Abiding in Christ

Reflection: John 15: 1 – 11, 2 Peter 1: 3 – 11.

The familiar ‘stem and branches’ metaphor used by Jesus in John’s Gospel illustrate our extraordinarily intimate union with Him. Without the stem, a branch is unable to participate in the soluble osmotic process of intercellular nourishment from the soil; its survival, growth, and fruit bearing is totally dependent on its enduring attachment to the stem. It seems Christian growth is possible only when we are attached to the stem permanently; the image of our intrinsic relationship with Him after salvation, where we are spiritually united with Christ (Rom 6), and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (Jn 14). This intimacy goes beyond our most cherished human relationships, certainly between a child and his parent, even between a husband and a wife, as our Lord is not interested in only influencing our lives, but also entering our very nature to continuously transform us as we participate in His matchless virtues of holiness, purity, and goodness. On that basis alone, because ‘I am the vine, you are the branches… ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’ Hence, fruit bearing involves a validation of the vitality of our faith (eg. the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, etc. in Gal 5:22-23), as well as a testimony and witness to others with a view of them coming to faith.

Humanly speaking, how do we ‘abide’ in Jesus? ‘If My words abide in you,… and you… abide in My love’ indicate a level of dependency on God, as a branch can only live off the life of the vine. Paul described an aspect of it in “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Col 3:16), which entails digesting the Word, allowing it to become part of our consciousness, and to look at ourselves and the world through it; in short, His Word living practically through us as we engage it in every aspect of life. Obviously then, this cultivated discipline of meditation goes beyond just using the Word for inspiration or doctrinal information. Next, the moment we are born again by His Spirit, we begin to be more aware as He immerses us in His overwhelming love that knows no measures, even on our bad days. The degree of our awareness of graciously living off His love will probably determine how we grow and become more like Him as vessels of His love.

The essence of abiding is fruit bearing, the outworking of our intimacy with God, therefore, ‘every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, will be cut off.’ Strong words! There is a cost to fruit bearing that counts all things but loss for His sake (Matt 10:39, Phil 3:7-11). If the sinless Son ‘learned obedience from the things which He suffered’ (Heb 5:8, an intriguing verse; Isa 53), then there is no distinction for us to learn obedience by experiencing suffering, to grow into Christlikeness (2 Cor 4:16-17). Suffering is at the heart of the Christian faith, and God often uses it to draw us to Himself, as He walks through it with us, for He is not unfamiliar with unfathomable darkness (Matt 27:46).

Our Lord Jesus has exemplified for us the pathway to fruitfulness when He kept His Father’s commandments and abide in His Father’s love (Jn 15:10). To love as He does, is to learn to die to the self (Jn 15:12-13). There lies the enigma of an abiding fruitful life in Christ.