This past Lord’s Day morning, we were brought face to face with the great reality of coming to Jesus; namely that one must not come to Him for stuff. We saw this exemplified by the disciples who had left John upon hearing, “Behold, the Lamb of God”, and followed Jesus. As Jesus turns and sees them following, He asks them, “What are you seeking?”. They answer simply, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”. As we examined this exchange, we learned they were in reality asking, “Where is it that you abide, because we want to abide with you.” Their motive for following was simple, to know Jesus by abiding with Him. In fact, one of those who heard John and followed Jesus was Andrew, who found his brother and shared with him, “We have found the Messiah”. The pattern is clear: hear who He is, come with the motivation of knowing Him by abiding with Him, and finally, discover who He is by abiding with Him.
This seems simple enough, and yet if you were to ask the average “church-goer”, “What does it mean to abide in Christ?”, they would fumble over words trying to give an answer. So the question for us as we consider this gospel is: “What does it mean to abide in Christ?”. This question is essential to discipleship. If we do not know what it means to abide with Him then it begs the question if we are abiding with/in Him.
Thankfully, we have been given the Bible as the source of divine revelation to help us answer questions such as this. To find the answer we can even go to the gospel of John. The apostle records the words of Jesus Himself on the matter:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” John 15:1-17
There is a wealth of truth here, enough to write hundreds of pages on. For our purpose here however, I will just give an outline of what it means to abide in Christ based on this passage for you to consider and study on your own.
What does it mean to abide?
- Understand that Jesus is the One in whom you abide. You do not abide in a thing, but in a person, in Christ. It is not a checklist to complete, it is a person to know. (vs 1.)
- Understand the Father is the source of all the growing, abiding, and working. He is the vinedresser. (vs 1.)
- Bear fruit. This is done by keeping the commandments of Jesus, specifically the commandment of love. This is exercised in it’s many forms: evangelism, prayer, service, missions, giving, bearing up one another, encouraging, and many others. (vs. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17)
- Being clean. This is a recognition of your status. You are already clean, already secure in the Vine. To doubt this is to doubt the ability of the Vine to sustain you, and the faithfulness of the Vinedresser to prune you. In essence, it means you are depending on yourself rather that God. So, rest secure in your status in the Vine, you are already clean because of the word Christ has spoken to you. (vs. 3, 16)
- Being pruned. This is the painful process of being cultivated, cut and shaped in order to grow healthier. This is the role of the Father who sanctifies us by the Spirit. (vs. 2)
- Dependance on the Vine. Just as a branch without a vine is lifeless and can do nothing, so you can do nothing apart from Christ. He is life, He is the Vine. Apart from Him you can do nothing. Depend on Him. (vs. 4, 5, 6, 16).
- Being filled with the joy of Christ. This all reaches it’s culmination in experiencing the fullness of Christ’s joy within yourself. (vs. 11)
- Asking and receiving. When you are clean, and abiding, and being pruned, and bearing fruit, you ask in the Father, in the name of the Son and you receive. This is not superficial asking, but rather asking to bear more fruit, that the Father may be glorified and your fruit may abide. (vs. 7, 8, 16)
So abiding means, living for the glory of God by: abiding in Christ, obedience, dependency, bearing fruit, praying for more fruit, being pruned in order to bear more fruit, loving with Christ’s love, and living in the fullness of Christ’s joy. It is my prayer for this little glimpse to wet your appetite to examine your life and abiding in Christ and dive deeper into Him through this gospel.