Ye Are The Branches
Everything depends on our being right ourselves in Christ. If I want good apples I must have a good apple tree; and if I care for the health of the apple tree, the apple tree will give me good apples. And it is just so with our Christian life and work. If our life with Christ be right, all will come right. There may be the need of instruction and suggestion and help and training in the different departments of the work; all that has value. But in the long run, the greatest essential is to have the full life in Christ—in other words, to have Christ in us, working through us. I know how much there is often to disturb us, or to cause anxious questionings; but the Master has such a blessing for every one of us, and such perfect peace and rest, and such joy and strength, if we can only come into, and be kept in, the right attitude toward Him.
I take for my text the parable of the Vine and the Branches, in John 15:5: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” What a simple thing it is to be a branch. The branch grows out of the vine, or out of the tree, and there it lives and grows and in due time, bears fruit. It has no responsibility except just to receive from the root and stem sap and nourishment. And if we only by the Holy Spirit knew our relationship to Jesus Christ, our work would be changed into the brightest and most heavenly thing upon Earth. Instead of there ever being soul-weariness or exhaustion, our work would be like a new experience, linking us to Jesus as nothing else can. It is often true that our work comes between us and Jesus. Many a laborer in the vineyard has complained that he has too much work, and not time for close communion with Jesus, and that his work weakens his inclination for prayer, and that his too much intercourse with men darkens the spiritual life. Sad thought, that the bearing of fruit should separate the branch from the vine! That must be because we have looked upon our work as something other than the branch bearing fruit. May God deliver us from every false thought about the Christian life.
The branch has nothing; it just depends upon the vine for everything. Absolute, unalterable dependence upon God alone is the essence of the religion of angels, and should be that of men also, God is everything to the angels, and He is willing to be everything to the Christian. If I can learn every moment of the day to depend upon God, everything will come right. You will get the higher life if you depend absolutely on God.
Now, here we find it with the vine and the branches. Every vine you ever see, or every bunch of grapes that comes upon your table, let it remind you that the branch is absolutely dependent on the vine. The vine has to do the work, and the branch enjoys the fruit of it.
What has the vine to do? It has to do a great work. It has to send its roots out into the soil and hunt under the ground—the roots often extend a long way out—for nourishment, and to drink in the moisture. Put certain elements of nature in certain directions, and the vine sends its roots there, and then in its roots or stems it turns the moisture and chemicals into that special sap which is to make the fruit that is borne. The vine does the work, and the branch has just to receive from the vine the sap, which is changed into grapes. I have been told that at Hampton Court, London, there is a vine that sometimes bore a couple of thousand bunches of grapes, and people were astonished at its large growth and rich fruitage. Afterward it was discovered that which was the cause of it. Not so very far away runs the River Thames, and the vine had stretched its roots hundreds of yards under the ground, until it had come to the riverside, and there in all the rich slime of the riverbed it had found rich nourishment, and obtained moisture, and the roots had drawn the sap all that distance up and up into the vine, and as a result there was the abundant, rich harvest. The vine had to do the work, and the branches had just to depend upon the vine, and receive what it gave.
Is that literally true of my Lord Jesus? Must I understand that when I have to work, when I have to preach a sermon, or address a Bible class, or to go out and visit the sick and poor and neglected ones, that all the responsibility of the work is on Christ?
That is exactly what Christ wants you to understand. Christ wants that in all your work, the very foundations should be the simple, blessed consciousness: Christ must care for all.
AND HOW DOES HE FULFILL THE TRUST OF THAT DEPENDENCE? He does it by sending down the Holy Spirit—not now and then only as a special gift, for remember the relationship between the vine and the branches is such that hourly, daily, unceasingly there is the living connection maintained. The sap does not flow for a time, and then stop, and then flow again, but from moment to moment the sap flows from the vine to the branches. And just so, my Lord Jesus wants me to take that blessed position as a worker, and morning by morning and day by day and hour by hour and step by step, in every work I have to go out to just abide before Him in the simple utter helplessness of one who knows nothing, and is nothing, and can do nothing. Oh, beloved workers, study that word NOTHING. You sometimes sing: “Oh, to be nothing, nothing’; but have you really studied that word and prayed every day, and worshiped God, in the light of it? Do you know the blessedness of that word NOTHING?
If I am something, then God is not everything; but when I become NOTHING, God can become ALL, and the everlasting God in Christ can reveal Himself fully. That is the higher life. We need to become nothing. Someone has well said that the seraphim and cherubim are flames of fire because they know they are nothing, and they allow God to put His fullness and His glory and brightness into them. They are nothing, and God is all in them and around them. Oh, become nothing in deep reality, and, as a worker, study only one thing—to become poorer and lower and more helpless, that Christ may work all in you.
Absolute dependence upon God is the secret of all power in work. The branch has nothing but what it gets from the vine, and you and I can have nothing but what we get from Jesus.
Secondly, the life of the branch is not only a life of entire dependence, but of DEEP RESTFULNESS. If we could have a little branch here to talk to us, and if we could say: “Come, branch of the vine, I want to learn from thee how I can be a true branch of the Living Vine,” what would it answer? The little branch would whisper; “Man, I hear that you are wise, and I know that you can do a great many wonderful things, I know you have much strength and wisdom given to you but I have one lesson for you. With all your hurry and effort in Christ’s work you never prosper. The first thing you need is to come and rest in your Lord Jesus. That is what I do. Since I grew out of that vine I have spent years and years. When the time of spring came I had no anxious thought or care. The vine began to pour its sap into me, and to give the bud and leaf. And when the time of summer came I had no care, and in the great heat I trusted the vine to bring moisture to keep me fresh. And in the time of harvest, when the owner came to pluck the grapes, I had no care. If there was anything in the grapes not good, the owner never blamed the branch, the blame was always on the vine. And if you would be a true branch of Christ, the Living Vine, just rest on Him. Let Christ bear the responsibility.”
You say: “Won’t that make me slothful?” I tell you it will not. No one who learns to rest upon the Living Christ can become slothful, for the closer your contact with Christ the more of the Spirit of His zeal and love will be borne in upon you. But, oh, begin to work in the midst of your entire dependence by adding DEEP RESTFULNESS. Worker, take your place every day at the feet of Jesus, in the blessed peace and rest that come from the knowledge—
I have no care, my cares are His;
I have no fear, He cares for all my fears.
Come, children of God, and understand that it is the Lord Jesus Who wants to work through you. You complain of the want of fervent love. It will come from Jesus. He will give the divine love in your heart with which you can love people. That is the meaning of the assurance: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Christ can give you a fountain of love, so that you cannot help loving the most wretched and the most ungrateful, or those who have wearied you hitherto. Rest in Christ, Who can give wisdom and strength, and you do not know how that restfulness will often prove to be the very best part of your life and dealings with others.
The Lord Jesus repeated that word “Fruit” often in that parable. He spoke, first, of fruit, and then of MORE fruit, and then of MUCH fruit. And it is in the power of God that we are to bear MUCH fruit. We all confess there is a great deal of work of every kind, but there is not much manifestation of the power of God in it.
What is wanting? There is wanting the close connection between the worker and the Heavenly Vine. You cannot bear fruit unless you are in close connection with Jesus Christ.
Do not confuse “work” and “fruit.” There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the Heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only! Study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life and the very power and the very spirit and the very love within the heart of the Son of God—it means the Heavenly Vine coming into your heart and mind. I pray Thee, Lord Jesus, let Thy Spirit flow through me in all my work for Thee. May this be our constant prayer. Let us seek to understand that the life of the branch is a life of much fruit, because it is a life rooted in Christ, the living heavenly Vine.
Abide in Him. Take time to be alone with Christ. Nothing can free you from the necessity for that, if you are to be happy and holy Christians. How many look upon it as a burden and a tax, and a duty, and a difficulty to get much alone with God! We cannot be healthy branches into which the heavenly sap can flow unless we take plenty of time for communion with God. If you are not willing to sacrifice time to get alone with Him, and to give Him time every day to work in you and to keep up the link of connection between you and Himself, He cannot give you that blessing of His unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close communion with Him. Let every heart say: “O, Christ, it is this I long for, it is this I choose.” And He will gladly give it you.
Jesus said: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” In other words, “I, the Living One Who have so completely given Myself to you, am the Vine. You cannot trust Me too much. I am the Almighty Worker, full of a divine life and power.” You are the branches of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is in your heart the consciousness that you are not a strong, healthy, fruit-bearing branch, not closely linked with Jesus, not living in Him as you should be—then listen to Him say: “I am the Vine, I will receive you, I will draw you to Myself, I will bless you, I will strengthen you, I will fill you with My Spirit. I, the Vine, have taken you to be My branches, I have given Myself utterly to you; children, give yourselves utterly to Me. I have surrendered Myself as God absolutely to you, I became man and died for you that I might be entirely yours. Come and surrender yourselves entirely to be mine.”
What shall your answer be? Let our Prayer be that we shall say with our hearts singing “He is my Vine, and I am His branch—I want nothing more—now I have the Everlasting Vine. It is enough, my soul is satisfied.” Glory to His Blessed Name!