In John 15, Jesus draws on vivid imagery to describe the life He offers, and the life His followers find in Him. John 15:5 perhaps sums it up most clearly: "I am the vine; you are the branches. I you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing."
The take-away is clear. As His followers, we need to stay connected to Jesus. He's our life, and only through Him we bear fruit.
As I've been meditating on this verse, however, I wonder if too often I can approach Jesus more as a gas pump than a vine. But what does that mean? And why is it dangerous?
Jesus as Gas Pump
A gas pump provides fuel. It gives my car what it needs to keep going, and to take me where I need to go. My car needs gas to run. These are all good things, right? Just like my car needs gas, I need Jesus, right?
When I fill up my car with gas, I'm plugged in to the source of fuel. But then I disconnect and drive - completely unattached to the fuel source - until I run out of gas again. And then I stop and refill and drive and empty out the tank and stop and refill...you get the picture.
When I view Jesus as a gas pump, I acknowledge I need Him for fuel and so I periodically check in when I'm drained. Or I "top off" the levels once a day or once a week, but the rest of my life is pretty much disconnected from the gas pump.
This approach to Jesus will lead to compartmentalization, a "soft" independence from God (i.e., deism), or simply a failure to appreciate our ongoing dependence on Jesus.
Viewing Jesus as a gas pump is dangerous. So what does it look like to view Jesus as a vine?
Jesus as Vine
Branches connected to a vine (the image Jesus Himself uses in John 15) are continually receiving life from the vine. They don't disconnect and proceed on their own; they stay connected - their life and fruit depend on it.
When we view Jesus as a vine, we cultivate an ongoing awareness and alertness to His presence and activity. This needs to include daily time in Scripture, but this time in Scripture isn't something we spend 20 minutes on to "get topped off" and then move on from. Instead, this time in Scripture brings truth to bear on situations we face in the day. This time in Scripture helps us know God better and better, so we now how to lean on Him, watch for His activity, and live in a way that honors Him - even when we aren't physically reading Scripture.
Viewing Jesus as a vine foregrounds the life we find in Jesus continually, and it spotlights our ongoing dependence on Him.
By way of application, make it a goal to memorize John 15:5.
And keep asking yourself: Am I viewing Jesus more like a gas pump or a vine? How can I keep His identity as "vine" firmly in place in my life, in an ongoing, continuous way?
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