Abiding in Christ (John 15:5)
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. —John 15:5
As I reflect on this verse, I think about the walks I take in the nature preserve near my home. I see so many different kinds of trees and plants. I’ve watched them through the seasons–leaf-out and flower in spring, produce fruit and seeds in summer and autumn, and then go dormant in winter only to miraculously go through the same cycle year after year.
I have also noticed the branches that have fallen to the ground—they do not grow, flower, or bear fruit. When they break off because of severe storms or fall off because of disease, they are severed from the vital sap that keeps them alive. They may look alive for a short period of time but eventually the leaves wither and die, any fruit on them rots, and the branches themselves become brittle and decompose.
As I consider my relationship with Christ, I know that my spiritual vitality requires that I remain daily connected to Him. I must abide in Him, dwell with Him, let the life-giving message of His powerful Word saturate my life and produce fruit in and through me. It is only through Him that any fruit will be lasting.
And when the storms come, I cling to Jesus my Savior. Like the branches on the Vine, my life is in Him and utterly dependent upon Him. Psalm 16:1-2: Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” And a favorite verse of the preschoolers I teach is Luke 18:27 where Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” God is our help and sustainer in the trials of life.
Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary:
1. Abiding in Christ is necessary in order to our doing much good… 2. It is necessary to our doing any good…the root and spring of all good: “Without me you can do nothing: not only no great thing…but nothing.” …we can do nothing towards our justification; and from the Spirit of Christ nothing towards our sanctification. Without Christ we can do nothing aright, nothing that will be fruitful, pleasing to God or profitable to ourselves, Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God—2 Corinthians 3:5. We depend upon Christ, not only as the vine upon the wall, for support; but, as the branch on the root, for sap.
Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Love and obedience are prerequisites to God abiding with us—they are key to fruit-bearing as well. I recommend reading Pastor John Piper’s helpful devotional called “We Can Do Nothing.”
Abiding in Jesus has produced in me a deep realization of my need of Him, and an awareness of what He wants me to do at any given moment. If I feel the nudge to write a note of encouragement to a friend, I try to do it right away, praying as I do it. If I feel the Lord wants me to be generous with my time, energies, or resources, I act upon that in the strength that He supplies. If I am anxious about something, I try to take that thought captive and turn it to worship as an expression of trust in the Lord. I am amazed at the impact I’ve seen that simple obedience can bring about, as well as the blessings to my own life.
As the great hymn written by John H. Sammis puts it:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Refrain: Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
I want to see lasting fruit from my life—in my character, in my children and grandchildren, in the lives of those I teach and interact with. But it must come from an overflow of my relationship with Christ. He must be my priority. He is my sufficiency. He is my life (John 17:3).
Have I been truly abiding in Jesus, responding to His leading in my life and trusting Him moment by moment?
Am I seeing God produce fruit in my life as in Christ-like character (Galatians 5:22-23)?
Have I been letting Him lead me throughout the day or just drifting through life without seeing Him as my priority and sufficiency (Matthew 6:33)?