This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
“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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:1-8 (NKJV)
There is a delicate balance between works and grace in the Kingdom of God. On the one hand, the apostle Paul spent a lot of time explaining that the gift of God’s grace is free, without merit, and works have nothing to do with this gift. He repeatedly urged believers to stop trying to earn the gift of God’s grace. Reliance upon works, our own efforts, to produce the benefits of God, in a perverse sense, renders the grace of God void and ineffective.
And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved. Romans 11:6 (NLT)
For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. Galatians 5:4 (NLT)
On the other hand, James noted a direct relationship between works of righteousness and faith.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18 (NKJV)
The life of faith in the grace of God does not negate works, activity, and productivity in the Kingdom of God. Instead, faith and grace calibrate our works to align our lives correctly. Long before Adam and Eve sinned, within God’s perfect design for mankind in the Garden of Eden, He made man with purpose, mission, and work to complete.
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 (NKJV)
There remains within our spiritual DNA the need and desire to be productive, complete a mission, and do the work assigned to us. Human beings need this to live a truly fulfilled life.
Unfortunately, our corrupted and fallen flesh is often given too much room in our life, and the delicate balance between works and grace is upended. We subtly go astray and seek satisfaction through our own works rather than in the grace of God. This leads to self-righteousness and lives full of works, productivity, and mission, but absent that sense of fulfillment God designed us for.
The Vine and the Branches
Good works and productivity are expected in the Kingdom of God. It is called fruitfulness.
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
The inability to maintain fruitfulness makes us irrelevant within the Kingdom of God.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away…
Personal transformative processes form a process cycle related to our capacity for productivity and fruitfulness. As we bear fruit, we transform, and as we transform, we bear more fruit.
and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit
Our ego often rises up to usurp motives that were once pure and suggest we might prove our worthiness to partner and work alongside God, but Christ Himself has already made us worthy.
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
The fundamental objective is not demonstrating our worthiness but finding our relational proximity and relevance through Christ.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
The nature of our relationship to Christ is about so much more than simply going to heaven. It defines the quality of the life we live. The life of purpose, fulfillment, and wholeness that God designed for us is not attained by proving we deserve it. It is gained by correct relationship with God through Christ.