I submitted the following thoughts in the Star Herald a few weeks ago; I submit them for those of you who may have missed it.
Please allow me to share one more reflection of the effects of the ice storm in March. As devastating as the ice storm seemed at the time, it’s amazing to see how the trees have filled in so nicely. For the most part, it’s hard to tell we even had the storm, although occasionally I still see a dead branch in a tree that hasn’t fully detached. The broken and dead branches are still attached to the trees, but the breaks were severe enough to stop the nutrients from getting to the branches or the leaves, and therefore the branches have died.
As I think about it, those dead or dying branches are like many people who claim to be Christians. I think you will agree. See, there are many people who claim to follow Jesus, yet if you were to look at their lives, it would appear they are spiritually dead.
Rarely, if ever, do they gather for corporate worship. They have little peace or joy. They pick and choose who they will love. They refuse to participate in ministry in the kingdom of God and they’re stingy when it comes to sharing their financial resources to help others. Like the branches, they claim they are part of the church, but in reality they bear no fruit because they are spiritually dead.
Jesus warned the disciples of the same tragedy on the night before he was crucified. Seizing a teaching moment, he said to them, I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:1-6
Jesus is like the tree in my neighbor’s yard and God the Father is the tree trimmer who cares for the branches to make them fruitful. The branches are all those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The fruitful branches that are bearing the fruit of the Spirit are true believers who are actively involved in a relationship with Christ. But those who are like dead branches—those who don’t stay connected through prayer, Bible study, and acts of service or who turn their back on God after something bad happens to them—will be cut off from the tree. Jesus warns that those branches will be removed and destroyed.
When reflecting on my life, there are still branches that God continually prunes because they aren’t bearing fruit—maybe you have some dead branches as well. Unlike a tree branch, the good news for you and me is that our branches can be revived. Just get on your knees and reattach yourself to the true vine. Share with Jesus why you’ve detached yourself from him. Open yourself to his Word and let him begin pouring his life into yours which will produce a harvest of righteousness.
May it be said of ARC that we are people who abide in the true vine.
Remaining in Him, Mike