Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5, NASB)
I have loved John 15 for years, but I tend to see this portion of John’s story like one of Shauna Neiquiest’s books: a collection of loosely related essays.
But it’s actually a narrative, one story. And I don’t think it’s an accident that we find this section on ABIDING sandwiched between our two greatest teachings on the Holy Spirit.
John 14:16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
Before Jesus calls His followers to abide or remain with Him… He’s promised His spirit to remain and be with Them.
As a young Christian, I learned to articulate my faith story as “I invited Christ into my life”. But I’m learning that God is the GREAT INITIATOR.
He ALWAYS goes first. He is inviting ME.
Before calling us to abide in Him, He promises the Spirit to abide, remain, live WITH us.
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
Jesus is talking to His disciples and followers, who would go on to found the church after His death and resurrection. This is part of what’s known as “the Olivet discourse”, the last conversation Jesus has with His close followers. He promises the Spirit will remain with them in John 14 – then in John 15 He says “stick with Me, do what I’ve told you, and you’ll bear fruit.”
The promise in this passage is not eternal life. According to the full witness of Scripture, life and salvation are the free gift of grace when we believe Jesus, not the result of abiding in Him. The promised result of abiding is bearing fruit, not salvation.
What’s at stake is a fruitful life. “Bear fruit” occurs 5 times in these 11 verses – bear fruit, bear more fruit, bear much fruit. If I want to a fruitful life – the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of expanding God’s kingdom, a life well-lived, a life that multiplies blessing, then I need to stay connected to my source.
Bearing fruit is the promise connected to abiding in Christ. If you remain connected to Christ, to His love, then you WILL bear fruit. If you are not receiving life and love from Him, then you won’t bear fruit.
Using the picture, the metaphor Jesus gives us here… What does the branch have to do to bear fruit?
#1 Stay connected to the vine
- This is mind-blowingly simple, maybe even too simple for us. What does the branch have to do to connect to the vine? NOTHING.
- The call is not to strive. The call is to REMAIN.
- You ALREADY are a branch. Stay connected.
I don’t know that a branch has a choice – branches have no will, no ability to separate from the vine.
But the tone of this passage tells me that we DO. We have a choice: Remaining in His love is a choice Jesus invites me to make. If I want to bear fruit, if I want to take the seed of God’s love and let it grow and spread through my life, then I need to REMAIN in Him. I need to live, I need to abide in His love.
#2 Understand that pruning is part of the process.
- No one likes pruning.
- BUT: I learned from my lovely gardening mother-in-law that a leafy plant does not produce tasty grapes. You severely cut back the leaves so the sun shines on the grapes, in order to have sweet, juicy fruit.
- No one enjoys feeling pruned, but maybe this gives hope: What’s being cut away from you is allowing the sun to get in, to sweeten your fruit. Can you trust your vinedresser?
We want LIFE, fruitfulness, to see God’s goodness grow in our own lives, in our husband’s and kids’ and neighbors’ lives. We want to see His goodness, His Kingdom come in our neighborhoods and churches and cities…
We want fruit. And Jesus wants us to be fruitful. His call – which leads to fruitfulness – is NOT the call work harder. Jesus never asked us to strive or hustle or fight.
He invites us to REMAIN.
To live in His love.
How will you answer that call today?