A lot of ink has been spilled lately on the topic of sanctification. How exactly do we grow as Christians? What is the relationship between the Spirit’s work and our own efforts in sanctification? What fuels and motivates our growth?
I was interested, then, to read a new book called A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ by Stanley D. Gale. I was also interested because I’ve preached on the theme of abiding in Christ from John 15, but have never been completely satisfied with my efforts.
A Vine-Ripened Life can best be called a collision between the themes of abiding in Christ from John 15 and of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Gale clearly describes God’s work in our spiritual growth (the fruit of the Spirit) and our work: abiding, or staying intimately connected with Christ to draw on his power. He works through each of the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, and so on), exegeting and applying the text. He also throws in a bonus chapter on humility, which he compares to the chlorophyll. Chlorophyll gives a plant its distinctive color, and enables the absorption of light. Humility gives Christians their distinctive color, and helps them to thrive as we abide in the Vine.
This is one of the least flashy books I’ve read. Gale simply thinks biblically about how Christians grow, and exegetes and applies Scripture. It reads like a series of written sermons: solid, biblical, and more faithful than fizzy.
If you are looking for a study that will help you understand how to grow as a believer in Christ, and what it looks like, I recommend this book. It is not a theological exploration of the complex issues around sanctification, but a series of pastoral meditations how God will change us as we continue to abide in Christ.