Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NRSV).
Take a moment right now to meditate on Jesus’ words. Think about what he is saying. Imagine he is saying those words directly to you.
Now think about a grapevine and how a single vine produces many grapes. In the Hebrew Scriptures, grapes symbolized Israel’s faithfulness in doing God’s work on earth. Consider Psalm 80:8: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it” (see also Isaiah 5:1-7 and Ezekiel 19:10-14). In the Passover meal, the fruit of the vine symbolized God’s goodness to God’s people.
In John’s Gospel, this image is given renewed meaning. Christ is the vine and his disciples are the branches. God is the gardener who tends to the branches and helps them be fruitful. Those connected to Christ are fruitful and productive followers who are truly committed to him.
During the season of Lent, we are invited to deepen our spiritual lives—to be pruned by the Gardener and produce “fruit.” We do this by listening and learning from the One in whom we abide. What kind of fruit is Jesus talking about? The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians is helpful: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (5:22, NRSV). These are the types of fruit the world needs most. And many of us feel the longing in our own lives for peace, gentleness, joy, etc. Yet, even for the most seasoned Christian, these sweet “fruits” often seem elusive. So, what are some ways in which we can abide in Jesus and foster these fruits of the Spirit?
Here are a few suggestions:
Abide with Jesus through silence. I remember reading something by Charles Stanley many years ago. He said some of the most Spirit-filled people he knew were those who could sit in the silence of God’s presence for long periods of time. If this is a new idea to you, give it a try. Be still. Quiet your thoughts. Unclutter your thoughts. Abide with Jesus in the silence.
Abide with Jesus through the Scriptures. Take a few minutes every day and read about Jesus’ life and ministry. You may want to start with the Gospel of Mark. By reading daily, you become more familiar with his teachings and miracles.
Abide with Jesus through prayer and meditation. Sometimes I find that I have nothing to say when I’m in prayer. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words. Be honest with your prayers. God knows your heart. If you’re struggling, let that be known. If you find you don’t have the words to pray, then try listening. If that seems really difficult, then try reading from the Book of Psalms. Every human emotion can be found there. You might try meditating on Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God!”
Abide with Jesus through song. There is something powerful about praising God through song. Whether you are alone or with a small group, singing comes from a grateful heart and has the ability to lift up our souls. The Apostle Paul once wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God” (Colossians 3:16).
While there are more ways to abide in Jesus, these are the practices that have helped me grow as a Christian. They have helped to change me, and I’d like to think I’ve been able to produce some fruit as well.
What about you? What are some of the ways in which you abide in Jesus? What fruit is your life producing? I pray you are able to follow Jesus closely during this season. By doing so, may your life produce much fruit.
Rev. Dr. Steven D. Pierce
Follow Pastor Steve on Twitter @revspierce