Stay Connected To The Vine
“Stay Connected To The Vine”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Fifth Sunday After Easter
May 21, 2017
Readings: Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 148
1 Peter 3:8-18
The truth of Easter is that it’s a visible manifestation of the love of God. The Old Testament shows us God’s favor upon man, yet there was still the fear, doubt and unbelief in the love of God. The coming of Christ is a declaration of God’s love for mankind. God loves us and His whole creation so much that He sent His only Son. How selfish we sometimes are in thinking that God loves only us, because more than us, He loves all of His creation – the trees and flowers, the animals and the fish. The beauty of God is He makes Himself known to His people. In the wilderness, God made Himself known to His people through the manna and the water from the rock. He proved Himself greater than any circumstance. A rock doesn’t give water but it did; and to this day, it’s still flowing with water. In our lives we have been blessed abundantly but doubt, fear, unbelief and lack of knowledge prevent the blessings from flowing into our lives.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I am the Vine”. If you work with agriculture, you would understand what Jesus said. At creation, God first created the heavens and the earth, but they were not seen because there was no light. He later brought out the light, but He created the earth first, and there was something so potent and powerful in that earth that God created man out of it. God breathed on that body and from the dust, it became a living soul. It took the two – the earth and God’s breath working together – to bring life to man. Today the earth is potent. It has power and energy that can cause things to happen, but it sits idly until a seed is planted and the sun and the earth work together to bring forth a manifestation of the power and love of God for His creation. Without the sun, the earth can’t bring forth life and vice versa. The two work together to bring forth what God intended to come into being. When Jesus said He is the Vine, He is telling us that He is the source of power and with that power, fruit will abound. Jesus, the Vine is the source of the fruit. Scientists today try to create life, but life comes from only one source – God. When the sun and the earth come together, when God and Christ come together, they bring into our lives the visible manifestation of the greatness of God. Stop and think about your life. From a little seed, you were brought to conception, and look at you now. This shows the ability of God to bring us where we are now, with all the potential to do great things.
I just came from India where I talked on the first day of their seminar, going back to the beginning to know the principles of God – of making the invisible visible. All things were created by God before the foundation of the world. Nothing exists that did not have its beginnings before the foundation of the earth. When the earth was formed, man was created so we would know the heart of God. We are the visible manifestation of God’s plan and His ability. This ability is in us. This means that whatever God had planned, He put it within us so that we can be a witness to the world today that there is a God and He is great. Some men don’t want God to get any credit at all. They want to take away all knowledge of God. Years ago, Russia passed a law that made it unlawful for its citizens to believe in God. They destroyed the churches and told the people that there is no God. Today, many Russians go to church to worship God. I’ve been to church with them; you couldn’t sit because there wasn’t enough room for chairs. Russia couldn’t do away with God. You can’t do away with God because He’s in every man; His seed is in every man and this seed can’t be stopped. It may be hindered for a while, but it will continue to grow. It’s like a tree; when you cut it off, it will sprout again. God’s potential is in every man.
Christ said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches”. The branches must bring forth fruit that comes from the vine. The vine is perfect because it is God. It means the potential for fruit is there without fail, so in our lives we can be a witness to the greatness of God in many ways. The fact that we breathe, that we can talk and smile speaks of the greatness of God. Out of the dust of the earth, He can make man with unlimited potentials. In our limited understanding, we try to get rid of earth/dust, not knowing that it has the potential to bless us. Look at how hot Manila is because it is now mostly covered with concrete. Its residents suffer from the heat and they murmur and complain. Our problems are mostly a result of our ignorance, our doing away with the blessings of God. When God created man, He put them in a garden and the garden supported life. In our lives, we can’t have fruit without Christ. We can’t have that potential and ability and our lives become difficult and miserable because life comes from the Vine. I saw something: the vine becomes the wine. The ‘V’ in vine becomes a double “v” and becomes “wine”. The connection here says something to us. When God adds Himself to our lives, we become what calms the spirit, dispels the unbelief and brings joy because of Christ. It’s from the Vine that life/fruit springs forth and that life gives us potential.
In Acts, there’s an account of Paul going to Greece, to the place where they kept all the statues of their gods. Most of us would be very defensive about things we don’t believe in, but Paul didn’t attack the images made to other gods. Instead he found something positive when he saw the statue to an unknown god, something they didn’t have any feelings about because it was unknown to them. He began to tell them about God, about His love and about how great He is. If we are not secure, we will attack others; but when we have security, we don’t attack because we have the peace of God. Paul saw that he could speak to them about something that would open their eyes because they were curious about this unknown God and wanted to know Him. They had stories and beliefs attached to the other gods, but they had nothing on this unknown God. So when he began to talk about it, their curiosity was opened and he began to tell them about the greatness of God. There’s always something positive in everyone’s life and we can touch their lives and open their eyes to the truth that God loves them. Instead of attacking, we give them hope. Many people don’t really know God. They think they have an understanding but they don’t have the truth. Scriptures say that God made the world and everything in it. Nothing exists without God; that didn’t come from God. Everything comes from God and when we see God in everything, the devil will have no power because the bible says God turns everything to good. Can we see God at work in our lives even in the midst of tests and tribulation? Can we see that He will turn the bad to good in our lives? If He is the Vine and we’re connected to the Vine and only good comes from the Vine, the evidence of the presence of God in our lives will be seen. It’s our doubt and unbelief that hinder the good from coming into our lives.
Scriptures say that we were created by God to be blessed; to receive His blessings. This is the purpose of His creation – that we would be blessed. Christ is the Vine and it is only through the Vine that the things of God can come into our lives. We then demonstrate to the world the love and power of God. Every blessing in heaven is ours. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. To me, Ephesians 1:4 is one of the most beautiful verses in the bible because it says that before the foundation of the world, God chose us to be holy and blameless. This holiness and blamelessness must be manifested in our lives. People must see it in our lives. It starts by not using our mouths for evil, not speaking ill of other people and of the things of God; because everything was created by God. I tell my crops in the farm that they were created to bring forth fruit for the blessing of God to man; to bring joy to man. This is probably why our pineapples are sweet. They were created to bring joy.
In India, their food is really spicy. There’s something in chili that’s good for the body. They burn up all the bacteria and harmful organisms in the body. I love chilis! I believe that they are a natural blessing from God to bring health to mankind. The hotter it is, the more blessings it brings. We don’t think this way; we don’t see these things as God’s blessings to us, but everything that exists come from the Vine. God loves all of His creation and Scriptures say all of creation will be set free. All of creation is crying out for the sons of men to be manifested because they will bring the blessing. We live because we are His offspring. This is our inheritance – to be His children – and He doesn’t want His children to be in poverty, in pain or under stress. Stress and tension make the body sick. He gives us His love and this love gives us peace. We are like God, created in His image and likeness. I asked the leaders in India what their understanding of DNA is. They said it’s the atom of life. Scientists split the atom to make bombs. That atom is in us; the potential is in our lives. It will bring forth the power and greatness of God, if we will only connect ourselves to the Vine and stay connected to the Vine. If we separate ourselves from the Vine, the fruit will die; life will be miserable. But when we’re connected to the Vine, even the darkness will become light, the pain will be eased and the confusion will turn to understanding. If we know God and we’re walking with Him, living out the life He’s given us, we will understand things that the greatest men can’t. We will understand how things work better than scientists can because we are connected to the Vine. God is with us; His wisdom belongs to us and this wisdom will show us how to solve the problems of man. Man can’t train you to handle the things of God. It must come from the Spirit. The world is in trouble because it is without God.
I have this truth for you: God is in everything. He is in every heart and eventually His presence in us will come forth because it can’t be destroyed. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” It’s only by His sacrifice that we were redeemed. Man can’t do it; only Christ can redeem us from iniquity. He is the Vine. All comes through Him. I want to be careful how to say this but Jesus doesn’t say that the Church, nor doctrine nor theology is the way. Christ is the only way. He is the door. Through His cross and resurrection, Christ conquered pain, sorrow and death. He gave us victory. He didn’t lose but gained the whole world by the life He gave.
“He who believes in Him is not judged…” (John 3:18). It’s a beautiful thing to read John 3:16, but don’t stop at verse 16. Read the rest of it; what God is telling us there is very powerful. “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone” (1 Peter 2:6). That stone is Jesus Christ. In India we were privileged to be taken to the memorial of St. Thomas. He came from Jerusalem all the way to India mostly by foot. He walked to the southern part of India and built a church there where he spent most of his time in prayer. Today the southern tip of India is over 60% Christian; the rest of India is Hindu. He planted a seed and lost his life for it. I believe that India will soon be a Christian nation. Why do I believe this? Because the Prime Minister recently issued a statement that that by 2020, there will be no Christians left in India. He just signed his own death certificate. Everyone who banned Christianity is gone. Nothing and no one can stop God. When there’s opposition, people become even more attached to the Vine. They can’t go to church because it’s against the law, so they just pray to Jesus and great things happen.
God hears the prayer of those connected to the Vine. In Genesis 1, God made the invisible visible. God’s plans were invisible to man because they were still in His heart. Then He began creating what was in His heart. You and I were at one time in His heart. Today we have been made visible to manifest God’s love to mankind. God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless. He sent His Son to make us holy and blameless. It’s not because of anything we can ever do; it’s all because of Christ. God will not fail to fulfill His plan in our lives. He is the Vine. Be connected and stay connected to Him. Don’t lose that connection because it’s through that connection that God’s power comes into our lives.
I proclaim blessings upon you today. You belong to the Great One and if you will take from the Vine, you’ll bear fruit that will be so beautiful that others will see, and then they will believe that there is a great God. People are turning to Christianity because God is manifesting His love to man. He’s healing the sick, raising up the troubled and giving hope. Many people are coming to Christ. The news doesn’t cover this but it’s happening. God is at work. We have much to be thankful for. Let’s be the witnesses of the greatness of God.