Worshiping in church recently, an image came to me. I see a simple cross. I’m not sure where it’s located. It’s not outdoors on top of a hill. There are no clouds in a sky or any animals around.
Birds aren’t singing. Crickets are noise-talking. There’s no sound at all. No trees or vegetation are visible. In fact, I don’t see any type of ground. And yet, the cross isn’t in a room confined by four walls, either.
It’s simply in a space that doesn’t seem limited by this world or restrained or contained in any way.
I know this space. In this space Jesus not only forgave me for my sins, he lovingly showed me that I can use what I’ve learned to help others. When he looked at me, his love covered me like a warm blanket. His smile is like the glorious sun triumphantly breaking through on a cold and dreary day.
I’ve been in this space myself. Twice. Once wearing a dress made with beautiful colors that remind me of a peacock. They are so exquisite they outshine a peacock. They are royal colors befitting the daughter of a king. But not just any king, the King of all kings, Jesus Christ.
The other time is harder to describe. I saw myself three times. First, I was wearing a simple, long white gown. Next, I was wearing a clerical collar. The third time I saw Jesus the Good Shepherd walking towards me carrying his shepherd’s hook. He looked at me with a smile wrapped up in pure love as he stepped inside me. Then I heard the words, “Ordained by God.”
As I look closer at the cross, I see a line. It begins at the center of the cross and radiates out in all directions. It’s not a straight line, but a wandering vine. The vine grows where it wants, yet there’s a purpose, uniformity, and beauty to its growth. Behind the vine-filled cross is the earth. The vine spreads out and grows throughout the world.
There’s an invitation in the vine, wrapped up in an unearthly love. It’s more than a seasonal growth. The vine is reaching out and inviting others to grow with it not just for a season, but for eternity.
Some people see the vine and they choose the thorns. They’re attracted to their reckless beauty, perceiving excitement and adventure in the thorns. In their pride and ignorance, they think they’re making their own choices. But once they allow the thorns to grab them, they become slaves to the thorns. The thorns imbed themselves deeper and deeper into their victims until the thorns become part of who they are.
Others see the vine and look for the thorns in others. They don’t realize that they themselves are impaled by the very thorns they wish to mock and judge in others. Eventually, all who choose the thorns for themselves or for others realize an important truth. The thorns are a cruel master.
But Jesus not only wore a crown of thorns, he took the thorns inside himself all the way to the grave and he spit them out. There are no thorns on the vine that emanate from the cross, because Jesus himself is the vine.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
How do we abide in Jesus? Jesus himself gives us the answer in John 3. The Pharisee Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night. Jesus tells him that we must be born again to see the kingdom of heaven. The learned Nicodemus tries to understand this from a literal point of view. But Jesus is talking about being spiritually born again through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Going through the motions and pretending to be a Christian isn’t any good. It’s like a child who sits behind the wheel of his dad’s car. He can pretend to drive by moving the steering wheel back and forth and making zooming sounds, but he’s not driving. He’s pretending.
Are you pretending to be a Christian? If you are, you’re in big trouble. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).
Remember that we all are the branches that built the cross. We all are the thorns that pierced Jesus. Still, he willingly went to that cross for each one of us. He died for our sins. Be connected to the vine that begins at the cross with Jesus and grows throughout eternity. If you are, you will abide with Jesus and together you will bear fruit.