Realizing the Connection

Author:  Colin Rieke
Hey all! Please welcome guest blogger, Colin Rieke, my husband! His absolute favorite spot in scripture is John 15 (other than probably Romans 5-8), and I know it is an enormous treat for him to be able to share what God puts on his heart. And so here is his piece, Realizing the Connection.    ~Rachelle Rieke
“Jesus said “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,” (John 15:5). Have you ever seen a grapevine in person? What stands out to me when looking at a grapevine up-close is that there’s no separation between the branch and the vine: it’s all one plant. The importance of that truth is one of the reasons why I think Jesus used the branch-vine-vinedresser illustration as depicted in the first eight verses of the book of John.
When I read these verses I usually picture Jesus first, as a thick, strong grapevine. Then I see a smaller branch (me) extending from that vine, and at the end of that branch are big juicy grapes. I also see the vinedresser tenderly caring for the plant too, pruning it. Jesus and I are one plant; we’re connected and there’s no separation whatsoever. Just as there’s no separation between Christ the Head and His Body the Church (1 Corinthians 12), there is no separation between a vine and its branch. What does this mean?
It means the identity of the branch is in the vine: no vine, no branch.
Perhaps this connection is best explained when Jesus said “abide in me, and I in you,” (verse 4a). For a time when I read that verse it was as if I ignored the second part of that line, “…and I in you.” We have no problem “trying” to abide in Christ, but we usually don’t have much of a grid for Christ abiding in us.
The Greek word for abide translates “to remain in,” or “to stay in.” I like to define “abide” as, “to stay connected.” Most of us are familiar with the concept of abiding and agree with the Biblical principle that we ought to abide in Christ, but we are left still asking, what does that look like? If we are to “stay connected,” what does that experience look like?
Here’s the thing: you can’t remain in something you’re not already in. We have to understand our connection with Christ first, then staying connected will be more of a reality to us.
While contemplating this section of scripture in John 15, the Holy Spirit told me this: “They (believers) truly are connected, but they don’t believe it. The connection is reality, but they don’t believe it’s reality for them.” Notice the use of the word believe. If we believe there’s separation between us and God we’re going to live like it.
Also, notice the first part of what the Holy Spirit said to me: “They are truly connected…” I think it’s significant that the Lord is reaffirming truth even when we might be ignorant of it. Just because we may not wholeheartedly embrace the connection doesn’t dismiss the connection from being there at all. If we’re in Christ, we’re in Him, no matter what level of ignorance to that relationship we might be living in. The Lord isn’t bashing ignorance; rather, He’s inviting us to a deeper awareness of a connection that’s already there.
This deeper awareness comes from believing that the vine isn’t just available to you, but that you are actually a part of Him. The apostle Peter went as far as to call us “partakers of the divine nature,” ( 2 Peter 1:4). Since the vine and the branch are connected, all of the nutrients and inside components of the vine flow into the branch. When we embrace the connection, the nutrients from inside the vine have full access to flow freely into the branch, which causes the formation of fruit.
So how do we know if we’re connected? How do we know if we are living from that reality? The presence of fruit. After teaching the vine-branch illustration, Jesus said, “…I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16). The vine-branch connection explains how and why that is possible.
Fruit is the natural by-product of the connection. There is fruit because of the connection. Fruit is God’s very own nature, his very own DNA, coming out of us because He’s already deposited it in us. Fruit is what’s on the inside of the vine, showing up on the outside of the branch. Fruit is the vine reproducing His own life in and through the branch. It’s the vine’s own nutrients that make it to the fruit, and they flow through the branch to get there.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you’re in Christ you’ve been given a new nature. “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him,” ( 1 Corinthians 6:17). Because you’re in Christ and connected to Him, you have His DNA in you.
What happens to the branch when it’s separated from the vine? It shrivels up and withers because there’s no longer access to nutrients. Jesus said, “…without Me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5b). There’s no fruit coming from a withered and shriveled up branch. Without a vine, a branch just becomes a dried up stick.
We should also keep in mind the context of John 15, by remembering that John 13 through John 17:26 is all one discourse. Jesus and His twelve disciples had just finished the Feast of the Passover and are still at the dinner table. After washing their feet Jesus points out that Judas will betray Him and Judas leaves the scene. From John 13:31 through the end of John 17 is Jesus with the remaining eleven laying the foundation of the New Covenant that they are about to step into. He encourages them, prophesies to them, builds them up, teaches them, and prays for them. He is preparing them and getting their eyes re-focused on what’s to come. It’s in this discourse that we see Jesus saying in John 14 things like:
“…I am in the Father and the Father in Me…” (verse 11)
“… you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (verse 20)
“…We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (verse 23)
It’s upon those statements of relationship and connection that Jesus starts His vine-branch teaching.
When Jesus said, “…He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit…” (John 15:5b), He was essentially saying, “If you stay connected, the fruit will be there.” We don’t have to “try harder” to get more fruit because fruit ultimately come from the vine in the first place. If we think of “abiding” as “doing things in order to get closer to God,” that undermines the new covenant reality Jesus ushered us into. If we are attached to Him, how much closer can we actually be?
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