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Abide in Christ

Written by Karen Pourcho on

Some words are special, packing a lot of meaning into a syllable or two. They may elicit strong feelings or fond memories. I feel that way about words like savor, sojourn, and abide.

Abide can mean to endure or wait, as in “I can’t abide your behavior.” But it can also mean to stay or dwell. As believers in Christ, when we think of abide or abiding, our thoughts may turn to Jesus’s teaching in John 15.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 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 15:1-5).  

To understand the word “abide,” let’s take a look at the context of this passage.

The disciples have eaten their last meal together. It’s hours before Jesus will be betrayed and crucified. As they finish the meal, Jesus states, “Rise, let us go from here.”Jesus and eleven of his disciples leave the upper room and walk towards a garden called Gethsemane. As they walk through Jerusalem towards the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives, they may have passed some vines along the way. Or they may have walked through the temple area and passed the great golden vine that decorated the door to the Holy Place of the temple.

Jesus loved to use what was around him to teach. It’s not hard to imagine him seeing a vine and using it as an apt metaphor of his relationship with his disciples.

The Vine

He begins by defining his role saying, “I am the true vine.” Why would Jesus use the word true? As in the opposite of false? Not exactly.

The image of a vine was the pre-eminent symbol of Israel, but it is usually used in a negative sense. In Isaiah, we read of Israel, the vine that has run wild. Jeremiah describes Israel as a degenerate, strange vine. Hosea paints the picture of an empty, fruitless vine. Israel had been planted to be fruitful, but it was not. It was a shadow compared with the true vine.

Isaiah also describes Jesus as the tender plant, who was despised by men but loved by the Father. He was the one who would bring forth fruit for the Father. Jesus is not just a vine; he is the true vine.

The Vinedresser

Next we see God the Father is the vinedresser. As the vinedresser, he takes away unproductive branches and prunes fruitful ones so that the entire vine will be even more fruitful. Many commentators believe that the words take away are a weak translation. An alternate, and perhaps more accurate, meaning of the original phrase is to raise up, elevate, lift up, or to raise from the ground.

When most of us think of vineyards, we imagine sunny rows of supported vines winding over green hillsides. However, the vineyards of the Middle East often do not have trestles. Instead, the vines meander on the ground where they are prone to insects, mold, and fungus. When a branch of a vine shows these signs, the vinedresser places a rock under the vine and lifts or repositions it.

Has the Lord ever repositioned you? We can certainly recall men and women in the Bible where this was the case. Abram gets repositioned and becomes Abraham. Jacob is moved from his home to serve Laban. Joseph is sold to slavery and ends up in prison and then in Pharaoh’s court. Moses, an adopted son of an Egyptian princess, flees for his life and becomes a nomadic shepherd while God works on his heart. The same repositioning happened in the lives of Joshua, Ruth, David, Esther, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. And the list goes on.

As we abide in him, you and I are also moved by God’s caring hand so that we can become more fruitful—moved from circumstances that kept us fruitless to areas where we can grow and be fruitful.

The vinedresser also prunes, cutting away leaves that hide the fruit or that keep it from the sun to prevent parasites and mold from growing. And shoots that bear straggling fruit, which hinder the rest of the vine, are clipped off.

When God, our divine vinedresser, prunes, he removes the things in our lives keeping us from fully living in him. This is not to say that receiving the care of the vinedresser is painless. Most times it is hard, very hard, but the result is one which pleases the vinedresser and is best for the whole plant.

The Branches

Jesus is the true vine, the Father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches. Branches cannot bear fruit by themselves; they must be connected to the rest of the vine. Apart from him we can do nothing, but with him, we bear fruit.

What is fruit? Fruit is simply what Christ does through you such as doing good for others and the development of his character traits in us. In Galatians 5, Paul writes of one fruit of the Spirit, not a bunch of different virtues developed one by one. And so, as your character looks more like Christ’s and is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, you are bearing fruit. A branch doesn’t produce the fruit on its own; it bears fruit because it’s connected to the vine. It is the natural result of abiding in him, living fully in relationship with Christ.

Abiding

How do we abide and remain connected to the vine? What are the key elements of a fruitful relationship with Christ? Jesus lays this out in the next few verses in John 15.

  • Verse 7 – Abide in his words. Read and know the Bible. Dwell in it.
  • Verse 8 – Abide in his love. Remember and dwell on his love for you.
  • Verse 10 – Obey him. When you love someone, you desire to please them and you know what pleases them. Align your actions with your devotion to him.

Abide in him as he abides in you. Apart from him, you can do nothing; but as you abide in him, he will bear fruit through you.

Karen Pourcho

Karen joined the College Park staff in 2015 as the Director of Women’s Ministries and is a member of College Park’s Directional Team. Karen is passionate about seeing women transformed through the study of God’s Word and connecting with others in rich relationships. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Bob; children and grandchildren; and her four-legged friend, Tracker.

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