When I began my senior year of college in the fall of 1975, I had been a believer for nearly two years and was being discipled through a campus parachurch ministry. One morning, I overslept. When I realized that I had missed my weekly appointment with the graduate student discipling me, I wondered whether any of this Christian stuff I had embraced was even real.
It certainly didn’t seem to be making much of a difference in me. I thought, Maybe the most honest thing to do would be to throw it all away and quit the religious pretense—which is what I thought my “faith” was.
What kept me sane? My connection with other Christians, the tender patience of my discipler, knowing that the guys I was discipling were depending on me, and my sense of how my defection would hurt other believers. In this season, I began to own the words of Peter. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to check out, he replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68, ESV used throughout).
My interconnectedness with and outright dependence on the people of God secured my well-being, and it’s a lesson that comes back to me often. As a believer, I was never meant to stand on my own.
In John 15:1–17, Jesus calls himself “the true vine” and challenges his disciples to “abide” in him. Many of us connect the beautiful imagery here with that of grapes drawing nourishment from the vine. But Jesus means far more here than that.
In verse 1, Jesus declares, “I am the true vine.” It makes sense that Jesus would use such an image. He was speaking to agricultural peasants who were familiar with the vine; its produce was a staple in their diet. ...