By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8 Have you ever started a job with no job description? I have, and it's pretty confusing.
About 8 years ago, I was looking for a part-time teaching job. A friend asked if I would like to apply to substitute teach in ESL & GED classes. I told her that I didn't have a clue about either one of those. She assured me that it wasn't difficult. All I had to do was follow the teacher's lesson plans. So I naively applied.
Well, guess what? As my application reached the supervisor's desk, the beginning ESL teacher was in a very serious accident. This was at the end of the first week of class. By then, beginning ESL students don't know much more English than the day they walked in. There were no lesson plans and no curriculum, because the teacher was so experienced that she did her own "curriculum". Needless to say, I was terrified. But God met me in my need (and that's for another post!).
BUT that first year, I had no job description. I just took the bull by the horns and prayed and taught and loved it. And I think the students did too, by God's grace! (I'm still teaching that class 8 years later.)
However, without a job description, I made many mistakes and often got myself in trouble. Most of the time, my mistakes were from my ignorance...or from my zeal to "do things right". As a result, in several instances, I unknowingly went over the head of my supervisor and assumed her role. Not good!
That's what happens for us believers with living the Christian life. I don't think we truly understand our "job description." We try to do in our own strength the things that only God can do.
So let's look at WHO does WHAT in a vineyard?
First there's the Gardener or Vinedresser. His job is to care for the vine and branches by watering, fertilizing, and above all... pruning. Without that almost "violent" pruning, a rich crop cannot come forth.
And after all, the vineyard owner's reputation is at stake! If someone sees a barren vineyard, no one shames the branches or even the vine, but rather the owner/vinedresser. That's because whoever does the work gets the credit or the blame! So it's his job to do whatever is necessary to ensure an abundant crop of grapes. Even the good, new growth gets cut back so as to bring forth an abundance of fruit.
As we've already seen, that is what the Father does for us branches. Sometimes we may feel like we've grown so much and have been "fruitful"...then all of a sudden, the desert! dryness! seeming barrenness! But the process is not done yet!
Then there's the Vine. The Vine is the source of life for the branches, which then enables the fruit to come forth. Without the life of the Vine flowing through healthy branches, nothing fruitful can happen!
Jesus is the Source of life for us His branches. In the previous post we saw that Jesus, the I AM, is LIFE itself! In Him was life, and the life is the light of men...I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. John 1:4; 10:10b
And that's why the main job of the branches is to abide or stay connected to the vine. The branches are the vehicles for the life of the vine to flow through so that fruit will come forth.
Jesus said, Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4
So what does it mean to abide in Christ? It means to live in & from, remain in, sink down deep into, rest in, stay [experientially] connected to HIM!
Here's a feeble, but hopefully helpful illustration of what I think it means to abide. I have this wonderful couch in my living room. It is hard to sit or lie on this couch without falling asleep. When I come home from a full day of teaching, I look forward to sinking my weary body into that couch. I'm often able to just put some instrumental music on and surrender to the comfort of my glorious couch. Later, I leave that place refreshed and energized!
However, sometimes I still have things I need to do before supper time. So I abandon my tired self to my life-giving couch and make my phone calls or read my lessons or do whatever duty or desire dictates. I still come away refreshed because I'm working from a position of rest.
That's what I think abiding in Christ means. I do what I do from my position of rest in my Glorious Vine. I'm secure in Him and He in me. His resurrection life flows through me, His branch, to bring forth the fruit designed by the Father for my unique life.
What about you? Are you living the Branch-life? Do you do what you do from the position of rest in your Glorious Lord Christ? Or are you trying to do what only God can do -- give life and produce fruit?
I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing. John 15:5