Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: True Vine

I am the True Vine (Part 2)

When I was little I received an illustrated children’s dictionary for Christmas. I enjoyed reading and loved writing stories, so my older brother thought it would be fun for me to broaden my vocabulary. He offered to give me 50 p for each page of new words I learned. I wanted the money (50 p was a lot in those days – I could have got five lots of 10 p mixes with up to 20 sweets in a bag) but not the work that went with it, so I never did earn my 50 p.

So when I was meditating on John 15 with its repeated urging to abide in Christ, I wondered what abide actually meant and how could I do that?

The dictionary definition of abide is to: tolerate, remain, continue.  To abide by is to: act upon, remain faithful to.

So to abide in Christ is to continually remain in Him and be faithful to Him. Or to put it another way, to be super-glued to Him; to be so close to Him that it is impossible to tell where I end and He begins. I like the idea of being super-glued to Jesus!

In v 9, Jesus assures me that He loves me like the Father loves Him, so I should remain in His love. How do I do that? The obvious ways are to obey Him, to read the Bible and pray. But I didn’t want it to be a thought that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside but remains a cold suggestion on a page. I want me abiding in Christ to be real.

Little GirlI got to thinking how Jesus is my Big Brother. Little sisters generally look up to their big brothers and usually go through a phase of hero-worshiping them. There is a nine year age gap between my brother and me, and as I grew up I wanted to copy the things Gary did and sought his approval.

It shouldn’t be any different with Jesus and me. Jesus is my hero because He rescued me from darkness and set me free, and it’s okay to pour everything into worshiping Him because He is God. In the Gospels, I see how Jesus remained in His Father’s love by listening and talking to Him continually through the day (and loving to spend whole nights in prayer with His Dad), and doing whatever the Father asked Him to do. So that is what I need to do: my Big Brother wants me to copy Him as a little sister who adores Him and considers Him her hero.

In v 11, Jesus said that if I abide in His love, the joy that He has will completely fill me. Joy is stronger and better than happiness because it isn’t dependent on circumstances. I first experienced Jesus’ joy bubbling up inside me when I was weak and ill with ME/chronic fatigue and cerebellar ataxia – some days just breathing took every ounce of energy and concentration, yet I knew His joy within. Jesus’ joy is supernatural and it can’t be faked.

Jesus is a safe place to pour all my love and longing, my hopes and my dreams because when I abide in Him, He gives me more of Himself. Isn’t He just the Best?! I do love Him.

Linking up with Faith Filled Fridays

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I am the True Vine (Part 1)

When I was small, my dad and uncle used to rent an allotment. They had a grapevine in one of the greenhouses. I didn’t like going in there because the glass was dingy, it was cobwebby and smelled of tomato plants. Overhead grew the grapevine. They got excited when the purple grapes were ripe enough to pick and eat. Dad would bring home a bucketful at a time (he was a classy gardener!) for us to enjoy.

One of the ‘I am’ sayings for which Jesus is well known is:  ‘I am the true vine’. For years, I classed this passage as boring and couldn’t see its relevance, so I ignored it. Until recently. After God got hold of me in the summer of 2013 and turned my life upside-down and inside out, I began learning Bible verses. It gradually dawned on me that I was learning quite a few from John 15. And actually, they were very relevant, and I was thirsty to understand more. So last October when Adi and I were on holiday in London, I spent some time meditating on what Jesus meant when He said He was the true vine.

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.

I started in the middle of the passage because this verse grabbed my attention.

God had already shown me that He has adopted me as His daughter. Now He was showing me His heart: what delights Him is when I bear fruit and show the world that I am a follower of His beloved Son. It’s all about God and what He does in me to make me like Jesus. All I have to do is be willing and yield to Him.

I bear fruit by believing Him – believing God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. Believing that what He says about me is true. My thought life or self-talk makes a massive difference. If I choose to think truth and believe it, I am more confident and enjoy peace (another fruit!). The impossible suddenly becomes possible. Like when there were demonic presences in our bedroom that bullied me – when I believed that God was my shield, I would go upstairs to bed confident that I was safe and that nothing would attack me. And I had a good night. But when I gave in to fear and doubted that God was my shield, I would have a terrible night. (Thankfully, all of those demonic presences are now gone, thanks to the power and presence of Jesus – nothing can stand in His way.)

AshamedAnother exciting way that I see God working in me is that I now have a heart of compassion. Not that long ago, I was very judgmental, critical and harsh about others. I had a superior attitude towards them. Homeless people weren’t even on my radar. I blamed the unemployed for not having a job. But then God held up a mirror and showed me myself. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I was horrified by my attitude and hard heart. As I repented, He gave me good things in place of the bad stuff. One of those things was a heart of compassion. He gave me the desire to help out at my church’s food bank; initially I worried that I would do my usual thing of getting emotional about it for a couple of weeks, then slide into cynicism. That didn’t happen – more than a year on, I still have compassion for the people I meet through the food bank. I realise that poverty isn’t black and white. Many of the people who come in have a tonne of issues to cope with. I love getting to chat with and listen to individuals, show them a little of God’s Father heart and pray with them.

Something else I never thought I’d do is have a heart full of love for women working in the sex industry. Being able to practically show God’s unconditional love for these women by giving them food, warm clothes and a hug, as well as praying with them, is one of the highlights of my month. I could never have done this if God hadn’t gotten hold of me first and showed me what I was, and then showed me who I am in Christ. He is one amazing God!

This is God’s heart for individuals:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor:
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour;
and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit:
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may display His beauty.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then He says you are an oak of righteousness. He Himself has planted you and nothing can ever uproot you. You are secure in Him. And in you and me, the Father wants to display all the beauty and attractiveness of the most wonderful God-Man ever to walk this earth, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This is our calling! All we have to do is come to Him with empty hands and say: Here I am, Lord!’

 

Photo credit: Stoonn

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