Part 9: “Ye are the branches”

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

In conclusion to our study “Absolute Surrender”, I will finish the study by mentioning these 7 points:

1. An address to Christian workers

Everything depends on our being right ourselves in Christ. If you want good apples, you need a good apple tree; and if I care for the health of the apple tree, the apple tree will give me good apples. If our life with Christ is right, all will come right. There may be the need of instruction and suggestion and help and training in the different departments of the work. But in the long run, the greatest essential is to have the full life in Christ – in other words, to have Christ in us, working through us. I know how much there often is to disturb us, or to cause anxious questionings; but the Master has such a blessing for every one of us, and such perfect peace and rest, such joy and strength, if we can only come into and be kept inthe right attitude toward life.

Remember Jesus’ words “Ye are the brances“. What a simple thing it is to be a branch. The branch grows out of the vine, or out of the tree, and there it lives and grows, and in due time, bears fruit. It has no responsibility except just to receive from the root and the stem sap and nourishment. And if we only by the Holy Spirit knew our reltionship to Jesus Christ, our work would be changed into the brightest and most heavnly thing on earth. Instead of there ever being soul-weariness or exhaustion, our work would be like a new experience, linking us to Jesus as nothing else can. For is it not often true that our work comes between us and Jesus? The very work that He has to do in me, and I in Him, I take up in such a way that it seperates me from Christ. Many a labourer in the vineyard has complained that he has too much work, and not time for close communion with Jesus, and that his usual work weakens his inclination for prayer, and that his too much intercourse with men darkens the spiritual life. Sad thought, that he bearing of fruit should seperate the branch from the vine! That must be because we have looked upon our work as something other than the branch bearing fruit. May God deliver us from every false thought about the Christian life.

2. A life of absolute dependence

The branch has nothing. It just depends upon the vine for everything. Absolute dependence is one of the most solemn and precious thoughts. A great German theologian wrote two large volumes several years ago to show that the whole of Calvin’s theology is summed up in that one principle of absolute surrender upon God; and he was right. Another great writer has said that absolute, unalterable dependence upon God alone is the essence of the religion of angels, and should be that of men also. God is everything to the angels, and He is willing to be everything to the Christian. If I can learn every moment of the day to depend on God, everything will become right. You will get the higher life if you depend absolutely on God.

Now, here we find it with the vine and branches. Every vine you ever see, or every bunch of grapes that comes upon your table, let it remind you that the branch is absolutely dependent on the vine. The vine has to do the work, and the branches enjoys the fruit of it.

3. Deep restfulness 

Imagine if that little branch could think, and if it could feel, and if it could speak, if we could have a little branch here today to talk to us, and if we could say: “Come, branch of the vine, I want to learn from you how I can learn to be  true branch of the living Vine,” what would it answer? The little branch would whisper: “Man, I hear that you are wise, and I know that you can do a great many wonderful things. I know you have much strength and wisdom given to you, but I have one leson for you. With all your hurry and effort in Christ’s work you will never prosper. The first thing you need, is to come and rest in the Lord Jesus. That is what I do. Since I grew out of that vine, I have spent years and years, and all I have done is just to rest in the vine. When the time of spring came, I had no anxious thought or care. The vine began to pour its sap into me, and to give the bud and leaf. And when the time of summer came, I had no care, and in the great heat I trusted the vine to bring moisture to keep me fresh. And in the harvest, when the owner came to pluck the grapes, I had no care. If there was anything in the grapes that was no good, the owner never blamed the branch, the blame was always on the vine. And if you would be a true branch of Christ, the living Vine, just rest on Him. Let Christ bear the responsibility.”

4. Much fruitfulness

You know the Lord Jesus repeated the word fruit often in that parable. He spoke, first, of fruit, and then of more fruit, then of much fruit, Yes, you are ordained not only to bring forth fruit, but to bear much fruit..” In the first place, Christ said: “I an the Vine, and my Father is the Husbandman. My Father is the Husbandman who has the charge of me and you.” He who will watch over the connection between Christ and the branches in God, he will bear fruit in the power of God through Christ.

Christian, you know that this world is perishing for the want of workers. And it wants not only more workers. The workers are saying, some more earnest than others: “We need not only more workers, but we need our workerss to have a new power,a different life; that we workers should be able to bring about more blessing.” Children of God, I appeal to you. You know what trouble you take, say,in sicknesss. You have a beloved friend apparently in danger of death, and nothing can refresh that friend so much as a few grapes, and they are oiut of season; but what trouble you will take to get the grapes that are to be the nourishment of this dying friend! And there are around you people who never go to church, and so many whodo go to church, but do not knoe Christ. And yet, the heavenly grapes, the grapes of the heavenly Vine are not to be had at any price, except as the child of God bears them out of his inner life in fellowship with Christ. Except the children of God are filled with the sap of the heavenly Vine, except they are filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus, they cannot bear much of the real heavenly grape. We all confess there is a great deal of work, a great deal of preaching and teaching and visiting, a great deal of machinery, a great deaal of earnest effort of every kind; but there is not much manifestation of the power of God in it.

What is wanting? There is the close connection between the worker and the heavenly Vine. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has blessings that He could pour on tens of thousands that are perishing. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has power to provide the heavenly grapess. But “Ye are the branches,” and you cannot bear heavenly fruit unless you are in close connection with Jesus Christ.

Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only. Please study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life and the very power and the very spirit and the very love within the heart of the Son of God – it means the heavenly Vine Himself coming into your heart and mine.

5. A life of close communion

Let us again ask: What must a branch do? You know that precious inexhaustible word that Christ used: Abide. Your life is to be an abiding life. And how is the abiding to be? It is just to be like the branch in the vine, abiding every minute of the day. There are the branches, in close communion, in unbroken communion, with the vine, from January to December. Can I not live every day in abiding communion with the heavenly Vine? You say: “But I’m sooccupied with other things.” You may have 10 hours hard work every day during which your brain has to be occupied with temporal things; God orders it so. But the abiding work is the work of the heart, not of the brain, the work of the heart clinging to and resting in Jesus, a work in which the Holy Spirit links us to Christ. Please believe that deeper down than the brain, deep down in the inner life, you can abide in Christ, so that every momentyou are free, the conscience will say: “Blessed Jesus, I am still in you.”

If you learn for a time to put aside other work and get into this abiding contact with the heavenly Vine, you will find that fruit will come. It means close fellowship with Christ in secret prayer. I am sure there are Christianswho do long for the higher life, and who sometimes have got a great blessing, and have at times found a great inflow of heavenly joy and a greaat outflow of heavenly gladness; and yet, after a time, it has passed away. They have not understood that close personal actual communion with Christ is an absolute necessity for daaily lifee. Take time to be with Christ. Nothing in heaven or earth can free you from the necessity for that if you are to be happy and holy Christians.

6. A life of absolute surrender

These words, absolute surrender, are great and solemn words, and I believe we do not undersstand their meaning. But yet, the little branch preaches them. “Have you anything to do, little branch, besides bearing grapes?” “No, nothing!” “Are you fit for nothing?” Fit for nothing! The Bible says that a bit of vine cannot even be used as a pen; it is fit for nothing but to be burned. “And now, little branch, what do you undersstand about your relationship to the vine?” “My relationship is this: I am utterly given up to the vine, and the vine can give me as much or as little sap assit choses. Here I am at its disposal, and the vine can do with me what it likes.”

Friends, we do want this absolute surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. The more I write, the more I feel that this is one of the most difficult points to make clear, and one of the most important and needful points to explain – what this surrender is. It is often an eaasy thing for a man or a number of men to come out and offer themselves up to God for entire consecration, and to say: Lord, it is my desire to give up myself entirely to You.” That is of great value, and often brings very rich blessing. But the one question I ought to study quietly, is our last point tonight:

7. What is meant by absolute surrender?

It means that just as literally as Christ was given up entirely to God, I am given up entirely to Christ. Is that too strong? Some think so. Some think that never can be that just as entirely and absolutely as Christ gave up His life to do nothing but to seek the Father’s pleasure, and depend on the Father absolutely and entirely, I am to do nothing but seek the pleasure of Christ. But that is actually true. Christ Jesus came to breathe His own Spirit into us, to make us find our very highest happiness in living entirely for God, just as He did. Dear reader, if that is the case, then I ought to say: “Yes, as true as it is of that little branch of the vine, by God’s grace, I would have it to be of me. I would live day by day that Christ may be able to do with me what He will.”

We find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God’s blessing while we live in our own will. We should be glad to live the Christian life according to our own liking. We make our own plans andchoose our own work, and then we ask the Lord Jesus to come in and take care that sin shall not conquer us too much, and that we shall not go too far wrong; we ask Him to come in and give us so much of His blessing. But our relationship to Jesus ought to be such that we are entirely at His disposal, and every day come to Him humbly and straightforwardly and say: “Lord, is there anything in me that is not according to Your will, that has not been ordered by You, or that is entirely given to You?”

If we would wait and wait patiently, I tell you what the result would be. There would spring up a relationship between us and Christ so close and so tender that we should afterward be amazed at how we formerly could have lived with the idea that we were surrendered to Christ. We should feel how far distant our intercourse with Him had previously been, and that He can, and does indeed, come and take actual possession of us, and gives us unbroken fellowship all the day. The brach calls us to absolute surrender.

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