Monday, 22 August 2011

Abiding in Christ

John 15:1-11 - Abiding in Christ

Vine Abide in Christ Grapes John 15:1-8

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was often likened to a vine. In John 15, Jesus is saying that whereas the vine was a picture of Israel in the Old Testament, He is the fullest realisation of Israel's hope, of their expectations, of what God intended her to be, as her Messiah. Israel, as a vine, failed; she never achieved her goal. Jesus Christ, who came as the True Vine, would accomplish all that Israel failed to do. As the true vine, Christ is the source of life and strength and fruit. There is a relationship of complete dependence between the branch and the vine. The vine supplies life-giving nourishment to the branches. Apart from it, the branches have neither life nor fruit.

The reverse of running away from God is abiding in Christ. What does it mean to abide? It is more than living within and goes well beyond the sense of taking up space within a house or country. Taken from the Greek verb meno, this word, abide, means 'to remain in one place, rather than leaving or going away, to inhabit securely, rather than to wander aimlessly.' ( Meno, to abide, can also mean remaining steadfast in one location against opponents, without yielding or running away; this word also has the sense of remaining constant while other things change. So we are to maintain unbroken fellowship with Christ.

Kenneth Wuest (in a book I can't remember the title of) puts it this way:  "The believer makes his spiritual home in Christ. There is nothing between himself and his Saviour, no sin unjudged and not put away. He depends upon Him for spiritual life and vigour as the branch is dependent upon the vine. The abiding of Christ in the Christian is His permanent residence in him and His supplying that Christian with the necessary spiritual energy to produce fruit in his life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit."

If we are to bear Christ's fruit, we must be in relationship with Him. As I wrote the other day, our prayer lives are good indicators of the health of our relationship with God. We can't be in relationship with anyone if we don't converse with them. Prayer must be a two way system, and listening is as important as speaking. Someone once asked Mother Teresa how she prayed. She replied, "I listen." The interviewer then asked what God said to her. She replied, "He listens." ( How can we know what God is calling us to do if we don't listen for and to His voice? "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:7). If we are abiding in Christ, we will have rich prayer lives that provide us with great fellowship with Him. We will know what Christ wants for our lives and we will be able to pray as He calls us to pray.

This relationship with Christ is so important for, apart from Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) Apart from Christ, we will fall into sin. We will not bear fruit unless we are abiding in Christ. If we keep His commands, we will remain in His love. To repeat what I have already said, to disobey God is to run from His presence in our lives, so to obey Him is to remain in Him and He in us. We will be able to hear His call and to obey it, unlike Jonah, who was living to his own agenda, hearing God's call, but running from it.

We become like those with whom we associate. Two of my close friends spent 5 months travelling around Asia together. When they had returned, I spoke to one of them on the phone. I could hear the other one in her voice and the things she said. They had spent every day together for 5 months and had started to become like each other. If we abide in Christ, people will hear and see Him in us. If you see a picture of my dad, you will see the resemblance between us. In the same way, people ought to be able to look at each one of us and see from our behaviour and lives that God is our Heavenly Father. Just as my dad gave me life, God is the source of all our lives, if we abide in Him.

Failing to abide in Christ means that we will be running from God, removed from our life source. "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers." (John 15:6). Furthermore, by abiding in Christ, we are caused to bear more fruit, which brings glory to the Father and thereby demonstrates our discipleship.

To run from God is to remove ourselves from His presence within us. Disobedience separates us from God and affects those around us. We make excuses and we hide, burying our heads in the sand and making it harder for us to return to God's presence. But to abide in Christ is to be dependent on Him and obedient to His commands. Obedience comes from a good relationship with our Saviour. When we are running from God, He is running after us, only He has much more patience and perseverance - we must work harder and harder to flee from the God whose goodness and mercy pursues us. If you are running from God right now, please let Him catch you up. Let Him show you "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:18). Ask Him to forgive you and to graft you back onto the Vine so that you can abide once more in Christ. As the Father has loved Jesus, so has He loved you. Accept the love and forgiveness He is offering to you and remain in the love of Christ.

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