I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. -John 15:5
How is your relationship with God? Is there a fire within your heart? Do you still love Him like the day you first met Him or has that love grown a bit cool? Are you growing in Him and others can see the fruit? We all are on this journey together, growing in spiritual maturity. Christ wants us to abide in Him and continue to draw closer to Him. He desires us to grow, and we should not stop until we go home to be with Him. Spiritual growth is so much more than going to church on Sunday, Bible Studies and other meetings. Let’s look at what God has to say about spiritual growth.
God is responsible for all spiritual growth. God is the Gardener who takes care of the soil and causes growth. He also prunes anything that keeps us from growing in Him. We are saved by grace and we must continue to grow in grace. The Holy Spirit works within us to bring about change. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit enters us and stays with us enabling us to grow in Christlikeness. We must stay in the Vine though, we must abide in Him. Effort, diligence and discipline on our part are necessary for growth. 2 Peter 1:5-11 says “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so short-sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practise these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
We are to make the effort to grow. God tends to us but we have the responsibility to keep in the Vine, to stay with Christ and do our part. We cannot sit back and do nothing and expect ourselves to be changed for His glory. We have to work out our salvation every day. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). Jesus tells us clearly in John that we cannot bear fruit if we are not staying connected to the Vine. He even says that those branches that are not bearing fruit will be thrown into the fire and burned.
God provides the resources for us, we must supply the effort in our own relationship. Think about any relationship; it is no good to have only one person giving everything, and the other doing nought. After a while, that relationship will be estranged. Sometimes, we do not sense God or hear from Him because we ourselves have walked away maybe unknowingly, but because of our lack of effort within the relationship with Him, we have pushed ourselves away.
Spiritual growth depends on an intimate relationship with Christ. This relationship doesn’t just stop at our salvation. Jesus tells us that we are to remain, abide, continue in and dwell within the Vine. There are five benefits for us being connected to the Vine. One, fruitfulness will be evident in our lives. Fruit will be seen in and through our character as it overflows to others. The evidence of fruit is directly related to our maturity in Christ. As we mature, more fruit will be seen. The fruit of the spirit is found in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Are we bearing fruit and do others see it?
When we remain in God, He will stay with us. He will never leave nor forsake us. This should give us security in who we are in Christ. God is not like any other relationship we ever have here on earth. He is not going to die as He lives forever. God will not let us down, even though at times we don’t understand why things happen and we blame Him. God will never abuse us. He will not mistreat us. God is an amazing God. He will carry us when we hurt. He wipes away our tears and stores them. He comforts, strengthens and blesses us. Rest in that knowledge that God is the same today as yesterday and forevermore, amen.
As we remain in the Vine, Christ answers prayer. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (verse 7). The closer you get to someone, the more you know each other’s needs and try to meet those needs. The more we know Christ and grow closer to Him, the more we desire Him and think like Him. The prayers we pray will be according to His will and purpose and those prayers will be answered. This is not to say that Jesus is going to be like Father Christmas and we can give Him a shopping list and expect Him to do everything we want or ask. God knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows what we need. God always takes care of us. Sometimes God answers with a “no” but He has our best interest at heart. We just have to trust that He knows better than us.
Walking in a close and intimate relationship with Christ equals joy. Christ’s joy relates to a supernatural, inner peace, which brings emotional satisfaction even in difficult times. We have an assurance of God’s presence in our lives. Jesus tells us that we will have joy and that joy will be complete in Him. Our relationship with God should be exuberant. We should be on fire in our love for Him. Our hearts should burn for Christ. No matter what life throws at us, His joy will be in our hearts. We know God is with us, we know we have eternal life and we know one day we will reign forever in heaven with Christ.
We have friendship with Jesus as we stay connected to the Vine. Jesus calls us friends! What an honour, to be a friend of Jesus! As friends of Christ we are able to discern God’s word. Legalism and tradition is replaced with freedom to do what God desires without fear of man and is also replaced with partnership with Christ.
This whole process of spiritual growth within the vine starts within our own hearts and then is seen outwardly. Loving, serving, and worshiping God are actions that arise from passion and love for Christ. Our challenge is to keep kindling the fire within our hearts. Spiritual growth relates to every aspect of our life. It affects our family, friendships, leisure time and work. It’s a process which we allow the Holy Spirit to control every aspect of our lives. We are to grow in our personal development in belief and action. We are to be living sacrifices being renewed in our mind. Every part of our being changes to be more Christlike. People will notice a difference within us. We will be different than the world.
Usually our greatest growth come from our frustrations, sufferings and/or challenges. Suffering is a necessary, normal part of the Christian’s life. Jesus suffered greatly. If we are to be like Him, we must too suffer. During these times, our faith in God’s Word is strengthen. We rely on God more. Suffering moves closer to our goal of being more like Christ. Think of the times that we suffer as the time God prunes us. Our faith grows, and our branches grow stronger.
So back to the questions I asked at the beginning, how is your relationship with Jesus? Is it growing? Is it producing fruit? Are you passionately in love with Jesus? Is He your heart’s desire? If not, ask Him today, the start of a New Year, to rekindle the fire.