January 26, 2014
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4 KJV)
“Abide” is mentioned 12 times in John 15, but what exactly does it mean?
Three Things “Abiding” Means in John 15: 1-8
1. To “abide” is to “remain” (John 15:4 NIV)
The Greek root of this word is to “stay in one place…to pause…or rest…or reside somewhere.” In its most basic sense (outside of mystery and theology), it means to remain, live, reside and not move from a location.
Jesus is speaking these words in John 15 after the last supper, during His last night with His disciples. Knowing that his disciples will be tested after His death, He is telling them to hold to their confession that He is the Christ, and not be pulled away. If the disciples are to glorify the Father by bearing much fruit (John 15:8), then staying close to Jesus, as a “Christ follower”, is the first step.
Historically whenever the church faces persecution, and believers hold fast, continuing to name Jesus before men, people see the veracity of their faith and the church grows.
Do we as modern Christians abide, remain, stick with Jesus – no matter what? Do we quietly, graciously name him before the people in our lives?
We become more fruitful as Christians, the longer we remain in the vine because with time, more life-giving sap flows through the connection between the branch and the vine, making the branch more fruitful. The first qualification of our church elders is trusting Jesus over the long haul.
2. To “abide” is to make Christ the source of life.
Jesus already is the source of life whether we recognize it or not, but we are called to actively pursue Him as the source of our lives. This is the whole point of this parable of the vine and branches: Jesus is the vine, the source of life. If we have no life with Him, we will have no fruit. Jesus is the true source of spiritual vitality – every moment of our lives.
Jesus tells us this teaching so many times in so many different ways because we are so “good” at forgetting it. We need to remember that Jesus is the true source of our lives as Christians – no one or nothing else can fill the hole. Jesus in His goodness offers to each of our broken lives: Truth, forgiveness, purpose, and real life.
3. To “abide” is to have a relationship.
For those folks newer or less familiar with Christianity, Christianity is less a religion (mainly outward observances and mental assent to confessions) and more an internal, life-giving relationship. Jesus actually invites us to friendship with him (John 15:15).
For folks who have been Christians for a long time, “abiding” is a personal relationship with Jesus every day, which is full of wisdom and Truth, even transforming minds in amazing ways. This is not the same as simply knowing the Bible or church doctrine.
Summary: “Abiding/remaining in Christ” is to stick with Him amidst distraction and difficulty. It means making Him the source of our lives, anchoring ourselves in Him. It means to have a relationship with Him.
These three concepts of “abiding” are the very things that are strengthened when we are pruned. (See last week’s sermon.)
- When we are pruned, we learn to stick with Christ through thick and thin (remaining). Pruning strengthens our remaining.
- Often we are pruned of our illusion that life is found outside of Christ who is the true source of life.
- When we are pruned, the relational aspect of our walk with Christ is strengthened. We learn we cannot manage life on our own, and our prayer life becomes critical as we communicate with the Vine.