My man and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary back in May by taking a kid-free trip to Napa Valley. The gorgeous scenery and fine wine were just the backdrop. The quiet was everything I knew it would be and more. Getting away reminded me just how much I love hanging out with this guy.
At each vineyard we visited, I caught myself considering Jesus’ words from John 15:1, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” I don’t often think of farming when I pour a glass of cabernet, but I learned that wine-making is a complex process.
The intricate relationship between the vine and the branches drew my heart to the sovereignty of the One who oversees the growth in my own heart.
The care with which the vine is tended, the way the fruit matures, and the process that manifests itself in a beautiful bottle of wine is anything but simple. Such extensive labor and creativity goes into making wine that we heard it called art.
We are the Father’s work of art, ever changing and growing, becoming more beautiful with time.
Later in the week, I grabbed my bible and read more of Jesus’ words in John 15, certain that He wanted to speak to me though this intriguing illustration. In just ten verses, He repeats the word remain eleven times. Abide, another interchangeable term, means to continue to be present, to be held or kept.
In my everyday moments, this looks like resting in God’s thoughts about me; it looks like claiming my identity in Christ, the true vine. When I take every thought captive and line it up with the truth in God’s word, I realize my part really is breathtakingly simple.
Jesus 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) The times I’m most defeated, discouraged, and doubtful are the times I’m trying so hard to bear fruit on my own. Jesus says it’s not possible.
Apart from His love, nothing will grow.
His love is the only love that’s pure and perfect and able to produce good in us.
Jesus continues, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:9, 16-17)
After Jesus describes His own extravagant love, He gives the command, Love one another.
It’s beautifully straightforward, yet I wrestle with the simplicity of it.
Jordan Feliz has a song called Simple. These lyrics resonate particularly well with my soul: “In my dirt you call me worth it…” Sometimes, it’s so hard to receive perfect, unconditional love.
This occasional struggle in my soul plays out when I look to another love to sustain and carry me, when I’m anything but present to the whisper of the Spirit, or when I all-out reject my God-given identity, because accepting God’s love means I have nothing to prove and my selfish ambition becomes just a hair skeptical of this lavish love Jesus offers.
Receiving God’s love doesn’t have to be complex.
God does all the work. All we do is trust Him, believe Him, and let His love carry us. Then we watch how it changes the way we love others.
God is responsible for planting, tending, pruning, and plucking. This part is hard, complex. The produce at the end of harvest holds endless possibilities and combinations. Every minute detail gets adjusted to achieve the desired outcome.
Harsh frost, direct sunlight, and changing seasons pose all kinds of threats to the fruit growing on the vine. Farmers use windmills to move cool mountain air along down the valley so frost cannot damage the grapes. They even consider the angle of the sunlight onto the fruit in the planting process.
The branches are not responsible for these challenges; they are the Vinedresser’s responsibility, and He knows exactly what He’s doing. The fruit He produces lasts for eternity.
Jesus, the true vine and true way back to the Father’s love, took care of the complicated part for us.
The vine produces fruit; the branches bear the fruit. This part is natural and straightforward and overwhelmingly… simple. But our part also requires a response: obey. “Do what He tells you,” wise words straight from the mother of the One who changed water into wine.
Fruit takes time. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit we can count on when we’re united with Christ: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This isn’t a list of rules, but a list of character traits, evidence of how deeply our character is altered when we put on the righteousness of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t a remedy for our sin; it’s evidence of Christ in us.
Christ is the only remedy we need.
Abide in my love and my love pours out of you.
Simple yet so complex. Profound in every way. Let’s leave the complicated part to Him and rest in the simplicity of reckless love.