mandag 24. oktober 2016

It is about an absolute condition

When the theme is holiness and fruit, it is good to establish an absolute. It is 100% logical, and even a child will soon learn that a picked flower or a broken branch will wither and die.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
John 15:4
Jesus speaks about the fruit of the Spirit and that kind of fruit is a result of the life that comes from the vine. The picture is likely to be one of the clearest in John’s gospel. It is impossible to misunderstand. Therefore there are no traces of the kind of questions I often find in the other recorded stories and dialogs in the gospel. This is pure education. Jesus is telling me that I cannot bear spiritual fruit on my own.

The previous verse gave a hint as how to preserve this unity with the vine. It is about the word. To remain in the Word is synonym to remain in him who is also the true vine. That is where I will be, because in that word is life. A life that is always fresh.

We often sing the hymn: “Abide with me!” - I believe that our Father in heaven sings the same hymn – to me, to us!

‘Manna’ for today:

It is about remaining in the vine.

søndag 23. oktober 2016

It is about purification

All together, we have soon lived 4,5 years in Moldova. The country is known for its wine, and thus I should certainly have acquired more knowledge about maintenance of the vines, but my knowledge is limited to distance admiration of the beautiful fields of grapes of different species. Earlier in this series, I have mentioned the connection between spirit and wine (1), and between holiness and purification (2) which was the main focus for William Booth’s holiness-teaching (3).

Although I have no insight from the vineyards, I am able to understand what Jesus means when he says that the branches are "pure" when they become part of the stem and root of the vine:

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
John 15:3
In other words, there is nothing wrong with the starting point. The challenge is what kind of influence the branches will be exposed to along the way. It is now that the concept of having "part with him" is important. When I have "part with him", it immediately becomes apparent which characteristics in me that are ‘apart’ from him. Then the only solution is to give the gardener access. 

I have always seen a clear correlation between the story of the ‘vine and the pruning of the fresh branches’ and the ‘foot washing and Jesus discussion with Peter’ (4). I must have "part with Jesus" so that my life will bear more fruit. Although I am physically healthy, I need physical activity to stay healthy. The physical activity is a form of cleansing the body. To stay healthy with Jesus, I need to exercise with him.

Today 'manna':

Holiness is about an ongoing purification-exercise
(1) See: e.g. Eph 5:18
(2) See: It is about purity
(3) See: William Booth’s book “Purity of heart”
(4) See: John 13:1-15

lørdag 22. oktober 2016

It is about the gardener

When Jesus uses pictures from the agrarian culture of his time, I feel that I am on foreign soil. My fingers can be “multicoloured”, but the closest I come to have “green fingers” is when I on the rare occasions have to mow the grass. All the rest I leave to the specialist to whom I am happily married. I have no problem in understanding the picture, but I am glad that I do not have to prune a tree:
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
John 15:2
Of course, I am able to see when a branch is completely withered and dead, but with regard to the pruning of a fresh branch so that it bears more fruit, I have nothing to contribute. Maybe that is the whole point?

In this picture I am the branch. The specialist is the gardener, and Jesus has already presented him as ‘my Father, the gardener’. A branch is not able to prune itself. It is the task of the specialist. My contribution to the process is to give him access. 

It is possible that I stretch the image a bit if I say that a branch can hide and try to make itself invisible to the gardener, but with a little imagination, I move to another 'vineyard'. I travel back to the Garden of Eden:

The two who were in the garden had no good fruits to show for when gardener came for an inspection: "… they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden." (1). The ‘branches’ that were supposed to carry good fruit had to hide among the trees because they had nothing to display, and God called out:

"Where are you?"
I think availability for God is a precondition for increasing the fertility in relation to the mission he has entrusted to the believers: Leading his lost children back to him through the production of fruit of the Spirit. Holiness is about being available for the gardener. Therefore, the 'manna' for today must be:
Here I am!
(1) Gen 3:8b