The Vine and the Branches…But No Religion

 

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I had a friend ask me a question yesterday that sent me on a wild journey of thought. What I found surprised me, and I’m super excited to share it with you! Here is her question.

“How do we attach and re-attach ourselves to the Vine without it being works?”

She was referring to John 15 and the familiar passage about abiding in the Vine. Jesus is speaking.

“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” John 15:1-5.

I have heard this passage preached in a very works-based way. I have also heard it preached less “worksy” but with a checklist at the end…Ten Things to do to Abide in the Vine, etc. Abide isn’t a word we use anymore in everyday English. What does the word even mean, let alone an abstract concept like abiding in Christ?

As I read the passage again this morning, four little words jumped out at me. And it changed everything. 

Abide in me, and I in you” John 15:4

The grape vine grows down into the ground, sucking up water and nutrients, providing life for the branches. The branches are not doing anything. They aren’t trying desperately to hold onto the vine, trying to remain in it, trying to stay attached. They are just automatically part of it. The vine’s life and strength are in the branches. And because of that life, the branches are able to bear fruit.

We are so quick, as humans, to look for what we have to do. Religion, the business of appeasing gods, comes naturally to us. But that desire to appease is part of our old nature, not our new one. We have to remember that!

tori-1976609_1920I really believe that religion, more than anything, is the true enemy of God, especially within Christianity. It’s subtle, it distracts; it makes us believe we have effort to offer. It takes away from the beauty and wonder of the free gift. And it turns a life-giving friendship into dutiful servanthood.

Can I stretch your mind a little?

What if true Christianity isn’t about a checklist, or behaviors, or a list of rules to follow? What if it is about a restored life? What if, because we have been restored and reconnected, our lives are transformed? Not because of effort or determination or discipline, but because a new life-force flows within us? The life of the Vine.

Do you believe that? Did you feel your heart give a leap of hope? That’s the Spirit. Our life-force. 🙂

Here is the simple and beautiful gospel.

We have all been broken by sin and that sin separates us from God. Our very core has been corrupted, and the ones God created to be His friends are now His enemies. But He would not let us go…His love is far too great! So Jesus came and died, paying the price for sin once and for all. He rose again demonstrating His power over death and sin. If we will admit that we need forgiveness and trust in Jesus alone to save us, we will be restored.

It gets better! Not only has God forgiven all of our sins through the death of Jesus, He gives us His very Spirit to dwell within us. The Holy Spirit is all about restoration and transformation. If we will let Him, He will not only show us our broken places, He will empower us to heal. He will transform us into the image of God we were meant to be.

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True abiding has nothing to do with action or works, and everything to do with resting in our position. We don’t DO anything. We accept salvation. We accept the Spirit. We accept the life, and the transformation, and the power He offers. We accept His friendship, and we live as friends. We believe the truth about God and ourselves. As we rest in the Vine and in the Power that flows through Him, we will automatically bear fruit. Because that’s what happens with healthy branches who are connected to the vine.

And where does following God in obedience fit with all of this?

“Obedience is the natural offspring of trust-motivated love. All true obedience arises out of the heart and is attended by a deep inner sense of personal delight. You could call it obedience, or you could call it friendship.” – Pastor Ty Gibson

I love that! ❤ ❤ And I would love to hear your thoughts too.

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8 thoughts on “The Vine and the Branches…But No Religion

  1. Thank you for that. I’ve recently moved to a different church and about 2 months or so later there was a scandal at my old church. Even though I wasn’t there anymore it created a lot of tension for me and now I’m just left uneasy with everything faith related. I’d very much like to just rest on the vine and stop sweating about what I’m supposed to do next. Upheaval usually sends me back towards legalistic places because it feels like something sturdy to hold on to in a storm but I’d much rather simply abide.

  2. I too am having to leave my church due to some unhealthy behaviour that is occuring right from the top leadership. It is hard when you live in a small town, and have so few options. Thank you for your posts Christy. It is nice to read posts from a non religious stance. We need to remember to be with Christ, not striving for Christ through false doctrine of works and attainment.

    • I’m so sorry! We recently went through some difficult church stuff too and ended up leaving a church we had been at for seven years. It was once of the hardest this I’ve ever been through. Church hurt is no fun. 😢

  3. Lovely piece. Learning to abide in Jesus is probably the best lesson we can learn.

    See, when we are ‘born again’, for want of a better phrase, that is a one-way process. You can’t become born, then unborn, and then born, ad nauseam. Nicodemus was close to the mark when he said, ‘Can [someone] enter their mother’s womb and be born a second time?’ You can’t. And it is the same with being children of God. It’s a once-and-for-all thing. And so, there remains nothing but to remain in the Vine, and let His life flow through us.

    Effortless! ‘And I will give you rest’ – Mt 11:29

  4. I like listening to Andrew Murray when I go to sleep. He wrote “Abide in Christ” and I was listening to that just last night. I think this quote from Murray harmonizes with your well-written thoughts above: “Abiding in Jesus is not a work that needs each moment the mind to be engaged, or the affections to be directly and actively occupied with it. It is an entrusting of oneself to the keeping of the Eternal Love, in the faith that it will abide near us, and with its holy presence watch over us and ward off the evil, even when we have to be most intently occupied with other things. And so the heart has rest and peace and joy in the consciousness of being kept when it cannot keep itself.” The Vine “abiding in us” is great assurance that we will have the wisdom, where-with-all, and will to consciously abide in Him at each crossroads in our day, without anxious worry or “worksy” striving. Thanks for sharing this timely blog 🙂

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