Grapevines of Grace
The idea of agritourism is really catching on in Georgia. Around the state but especially in North Georgia, vineyards are a big draw, with estimated economic impact of $15 million. Viticulture has persisted throughout history, so no surprise that Jesus spoke to the ages with lessons from the vine.
Jesus may have been walking by a vineyard with his disciples when he spoke these words: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). To the one who tries so hard and fails so often to live a righteous life, this is a foreign thought. The branch does no work but cling to the vine. The believer to be fruitful has but one goal, to abide (reside) in Jesus.
Hudson Taylor, notable missionary to China, discovered this secret, and he came to call it the ‘exchanged life.’ Though full of activity as he tried to do enough to please God, he suffered the futility of never being enough. You can hear the relief in a letter to his sister, “The weight and strain are all gone. But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One. I am no longer anxious about anything as I realize this; for He, I know is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. His grace is sufficient.”
The believer is “in Him.” What are the things that can only be true because of that, and not from our own activity and futility? We are a new creation. We are his workmanship. We receive the gift of his own righteousness. Seventy times in the New Testament, ordinary believers are called ‘saints’ (holy ones). We no longer live but Christ lives in us. If all these things are what God does as we abide in Christ, how is it possible to add to them by our own effort? Ephesians 1 is the “in Him” chapter. Read it and be blessed while you learn to rest.
Taylor shared with his friends a booklet with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s words, “How, then shall a Christian bear fruit? By efforts and struggles to obtain that which is freely given; by meditations on watchfulness, on prayer, on action, on temptation, and on dangers? No: there must be a full concentration of the thoughts and affections on Christ; a complete surrender of the whole being to Him; a constant looking to Him for grace.”
You know the words of the song Amazing Grace. You know God’s grace means His unmerited favor toward you. But do you know the exchanged life that comes from abiding in the Vine? “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).