Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Do you remember the first "City Slicker" movie with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Palance is the seasoned cowboy who is leading the city slickers on a cattle drive. He gives them lots of advice, but there is a time when he holds up one finger and says, "This is what life is all about. It's just one thing." He didn't explain clearly, but it is indelibly printed on my mind.

Well, Jesus made a similar statement, but He clearly spells what the one thing is. In fact, He did this kind of thing on several occasions, yet those who heard it just didn't have ears to hear. In John 5 Jesus is speaking with the Jewish leadership and He points out to them that they have spent their lives memorizing and studying the Scriptures, thinking they will find eternal life, but they will not. He says, "The Scriptures speak of me and I will give eternal life, but you don't seek me." They kept on burying themselves in their study of the Scriptures and missed the one thing-Jesus!

I am continually drawn back to the John 15 image in Jesus' teachings about the vine and the branch. Let me share it from the new re-translation we did this year: 15:1-8 -"I am the real vine, my Father is the vine-dresser. He lifts up any of my branches that are not bearing fruit and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit to increase its yield. Now, you have already been pruned by my words. You must go on growing in me and I will grow in you. For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it shares the life of the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you go on growing in me. I am the vine itself; you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all. The man who does not share my life is like a branch that is broken off and withers away. He becomes just like the dry sticks that men pick up and use for firewood. But if you live your life in me, and my words live in your hearts, you can ask for whatever you like and it will come true for you. This is how my Father will be glorified-in your becoming fruitful and being my disciples."

There are several stages of fruitfulness mentioned here. First-no fruit. Even though most translations translate the verb "cut off", it actually means to "lift up". It is the same verb that is used to describe Jesus being lifted up. You know how it is when a tomato plant droops down and touches the ground. Touching the ground will destroy the plant and make it unfruitful. So, the vine-dresser lifts it up in order to allow the branch to be fruitful.

Second-there is the stage of being pruned. Now, when a plant is pruned, it is not only the dead wood that is cut; the pruning must also include part of the live plant as well. Even though this is most certainly painful, the end result is fruitfulness.

Third-there is the stage that brings about greater fruitfulness. This is brought about by a closer connection between the branch and the vine. Jesus says: "But if you live your life in me and my words live in your hearts, you can ask for whatever you like and it will come true for you."

In the middle of this teaching Jesus brings up a simple yet vital principle. Jesus says: "Without me you can do nothing!" Even though Jesus' teaching here is clear, very few actually believe it or take it seriously.

You see, it's all about Jesus! What is the gospel or good news message of God? It's Jesus, simply Jesus.

More than anything else Jesus and the Father want us to become fruitful disciples. And they will do anything necessary to help us be fruitful-lift us up when we have no fruit, prune us for a greater fruitfulness and nurture us with His life flowing through our connection with Him, the Vine. The Father is positively reflected when we are fruitful and act like followers of Jesus. All you must do is hang on, embrace and enjoy your connection to the vine; He will do the rest! Make like a branch and hold on for dear life-your life-to the vine-Jesus. I just saw this and I love it. Jesus alone is enough. Jesus plus something is nothing. Jesus plus nothing is everything! Life is about one thing! It's not your Church, your cause, your doctrinal beliefs, the 2nd coming, healing, supernatural gifts or prayer. Life is all about Jesus. He is the one thing that matters most! Without Jesus you can do nothing! Do you really believe this?