“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-2,4-5)
Vines reveal the true nature, intent, and fruit of their root.
While clearing some property recently, I noticed some new shoots extending from some thick vine roots I cut long ago. Those thick, mature vines had wrapped around some pine and maple trees and were literally choking them to death. Their leaves covered the treetops and soaked up most of the sun’s rays while hiding it from the trees. Deep grooves cut into the tree trunks where the encircled vines slowly were destroying the tree.
By removing and chopping these vines at ground level, with no leaves for photosynthesis, and pulling up most of the roots, I thought I had once and for all removed their threat. But some roots remained hidden underground. Over time, the roots grew shoots. And these new shoots not only sprouted, they actually stretched toward the nearest tree! They weren’t satisfied with growing along the ground or becoming self-sustaining trees themselves. Oh, no. The nature of the vine was all too clear. They were reaching to continue their destructive ways.
The Nature of the Vine
In His discussion of the vine, Jesus revealed the nature of the vine and what was attached to it. He is the true vine, believers on Him are the branches. As we remain attached to Him, His life-giving nutrient flows through giving us His Spirit, heart, resemblance, power, fruit, and nature. The more we abide in Him, the more spiritual “shoots” we grow, fruit we bear, and become more like Him. Our nature is changed and we become “a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through spiritual rebirth, we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). As we surrender to His Spirit, Word, and will, we are consistently transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).
However, there are also vines that attach themselves to us. These are the wild, destructive vines of the old nature. Instead of giving life, they seek to choke, entangle, suffocate, and destroy. Although we have Christ’s new spiritual nature through salvation, the roots of the old nature remain—and must be actively pulled up, cut out, and removed.
The nature of the vine is revealed in its characteristics and actions. Until or unless the nature is changed, the characteristics and behavior remain the same. Jesus confirmed we can know the nature of a tree or vine (as well as people) by its fruit.
“Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:17-20).
A New Root and Vine in Christ
The vine of Christ brings life, righteousness, holiness, and transformation. But the nature of sin seeks to steal, kill, destroy (John 10:10), and choke (Matthew 13:22). The nature of sin, evil influences, and evil people remains constant in its desire to ruin, enslave, and destroy. However, God changes and transforms this sin nature through His salvation and ongoing sanctification. Until He does, the evil bent remains. (Two Hebrew words—aquash and iqqesh—reveal this inherent moral bentness.) Such a transformational change does not come by way of head knowledge but only by a new heart and new nature.
Thank God, He made a way to not only remove the attached vine of sin that kills us but also to remove the hidden roots that spring up new sprouts to choke us spiritually.
“We all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:3-10)
The Root Reveals the Fruit
Since the root reveals the fruit and nature, the question remains: What is my primary go-to disposition or desire? Does my heart “hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6)? Or are there still some unsurrendered, hidden roots? Am I chasing the “dead” things of the world and the unredeemed, “old” man or is there evidence of new life, new root, and new fruit?
Paul clearly outlines this struggle along with the steps for spiritual victory:
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:6-7, 11-13)
The warning from Scripture is plain. “People are slaves to whatever has mastered them” (2 Peter 2:19). We either yield to the natural growth of the old nature or we fight it and yield to the new, transformed root, shoots, and fruit.
The Pruning of Sanctification
The spiritual effort of sanctification is twofold. First, we yield to whatever work the Holy Spirit does inwardly. This includes transforming us into Christlikeness while removing any hidden roots of our old, sinful nature. Second, we aggressively “put off” and “put away” the sinful traits of the old, sinful nature and “put on” spiritual traits of the new, redeemed nature (Colossians 3:8-14; Ephesians 4:22-32). This is our daily, outwardly effort of dying to self, “mortifying the deeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:13) surrendering to the Spirit’s working inside, aligning hearts and minds to God’s moral standard, and presenting ourselves to God as instruments, vessels, and channels of His righteousness.
Again, a changed root will produce changed fruit. There is no fooling the “Vinedresser” (John 15:1). Jesus plainly said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Sadly, some will still try masquerading their old-nature vines as new vines. They will proclaim, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” (Matthew 7:22). Knowing their unchanged root, Jesus will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me” (Matthew 7:23).
If you struggle with sinful habits that consistently “choke” you, please consider two things. First, check the root—until or unless this is changed by a genuine spiritual new birth (John 3:3, 7), the old vines remain. Second, if the root has been changed, partner with the Holy Spirit to resolve any new “shoots” from any hidden roots of the old vine. May our constant prayer ever be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me … and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Here’s to vine-free, fruit-bearing, transformational living!