I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
It was a July morning in Manila in 1985 when union with Jesus really became precious to me. I know right where I was sitting having devotions in the courtyard of the YWAM outpost.
I was a twenty-year-old struggling to understand how Christ’s work and mine worked together. What really made me acceptable to God? Something taught in the Discipleship Training School class I was taking that week had confused me, and I had been praying earnestly about it.
In my devotions, I had been slowly making my way through John’s Gospel, and chapter 15 was that day’s reading. As I read it that morning, Jesus’s words exploded off the page. It almost felt like Jesus had sat down next to me and spoke John 15.
He is the Vine, and I am a branch (verse 1). Yes, I need to bear fruit, but I can bear zero fruit on my own (verse 4). I can’t even prune myself (verse 3). I need to be in him so that he can be in me, and I need the Father to cut off all that is extraneous. Apart from my Vine, I can do nothing (verse 5).
It was one of those moments when a number of things suddenly made sense to me. The joy and freedom I experienced was beyond words. My Vine and Vinedresser were my only hope. I could work out my salvation if God was at work in me to will and work his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12–13).
I couldn’t have told you that day that I was beginning to understand the doctrine of union with Christ, but that’s what was happening. It transformed me, and in a sense I’ve lived in John 15 ever since.
Union with Christ. It is precious, precious, precious! It is the gateway to paradise: “Christ in [us], the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It is what it means to be a Christian. If you know this truth, it will set you free (John 8:32).
That’s why I can hardly wait for the Desiring God 2014 Conference for Pastors (February 3–5) because the theme is “The Pastor, the Vine, and the Branches: The Remarkable Reality of Union with Christ.” To think that hundreds of teachers and preachers will soak in this most precious of doctrines, and bring it back to tens of thousands of their people, is thrilling!
So, pastors and leaders, please join us and be deeply refreshed! The early-bird registration rate ends on November 11, a week from today. We’re praying that God will use your refreshment at this conference to bring joy and freedom to tens of thousands of others!