“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… If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:4-5, 7).
Does John 15 sound like a Utopian pipe dream? Do Jesus’ words seem to be idealistic to you? Is it really possible to have a relationship with God where our spiritual life and vitality is so evident that “whatever” we ask will be done for us? Is it really possible to have the kind of abiding relationship with God that Jesus describes here or was Jesus exaggerating?
One of the problems with this question is that we have convinced ourselves that we can get along just fine without much of a relationship with the Lord. We have convinced ourselves that we are producing great fruit for Jesus because we are simply using skills and abilities that God has given us. We might go do some work for the Lord without seeking the Lord’s blessing and strength in it, and assume that we are doing it with God’s strength, simply because it is a good thing we are doing with good motives. What if the majority of what we do is in our own strength simply because it is not being done from an abiding relationship with Jesus? What if doing that work could actually bring about lasting spiritual fruit because it has come from an abiding relationship with Jesus?
Jesus said we cannot bear fruit by ourselves. He said that if we do not abide in the vine, we will demonstrate no fruit. He also said that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. Again, take Jesus at his Word. Don’t try to diminish the power of Jesus’ words by saying Jesus was just being extreme. We should view everything we do as being impossible apart from Jesus’ abiding presence with us. We should absolutely view any ministry in the church, in our home, in our neighborhood, and in our workplace as being totally fruitless until it is done from the strength that Jesus alone can provide.
To abide in Jesus is to remain in Jesus and also to dwell and sojourn with Jesus. There should be an intentionality behind our pursuit of Jesus. You make an intentional choice to abide in relationship with your spouse. You are choosing to remain with her, to dwell with her, and to sojourn with her. Just because Jesus is in you, according to the Scriptures, does not mean all you have to do is coast and expect Jesus’ abiding presence to automatically bless everything you do.
So what does it look like to intentionally abide with Jesus? At the very least, this looks like pursuing the Lord’s strength before difficult situations. At the very least it is recognizing your inability and dependency on the Spirit’s empowering work in your life. But beyond that, to abide in Jesus is to dwell with him. It is to commune with him in relationship; to devour His Word, and to pray to Him throughout your day. Longer periods of time in prayer are great for your relationship with the Lord, but in many ways the more often you are able to pray short, spirit-dependent prayers throughout your day, the more you will find yourself drinking from the vine that is Jesus. Remain in Him, for apart from Him you can do nothing!