Are you struggling to find your identity? Have you searched low and high for your purpose in life? Well, I hope this series has either helped you, will help you or will help another person you know. If this is your first time reading a Who Am I? post I encourage you to click this link: Who Am I? Table of Contents and just look at another post that peaks your interest. These posts are aimed to help Christians, but since I am convinced that the Christian Worldview is the correct worldview it will help anyone struggling to “find themselves”. Hopefully, these posts point you to Christ and what being found in him does to your identity.
Today, we are looking at a key facet of our identity in Christ. Really, that phrase, in Christ, helps with today’s identifier. If you are in Christ you are a branch and Christ is the True Vine. Jesus illustrates this in John 15.
John 15:1–5 (ESV)
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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.
What comes to mind when you picture a vine and a branch? Usually, you think of a plant that grows either on the ground or on a trellis, right? Well, this vine is growing and there are branches growing from this vine too. Some of these branches are producing fruit, perhaps in this illustration grapes. But, there are those branches that are not producing fruit. What grants these branches the ability to bear fruit though? Are they bearing fruit apart from the vine? Well, in this illustration that would be impossible. The branch must be connected to the vine to have life. But, what about those branches that are not bearing fruit even while they are connected to the vine?
To understand this illustration taught by Jesus we should understand the characters. The True Vine is obviously Jesus, the branches have to be those who claim to be disciples of Christ, and the vinedresser/gardener is God the Father.
So, what about those branches that are supposed to be followers of Christ, who do not bear any fruit? There are many connects one could make with this group of people. Perhaps they are false teachers, who put on the mask of Christianity yet they do not truly believe in Christ. Perhaps they are apostates, those who fall away from Christ because they were not truly of Christ (1 Jn 2:19). Whoever they are they aren’t producing produce as they should.
My focus is not on those branches that do not bear fruit. My focus is on those branches that do bear fruit. This is what every believer should be doing. Maybe Galatians 5 on the fruit of the spirit could be likened to the type of fruit you and I should have visible in our lives. But, the only way that you and I can bear that fruit is by abiding in the True Vine, Jesus Christ. He provides the true life for the branches to thrive. Apart from him, we would just be a pile of dead twigs.
So, that is our identity. We are branches attached to the True Vine, if you are in Christ. But, just because you are claiming to be attached to the Vine does not mean that you bear fruit. What makes Jesus’ illustration unique from a real vine and real branches attached is that these branches must work at abiding with the vine.
How is abiding done? This is what D.A. Carson describes in his commentary on John:
The imagery of the vine is stretched a little when the ‘branches’ are given the responsibility to remain in the vine, but the point is clear: continuous dependence on the vine, constant reliance upon him, persistent spiritual imbibing of his life—this is the sine qua non of spiritual fruitfulness. The Christian or Christian organization that expands by external accretion, that merely apes Christian conduct and witness, but is not impelled by life within, brings forth dead crystals, not fruit.
Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 516). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
Carson continues to unpack what our fruit is to look like:
There has been considerable dispute over the nature of the ‘fruit’ that is envisaged: the fruit, we are told, is obedience, or new converts, or love, or Christian character. These interpretations are reductionistic. The branch’s purpose is to bear much fruit (v. 5), but the next verses show that this fruit is the consequence of prayer in Jesus’ name, and is to the Father’s glory (vv. 7, 8, 16). This suggests that the ‘fruit’ in the vine imagery represents everything that is the product of effective prayer in Jesus’ name, including obedience to Jesus’ commands (v. 10), experience of Jesus’ joy (v. 11–as earlier his peace, 14:27), love for one another (v. 12), and witness to the world (vv. 16, 27). This fruit is nothing less than the outcome of persevering dependence on the vine, driven by faith, embracing all of the believer’s life and the product of his witness.
Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 517). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
Allow me to close with this encouragement/exhortation. If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then you are a branch. But being a branch is not good enough. You must bear fruit. The only way you do that is by abiding in the Vine. You know his Word, you know his commands, you know his love, you know his heart, you know his will, you obey his will, you pray for his will to be done, and the list could go on and on! There is no room in the Vine for dead branches. So, what are you going to do to bear fruit? How will you abide in Christ?
Here are a few suggestions on how to abide. Read your Bible daily. I know that we are told that a lot from people everywhere and every day, but part of abiding really is knowing what the Vine has said. It doesn’t have to be an extensive Bible Study for 2 hours a day. It could be as simple as reading a chapter a day from either the Old Testament or New, or both! It could be as simple as reading a paragraph! Whatever it is, just be in the Word! A second suggestion I have would be to memorize Scripture. Don’t be that person that makes the excuse, “I’m just not good at memorization. I have a weak memory.” That excuse isn’t good enough. You probably don’t have a hard time with the words to songs on the radio, commercial jingles, or whatever else is catchy in today’s world. The point is, make it a point to study the Word of God in such a way that you are putting it to heart. The last suggestion I will give you is to pray the Word. I will share another post later today or this week on what I do to pray the Word. It really isn’t complicated. Think of 5 people you can be praying for, think of 5 things in your life that you need to have God work in, think of 5 praises for what God is doing in your life, think of 5 weaknesses that you have and pray for God to strengthen them, and the list could continue…. Just pray. Pick a Psalm and go!
We are Christ’s branches, but that is not an easy identity. We cannot sit on the couch and expect fruit to grow. We need to be actively pursuing Christ and his will.
John 15:11 (ESV)
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.