[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]
Perhaps not the deepest of reflections, but I have found myself contemplating the nuances between branches and sticks. Hmmm, what distinguishes one from the other? Here are my gleanings. A branch is something which is considered to still be attached to the main structure of the plant or tree; we might say the branch is alive, or demonstrates life. Therefore, this branch has essential nutrients flowing through its “veins” which allows it to bear fruit, i.e. flowers, fruit or leaves. In fact, it derives its crucial DNA through this connection. In doing this, the branch is clearly identified with the host plant to which it attached.
So what about the stick? Well, contrary to the branch, it is often disconnected from the host, having fallen or been cut. It does not have the life-giving and self-sustaining resources of the host coursing through it, and consequently unable to generate evidence of health as a fruit-bearing entity. It dries up becomes stiff, unbendable and brittle, and is no longer intimately identified with the host.
Interestingly enough Christ has something to say along these lines in John 15:6. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”
Christ is speaking to his disciples about the ability to bear fruit – to yield a spiritual and godly manifestation as evidence of abiding in him. Thus, His admonition regarding those who fail to demonstrate such a relationship. In defining this fruit, most would go to the “Fruit of the Spirit” passage in Galatians 5:22-23; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. However, I think these are just a sampling of the fruit about which Christ speaks in John 15.
Admittedly subjective, let me add a few more characteristics that should be exhibited by a healthy and connected branch. Worshipper – one who approaches God in truth, reverence, and sincerity – magnifying God and not himself. Disciple – one who is still learning, and exercising obedience to the commands of Christ. Servant – one who is demonstrating a faithful exercising of his or her gift to the body of Christ. Witness – one who is outwardly demonstrating to the world and the Church a walk, in line with the Word of God. And how about family? One who is connected to the body of Christ – relationally connected. Intentionally connected.
In a grander gander of the grandeur of things, the imagery of the branch and the vine is one of the church corporately demonstrating health, life and vigor as it is connected to Christ.
If any of these things are missing from a person’s life it merits examination as to why. If all of this fruit is absent it should be a terror-of-God thing. Remember the words of Christ in Matthew 7:23, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” These are words spoken to those at the judgment who actually were so deluded that they believed they were in the kingdom of God – that they had a relationship with God through Christ. In reality it seemed their understanding of a relationship with God was cognitive at best.
When it gets right down to it, it is a matter of salvation thing. And a stewardship thing. And allowing Christ the vine to bear fruit through you. Are you using the talent given to edify the body? Are you demonstrating that you even are connected to the Christ? If not perhaps God’s favor does not rest fully upon you. If you have never displayed this fruit it could be that you were never connected to the vine to begin with. Again, terror-of-God’s judgment thing.
As we anticipate the new year it is a great time to examine the kind of fruit Christ is bearing through you if indeed he is. Self-reflection is great, but maybe it’s a good idea to seek outside counsel too.
Are you truly abiding in Christ?
Is there fruit affirming that?
Good way to start the New Year!