The sermon at my church on Sunday covered John 15:1-11. I won’t quote the entire passage for you, but will instead pull out one verse that encapsulates the message. John 15:5, “I [Jesus] am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” This is the necklace I was wearing Sunday morning:
When I saw it at Charming Charlie’s (or as my friend’s daughter calls it – the color store) several months ago, I knew I had to have it because it reminded me of this bible passage. It is a tangible token that prompts me daily to choose what type of branch I want to be. Do I want to be the kind of branch that can do nothing? The next verse, 6, even says the worthless branch dries up and is thrown away! I don’t want that to be my legacy. The other kind of branch, one who abides in Christ, bears much fruit. Galatians 5:22 tells us that fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. That sounds more like what I want to be about. So according to John 15, if I want my life to exhibit these characteristics, I need to know what it means to abide. Dictionary.com defines it as “to remain; continue; stay…dwell; reside”.
So what does it mean in 2016 to remain or abide in Jesus? Our pastor mentioned that the word abide was used 118 times in the New Testament alone. So I decided to look at a few of the instances for more context. 1 John 3:24 says, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” Keeping His commands. Obedience = abide. 1 John 4:16 gives me my next action item. “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We must love. As if obedience was not a tall enough order. Love seems simple, but is so broad and there are so many applications. Love who? When? How? These are questions that could never be answered in a simple blog post and I would never presume to instruct you in love when I have so many opportunities myself. But when we do our best to lead with love at all times (understanding that no one is perfect), God will guide us in His specific plans for us as to who, when and how. And if that’s still a little too vague, the Bible is full of examples for how Jesus loved that we can emulate, which leads me to my third scriptural instruction. “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 1:9 We are to abide (stay, remain) in Christ’s teaching in order to be about the business of the Father and the Son. All of the instruction and teaching we need for living a fruitful life is found in the pages of the Bible. The more time we spend immersed in the reading and study of God’s Word, the more we will be “with” Him in thought, heart and action.
I don’t think by any means that these 3 bullet points (as every good sermon has) are the only ways we can “abide” in the vine (Jesus). Prayer, praise, ministry, anything done to the glory of God can pull us in closer as we dwell with Him. My three passages are just the ones I found in my study today. Obeying, loving and studying God’s Word seem like good places to start. If you want to learn more, do your own scripture study of the word abide. Look up the word in a concordance (try biblehub.com if you don’t have access to one) or the back of your bible. Just don’t forget, that the choice is yours every single day. Abide in Him and bear fruit or spend no time about His business and be dried up and useless. Only He can make a healthy branch from our futility.