I have been asked a number of times, about the name ThrivingBranch. What exactly does it mean, anyway? And while I have explained it before, It occurs to me that I have not shared an actual study on it in quite a while.
So in light of that, what I want to share with you today, is not merely the explanation of the name (that wouldn’t really constitute a Bible study by itself), but the words of Jesus from where the name ThrivingBranch comes from, and the amazing truth contained in it. And as we look at this today, we are going to see some aspects of our identity in Christ that will have a profound effect, even in our daily life.
So as we begin today, let’s start by reading John 15:1-5:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer.
Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”
Now, right in verse one, we see Jesus making a very important statement: I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. Some translations say “gardener” instead of farmer here, and old-English translations use the word “husbandman”, the point being that the Father owns and manages the entire tree.
Now the first-half of Jesus statement is very interesting… He says that He is the true vine. Which tells us that there are also false vines. And what is a vine exactly? In short Jesus wasn’t talking about the social media platform here – He was talking about plants, specifically fruit vines; and a vine in this respect is the part of the plant that carries nutrients to the various branches, which in turn sprout leaves and fruit. A branch that is not connected to the vine will wither and die, in the same manner as a severed limb will. A branch receives its nourishment from the vine in order to continue to live and bear its fruit.
There are many vines that people try to draw from, many religious methods, traditions, the strength and the intellect of man… all in an effort to grow and produce fruit… but Jesus says here that He is the (definite article) true vine.
You see, in verse two, Jesus continues by saying that Every branch in Him that does not bear fruit, the translation here says “takes away” which is extremely inaccurate and unfortunate – and has lead to a lot of confusion, fear and wrong ideas regarding this. But the actual Greek word, that here is translated as “takes away” is in-fact αἴρω, which means to lift up; and in this context specifically, to lift off of the ground. Anyone who has ever worked with fruit-bearing vines knows that a vine on the ground in the dust cannot bear fruit. And from a spiritual, allegorical standpoint… the ground is where the serpent, Satan slithers around, and the dust and ash is what people would put on their head when they were mourning, or in turmoil and distress.
When Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the serpent in Genesis 3:14 and said that he would “eat dust”; and again from a spiritual, allegorical standpoint, when a person is in deep distress and turmoil, loaded down with cares and worries, the devil feeds on it.
And here in our verses in John 15, Jesus says, if there is any branch in Me, that isn’t bearing fruit, My Father (the gardener) will lift it off of the ground – in other words, out of the dust.
You see, Jesus isn’t making a threat here… I’ve heard some leaders say that this verse means that if your life isn’t producing fruit, God will flat-out kill you; and they say that’s what “takes away” means here… but now we see, that’s not true at all; Jesus isn’t making a threat, but He is in-fact giving us a wonderful promise and assurance of His care for us.
Now, how exactly does He lift a person out of the dust? Well again, anyone who has ever tended fruit vines knows that if you find a branch on the ground, you lift it up and place it on a Trellis; which is a typically wooden cross-shaped fixture designed to support the branch and keep it off the ground so that it can flourish. Yes, it is cross-shaped… which I also think it very telling for the purposes of our study as well.
The way in which God lifts a person out of their cares and worries, the turmoil and mourning of life, is not with empty platitudes, or the further burdens of legalism, or telling them to just “suck-it-up” – but by carrying them Himself – by allowing them to cast all of their cares upon Him because He cares for you. (1st Peter 5:7).
Another thing that we see right in verse two, is that every branch that bears fruit, He purges it; and this is another very misleading word which again has caused a lot of confusion and fear.
However the Greek word καθαίρω, translated here as “purges”, actually means to clean! To remove the filth, to remove the dust, to remove anything that would hinder the branch, or keep its beauty from being clearly seen. And as we see from the end of the verse, this cleaning causes it to bear even more fruit!
So then, how does He accomplish this cleaning? Because there have been leaders in the past who have said that this “purging” means that God will punish and beat and whip you until you produce more fruit… but again, this is not true at all. Look at verse 3:
Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.
And we studied the details of how His words clean us, when we studied the discipline of God. If you haven’t yet viewed that study, I would encourage you to do so (Spoiler, it’s nothing to be afraid of!)
The short answer for the purposes of this study today though, is that His words will always focus our attention back on Himself, back on His love and His finished work. By doing that, we can stop struggling, stop worrying, stop striving, and start thriving.
Then in verse four, His encouragement continues, Abide in Me, and I in you. This doesn’t seem like much at first, but this is a huge statement, that has the power to change your entire perspective. Jesus here is saying, Live in Me, and I live in you! Spend some time meditating on this statement, and it will explode your entire reality.
To “abide” means to live in, as you would live in a house. A permanent dwelling. And here we see Jesus saying, that as we live in Him, He also lives in us. We are in union, we are one with each-other. And we also see the reason why He wants this to be… it’s for our benefit: as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, except it abides in the vine, neither can you, except you abide in Me.
Jesus wants us to live in Him… to abide in His shelter, to be inside of His protection, covering and care. It may be torrential rain, lightning and hail on the outside, but as long as you are safety in the house, you can be at peace and unharmed – and that’s one of the pictures here. As you are abiding in Christ, living in Him, and with His identity, the storms of life, cannot truly harm you – you are safe in the house. There are other scriptures that mention this as well (the entire chapter of Psalm 91 includes promises for protection), but I want you to see this picture, because it is a wonderful example of the love and care that God has for you.
Additionally, Jesus mentions that abiding in Him, is the only way for us to bear any fruit. This is another very important truth, because as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of people trying to produce fruit by their own efforts, strength and intellect, rather than bearing fruit simply by abiding in Christ.
And notice the detail in the words here… We are not called to produce fruit. This is a lesson from history that a lot of us still need to learn from. So many people burn themselves out and get nowhere because they are trying to produce something for God, instead of letting Him produce for them and inside of them, while they simply rest and abide in Him.
The children of Israel pridefully declared in Exodus 19:8, that all that God said, they would produce [within themselves]. And we know where that led to.
Cain, also tried to offer God the produce of the land / the works of his hands, in Genesis 4:3, and Cain’s offering was rejected by God. While Abel on-the-other-hand, brought blood, the first-born and best of the flock.
Today, we have the best-of-all, we have the blood of the eternal Lamb, Jesus Christ. He does far more than simply cover sins for one year, but He completely removes sin for all time, and gives us absolute rebirth, and a new identity in Him.
He protects, provides, and enables us to bear fruit.
We do not struggle, sweat or strive to produce fruit within ourselves, but as any branch, we receive from the vine everything that we need; we allow the vine to nourish us as we rest, and we simply bear the fruit of the vine.
This is why Jesus says in the final verse five of our text in John 15, He is the vine, we are the branches. As we live in Him and He in us, we bear much fruit, because apart from Him, we can do nothing.
That’s very clear. Apart from Him, we can do absolutely nothing. Why? Because as mentioned ealier, a severed branch is dead, it has no life apart from it’s vine.
Yet connected to Him, we don’t merely bear a little bit of fruit, but much fruit.
We do not strive, we thrive!
And that, is where the name ThrivingBranch comes from.