I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing.
My husband loves trees. During the thirty-plus years we have lived on our country lane, we have planted well over a hundred shade and fruit trees. Some of the fruit trees in his modest orchard were called “no name” trees, meaning the actual variety of tree was unknown before selling. If a person didn’t mind a surprise or two, the trees didn’t cost as much as labeled trees. We could tell the general type of tree each was, like “apple,” but we didn’t know what variety of apples we had until the trees bore fruit for the first time.
Some plants are hard to tell apart just from the leaves. But the fruit and flower of a plant always give it away. Jesus told us, as recorded in Matthew 7:16-20, that we can recognize people in the same way – by what shows up at harvest time. In fact, He tells us in this passage that it is impossible for a bad tree to produce good fruit or for a good tree to produce bad fruit.
Fruit is what we are. We can’t fabricate fruit. Fruit is the natural result at the end of a season of growth. No matter how well a thistle grows or how much it is fertilized, it’s going to produce thistles. This is why we can never reform ourselves. We have to become grafted into the Root of Jesse. We are grafted in when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus for the mess we have made of our own gardens. We are literally cut away from a life of sin and grafted into the life of God.
And then we “abide.” The Greek word used for “abide” simply means to remain, stay, move in with, or live with. It’s a relational word. Don’t try to change yourself. Move in with Jesus. If I want to exhibit godly character, I have to be planted in God. He doesn’t want a new, improved version of Pam. He wants Pam out of the way completely. He wants me to die to who I am and become a conduit for the life of God, so that in my actions and words others may catch a glimpse of the Divine.
I wanna die, and let You give Your life to me,
so I might live.
…I die daily.
-the apostle Paul
How do we abide?
1. By thinking and acting relationally, not religiously. We focus on association with Christ, not mere imitation.
2. By diving into His Word. It’s the living letter from the Father to His children. His Word cleanses, teaches, inspires, and restores. It’s the food for our souls.
3. By listening to the uncomfortable nudging of the Holy Spirit to keep us pruned back. That way we won’t stray into unhealthy ground. Our conscience really is our best friend.
4. By cultivating healthy relationships and habits. Abiding doesn’t mean just lying around. There is work involved, too.
God gave His very best in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ to give us all we need to flourish. May we plant ourselves in Him and grow up to be everything He has planned for us.
O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!