The Trellis


Over the weekend, my pastor Dean Sweetman started a new series entitled The Vine by discussing John 15 and Jesus’ expectation for his disciples to bear fruit. The beginning of this chapter has striking details of what happens to those branches not bearing fruit and encouragement to those fruit-bearing branches that feel as though they are being ‘cut off’ but are merely being pruned to produce even more fruit.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.

John 15:16

As the next few hours passed, I couldn’t help but think of these words and how we all want to be a branch that produces fruit and not one that is just dead weight, waiting to be cut down. Then came the question: If producing fruit is our goal, how can we be sure to produce the kind of crop that Jesus expects without pursuing the quota more than the fruit itself?

Let me illustrate.

We’ve all seen a movie, witnessed an event, or had an experience in life where a result was expected and someone had to deliver. It could be a sports game, it could be a sales quota, it could be a troubled teen that needs a little direction.

Have you ever experienced a time where the harder you tried to make something happen, the further you got from actually achieving your goal and the less genuine the pursuit actually became?

The more you chase a championship to simply look good to the pro scouts, the more your play becomes about you and the more your teammates resent your presence on the field. The more you chase your sales quota, the more your clients feel like a number and the more sleazy you and your profession appear. The more you struggle to keep your problem teen out of the newspapers and in the church choir, the further you push him away from not only yourself, but the entire idea of God and everything you are trying to teach.

Over time, you find yourself exhausted, desperate, and further from your goal than when you began. This is not what Jesus expects from us.

The real miracle of bearing fruit doesn’t come from the branch trying to make the grapes happen. You never see a grape branch sweating with over-exhaustion and anxiety from trying to make grapes burst from its ends. The fruit just happens because the branch is connected to the life-source and allows itself to be a part of the overall picture. The branch is simply a conduit for the vine to get the nutrients and necessary ingredients to the buds in order to produce valuable grapes. Without fruit, the entire vine is nothing more than a weed.

So how can we be sure, as branches, we yield the kind of fruit Jesus is asking us to produce? Or better, how can we assure ourselves that fruit will just sprout from our lives without a huge struggle and without years being taken off our lives from wasted efforts trying to create results? The answer lies in how the entire plant is designed to grow.

A grape vine is a climbing plant, which means it requires a structure to be set up around it to grow the type of fruit that is expected. Without this structure, the vine just lies on the ground, very much alive, but never produces the fruit it is capable of. We are in a way designed the same way. While grape farmers build a structure called a trellis for the branches to latch on and allow many crucial phases of the fruiting process to take place, Jesus has built a similar structure around us to be sure He gets the same result: Fresh, ripe, abundant fruit. Everytime.

So what is this miracle structure that makes the difference between a dead branch being cut from the vine and a living, vibrant, fruit-bearing Christian?

The Church.

To Be Continued…

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