“The Purifying Power of Abiding”
Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2018
Acts 9: 26-31
Psalm 22: 4-5; 9-10, 22-23
1 John 4: 7-16
John 15: 1-8
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! May we grasp the reality of Easter more and more everyday as we grow in the knowledge of our God. God is the Source of life! We all want to have this life, but how do we obtain this life?
In the Gospel, Jesus says that He is the Vine, and His Father is the Vinedresser. In fact, He says that He is the True Vine. In verse 2, Jesus says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, the Vinedresser takes away.” The original Greek word of “takes away” is airo, which means to lift up, to raise up. It is not to remove, to cut off, to take away, but to lift up in order to bear fruit. It is not a judgmental measure or a step of discipline. It is the Father giving tender loving care, compassion, and looking for a way for a branch to bear fruit.
The people understood what Jesus said because He used illustrations that His hearers understood. During that time, they were familiar with agriculture, particularly, viticulture, which is the cultivation of grapevines. A branch of a vine that is on the ground can never bear fruit. It needs air because aeration is a very important element in bearing fruit. The branch gets suffocated when it is on the ground so it needs to be propped up on trellis because vines are meant to cling. It is very characteristic of the Father, the Vinedresser, to look for ways and to become patient of those branches that don’t bear fruit. He does not tear them down; He does not cut them off, but He is patient with them. Non-bearing fruit branches are propped up for unhindered aeration. To understand this word airo is to contradict the farming practice of the day.
The entity that doesn’t want us to bear fruit, to be cast down on the ground, is the enemy. The enemy wants us to wallow on the ground. The number one enemy of the Israelites was the Philistines, which meant wallow in the dust. Jesus says that He cleanses every branch that bear fruit that it may bear more fruit. See the heart of the Vinedresser: He wants every branch to bear much fruit. It is not an instant thing, but eventually it will bear fruit. However, the fruit is not the product of our striving as branches. We do not produce fruit; we just bear. It is not the product of our striving to have fruit, but it is the product of our abiding and connecting to the Vine. We simply connect and this is what makes us bear fruit. We don’t have the ability in ourselves. We are simply vessels, and we become fruitful vessels if we have this link and connection to the Source. God lifts up, finds ways, and causes all things to work together for good as long as we abide. God is love, and this is what love does, and this is what love is.
Not bearing fruit is not hopelessness. Understand the heart of God. If He sees someone not bearing fruit, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have hope. It just means that He needs to help them and to lift them up. Don’t stay on the ground. Don’t be cast down. Don’t lose hope, but be lifted up and abide because it is when we don’t abide that we don’t bear fruit and death begins.
How do we abide? 1 John 3:24a says, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him.” Obedience is abiding. Bearing fruit takes a while, but we have to stay connected, keep on abiding and we will bear fruit. We will not produce fruit; we will bear that is the result of our connection to the Source of life, to the Vine that has the ability to produce fruit.
John 15:10 says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Jesus went about doing good and obeying, and in doing so, He abides in the Father. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary of doing good for in due time we will reap a harvest.” It is said that a vine does not produce until after three years. Even then, the first fruits are not suitable for wine making. It may take another five years before the grapes become suitable for wine making. When the grapes are harvested and pressed, they are aged. The longer the wine is aged, the better it gets.
In due season, we will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary. We really don’t produce; we bear the fruit that God causes to grow. Simply stay connected; do not stop abiding. See this picture – a car cannot have gasoline in its tank if one doesn’t connect the nozzle from the gas station to the car. Even if he has the faith that his car will have gas, but if he doesn’t put the nozzle to the car’s gas tank, connecting it to the source, nothing can be accomplished.
Study shows that in some developed countries, 95% of married men have a stronger relationship with an object of affection other than their wives. They look at them more than their wives; they hold them, they touch them, and they spend a lot of time with them. They talk to them, and eat with them. They can’t leave home without them. They are lost without them. They sleep with them, and the first thing these men look for when they wake up is this object. 95% of these married men are having an affair with their cellphones.
Today, if we don’t get hold of our cellphone, misplaces it or leaves it at home or somewhere else, we panic and we get agitated. Life seems to stop. If only this is how we are attached to our God, we will have a very healthy Christian life. If only this is how much we are attached to the Vine likened to our attachment to an inanimate object – that we won’t be able to sleep without talking to Him, our day would not be complete without Him, and we can’t leave home without looking, holding, and talking to Him. We should always be excited to spend time with Him and to experience Him. If only this is our understanding of our attachment to our God and not take Him for granted, we will be in a much better place and we will bear much fruit.
Jesus is the true Vine and we are the branches. May we dread separation from Him more than silver, gold, money, property or even gadgets. May we fear losing our relationship with God more than anything.
Scriptures says that Israel was formerly the vine, a luxuriant vine that its fruits reached to the rivers. There came a time when it produced bitter grapes and it failed. Israel was a vine that did not fulfill its calling and its destiny. Now, Israel was not replaced by the Church as the vine, but by Jesus. He was not just a Vine, but The True Vine. The Church’s role is not to be the vine and produce fruit; the Church’s role is simply to cling and to connect to the True Vine to bear fruit. Apart from the Source, the Church is nothing and we can’t do anything. We can’t have fulfillment, and we can’t have life.
Jesus is the Perfect, Faithful Vine who fulfils destiny on our behalf. We simply cling to Him. Romans7:4 says, “You were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” This is what Easter means. The fall of man when he sinned caused us to be inclined to sin. We continually fell and we couldn’t do anything because it paralyzed us. We are inclined to fall and to sin. Sin made us incline to fall, to miss the mark, and to fall short of the standard; but God joined us with Christ, and He raised us up so that we do not fall anymore.
Our inclination now is the Divine Nature. We are now partakers of the Divine Nature. Our nature is not sinful; we were made in the image and likeness of God. We still sin, but God has put His nature in us and we are made partakers of this nature as long as we abide. We are only asked to abide. Stay connected because when we detach ourselves from the life of God, we dry up, and we will lose our life. With our connection to the True Vine, there is only the promise of bearing fruit.
As God joined us to Him and made us partakers of Divine Nature, we were “re-created” and restored to His image and likeness. Now, our offering joined to His is acceptable. Now, we don’t fail anymore because we are joined to Him who is faithful to fulfil the destiny on our behalf. Abide and we will bear fruit if we do not grow weary for this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.