Hey Friend! Welcome back, to The Brittany Bruce show!
Do you ever feel distant from God? You go to church on Sundays, and are pretty much living a good christian life.. But you feel totally disconnected from his presence, his peace, and just want what you had when you first accepted him into your life. You really want to hear his voice and you want to live out your calling, but you feel like He’s not speaking to you, and even if He was- you have no clue if its Him or not! You want a relationship – not a religion- but what does that even mean?
When Thomas and I went on our first date, I knew he was the one. I was in my last semester of college, student teaching at North Live Oak, and I was living with my parents at the time. And so, I’m 22, super young, but I remember coming home after our first date and going to my mom and looking her dead in the face saying, “I’m gonna marry that boy.”
Just a few weeks and a couple more dates later, on Halloween of 2011. Thomas Bruce asked me to officially be his girlfriend. And y’all…I felt like I hit the husband jackpot because Thomas Bruce, the super hot, Jesus-loving guy I met a few weeks earlier wanted ME to be his! And so of course, I said yes…we immediately texted our best friends and told our parents that we were dating…but the next obvious and clearly most important thing we did that same night, was baptize this relationship by changing our status on facebook from “Single” to “In a Relationship!”
This one-quick-click told the world that we were together! We made a proclamation of faith to each other and to the world that we were officially boyfriend and girlfriend. In a relationship. A few weeks later we were engaged. And a few months later we were married.
And it honestly wasn’t until we were married that we figured out how to actually BE IN a RELATIONSHIP! Marriage forces you to depend on one another, serve one another, connect in deeper ways than just “how was your day” or “where do you wanna go for date night this week?” Marriage makes you spend your minutes, hours and days, from the moment you wake up, til the moment you fall asleep with each other. Marriage really forces you to prioritize your husband over everyone else. We didn’t make huge decisions without communicating about if first. We made sure, even if we were busy, to just be together, no distractions, just us, every day. That was, my first, ever, real relationship.
Because the honest truth is, a status update to “in a relationship”, does not automatically create trust and faithfulness. Just like a marriage certificate doesn’t automatically make an intimate and connected marriage. A prayer of salvation and baptism does not create dependency and trust and intimacy with Jesus. These are all great ceremonies and acts of faith, but these life updates don’t necessarily create relationship, which is the foundation for growth, trust, and maturity.
This is a huge problem in our modern day churches. We are so quick to save souls and baptize people and have altar call moments, but no one truly understands the meaning of relationship with Jesus or what that even looks like?
Just like any new relationship, we are quick to add “Christian” to our bio, show up to church once a week, tithe and give our time to the church, wear the WWJD bracelets, we’ll reshare a scripture on Instagram, or even volunteer to lead a small group, but have no clue what having an intimate relationship with Jesus even means.
What’s required? Do we do anything differently? Does our life change? Do we need to DO more? Do we need to move to Africa to become missionaries in order to have a REAL relationship with Jesus? Does anyone really know?
I remember when I was 12 and I was saved in the middle pew of Amite Baptist Church, I was ready to tell the world about Jesus! But I also remember just a few days later, I went back to my same life, same friends, same worries, same fears, same habits. Which continued until I was 30 years old. Jesus was the savior of my life, but He wasn’t the Lord of my Life until 18 years later. And that wasn’t because He wasn’t always ready to be in relationship with ME…but because I didn’t know how to be in a relationship with Him.
I believe MOST new believers WANT to hear God’s voice, they WANT TO experience His presence, feel that peace that passes all understanding, and they want to feel CONFIDENT in what God is calling them to do. That is the desire of MOST believers. The problem isn’t lack of desire…It’s lack of knowing HOW.
This IS a huge problem in 2023. Because our world is becoming more and more confused. But thankfully Jesus is patient and faithful. He loves us and wants a relationship with us enough that He is willing to walk us through, step-by-step so that we don’t miss out on the blessings and abundant living that comes from being in relationship with Him.
In John 15:5 Jesus says, I am the Vine and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I am him bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing.
Now, if you’re like me, and have grown up in the church, you’ve heard this verse a million times. You remember coloring the worksheet in Sunday school with the big bubble words of John 15:5 in the center and all around it were these huge thick vines, with these smaller branches coming out of the vines holding onto grapes. Right? And you’ve probably heard sermons about how important it is to make sure we stay close to the vine because it’s our life source, and if we break away we won’t “bear much fruit”.. which is all true!
But for the purpose of this episode I want to go a little deeper. I want to talk about this verse in regards to an intimate relationship with God. Because I believe he wanted us to understand that this is so much richer and deeper than just remembering where our bread is buttered.
When Jesus was sharing this message it was with his disciples, which at this point were his family, his besties, the guys who he did life with. He shares this at the last supper…Judas had just left to go do his evil thing and so Jesus had very little time left to share the most important things before the crucifixion which was about to take place. This context REALLY adds to the fact that this metaphor is so freaking important to lean in and really understand what’s going on what He’s saying here.
I want to break down this extremely common verse, but go super deep because I believe Jesus’s words here are the starting place and the foundation we need to have the intimate relationship with Him that He so desperately desires to have with us.
I’m going to share this verse again. it says, in John 15:5-
I am the Vine and you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him will bear much fruit, apart from Me you can do nothing.
First things first. Jesus starts with expressing that a relationship with Him looks like dependency. He says I am the Vine and you are the branches.
John 15:5 tells us who Jesus is and who WE are. I love that Jesus starts with, I am the vine and you are the branches…Before He even continues to give us a command or a promise, He begins with the role of our relationship with Him. The branches are dependent on the vine. If they disconnect from the vine, they are dead. I love that Jesus is constantly reminding us of His power and provision while also reminding us about our brittle frailty and need for connection with Him in order to even BE a branch. The vine provides the water and nutrients and ability for the branches to thrive and live.
My entire life, and probably yours too, we have been taught to be Independent. We are trained from birth to learn how to self-soothe, how to feed ourselves, how to put ourselves to sleep, how to pick up our own messes…It’s part of growing up. It’s actually NECESSARY to grow up and become an adult. And once we become adults, our goal in life is to become independent. I remember being a freshman in college singing a song that spells out the word independent like it was our anthem into adulthood! But then.. Jesus comes along, and does what he does best. He flips the script and rocks our entire world and how we think and how we live and what we must do in order to live in relationship with Him. And that’s DEPENDENCY.
So Jesus is saying, that in order for us to have a relationship with Him, we must be dependent on Him.
People in relationships say, ‘you’re the peanut butter to my jelly’, ‘you’re salt to my pepper’, ‘you’re the Corey to my Topanga’…and Jesus says, ‘you’re the branch to my vine’. Dependency on Jesus is the first step to having a close and intimate relationship with Him and a sign of spiritual maturity.
When we depend on Him, we TRUST that He is who He says He is.. That He will provide EVERYTHING we need. That He loves us to die for us, He fights our battles for us. He will work out ALL things, even really sucky things, for our good. That He will pull through for us, even if its overtime and there are only 2 seconds left on the clock and we’re down by 1. Dependency is relying on Jesus SO much that it seems irresponsible. THAT is the level of intimacy and trust He wants from His branches whom He loves so much and cares about. I am the Vine and you are the branches. The first phrase of this verse and the first step to a relationship with Jesus. Dependency on our Good and Faithful Vine.
The next part of this verse says, and he who abides in me and I in them, bears much fruit. This part starts with a decision. Jesus says “he who” or in other translations it says “whoever” or “if you” so Jesus is saying that we have a choice to be in relationship with Him. We have a choice to be with Him and pursue Him. I think we can all agree that good and loving and thriving relationships are never one sided.
Both people in the relationship are CONNECTED and are pursuing each other equally. Which is the very next word. He who ABIDES or Whoever Remains in relationship with me will bear much fruit. Jesus is asking for connection. Abide means to live. To remain. To stay. So first we have to choose Jesus and then spend our days living with Jesus…which means, to wake up with Jesus, sip coffee with Jesus, rest in Jesus, celebrate with Jesus, fold your laundry with Jesus, feed your kids, run your business, drive to work, clean your house, and love your spouse with Jesus. Jesus says, IF you choose to, do life with Me and I with you, let Me be in your thoughts, give me your heart, give your life to Me, depend on Me, trust and believe in Me, and you will be in relationship with ME.
For my married friends, imagine only hanging with your spouse, whom you love and adore, just on Sundays for an hour. And from Sunday afternoon to Sunday morning the following week, you don’t see each other, talk to each other, celebrate business wins together, raise kids together, be intimate together, cry and laugh together. You can agree with me in saying that on paper you would probably still be married, but in all reality there would be no actual relationship. And when a marriage has no relationship, there is nothing good that comes from it.
Which leads us to Jesus’s promise to us. A promise we can expect and look for. He says, I am the Vine and you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in them WILL. BEAR. MUCH. FRUIT. His promise to us is that when we are truly dependent on the Vine, when we choose Jesus every day and abide in Him and live life with Him, and are in relationship with Him He promises us that we will produce much fruit- This fruit is from the Holy Spirit! Its His gift to us.. It will be the best fruit basket you’ll ever receive! This fruit basket is full of what we need for abundant life and for a fulfilled life. Galatians 5:22 says But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.
And Jesus says in John 15:5 that you will not just produce A fruit, you’ll produce MUCH fruit and produce it OFTEN.
Think of your marriage, or if you can think of a friend or family member who has a deep, healthy, connected marriage, what comes out of it is love, joy, peace.. They are kind to each other, they are faithful to each other, they are gentle and patient. This is the fruit that comes from the love and connection they have.
THAT’S what Jesus wants for us- but we must first have a relationship with Him.
The last part of this verse Jesus gives us a reminder. John 15:5 says, I am the Vine and you are the branches, he who abides in me and I in him will bear much fruit; FOR APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING. The reminder is.. For Apart from Me you can do nothing. Just like the first part of this verse, Jesus is repeating and showing us the importance of our dependence on HIm. I love how he sandwiches the command to abide and live our full lives with Him, and the promise that we will live a fulfilled and abundant life, with the reminder of our relationship and dependence on Jesus. Connection and dependence on our Provider, our Protector, our Shepherd, our Savior, our Vine, our Father, our Friend.
We need our Vine. And in order for us to have a full and intimate relationship with Him is to totally and completely trust Him with our lives, with our future, with our goals and dreams, with our business, with our kiddos, with our calling…
Because the honest truth is that without Him we cant do anything with those things.. Without Jesus we can’t successfully do or create a family or business. We can try, and we can strive, and we can hustle, and we can make our best efforts, but I can share from my own testimony that depending on Jesus with my life is a far greater use of my time and I can do SO MUCH MORE with Him than on my own.
If you choose to be in a relationship with Him.. like, a REAL relationship with Jesus where you do your entire life, day in and day out, when you wake up, and walk your dog, and do homework with kids, and make your hamburger helper.. His promise to us is that we will do SO MUCH MORE for Him and bear SO MUCH more fruit than if we attempt to do this life alone. Independence from God is not maturity its just plain stupid.
Listen how cool this in – in the previous verses Jesus says that I am the Vine and My Father is the Vine dresser.. A vine dresser is the guy that comes around and snips away dead branches, and prunes the good ones, but his favorite job..is he looks for and watches the fruit grow, and is pleased with His creation and His work in taking care of the branches. God is so very pleased and is happy when you stay close to Jesus and are living the abundance that comes from trust and connection. This is the relationship that we need. This is the relationship that is priority in our lives.
So, by now I’m sure you’re thinking “How do I create a relationship where I can trust Him and fully depend on Him? What exactly does that look like in MY life? I want to trust and depend and abide and be connected with Jesus, but I need some practical and tangible things I can start implementing now..” I am so glad you asked!
I have 4 simple action steps for you that you can start implementing right now..
1. Making Time
- First things first, for ANY relationship to be priority, you have to make room for it.. Make quality time for connection and intimacy. Our lives are so dang busy, if its not a meeting on our calendar it’s not going to happen. Every month Thomas and I look at calendars and schedule ONE dinner together, away from the kids, and we talk. We talk about whats been on our hearts that week, what we hope for, things we got through together and are thankful for, and ya’ll, sometimes we are just together..Theres no pressure to say anything or do anything, we’re just together. We HAVE to plan dates with Jesus. Time to communicate and be thankful and talk through our dreams and hopes. My time with Jesus is every morning from 8:00-10:00. Now I know not everyone can spend 2 hours on your date, and there are some days where my schedule just doesnt give me that amount of time.. But even if its a scheduled, on the calendar, 15 minutes to be with Him. Thats where you can start. Schedule a time. Thats step one in any relationship, but especially with Jesus.
2. Once you get into your time with Him, what do you do? You talk to Jesus.
- Communicate. Tell Him whats on your heart, tell Him what you’re struggling with and what you’re going through. Thank Him for what He’s done for you, Thank HIm for who He is, for His faithfulness to you. Praise Him and ask Him for His forgiveness in the latest stupid thing you’ve done. This is what Jesus wants. Intimacy. The real you.. Not the pinterest polished or fake instagram you.. He wants YOU. His bride. This is called prayer. Prayer is talking to Jesus. And if you’re like me, and have a hard time focusing because you have mom brain or you have a million things in your head at all times..do this one prayer hack.. Journal. I write my prayers, my hopes, my struggles, my fears.. I write them in a journal. This is how I pray. I’ll set a timer and I’ll just DUMP what’s going on and give it all to Jesus. You talking is the first step to communicating and having that intimate relationship with Jesus. This is a holy habit you can start implementing today. No one will read it. Just a conversation between you and God.
3. Third thing to do when communicating with Jesus on your date, is then… listening.
- Stop talking. Stop praying. And just listen. God WILL speak to you.. And he cant WAIT to speak to you! The next series will be going DEEP into hearing the voice of God, but until then, I want you to know that the best way to hear God’s voice, is to read God’s voice. The Word of God is the Bible. Specifically the letters in red.. The gospels.. Which are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This is jesus’s words so you can be confident that this is HIs voice. This is one way you can listen. By reading His word. Start in the book of Luke and then John.. This will give you a glimpse into one synoptic gospel, Luke, but also a spiritual Gospel, My favorite, John. Read His Word and ask the holy spirit to help you apply it to your life. To your situation. Your groom WANTS to help you and he WANTS to speak to you.. But YOU have to give Him the opportunity to speak! By doing the hardest thing for us women, and that’s being quiet, slowing down, being patient, and listening.
4. And lastly – I want to encourage you to ABIDE.
- This word means to remain and stay and live with Jesus. So if you and jesus are in a relationship, you need to be with him, which means live every second of your life WITH jesus. This means you are remaining and abiding in Him. Some very simple things we do as a family is we constantly have worship music playing in our home. This is the holy spirit permeating through our home, while I’m cooking, cleaning, writing this show, folding clothes, doing laundry. He’s with me.
In my workouts and walks I pray. I just throw out my thoughts and heart to God.
In the car I have a Jesus podcast going.
In my friend group, I always ask them, What has God revealed to you lately? Or tell me something God is doing right now? This is an awesome conversation starter that will lead to DEEP friendships.
On social media, I have totally unfollowed anyone who isn’t pouring God’s Word into my feed.
Abiding is crucial for you to remain in a relationship with Jesus.
Just Think about your day to day and get creative and ask yourself how you can bring Jesus in with you. This is what it means to abide in Jesus. Live with Him. Every second of every day.
So let me wrap up this episode by letting you know that even though two young kids got married just months after meeting…because we daily choose each other, and daily depend on each other, and daily stay connected with communication and trust and faithfulness and intimacy – we are 11 years in and our relationship has grown and matured and even though not every day has been perfect. It’s in a constant state of loving growth- hence 4 kids in 4 years.
This is all Jesus wants. Growing in Him. Being with Him. Depending and Trusting Him. Connecting with Him.
And producing SO MUCH fruit because of it.