“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 anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:4-8).
Consider the words of Jesus in John 15. You can’t help but hear both “can” and “cannot.” You cannot do anything if you are not abiding in Christ. You cannot bear fruit if you are not abiding in Christ. You will be cut off and thrown into the fire if you do not abide in Christ. Sure sounds negative, doesn’t it? These warnings are real warnings. A life claiming to abide in Christ that is not actually rooted in Christ is fake: not alive, but dead. This should draw our thoughts and our hearts inward. Am I abiding in Christ or merely going through the motions?
In contrast to these negative statements, hear the positive statements of ability. “Whoever abides in me… he it is that bears much fruit. If you abide in me… ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Jesus then goes so far as to say, when you bear this kind of fruit, and what you ask is done for you, then you “prove to be my disciples.” The proof is in the pudding. Your works are evidence of a life devoted to life in the vine.
When Jesus cursed the fig tree outside the temple, the reason he cursed it was because it gave the appearance that it was producing figs. Figs typically accompanied the leaves that this fig tree was bearing. It gave the appearance of health and vitality because of the leaves it was bearing, but in fact proved to be fake: not alive, but dead. Jesus used this fig tree as an object lesson against the religious leaders and the nation of Israel. They have the appearance of bearing fruit, but are in fact fake.
How have you typically understood the life that is abiding in Christ? The quick answer asks how many times this week we’ve read our Bible and prayed. We typically expect that if we are doing a good job reading the Bible and praying, then the fruit that will show forth is the fruit of the Spirit, which gives evidence of a life abiding in Christ. Of course, the fruit of the Spirit is proof that we are abiding in Christ. Of course, reading our Bibles and praying are important practices that should characterize a life that is abiding in Christ. But, are we selling ourselves short if that is our summary of abiding in Christ?
To abide in Christ is to be in intimate relationship with Christ. It isn’t to view him as a list of tasks to accomplish, but instead a person to be intimately engaged with. It is a relationship from whom we are energized, and a relationship that is characterized by constant communication.
What would happen if we were to raise the bar? What would happen if we wouldn’t be content with just getting by in our relationship with Christ? What would happen if abiding in Christ was something we longed for more intimately? Amazingly, the end result is shown to us in John 15. You’ll prove to be Christ’s disciples. You will bear fruit. Whatever you ask will be done for you.