I began my time with God this morning by returning to these words of Scripture:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). And, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (vs 36).
First, it is so glaring in its simplicity: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”.
“If you… you are…”
First there is an uncertainty, followed by a certainty.
The “if” is the uncertainty of whether we do abide in Jesus’ word, or we do not abide in Jesus’ word. The result of both is a certainty.
The certainty of abiding in Jesus’ word is that we are truly his disciples
The certainty of not abiding in Jesus’ word is that we are truly not his disciples.
That led me to John 15 for help in understanding how to abide in Jesus’ words.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). With this imagery, we get a very clear picture of what it means to “abide”. We can also see that abiding in Jesus’ word, and abiding in Jesus, is the same thing.
The relationship Jesus speaks of is, “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). How do we abide “in” Jesus, and Jesus abides “in” us? The way the vine and branches abide in each other. We abide in Jesus as branches attached to the vine, and Jesus abides in us as the vine pouring its life through the branches.
When this is true, it is also true that we abide in Jesus' words, and so we prove ourselves to be his disciples. We cannot abide in Jesus without abiding in his words. His words, and his Spirit, are as the sap that flows through the branches.
“As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Here is the problem with many churches! We are not bearing fruit because we are not abiding in Christ. The disconnect people feel from him is exposed, and it also exposes what we do when we feel that disconnect. Some people draw closer to Christ to fill the void, and others turn to the world, the sark, and the devil, for that inner satisfaction.
It reminds me of what Paul told the Galatians.
- “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (3:1)
- “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (5:7)
Just as we wish we could get to the ones who have "bewitched" people into leaving Jesus’ church, and wish we could stop those who hinder people from obeying the truth, Paul was very clear in trying to find out who was causing the trouble in the Galatian church so he could confront and correct what was going on.
“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” (15:5). Jesus makes it easy to understand both what it means to abide in him and his word, and why it is we do not bear much fruit.
“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” (15:6). This is a severe warning! Judas lived among the disciples, and in such a way that none of the other disciples guessed he was not one of them. However, he was not abiding in Christ, and so he was living under condemnation, not under grace. The only way we can be sure this is not us is if we abide in Christ.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (15:7). Once it is settled that we are abiding in Christ, here is more encouragement to persevere in this. It also explains why many churches are not known for answers to prayer. People want Jesus to answer their prayers because they showed up at prayer meeting, not because they abide in him. However, when we abide in Jesus, and Jesus abides in us, and we express our wishes to God in prayer, “it will be done for you”.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (15:8). Jesus’ “Father is the vinedresser”, don’t forget. How is he glorified in his work as the vinedresser? By the fruitfulness of the vineyard.
How does he create a fruitful vineyard? By bringing us branches to abide in his Son as the vine.
How do we “prove” to be Jesus’ disciples? By the fruit we bear as a result of abiding in him.
This makes so much sense of Scriptures like this:
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3)
What Paul describes here is the fruit of the church that abides in Christ. Said another way,
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5)
It is easy to puff ourselves up by looking at the faults in other people, preachers, and churches. However, it is time for each church to repent of every way we refuse to abide in Christ, and to let his words dwell in us richly as the sap of the vine flowing through our branches. We need to let God’s Spirit fill us up completely, the very life of Christ living in us.
Father, it is very clear what you are saying, what you are doing, and how we ought to join you in your work! Amen, so be it!
© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)