I’m mixing it up this time, choosing to reflect rather than contemplate.
The reason for the distinction is that I believe there is a big difference we should have when reading literature and when reading The Bible. The Bible is firm in what it is, solidified. The Gospel is not meant to be stretched and inferred in the ways we hope it means. We can do that with literature. I can read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, a personal favorite, and dissect it. I can think what Hemingway meant for readers to interpret from his book. And Hemingway utilizing The Iceberg Theory (look it up) makes contemplating his works all the more interesting.
However, while I think we should contemplate parts of The Gospel, I think we should equally as much if not more so reflect. The Bible should not be taken out of context and it should not be perverted. I make the same argument with coffee, or as I call it, Gospel coffee. Just like The Gospel, you should not take anything out, and you should not add anything to it. So, don’t drink decaf and don’t add cream, sugar, syrup, or whatever other perversions that exist nowadays.
But enough of my soap box on coffee and my rambling on how to interpret what we read. I recently lead Bible Study out of John 15:1-17, and it was such a beautiful time. Even with subpar attendance, hearing the guys reflect on this passage was such a beautiful blessing to witness.
After one of the most intense weeks of my life, The Lord lead me home for the weekend. And it was such providential timing. I’m not gonna get into the nitty gritty details cause I could talk for over an hour about all that ensued over the week and weekend from March 1st to 8th.
What a ride.
But, the two passages that were preached out of both reassured and humbled me in my given circumstances. However, there was one verse that stuck with me after that weekend more than either of the sermons. See, my father sends my brother and I daily Bible verses. And while they do not always come every day, sorry to expose you dad, one day really stuck out. And it’s surprising to say it stuck out because most of the time I only give it enough time of day to get rid of the notification, sorry again. But following all that the prior days, my father sent John 15:2 on that following Wednesday the 10th.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”John 15:2 ESV
Slowly but surely that verse weaved its way into my description of the previous ten days. And when it came time for me to lead Bible study the following Monday, I looked back at the two passages I had heard the previous weekend. However, the Lord steered me towards John 15. And suddenly, after less than thirty minutes of prep, I had something to lead on. And boy, did I have something to lead on. Pretty much, I’m gonna dump each portion of the passage we went through followed by the question I had to respond to it. I may even add some thoughts I had when it comes to answering the questions or as to what happened that engaging Monday morning. Feel free to write or type out what you think of these verses. And if you want, you can send it to me at email@example.com
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”John 15:1-4 NLT
What are the ways in which you have been pruned? Have you seen yourself bearing better fruit?
One thing I was left thinking about after this set of verses was pruning. For those who don’t know, pruning is cutting off. And while the parts cut off are dead or unwanted, I think I can safely speak for all plants in saying that they do not enjoy being pruned. However, the branches are pruned so that they can be more fruitful. After being pruned, we can not only produce more fruit, but better fruit. And I think this is a great parallel for the necessity of suffering in our lives. While remaining vague, I can speak to how suffering has pruned me to better produce fruit later in life. If I did not experience the suffering I did those days, I would not be the same person I am today. And while it was by no means fun to get pruned in the midst of all those times, and it will not be fun as it continues, I know it is for my better. So, how have you been pruned, how have you seen better fruit produced, or how are you being pruned now?
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.John 15:5-8 NLT
What are the ways in which we can pursue actively bearing fruit?
One of the biggest things in which we can actively pursue bearing fruit is shown in verses four through seven. We must abide in Christ. So that’s a great way to go about bearing fruit, but what else can we do?
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!John 15:9-11
What are the ways in which you have seen the love of Christ in your life?
This was the question that really made Bible study that morning. Hearing each and every one of us talking about how Christ’s love has been/is being poured into our lives was such bliss to hear. I think it is great for us to think about this regularly, cause His goodness prevails.
12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.John 15:12-17
How do we go about loving our brothers and sisters in Christ?
This is also important for us think of regularly. In Matthew 22:37-40, we hear the two commandments for Christian life. I consider them part of what I call “the big three.” These three things are crucial callings for Christian living.
- Love the Lord your God.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- The Great Commission.
The main thing this portion of the passage touches on is the second, to love your neighbor as yourself. All in all, I think parts two and three should be an outpour of the first. I actually talked about a portion of that this morning in Bible study, but you’ll hear more of that later cause I’ll likely reflect on that portion too. However, it is still important to recognize two and three as they are so important for the Christian life. And there is one thing I think is overlooked when it comes to loving or brothers, sisters, and neighbors.
I’m gonna make an analogy, so try and stick with me. However, I do think it is pretty easy to follow. Imagine each person has a cup. Now, how can we love or pour into those around us if there is nothing in our cup to pour out. I know, pretty easy analogy. But I think this is a very easy yet powerful example. That morning I made a pot of coffee to bring. I know at best one other person drinks it, so I typically don’t bother making a whole pot worth. However, I made a pot that morning so I could make the example. If I am going to pour into Steven, there has to be something in my cup to pour out. And if there’s nothing left in my cup, or there in the first place, how can I go about loving Steven? And it is also important to not pour out all you have all the time. Because, truthfully, we cannot function if our cup is consistently empty. And some ways in which to go about filling our own cups, well, that’s for another time too. This morning I talked out of one of my favorite passages and I have every intention of reflecting on that as well. And it went surprisingly well considering I did not know I was leading when I started writing this reflection last night.
Well, even though that’s all for the passage, I still have one more question for you to reflect on in light of the whole passage. And before I get into that last question, I want to talk about the concept of grafting.
To say grafting is pretty cool is honestly an understatement. Grafting is one of those things, like the physical beauty of earth and the biological intricacies of the human, that I believe exudes God’s intelligent design of our world. Grafting is when you take a branch, typically one that fell off its old tree, and you attach it to another tree. What you have to do is mold the solitary branch’s bottom portion almost into a puzzle piece. And then you take a portion or branch protruding from a living, healthy tree and also make it into a puzzle piece matching that branch. The two are then connected and bound together to cement that bond.
I think grafting is another great example, but this time an example of the inclusivity of the Gospel. We are all equally undeserving of the Gospel. And no matter the tree that you once came from, you can be joined with Christ. And when the Lord grafts us together, it makes for beautiful fruit. People graft branches onto trees in all sorts of cool ways. An orange tree can now have lemons, limes, grapefruits, and so much more because of grafting. A tree can have all the various kinds of apples, all because of grafting. Or, a tree can have all sorts of varying, beautiful blooms like in the cover image I chose. And because of the Gospel, no matter who someone is, we are all brought together by the blood of Christ. So, speaking of unification…
We are all united by the Love of Christ and the redemptive narrative of the Gospel. How has that or how does it change your life?
Hope you enjoyed reading my reflection!