Extracted from Bruce Wilkinson's book of the same title, Secrets of the Vine:
"HAVE YOU EVER BEEN with someone very close to you who is about to die, someone who loves you and wants to leave you with a final word?
" 'Come closer.' You lean close, straining to hear. 'I want to tell you something. I've waited until now... but I can't wait any longer.' You know that you'll remember every word for the rest of your life.
"Now imagine that the person who is about to speak is Jesus. How closely would you listen? How long and hard would you ponder your Lord's last words to you?
"In the pages to come, I invite you to encounter, perhaps for the first time, Jesus' words in John 15 -- the heart of His final message to His disciples on the night He was betrayed. By dusk the following day, Jesus would be stretched on a cross, His body stripped and pierced, His life ebbing away."
RECEIVED THE WILKINSON BOOK as a birthday gift from a Christian fellowship group at work (led by colleague L.) last month. Initially, i didn't read it because i believed that i already know the John 15 passage far too well.
Later, browsed through the small book casually and a thought came to mind, "Last year, Jesus invited me to go to Him and rest in Him (see Meek and Humble of Heart). Does this mean that i'm in the 'season of abiding', according to the third secret in this book?"
How flattering! Somehow i feel that i still have a long way to go. Wanted to write this down; but somehow didn't until now. Emailed the group to give them a link to 'my secret of the vine'; but didn't get a chance to discuss this so far.
Now, to summarize the gist of the book:
First Secret: If your life consistently bears no fruit, God will intervene to discipline you.
Second Secret: If your life bears some fruit, God will intervene to prune you.
Third Secret: If your life bears a lot of fruit, God will invite you to abide more deeply with Him.
There are three degrees of discipline:
1. Rebuke (verbal warning) -- "My son, do not... be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him" (Hebrews 12:5).
2. Chasten (emotional anxiety, frustration, or distress) -- "For whom the Lord loves He chastens" (Hebrews 12:5).
3. Scourge (punish) -- "And scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:6).
Interestingly, the four arenas God prunes are:
1. The people you love most.
2. Your right to know why God does what He does.
3. Your love for money and possessions.
4. The sources of your significance.
Finally, to break through to abiding, apparently two principles apply:
1. You must deepen the quality of your devoted time to God. For example, set aside a significant time (preferably very early in the morning) and a private place where you can read and write comfortably, think, study, talk to God out loud, and weep if you need to. Savor God's words. Talk and listen to a Person. Keep a daily written record of what God is doing in your life.
2. You must broaden your devoted time -- taking it from a morning appointment to an all-day attentiveness to His presence.
Both principles i had applied during my four-day retreat last year. And i have been doing so on a daily basis (except for early morning prayers and daily journalling) since years ago. When i chose to give up my pride and anger, was i on the threshold of moving from the 'season of pruning' into 'the season of abiding'?
Now, will i get a chance to describe and explain my perspective of the Secrets of the Vine?
Actually, the vine and the branches were not Jesus' last words.
His last words were in a prayer to God the Father, where He prayed for unity among His followers, "And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one...
"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:11,20-23)
"After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley..." where He met Judas and "a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees". (John 18:1-3) The hour of His passion has just began then.
Jesus must have foreseen that there will be disunity. How it must have troubled His soul so much that He repeatedly prayed to God that "they may be one, as we are one... so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."