Abide In Me
I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
In this beautiful metaphor, Jesus illustrated the integral relationship we have with Him. We don’t have to own a vineyard to understand His analogy. We’ve seen enough ads for fine wines to get the point. Bunches of fine, healthy grapes grow only if the branch is vitally connected to the vine. Jesus describes that connection as abiding, which means “to be completely at home.”
When we are completely at home with a roommate or spouse, we aren’t on edge. We relax, we communicate, and we get things done with minimal irritation. In that environment, we share common goals, and we work together to reach those goals. In the same way, our relationship with Jesus can be so completely “at home” that we communicate fun and easily, sharing a common purpose to honor the Father in everything we do. We have rich, deep conversations na, and we genuinely enjoy each other.
In a strong, intimate relationship with Christ, Hs power, peace, and purpose flow into us and through us, and His Spirit works wonders to transform us and change others we touch-those are healthy bunches of grapes.
In the same way that a branch can’t produce grapes unless nourishment flows from the vine into it, we can’t produce anything apart from a vibrant relationship with Christ. When Jesus said, “You can do nothing,” He didn’t mean that we can’t brush our teeth or perform any other task without His help. He means that we can’t do anything of eternal significance apart from His direction and power.
There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow.
In the next verses of John 15, Jesus continues to develop the idea of being connected with Him and to Him. He defines what it means to abide in Him by saying to us that His Word will abide in our hearts. Psalm 119: 10-12 says it this way:
“With all my heart I have sought You, [inquiring of You and longing for You]; Do not let me wander from Your commandments [neither through ignorance nor by willful disobedience]. Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Blessed and reverently praised are You, O Lord; Teach me Your statutes.”
Romans says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word. This means that our connection with Christ will be through and by the Word of God. This connection doesn’t come with occasional, casual reading but through careful reading, meditation, and practicing what we have learned. It involves not only our minds but our hearts as well. The psalmist says, “Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” John tells us that Christ is the Word so to abide in Him is also to abide(live in) the Word. It is from the Word that we receive hope and help. From the Word we find direction and guidance. In the Word we find comfort and peace as we read and hold dear the precious promises of God. The darker the days, the deeper we ought to dig into the Word.
Jesus promises that if we remain in Him and His Word remains in us that we “will produce much fruit.” Two possibilities of the fruit that Jesus is speaking about. One of those, of course, is that our lives will influence others to follow Christ. From a single grape to a cluster to a vine full of clusters to a vineyard of healthy grapes, can happen if we will become connected to Christ and abide in Him. The other fruit that will be the automatic outflow of a life abiding in Christ is the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians, Paul describes the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit this way:
“But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.”
This is the measure of how well we are abiding in Christ. We cannot produce such fruit by ourselves. This is what Jesus was saying to us when He said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” It is an impossibility for someone to consistently produce the fruit of righteousness without Christ and the Holy Spirit producing it within the heart. But when we open our hearts to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, the fruit of the Spirit begins to flourish. The more we abide in Christ the larger and the more abundant the fruit. The less we give to the pursuit of Christ, what fruit there is will wither on the vine and eventually we will cease bearing any fruit. Like the branch broken from the vine, life will dwindle away and we will become fruitless and eventually lifeless.
How is it then that we come to abide in Christ? What qualifies us for such a blessed place? Listen to the words of Jesus in John 15:16
“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.”
So then, each of us have been chosen by Christ to become a fruit-bearer. Just as the branch bears fruit because that’s what it is designed to do and because the nutrients necessary to produce fruit is received from the vine, so it is that we too become what God designed us to be and we bear fruit because the vine produced the connection and through that connection we receive the nutrients to produce fruit. Notice the words that Jesus uses: “I have chosen you.” Let that sink in for a moment. “I have chosen you.” We aren’t accidental Christians. It was a deliberate act of God to convict us and convince us to become His children. Next Jesus says, “I have appointed you.” Not only has He chosen us but He has also designated us to be His followers. Our position in Christ is not one of our own making but it is Christ who has defined our position.
“And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption].”
Jesus then says, “I have placed and purposefully planted you.” Have you ever wondered why you were where you are in life? Maybe you’ve wondered why God has placed you with your family, at your job, or in your community. Well, here it is. Jesus says that He has placed us and purposefully planted us so that we would go and bear much fruit. Wherever God has you, it is a place that needs the fruit of the Spirit and you, beloved, are the designated fruit- bearer. That may seem overwhelming to some of us for we don’t see ourselves as such. We wonder how could little old us do such a great thing. Here’s our part: “Abide in Me.” That it and that’s all. If we will constantly pursue our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit will constantly produce His fruit in us and we can share it with others.
The powerful promise that comes with the invitation to abide in Christ is that “whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give to you.” This means that every prayer will receive an answer for those who abide in Christ also ask according to His will for their hearts have been captured by His presence.
Let us choose today to “abide.”
Dr. John Thompson