WE live in a nervous, high-strung age. Believers live tensely, and churches strain and strive to raise expenses. Those who really are concerned about the deeper Christian life often worry about it and fret, trying to be Christlike!
In such a feverish age it is refreshing to go back to the fifteenth chapter of John and read Jesus’ simple discourse about the vine and the branches. He tells us that He is the Vine, His Father is the Husbandman, and we are the branches. Our duty is not to strain and strive trying to stay in the Vine or to produce fruit: we are simply to abide in Him, keep the fellowship with Him unhindered—with no sin unconfessed, no interest He cannot share. We are to leave all life’s burdens with Him, drawing from Him all wisdom, life and strength. If we thus abide, we are promised certain precious things in His Word.
First, let us say that only through the new birth can we come into true relationship with Him. Others may attempt to attach themselves to Him in other ways, but these are taken away (John 15:2,6). Being born again, we become vitally identified with. Him, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4)—”members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Eph. 5:30).
Our relationship is fixed, but our fellowship with Him depends upon whether we abide in Him as we ought. This abiding is not a tense and strained affair, but an utter dependence upon Him for every need—feeding upon Him, drawing from Him, as the branch from the vine, all our strength and security. This abiding means obedience: “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). But our greatest obedience is to abide in Him. Abiding is revealed in holy living: “Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not” (1 John 3:6). This is not “sinless perfection,” but living above willful and habitual sin.
This abiding is witnessed by the Spirit: “And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us” (1 John 3:24). It is perfected by purging: “Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). Some believers worry over chastening as though it were a sign of God’s disfavor. But it is the productive life that God prunes and disciplines, that it may be even more fruitful.
Abiding in Him is also the condition of answered prayer: “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). This reminds us of the discourse on the Bread of Life in John 6. When the disciples complained that He was declaring a hard saying, He simplified it by saying: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” So here He makes His abiding in us clearer by saying “if My words abide in you.” We are to feed upon His truth, and if we do, our prayers shall be answered.
This abiding is manifested in fruitfulness: “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15:5). Notice that the fruit-bearing is just the natural consequence of abiding. We fret and worry about results, our good deeds, our behavior (and churches bother about by-products) when our interest should be concentrated upon this focal point: to abide in Him. That is our business; all else is a natural result.
“And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).