

We think of grace as a doctrine. But grace is Truth and a relationship – in a Person. If you want to go on with Christ, the ONLY possible outcome is that you will be exposed as completely empty – as being nothing outside of Him. But if you will embrace this Truth then you will then be able to embrace Him solely on the basis of HIMSELF – and not in any way on the basis of YOU. This is grace. And it is the basis of true faith.

To abide in Christ as your life means you have lost your life – you have lost your life because you no longer want your life, but truly want HIM. This is impossible unless you and I have SEEN THE TRUTH. It cannot happen by religion. It cannot happen by memorizing doctrine. You and I will only abide in the Vine by faith if we voluntarily allow the Cross to sever us from our old dead Vine – the Adam life.

So if the Vine is the life of the branches, then the branches from life FROM the Vine as their life. They must draw from the Vine for everything that pertains to life. Note: Ultimately, this means that we do not simply draw from Christ for some things, or when we are in a crisis, or because we have to draw from Him – but rather we abide in Him by grace through faith. In short, Christ IS our life. Christ in us, and us in Him. We belong to Him. This is Christianity.

The Basis for All

If you read John 15, you will see that the relationship being described therein is the BASIS for everything. Behind it is the foundation of Redemption – we are PLANTED into His death and resurrection. But this union or planting doesn’t end. We then LIVE from that relationship. Or, as Paul says in Romans, "The just shall live FROM OUT OF faith." If you don’t, you will spiritually wither. You can do, and you can be, nothing.

"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7) What is the key here? Oneness with Christ in purpose and intent. If HIS words abide in us, then we shall ask……with HIS words. We will pray from out of our oneness with HIM. And God will answer. Again – the whole key is dependence and Christ as our life.

God is continually working, by His Spirit, to make this relationship with Christ a reality. It is THE true relationship – and thus, the Truth will always guide in into it. He is the Vine and we are the branches. That is not only complete dependence on our part, but it is complete provision from Him as our life.

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