Abiding in the Vine

Part One


A family of six went on a journey. Dad, mom, and children between the ages of six and twelve packed into the car. It was a surprise trip. All the children knew was that they were going somewhere to have fun. It was summer, so they were hoping there was water involved. Mom packed some suitcases so they assumed that they were going somewhere distant. As the car rolled down the freeway the kids settled in, expecting a long trip. To their surprise, they were on the road for less than two hours when they pulled into an exclusive park. It was not a water park but there were two lakes, a small pond for the little ones, each lake had two slides and diving boards. There were hiking trails into beautiful wooded areas with caves and other adventuresome things to do.  All the children had a good time and enjoyed themselves greatly. They stayed in a hotel right next to the spacious park. There are two things about this story that reflect the Christian journey. Where we are going is not always what we expect. The children were expecting an amusement park or a water park. They experienced something different but just as good if not better. So, with us, we are on our way to Paradise if we belong to Jesus. The Lord has revealed very little about it. It may not be what we expect it to be. The other thing is that they expected a long journey, but it was short.


This is the story of our life. We may think that we are on a long trip, but it is over before we know it. Our lives our short. Because our lives are short and how we live on the journey determines our lives in the next age, we must pay great heed to the words of our Lord and Savior. Some of us are settling in for a long trip. But, we are going to arrive at our destination shortly. Let us ready ourselves for that destination.


Our Scripture reading is John 15:4-14.


[I. Preliminary Considerations] How do we ready ourselves? How do we live in a way that pleases our Lord? It is by abiding in the vine! Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We must abide in him in order to bear fruit. In order to understand this passage we should first define some of the expressions within it. Our Lord is using a metaphor and it is a picture of flourishing in the Father’s vineyard.


What does it mean to abide? The word, “abide,” means to dwell in, to live in. Abiding in Jesus is another way of saying to remain in intimate fellowship with him. This fellowship is close and it is sweet. It is like a house that you have set up just the way you like if money were no object. You might have a fireplace and a big easy chair. You have just the right lamps with just the right lighting. And you have the peaceful company of your favorite people. It is a place that you rejoice to abide in. So it is with Jesus. When we are in intimate fellowship with him it is so sweet and we are at peace being there. We are at peace, but we are also receiving a rich supply in our spirit.


What does it mean to bear fruit? What is fruit? The apostle Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit being those character qualities that show forth God’s own character. But that is not the fruit spoken of here. In verse 16 we read,


            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.

(John 15:16 ESV)


Jesus says that he chose his original disciples and appointed them to bear fruit. When did he do that? We read about that in Matthew, chapter 4:


            While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

(Matthew 4:18-20 ESV)


This is when he chose them and he chose them to become fishers of men. Again, in the gospel of John, also the fourth chapter we read:


            Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

(John 4:35-38 ESV)


Fruit is not just apples and oranges. Fruit is just the product of growth. The fields contained the fruit of the plant, which is the grain. The grain is harvested. Jesus is telling his disciples, he is telling us, to see that the fields are white with fruit. It is time to gather!


Abiding in the vine will bear fruit and this fruit is the souls of men and women.


The last phrase that we must clarify is found in verse 6:            “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.”

(John 15:6 ESV)


Remember that the vine is Christ. We are in the vine. That is, we are in Christ. An unbeliever is not in Christ nor can he be. This teaching of our Lord is concerning his genuine followers. What does it mean, then, to be “thrown into the fire, and burned?” It cannot mean to suffer eternal perdition. Jesus has promised that will never happen to any of his own (See John 10:28-29). Therefore, this burning is the same one described by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 3:10-15. There, Paul describes a burning that still leaves a person saved. It is a divine chastisement at the Judgment Seat of Christ. When Jesus teaches about the abiding it becomes plain that, as a follower of his, we can still find ourselves as those who are not abiding. As Christians, we can abide in Christ or we may fail to abide in him.


With respect to these preliminary considerations, we must also see that this abiding is a mutual abiding. We abide in Christ and he abides in us.


Abiding in Christ is essential for both a victorious and a joyful life. Do you want to abide in him? There is no way to live the Christian life without abiding in him! I hope this is your great desire – to abide in Christ! How do we abide in Christ?


[II.] In order to abide in Christ, his words must abide in us. In verse 4 Jesus says, “Abide in me and I in you.” There is the mutual abiding.


In verse 5 he again says, “Whoever abides in me and I in him…” Then, in verse 7, he says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” Why did the Lord change “Abide in me and I in you” to “abide in me and my words abide in you”? It is because the Lord abiding by himself is rather mysterious. Just to say that the Lord abides in us is beyond us. It is hard to understand practically.


To say and even believe that the Lord is abiding in us can be true and good but, by itself, it is not that helpful. How can the Lord be practically available to us? Put another way, how can the Lord make his presence, his abiding, known to us? It is to let his words abide in us!


In order to experience the mutual abiding – for him to abide in us and we in him – his words must abide in us.


There was a family that lived near a large church building. They didn’t have much money. In fact, they lived in a tent. It was a nice tent, but it was still a tent. It was a large tent, but it was still a tent. It was a new tent, but it was still a tent. The pastor of the church said, “I don’t think that this family has many resources. It is Thanksgiving. Invite them to the big feast we are going to have on Thanksgiving Eve. So, they were invited and they came. This church was in Europe where it is quite common to have wine with one’s meals. The family was enjoying the feast when the wine was brought out. Those serving poured the wine into goblets for the parents and the older children. When they did the family said, “We will drink no wine, for Jon, our great-grandfather commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you or your children forever. You shall not build a house. You shall not ever be farmers. You shall live in tents all your days and God will bless you.’ We have obeyed the voice of Jon and have done all that he has commanded us.”


What do you think of these people? Some of you may be thinking, “Well, the wine part is wise. But the part of not becoming farmers and not building houses, that is just crazy!”


What does God think of this family? We can actually know what God thinks because this story is out of the Bible! I just changed the circumstances to make it fit a more modern era. This is the story of the Rechabites found in Jeremiah 35. Here is what God thinks of this family:


            But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me.”

(Jeremiah 35:18-19 ESV)


You see, none of those commands were from the Lord. Wine is not forbidden. Only the excess of wine is forbidden. And, of course, farming and building houses is not only permitted, but encouraged. Yet, the Lord commends the family for obeying the commands of their ancestor. 


Here is the point: if it is a good thing to know and obey the commands of our parents and ancestors, how much better to know and obey the commands of God! It pleases God greatly! The Lord’s words must abide in us if we are to please him.


The Lord has two kinds of words that need to abide in us.


[A.] His written words (λογος) need to abide in us. These are the precious words that we have in the Bible. The New Testament contains the four gospels, which record the words of the Lord Jesus. We must make ourselves so very familiar with his words because this is how he practically abides in us. The rest of the New Testament has the words of the apostles. The apostles were given, by the ascended Lord, the Holy Spirit who guided them into all truth. Thus, the apostles have the mind of Christ and their words are his words.


Not only so, but the Old Testament, too, was inspired by the Triune God. The words of the OT are just as much the words of Christ as are the words of the NT because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)


If we are not familiar with his words then they cannot abide in us. In order to abide in Christ, his words must abide in us.


[B.] Not only should his written words abide in us but his spoken words (ρημα) need to abide in us. These can also be called his instant words – the words that we hear (not audibly, but in our spirit) in times of need. Many times the instant words that we get are the written words that we have read. If we have memorized them they come easily. But, even if we have not, they come and it is more than just a recollection of our memory. The Spirit brings them into our consciousness just when we need them. There have been many times that I have received a verse at just the right time even though I may not have read that verse for over a year.


But, if we do not read and meditate upon Christ’s words we will not have this experience.


His instant words can come in other ways if our fellowship with him his unbroken. He communicates to us in our conscience and we must heed his word. Do you know what his favorite word to us is? It is “no.” There are some things we ought not to do because God’s word says not to do it. Maybe we forgot that. Maybe we haven’t even read it. But, as soon as we think about doing it we get a strong sense: “no.” We must heed that no. There are some things that may not be wrong in themself to do, but it is the wrong time or wrong place. We again get that word: “no.”


Another instant word that we receive is “go.” Our natural inclination is to keep ourselves out of uncomfortable situations. But serving the Lord often puts us in uncomfortable situations. If you avoid uncomfortable situations then you will end up disobeying the Lord’s word. If you wish for his words to abide in you then you must obey the word “go.”


There is yet another word that he speaks to us. It is “so?” We will have more to say about this in part two of this message, but it seems like Christians are so easily offended. Bad feelings, offenses, and dissolutions of fellowship are, sadly, common occurrences among the churches in our land. When a brother or sister says something or does something that you find offensive you may hear two voices (not audible). One is the voice of your own pride. It says, “Who does that person think she is that she can just…(fill in the blank)” The other voice is the Lord’s. He says, “So what? It is a small thing.” This is what Peter refers to when he writes, “love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)


Listen to the instant word of the Lord whether he is saying no, go, or so. By heeding both the written and instant words of the Lord he abides in us and we, in turn, abide in him. The fellowship is so sweet and we are at peace.


[III. Conclusion of Part One] We are on our way, but the journey is shorter than we think. There is no time to waste. If we do not abide in the vine now then we will be able to do nothing for the Lord and we will arrive at our destination with nothing to show. But if we abide in Him – Oh! – how everything changes! We receive the supply of divine life that we so desperately need and we are empowered to live in accordance with our calling, enjoying the journey along the way.


The way to abide in the vine is by having his words abide in us. Do not a let a day go by without reading and meditating upon his word. Allow it to become a part of you. Next time, if the Lord permits, we will see the other two modes that Jesus presents as the means by which we abide in him and he abides in us. Until then, let us love his word.