The True Vine
In John, chapter 15, Jesus makes these claims about Himself and about us:
He says, "I AM the true vine." (John 15:1 NIV)
He says, "No branch can bear fruit by itself." (John 15:4)
He says, "I AM the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NIV)
The vine provides the nutrients from the soil and the sun that allows the branches to produce grapes. Cut off from the vine, a branch only withers and dies.
Henri Nouwen, in his book, Living Reminders, asserts that our enemy, Satan, wants to cut us off from Christ so we will be like cut flowers. Cut flowers may look beautiful for a time, but they are destined to wither and die. Living flowers remain beautiful for their lifetime, and produce the very seeds that produce more flowers.
People who are disconnected from the True Vine (Jesus) might do some good deeds, but they cannot produce a life that reminds people of the God who created them. People who are connected to the True Vine receive all the love and grace and strength and transformation we need to serve as living reminders of Jesus.
In Matthew 5:26, Jesus says, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Our good deeds can serve to get us a pat on the back, or they can serve to remind people of the grace and love of Jesus Christ. The difference is how deeply we remain connected to the True Vine. The difference is our relationship with Jesus.
Doctor Sorenson had a thriving medical practice and all the money he needed. But he had a heart to serve people. Especially the poor. So he sold his practice and opened a simple office in the wharf district in San Francisco, where homeless people camped out.
The office had a door at street level and a long stairway up to the second floor, where he treated anyone, without cost. He had a simple sign painted on the glass door: Dr. Sorenson – Upstairs.
At first nobody came to him because they didn’t trust him. Then a homeless woman fell and hit her head and was bleeding. Friends brought her upstairs to Dr. Sorenson. He treated her wound and treated her with respect and kindness. He told her that God loved her. And he refused to charge her anything for her treatment.
Word spread on the streets like wildfire. Dr. Sorenson spent the last years of his practice caring for the least and the last. Then he died. The street people collected an offering to honor Dr. Sorenson. They came up with $500! A group of organizers approached the funeral director to ask what they could do to honor this kind doctor, who cared for broken people and loved them with the love of Jesus.
He had prepaid his funeral, but there was one thing he had not cared for: the engraving on gravestone. They could provide the engraving for $500. “What do you want to have engraved on the stone?” asked the funeral director. The small group of what most considered riff raff talked a moment, and then agreed on this:
“Make it say, ‘Dr. Sorenson – Upstairs'.”
Doctor Sorenson was a living reminder of the love and grace of Jesus Christ. He pointed others to the God who loved them by his loving them and serving them. So can we.
God doesn't need our abilities. He needs our availability. He desires deep people. He uses people who remain in the True Vine. He makes people to be living reminders who grow deep in relationship with Jesus and allow the unmerited, unconditional love of Christ to flow through our lives by acts of kindness and service, which serve as a witness to the One who is changing our lives.
My primary task is not to get a degree in the Bible or in being a great leader. My primary task is to know Jesus deeply and intimately. Apart from Him, I can do nothing that has eternal consequence. In Him, I can bear fruit.
So the most important priority of my day is to remain connected to Jesus. The greatest thing I can do is to abide in Christ - to live in Him and follow His promptings to stand for what is true, to love with His unconditional love, and to point others to the Savior who rescued me from sin and death.
Jesus, I don't want to be a cut flower. I want to bloom and blossom and grow and give off the fragrance of your love and grace. Help me to remain in you. Help me to grow deep. Spend my life as a living reminder. To God be the glory!