Chapel: Don’t let faith wither on the vine
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Jeremy Jernigan is big on images, and his talk at Chapel on Monday morning centered on the message in John 15:5-8 — i.e., “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
It would have been a bit unwieldy to herd the more than 4,500 people in attendance outside to the nearest vine, the one growing around the Grand Canyon University Arena sign on Camelback Road. So the executive pastor of Central Christian Church of the East Valley settled for a different prop.
“Jesus had a vine, I have an orange tree, OK? We’re going to go with that,” he said.
He then proceeded to educate and amuse the crowd with his thoughts about one of the most quoted Bible passages.
First, he pruned a branch to demonstrate a good relationship with God. “The healthy branch gets pruned,” he said. In other words, we constantly need to “prune” our lives to keep our branch healthy and able to bear fruit.
More telling, though, was his message when he cut off a lower branch. We sometimes do this to ourselves, he pointed out, by distancing ourselves from God, but, worse yet, we sometimes do it to each other — including some Christians who think it’s up to them to make those decisions.
“If you look at Christianity today, you’re going to see a lot of Christians who say, ‘So-and-so has been cut off from the vine, so-and-so is on their own, they are cut off from the vine,’” he said. “And yet that’s not our job. That’s the gardener’s job.
“No one in the New Testament ever claimed to know another person who was cut off from the vine, ever claimed to know another person who was damned for all eternity. You don’t see that kind of claim, and yet today as Christians we kind of think it’s our job.”
The reason God “prunes” us, Jernigan said, is to give us more of his fruit — his life. And what does the fruit in our lives look like? Jernigan cited Galatians 5:22-23: “… The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Some people try to show their “fruit” but actually live a life that does not make that fruit blossom, which led Jernigan to his main point. Producing a roll of duct tape, he took a banana and affixed it to one of the branches, which barely supported the banana’s weight.
“This banana is in the process of dying now,” he said. “If we were to go three weeks from now and leave this right here and I’d say, ‘Hey, anybody want to eat this banana?’, I doubt I would have any takers because it’s going to be nasty and rotting and it looks ridiculous. And yet so often all we worry about is the fruit — ‘Hey, I going to read my Bible, I’m going to attend this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to say this.’ You are duct-taping a banana to an orange tree. You cannot make fruit happen. It’s not the way it was ever supposed to be, and it’s not sustainable. …
“All you’ve got to do is remain connected. That’s so simple, and the problem is it’s too simple because it doesn’t feel like we did anything. It doesn’t feel like I can pat myself on the back like, ‘Look what I did’ because all I did was ‘remain,’ all I did was stay connected. And God’s going, ‘Exactly,’ because when you remain God gets the credit, not you.”
Jernigan’s other analogy was of a fighter jet getting refueled by an air tanker, which he demonstrated by harkening back to his days of trying to do that in a video game. It works only if they fly at the exact same speed, just as we need to stay in alignment with God’s will.
“If you try to do your own thing, you will run out of fuel,” he said. “You will crash and burn.”
● For a replay of Jernigan’s talk, click here.
● For a slideshow from Monday, click here.
● Next week’s Chapel speaker: Tyler Johnson of Redemption Church.
Contact Rick Vacek at 639.8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.