A Voice in the
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches." (John 15:4-5)
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, gentleness..." (Gal5:22-23)
A buzzword of the 70's and 80's was "fruit." As Christians we were to "produce fruit." Quite often this fruit was "measured" in terms of how many people a person had prayed with, to receive Christ. Or, how "dynamic" any given church was, as measured by growth in attendance and membership records. Any evangelist's fruit was measured by how many people would "go forward" during the invitation.
As this notion grew, many incorporated monetary and financial "fruitfulness." Some pastors preach, "Bring your tithe into the store- house." (Meaning "his" local church) Others cajole, "Send us your money, and JUST SEE how the Lord will provide you with wealth and prosperity!" They cheer-lead their congregations with mis-quoted Scripture incorporating "God's Power"(Eph1:19) in the life, wanting to become little gods, as they follow along in Satan's ancient lie, "You will become like God..." (Gen 3:5)
The more "pious" ones would quote from Gal 5:22..."Love, joy, peace..." The buzzword was "Love." Translated into action, "love" meant "acceptance." This acceptance, in turn, would not judge sin; as new "converts" were encouraged that they didn't need to change their life- style. After all, "God accepts us JUST AS WE ARE. That's Grace!"
WHAT DOES IT MEAN to "abide in Christ?" What is the significance of the "branch?" And, what of the "Vinedresser?"
In John 15:1 Jesus says, "I am the true vine.." Jesus is that main "trunk" which remains year after year. The roots firmly established in the ground. Able to provide adequate nourishment to the branches. The trunk has the strength to stand from the ground up to the trellis.
Paul puts it another way, "No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."(1Cor 3:11) Jesus is the "chief cornerstone."(Eph 2:20) The foundation holds up everything else. If the foundation starts to sink in some places, doors bind and walls crack. The foundation of Jesus Christ is firm. It is situated on the Rock.(Mt 7:25, 16:18) "...that rock was Christ." (1Cor 10:4)
WHO DOES THE WORK? After all, the vine is rooted in the ground in one location. The foundation's purpose is to remain stationary. The "vinedresser" is the Father.(Jn15:1) While the vinedresser Tills, Plants, Fertilizes, Waters, Prunes, Gathers the fruit at harvest; for this article let us consider the last two elements.
PRUNING is the process of cutting back old dead growth, "training" the growing branches in the proper direction on the trellis, trims way- ward sprigs. Each season the old branches are trimmed away so the new ones can grow. In the O.T. we see God's dealings with Israel. When they rejected Him, they were trimmed back for a season to allow the Church to grow. At the end of the Church's "season" Israel will grow back. Paul speaks of Cutting and Grafting on a tree.(Rom 11:20-23) Same principle spiritually.
GATHERING FRUIT is also what the Father does. "God gives the increase."(1Cor3:7) Regarding the souls that come to Him Jesus said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me...No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him...It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John6:37,44-45)
If you think about it, Jesus never went about promoting Himself or inviting the large crowds that thronged Him. He would say, "Don't tell anyone." (Mt8:4) When He tried to retreat for rest, the crowds came to Him. (Mt15:29-30) His "brothers" encouraged Him to "promote" Himself, while He was hiding out.(Jn7:4)
However, Jesus, although co-equal with God (Jn8:58), taking on the form of man (Phil2:7), became a "CONDUIT" of God's power.(Mk5:30) He was not on earth on His own authority, but conveyed what the Father gave Him. "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."(John 12:49-50)
Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him..."(Jn15:5)
The term "abide" is one of being stationary. To "remain." Next month when we consider Spiritual Armor, we will see the concept of "Standing Firm." Neither of these terms is one of gadding about, being "Busy for God." Jesus spoke of us as being "lights" and "salt."(Mt 5:13- 14) Paul speaks of "aroma." "To...the other the aroma of life leading to life...For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ." (2 Cor 2:16-17)
We are to be "light." Not lightning. Salt does not rush about; it simply permeates the food for taste. Aroma just wafts in the air. Branches do not go about pruning, watering, marketing, selling (ped- dling) the fruit. They SIMPLY "abide" in the vine. They are an integral part of the trunk. Their job is to "rest" (Ps37:7) on the trellis, as the life-giving nutrients flow THROUGH them to fruitfulness. The "power" they experience is not theirs, but God's. "..the exceeding greatness of His power TOWARD (not "in") us who believe.."(Eph1:19)
What is the great importance of the branches, with which they can puff themselves up in their own sufficiency and self-esteem? "..how is the wood of the vine better than any other wood, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest? Is wood taken from it to make any object? Or can men make a peg from it to hang any vessel on? Instead, it is thrown into the fire for fuel; the fire devours both ends of it, and its middle is burned. Is it useful for any works?" (Ez15:2-4)
"He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."(Jn15:5) If we abide IN CHRIST, and thus, have come to know Him..."we know that we know Him, if we keep His com- mandments."(1Jn2:3) A changed life will be evident. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.(2 Cor 5:17)
WHAT of SELF? "..do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.(1Cor6:19-20) "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one."(Jn17:23)
Leaving the results to God, we are to be FAITHFUL. "..it is re- quired in stewards that one be found faithful."(1Cor4:2)