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Grapes, Vineyards and Living for Jesus
We are all obliged to work in the vineyard where God is the vinedresser. We all got our own little vineyard, but the way we cultivate it is of great importance for the prosperity of our neighbor’s vineyard. In fact, all our vineyards are part of the Lord’s great vineyard and we are all obliged to work there. ~ Sigrid Undset
The New Testament of the Bible is not complete. I bet you didn’t know that or thought about it, but let me explain. We, as believers, are part of the New Testament Church just as much as Paul, Peter or Silas. Until Jesus returns, the New Testament dispensation is as real and effective now as it was 2,000 years ago. God is waiting for us to take our place in history, in His story of victory, dominion, healing, protection, prosperity and peace.
The world, of course, is thirsty for all these things. But they often don’t know how to reach them. They have never been exposed to the Word and its power. Satan kept them ‘in darkness’, in his power. They have never tasted the good life, the sweet life available in Jesus. We should be that example as living apostles, just like the Christians of old.
Jesus explained, I am the vine, you are the vines, whoever abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing (John 15:5). If, as we believe, Christ lives, then the vine still grows and bears fruit. As branches, we too should produce fruit for the kingdom. Our lives should be full of the victory that Jesus died to give us.
Of course, if you know anything about agriculture, you know that several factors affect yield, including weather, soil, and plant variety. I did some research and found out that the average vine yields about 18 pounds of wine grapes or as much as 30 pounds of table grapes. Wine grapes are smaller and the flavor is more concentrated than table grapes. An acre of wine grapes can yield up to 4 tons of fruit (or 240 cases of wine).
Cultivation of wine and vines was very much a part of biblical culture. After the flood, Noah planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). The law of the Old Testament dealt with damaged vineyards, harvesting and fallow land. Vineyards were included in the Promised Land: the land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates, the land of olive oil and honey (Deuteronomy 8:8).
In his parables, Jesus often used analogies related to agriculture because it was something people understood. In Matthew 20, he compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a man who wanted to hire workers for his vineyard. Some of them started immediately in the morning, others joined the work team at noon, and still others were recruited in the late afternoon. Everyone got the same amount, regardless of how many hours they worked.
It seems unfair to us. Current labor laws would prohibit such seemingly callous wages. We would shout, “He got more than me! I worked harder.” Jesus said it in his story. However, he was trying to illustrate God’s generosity, that no matter who you are, what you have done, or how late you joined the Kingdom, you are given the same status in Christ as those who came before. We are Christ’s disciples as much as the original disciples were!
The analogy with the vine is very appropriate for the Christian life. Since the natural world reflects the spiritual world, we can take some lessons from the vineyard.
Trust the root: As you therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving (Col 2:6-7). Grapes are the largest fruit crop on earth and more than 70% of all grapes grown are for wine production. Grape seeds do not produce the right varieties, which is why experienced winegrowers pay dearly for the best foundation for their vineyards. They understand that the root is what produces the grapes. A quality root equals a quality fruit.
No growing thing can survive without being ‘rooted and grounded’. Plants do not grow upwards first. They send roots down into the soil. In our case, that ground – our food and security – is the Word.
Jesus said in Mark 4:6 because that [the Word] it had no roots, it dried up. The power of the Word of Almighty God has withered and been ineffective in the lives of those who have not allowed it to take root. A few verses later, he explained “For the country [the Word] it bears fruit by itself: first a blade, then an ear, and then a full grain in an ear” (Mark 4:28). Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away. It takes time for a miracle to ‘grow’. Just stay rooted in the Word. The root bears fruit.
Dig deep: And he will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season; his leaf will not wither, and whatever he does, he will succeed (Ps 1:3). Young vines need time to develop a root system that is not sensitive to adverse conditions. The vine does not produce a fruitful crop until the root system is firmly established. Growers work hard to make sure soil conditions are conducive to a strong root system.
In Jesus’ parable of the sower, He spoke of rocky places where the Word could not grow because they did not have the depth of the earth (Mt 13:5). Later he said to Simon, “Fly into the deep” (Luke 5:4). Jesus wanted them to abandon their shallow thinking and shallow lives. God’s provisions begin to flow as we dig into the Word and plant it deep in our hearts. Roots cannot see all problems above ground. They simply grow deeper and deeper into the nourishment of the earth. We should do the same with God’s Word.
Dip: But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst; but the water that I will give him will be in him a spring of water that flows into eternal life (John 4:14). As the grapes begin to ripen, they swell as they absorb more water from the leaves. Vintners are watching closely as the season progresses to test ripeness and ripeness. As the grapes ripen, they become sweeter and less acidic.
We all know that water is necessary for life. Without it we die. That is why it is called ‘living water’. Jesus said that those who believe in him will rivers of living water which flows from within us (John 7:38). After his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples that they would be baptized (immersed) in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). That Living Water, the Holy Spirit in us, enables and gives us strength to grow in fruitfulness and victory.
As we mature in the principles of Christ, we lose our sourness, just like grapes. We let go of minor irritations and negative emotions that were overwhelming us. Instead, we increase the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22). We become sweeter and sweeter as we absorb the Word.
Grow towards Son’s splendor: Arise, shine, because your light has come and the glory of the Lord shines on you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth and darkness the people; but the Lord will shine upon you and his glory will be seen on you (Is 60:1). It doesn’t grow much in the dark. Like most plants, grapes thrive in sunny and temperate climates. The spring sun and higher temperatures force the vines out of winter dormancy. As summer progresses, the vine goes from flower to bud, then fruit to harvest.
Plants grow towards the light. If you’ve ever watched a sunflower, it actually moves toward the sun during the day. People are attracted to light and warmth, just like vines or sunflowers. As we absorb the light of God’s wisdom, we become a beacon of light to those around us.
John called Jesus ‘true light’. When Jesus compared our spirit to a candle, he said: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:15-16). Paul extended that analogy when he told the Corinthians, God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts… (2 Corinthians 4:6). We are full of Light, if only we become more aware of it.
Get circumcised: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He removes; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it to bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1-2) A vine, left unchecked, is tough, but spends all its energy on shoots and tendrils. One vine can cover a hectare of land if not maintained. Vines do better and more abundantly when they are trained rather than left to wander. In Jesus’ time, vineyards were planted with elm to support the vines and allow them to grow towards the sun.
We all have distractions, distractions, and interests that run through our lives, blocking the Son from doing His best to grow into His image. As we go through the seasons of our lives, God will try to remove something unnecessary from us so that we can focus on Him. Pruning brings balance to our lives, like a vine that is pruned for maximum development.
The word makes the deed: I am the vine, you are the saplings. Whoever abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing (John 15:5). Just as a root produces a vine and fruit, God’s Word is effective. God said, “I will hasten my Word to perform it.” (Jer 1:12). In Isaiah He said, “So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth: it shall not return to Me empty, but shall accomplish that which I will, and shall succeed in that for which I sent it.” (r. 55:11).
When the disciples asked Jesus what they should do, he told them, “Believe in him” (John 6:28-29). Later, when they were sent to preach everywhere, the Lord worked with them confirming the Word with the signs that follow (Mark 16:20). Notice, it does not say that God confirmed the preachers. He confirmed His Word!
He has already spoken every Word we will ever need to overcome every situation we will ever face. The result of our commitment to growth in the Word is a great harvest of everything that we and the Kingdom need for progress and growth. We just have to believe it and work with it, speaking the Word until it is bears fruit with patience (Luke 8:15), some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Mt 13:23).
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and established in love, may understand… the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19). You and I are God’s harvest, filled with His fullness. As we grow our roots in the depth of His love, mercy, goodness and peace, we will have abundant fruit in our own lives – and more to share with the world around us. This is the essence of living for Jesus.
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