Updated: Mar 23, 2020
This might sound foolish if you know anything about plants, but I genuinely did not know that plants got diseases until not that long ago. I planted some fruit trees last year on a bit of a whim knowing it would take years to have fruit so I’d might as well start. Then someone told me to keep my eyes open for disease and think about creating a spray routine to prevent disease. And if the trees do get sick, you will have to give it medicine. WHAT? I was so confused. Not plants too? Death and decay and all the effects of sin reach all of creation, don’t they? Even plants. I guess I must have known that plants get sick, but for some reason, the word disease made me sad and more anxious than I was expecting. What if I failed them?
Recently I learned that almost all apples that we eat are grown on grafted apple trees. That means a sturdy base apple tree is grown, probably one that’s fruit would not taste very good to us, and then we graft the yummy tasting variety on the top. The more delicious varieties are too susceptible to disease so they need a better base tree to keep them alive and to bear good fruit. The two become one as the cut flesh of the young trees wounds bind together and the tree is grafted together to grow and produce the fruit we can’t wait to go pick and eat right in the apple orchard. Or maybe we get it from the grocery store and add some peanut butter or something to it.
Side note, does anybody like red delicious apples? Maybe cooked or something? I don’t know. I didn’t even know there were different way tastier apples out in the world until I was much older. I didn’t even think I liked apples for a long time because we always had red delicious in the house. Although we also had granny smith, but those are green, so just pretend like you’re tracking with me. My siblings and I would watch cartoons where apples looked so good. Do you know what I mean? Cartoon apples, somehow awakened an appetite inside of me. So I would always try another red delicious and be sorely disappointed when it was just not delicious. Anyways, I now know there are more apple varieties. Some of my favorites are pink lady, gala, fiji, or honey crisp. I remember picking apples with some college friends my first year in college, and being BLOWN AWAY how delicious they could be. Sweet with a little tart and that cartoon apple crisp feeling that I was hungry for. Take that, red delicious.
Alright alright, I know you know this podcast was going to eventually cover abiding in the vine, if you’ve spent any time in church. If you haven’t, be sure to check out John Chapters 14-17. You can read how Jesus prays for you! Yes you! We can remember together today to abide in Christ. When we are grafted to Him, He does beautiful things in and through us. We can rest in that truth today.
Andrew Murray in his book, Abiding in Christ writes
“It was in the connection with the parable of the vine that our Lord first used the expression, “Abide in Me.” That parable, so simple and yet so rich in its teaching, gives us the best and most complete illustration of the meaning of our Lord’s command and the union to which he invites us. The parable teaches us the nature of that union. The connection between the vine and the branch is a living one. No external, temporary union is described here, and no work of man can make it happen. The branch, whether an original or an engrafted one, is the Creator’s own work; the life, the sap, the fatness, and the fruitfulness of the branch are only possible because of its attachment to the vine. And so it is with the believer too. His union with his Lord is no work of human wisdom or human will, but an act of God, by which the closest and most complete life-union possible is forged between the Son of God and the sinner...” Murray continues to talk about how the branch can do nothing without the vine and then, a big surprise, “Without the branch the vine can also do nothing..”such is the wonderful condescension of the grace of Jesus; just as His people are dependent on Him, He has made himself depended on them.”
Wow! I could definitely just read this whole book aloud to you and still want to keep talking about the wonderful mystery of abiding in Christ, the intimacy and joy we have with Him.
When I was a kid, I tried really hard to tackle my faith. I was so sure I could read the Bible and understand it all. I remember struggling to stay awake as I reached the end of Genesis. I didn’t make it very far. I would pray for ways to please God. To grow on my own in a way. I would make him promise after promise and fail big time. You guys, I even remember hearing the story of Jonah and telling God, “Hey if you ever need me, I will go.” HA, if you ever need me. The sovereign Lord of the universe. If you NEED me. And maybe secretly hoped that He didn’t need me.
God was there and he loved me then. And he was patient to let me see that growth is from abiding in Him and with Him. And He humbled my eager, smug, and ambitious heart along the way. He pursued me in a tender and intentional way.
Years later, I felt the call that all followers of Jesus have to go and share His name and His love and His salvation to those who do not know. It wasn’t because He needed me, but He chose us all to be His hands and feet to bear good fruit.
A friend of mine once said doing something for God is kind of like doing the dishes with a three year old. My friend, the father in this situation, is actually doing the dishes and cleaning up. His little girl wanted to help. So every so often, he would give her a spoon so she could put in the right slot. And she was delighted every single time because she got to help her Father do the dishes. The metaphor breaks down, but you get the point. Time with the Father. Delight in their faces when the job is completed.
In the outskirts of Athens, Greece, my friends and I celebrated the end of our time together at a vineyard. We spent a significant amount of time over the months studying the portion of the book of John where Jesus is talking about abiding and praying for us. We studied Ambelokopi, or in English, the vineyard. We were a close-knit group about to say goodbye to each other for the rest of our lives. No doubt, we would see one or a few of each other, but we would never all be in the same place again, most likely. Or at least not yet. We spent some time walking through the vineyard and reflecting on all God was teaching us about being branches grafted to his vine. We prayed together. We had been together a little while as a family to grow and love and now were being sent to the next place God was calling each of us to all around geographically.
One of my favorite parts of this time at the vineyard was when we were inside the building. It was big and modern and we were the only people visiting that day. And all of a sudden, someone started playing music, and a little good bye dance party broke out between us. We were all alone in this great big room, and we just let loose! My Greek family for many months, out of our love and comfort with each other, we just danced and danced. Some interpretative dance was definitely in there. It was so special. It is a treasure of a memory.
Fast forward five years. I am painting at a wedding reception for a family friend. This family has loved me well for over 20 years. They were one of those families that gave me hope when it felt like nobody else cared. Back in the day when I was tackling my faith on my own, well it felt like that at least.
I am realizing as I’m painting, there has been this theme from the beginning. A love story. A groom determined to find his bride. I groom who so loves his bride, that he would die for her, in fact does, so she can be with him forever. So that she may be presented in all her glory and joy and beauty forever with him.
And then today, I am listening to a song I haven’t listened to in a while. In college, I would sing over and over to Jesus “Tonight” by JJ Heller. I will link it for you to listen. It took me a good long while to see that it was technically a wedding song. Perfect for a first dance! How fitting that God would use a wedding song to woo me to Him. We are his bride after all. We are grafted to Him to bear good fruit to one day have the everlasting joy of the feast and intimacy with Him. I think it’s worth those initial wounds to be grafted to such a Savior!
I do declare these words from
“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. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
PS Timothy Keller Sermons