I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:1-8
One of my fondest childhood memories growing up as a student in a Lutheran school was attending Lenten services on Wednesdays. There were many things I enjoyed about these services, but in particular I liked them because we always finished the service with one of my favorite hymns: Abide with Me, and in particular, verse 8.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
To abide means to dwell or to remain. Some may think that this merely means showing up and sticking around for awhile. That’s a good beginning, but there’s more to it than that. Consider a fruit tree. Before it will produce a harvest, the tree must first mature. You’re not going to plant an apple seed in the spring and eat apples in the fall. So what does it take to bring the tree to maturity? It must remain firmly rooted into the soil, where it will sustain itself with water and nutrients. Over time, the tree must be cultivated, pruned, fertilized, and watered. After review, this seems to be a lot of work. After all, apple trees existed for a very long time before the first orchard was established. So why do we bother? It’s to increase our yield. Simply leaving the tree by itself may not kill it, but it will not produce a maximized harvest.
This same analogy can be applied to our faith life. Knowing the Word is not a bad thing, but knowing the Word and living it are very different. By understanding and actively living our lives in alignment with the Word of God, we give ourselves the best opportunity to grow in our faith. It is a mature faith, like a mature tree, that will produce a maximum kingdom harvest. And how do we do that? Abide in Him.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Realize that these words from John 15:7 are not figurative, nor are they intended just to make you feel good. This is Christ promising us a blessing for our obedience. It is God’s will that we abide in Him, that we rely upon His teaching, and that we seek His guidance for all things in our lives. When we do so, God will bestow upon us the blessings that He has waiting for us. Because when we trust God enough to abide in Him completely, He will do wonderful things in our lives that will cause much fruit to be produced. This promise is found later in John 15:16 as Christ reminds us that, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Consider yourself a seed planted by God. He chose the time and the place. He provides the elements needed to be healthy. He prunes and cultivates us to help us grow strong. All of this to ensure the harvest will be abundant and of the highest quality. What in turn does the seed need to do? It must only stay put. To remain in place.
To abide in Him.