Thursday, May 20, 2004

Main Entry: vine
Pronunciation: 'vIn
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Old French vigne, from Latin vinea vine, vineyard, from feminine of vineus of wine, from vinum wine -- more at WINE
1 : GRAPE 2
2 a : a plant whose stem requires support and which climbs by tendrils or twining or creeps along the ground; also : the stem of such a plant b : any of various sprawling herbaceous plants (as a tomato or potato) that lack specialized adaptations for climbing

from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

i've done it again. lately things have been going great at work, busy with a big project that was much appreciated. i'm doing some work/consulting with a national ministry that's been completely exciting and mentally stimulating. and i've been thoroughly enjoying jumping back into blogdom.

and then last night i realized that i'm once again lost in mission.

now there's a good lost in mission and there's a bad lost in mission. good lost in mission is when you are driven by love of God and others. when you are constrained because of gratitude for Christ's love. that is worship - pure and beautiful. love incarnate and holiness operationalized.

but, while i might be able to say that some purer motives obtain, sometimes when i get lost in busyness, God gets lost in the process. though my parents are wonderful people, for various reasons i grew up alone and very bored (there's a lot more detail behind that). so for the last 15 years or so my fear and loathing of being bored have driven me to lose my Lord in my frenetic efforts to escape ennui.

this makes my efforts too important. the exerting of effort itself becomes a fruit rather than that which produces fruit. though i may be involved in what prima facie appears to be perfectly valid and worthwhile activity, the very drivenness of it detracts. And - indeed -

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."

1 Cor 13:2 (all quotes English Standard Version)

The alternative for me? That place which I've sometimes touched but to which, from time to time, I have to bring myself back. A place of abiding in Christ. it's important to save that phrase from the trite and mundane and to recapture its original richness. it is, truly, an amazing johannine concept.

john's classic statement on the concept is in John 15:1-5

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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."

what does that look like? i freely admit i don't entirely know but i've gotten a taste.

scripture seems to indicate it involves:

.... choosing an extreme belief in Jesus.

see John 6:47 with 6:54a. i see "eating jesus' flesh and drinking his blood" in 6:54 as indicating the radical nature of this belief. see also 1 John 2:23,24, 1 John 4:15, and 2 John 9. Thankfully, this faith is not just dependent on our own strength. We know that God is the one who authors and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

...choosing to bask in the love that God has for us.

see John 15:9 and 1 John 4:16

Also consider the enormity of what Paul writes in his letter to the church @ Ephesus

[Paul prays that the Ephesians] "may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (3:18,19)

Paul stretches to the limits of language in his effort to capture with words the transpropositional love of God. And don't miss that he connects our being filled with God directly with our consciousness of God loving us. And just as we saw that we cannot believe in God unless God authors our faith, so also here we see that God is the one who gives us the ability to even mentally grasp his love because Paul prays for it

...choosing to love others

see John 15:10-12, 1 John 2:3-7, and 1 John 4:12,13. And just as God authors our faith, just as God gives us the ability to begin to wrap our brains around how much he loves us, so also God enables us to love others, for love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)

there are, of course, myriad implications from all this regarding the ways that we cultivate abiding in Jesus. but there's one big implication: it's not just by trying harder. our choice is not one just of extra effort or new activity. our choice is one of extreme dependence - to throw ourselves upon Him because He's the One who gives us faith, He's the One who helps us accept the mind-boggling extent of his love for us, and He's the One who works in us to love others.

He saves us from the smallness of a life sucked in upon itself.


Anonymous said...


whast your thought on this "trying harder" vs. allowing God to do the work in our life? man i struggle with this one. its a modern construct that has burned in to my brain. but allowing God to do the work allows us to just sit back and wait for God to change our heart with one sin or another. im all for this. hehe. but everythign inside me says "you need to do whatever you haev to do to not do that again".

whats your thoughts?


Stephen said...

hi steve,

for me it's not just choosing to try harder but making the choice to turn from the choice entirely to Him. now i'm not saying i've got this all down; i don't. but i do think i've gotten a taste. it's the choice to be dependent on him rather than merely trying to resist the bad or do the good with my own resources.