Abiding in the Vine, Part 1
Abiding in Christ
Abiding in the Vine, Part 1
John 15:4, 8-10
 
We are studying on these Sunday evenings John 15.  Last week we began looking at the analogy Jesus uses He uses to describe what it means to Abide in Christ. Last week, from the first three verses, we looked at the Vine.  That’s Jesus.  We looked at the Vine Dresser.  That’s God.  And we looked the Vine Branches.  That’s us.  And we saw there are two types of branches that describe every person in the church. 
 
There are true branches that produce fruit and there are worthless branches that don’t produce fruit.  Some are pictured by the 11 disciples that remained and were used of God.  Others are pictured through Judas who is in hell tonight. 
 
Tonight we are at verse 4 and the question that comes to my mind as we approach this particular passage is a question that has really prompted me to do the study of this chapter and the question is, “What is really involved in a living vital relationship with Jesus Christ?”
 
I know that is a question that a lot of lost people ask and often, it is in the terms of what’s the big deal about being a Christian. Sometimes it may even be asked sincerely.  What does it mean to be a Christian? 
 
But I’m afraid there are many Christians who don’t really understand what it means either or are confused about what it means.
We talk about knowing Christ and being in Christ and walking with Christ, loving Christ and having a relationship with Christ.  But what does it really mean and involve?
 
There are a lot of ways to try and describe it such as it's like two people in love, experiencing each other. Or we could say it's like a father and a son relationship where there's give and take and love and respect. Or we could say it's like two friends with a deep, deep friendship. Or we could say perhaps it's like two brothers who share things and who defend each other.
 
There are a lot of different analogies that could be used, but I believe Jesus has chosen for us what is the most graphic and descriptive and revealing  analogy showing us our relationship to Jesus Christ and His to us and His analogy is that of a vine and branches.
 
There are so many truths in the analogy of a vine and a branch that can be brought into the context of the Christian life.  For instance, if we want to talk about growing in Christ, it perfectly illustrated by a vine and a branch.
 
If we want to describe how we are nothing in ourselves but gather all of our strength from Him, that is perfectly illustrated in the vine and the branch.
 
We talk about the fact that as believers our lives are filled with His energy, His power, His resources and again that is perfectly illustrated by a vine and a branch.
We talk about the fact that we of ourselves can't produce fruit, but it must come from His power through us and that is exactly illustrated again in a vine and a branch.
 
So when Jesus talks to His followers about the relationship that have and enjoy with Him, He uses the analogy of a vine and a branch.
 
Now at the same time, He also has a lot to say about those who don’t have that relationship and the end result of those as they are cut off and thrown away and burned. 
 
Now in our study for tonight, Jesus continues this analogy. And He does so by making a very passionate plea in verse 4 and it is found in the first three words. 
 
Verse 4a
 
Now this is the plea of Jesus. He is looking at His followers and He has in mind those are then and all those down through the centuries who will be attached to Him. 
 
And He is painfully aware that some of them are just superficial.  Maybe they go to church, maybe they even claim to be devout in more than just going to church.  They may show up at Bible study once in a while. They talk about their relationship to Jesus but they aren't for real.
 
And the plea Jesus makes is for them to “Abide in Him." In other words, be a for real branch.
 
Now last week we saw that the first way you can tell a true branch is a true branch bears fruit.
 
Now we discover a second way.  True branches abide in Christ. What does it mean to “abide in Christ”?
 
In verses 4 through 11, John shares three things about abiding in Christ.  First, he gives the basic meaning of abiding. Then he shares the blessings of abiding branches and last, the burning of non-abiding branches.
 
Tonight we are going to look at
 
1. The Basic Meaning of Abiding
 
verse 4
 
Now the plea of verse 4 is primarily aimed at those who are phony branches.  When He says “Abide in Me”. It’s just another way of saying “Be saved”. 
 
This is an appeal to those like Judas who are superficially attached to Jesus, but not really in.  This is the husband who comes occasionally to pacify his nagging wife.  This is the church member who shows up because it is the respectable thing to do.  It is these and a hundred other instances of those who outwardly appear to be Christians, but they aren’t. 
 
It appears in a lot of different ways.  There are some young people who come to church because they want to be involved in a youth program or be with their friends.   So they went forward in an invitation or responded at Falls Creek because everyone else died, but it wasn’t real. 
 
On and on the list goes of those who are only externally connected to the church and Christ, but there is no reality to the relationship. 
 
So Jesus calls to all who have made a statement or an apparent identification and says be for real.
 
Now we know He speaking to the lost because in verse 4 we discover these are fruitless branches and we are told every branch that is real bears fruit.  So He says to these are fruitless, abide.  Get saved.  Because the only way to be the branch God designed you to be is to abide. 
 
Now the word "abide" simply means to remain, stick around, Jesus says, be for real and give evidence that you're for real by remaining.
 
Now be careful to not misunderstand what that means.  It’s not that remaining in Christ saves you.  That would put your whole salvation on your ability to hang in there. It's not that remaining in Christ saves you.  Rather it's that remaining in Christ is the evidence that you are saved.
 
We see it all the time.  “Ol’ so-and-so used to come to church all the time. He was here and in Sunday School class and he did this and served there, and then all of a sudden, boom, he was long gone. He's never been back and as far as I know, he’s never gone to church again.  What happened to him?"
 
I'll tell you what happened to him, he proved that he never was real to begin with because he didn't abide. If a man really knows Jesus Christ, it is the character of that salvation experience for that man to abide in Christ.
And the false will always leave sooner or later. If they had been real they would have stayed. The true believer stays.  So Jesus calls to every apparent disciple to show the truth and the reality of his discipleship by remaining in Christ, not to be a Judas disciple.
 
Now, I want to insert something before we go to much farther.  That seems to be awfully black and white.  You're either in or you're out. Aren’t there exceptions?  There are some exceptions and we’ll talk about those eventually, but don’t miss what Jesus is saying right off the bat about abiding.  A true believer abides. A nonbeliever sooner or later departs and that's how you can tell whether somebody's for real or not.
 
Watch what verse 4 says.  Included with this warning to the lost branch is a marvelous promise to the saved branch. 
 
In some many words, Jesus says, “When you abide in me, I also abide in you.”  It’s not a threat that if we don’t abide, He’ll pull up stakes and leave.  Rather, He’s talking about the relationship that every child of God enjoys.  Jesus says, “If you're for real, I'm for real in you.”
 
Now listen:  not everybody in the world can claim that promise. The only person that could claim the promise of the constant abiding presence of Jesus Christ is the one who is constantly abiding in Christ. Abide in Me and I'll abide in you. Throughout the News Testament we hear about being in Christ and Christ being in us.
 
So as true branches, we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, the true vine.  We abide in Christ and Christ abides in us.  And that's a permanent, eternal relationship. But to the professing Christian, it is a warning that if he isn't for real, then Christ isn't there either. 
 
The same concept is repeated in verse 8.
 
Now why is He saying that? He's saying bear much fruit in the sense that again He is saying be a for real disciple.  How do we know that’s what He’s saying?  Notice the end of verse 8:  "So you will be My disciple."
 
In other words, My disciples bear fruit. It's just another way of saying abide, it's another way of saying remain. It's another way of saying be a true believer. It's another way of saying be a real disciple because only the real disciple bears fruit. It's the only one that bears fruit is the real disciple. The unbeliever bears no fruit. The one superficially connected to Jesus bears no fruit.
 
Then He says it another way in verse 9.
 
A “for real” disciple doesn't come into the love of Christ and then leave it again. He continues. Be for real. Be for real. Abide. Remain.
 
Then He repeats it another way in verse 10
 
So He says to them abide, bear fruit, continue in My love, obey My commandments. Those are all saying basically the same thing.
 
A true disciple obeys the commandments of Jesus Christ. A true disciple continues in His love. A true disciple bears fruit. A true disciple abides in Christ, remains there all his life from the moment of salvation till his death. A true disciple is what Jesus wants. And His heart has been broken and shattered by Judas. And in effect He is saying no more Judas branches, be for real.
 
And then at the end of verse 10, Christ offers Himself as the perfect example of abiding.
 
Verse 10b
 
You know what Jesus wants? He wants the kind of relationship with us that He has with God. He abides in the Father and He's never going to depart from that, and He wants us to abide in Him in the same way.
 
And He is pleading with his hearers who aren’t really connected to get attached to Jesus and abide, bear fruit, continue in My love, keep My commandments and this will show you're real.  Be for real, is what He is saying.
 
And that's a perfect portrait of a true Christian. The true Christian remains in Jesus Christ and never leaves. A true Christian bears fruit.  A true Christian stays in His love. A true Christian obeys His commandments.  And Jesus wraps all that up into one word and says, “Abide”.
 
Now when Jesus says that, He is talking John’s language.  John was black and white.  You will find no place in his writings where he classifies believers into different groups. He just says believer/unbeliever.  It’s black/white.  Believers do this, unbelievers do that. Believers have eternal life, they drink the eternal water, they never thirst. Unbelievers always thirst.
 
Now sometimes, even though you're a believer, you get a little thirsty, right? But John doesn't deal with that. Believers don't thirst; it’s unbelievers that thirst.
 
Then he talked about the bread of life in chapter 6. Believers never hunger, unbelievers always hunger.
 
Now be honest, as a believer, do you ever get a little bit hungry for the Word, for spiritual truth? Sure you do. But John isn't messing with exceptions. That's it, just clear cut. John always presents the ideal pattern designed by God, never messes with the exception.
 
Let me show you what I mean by looking at what John wrote in 1 John. It seems to be a little bit baffling, but if you understand the mindset and perspective of John, you see it. 
 
First John 1:8
 
Now there he says one thing: believers confess, unbelievers deny their sin.  There is a distinct contrast. Believers always confess, unbelievers always deny. Now obviously, there are occasions when believers also don't confess as they should, but John doesn't fool with those. Just, boom, that's it.
 
Chapter 2 verse 3
 
John says, unbelievers disobey, believers obey, period. Now do believer ever disobey? Sure, but John doesn't worry about the exception. He again is drawing the line clear cut.
 
Chapter 2 verse 9
 
You mean a believer never stumbles? John says don't fool around with the exceptions, I'm just drawing the lines.
 
Verse 11
 
Is there anybody in this world that you don't love and you're a Christian? Again you have an exception. But John says believers always love their brother, unbelievers never do. Don't fool with the exceptions, I'm just drawing the line clear.
 
Now you have the same thing in chapter 2 verse 15 where he says, "Love not the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 
 
Now just be honest, Christian, there are some things in the world we like a whole lot, right?  But John seems to saying you are going to go to hell because you love that new car you’ve been looking at and admiring!
 
You have the same thing in chapter 3 verse 14 and 15.
 
Did you ever know a believer who didn't love some other believer? Well, I know a lot of them.
He says they abide in death but he’s talking principles, not exceptions.
 
Now watch verse 15
 
Wait a minute, John.  You can't say that. You can't say that if you just hate some guy you're going to go to hell if you're a Christian. But once again, he is simply drawing the black and white distinctions.
 
Maybe the most difficult of all is chapter 3:6, 8-9.
 
Now don't you get the idea that John really draws the line clear cut? John doesn't fool with the exceptions. You say, "Well, didn't he know that some of us Christians might not like some other believer? Didn't he know we might blow it and disobey? Didn't he know we might sin?"
 
Sure he did, but I like him because he puts the ideals where they belong. He's concerned with the positional truths and the general patterns of life. It is the general pattern of a believer that he does not disobey, he loves his brother and he avoids sin. That's the general pattern and John doesn't sweat the exceptions.
 
You say, "Well, he must have known about them." Of course he did.  Listen to chapter 2 verses 1 and 2.
 
Now, that's John. There he is again point blank. But then he says, "But if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
 
We must always keep in mind there are general principles and patterns in the Word of God that distinguish a believer from an unbeliever. John draws them absolutely clear cut.  Sure there are exceptions and times when a believer sins and hates his brother and doesn't obey as he ought.  There are times when a believer doesn't confess his sin before God as he should.  But those are the exceptions, not the general pattern of a Christian’s life. 
 
Now all of that to ask you this:  Could there be times then, when a Christian also doesn't abide in the vine as he should?  Of course there are. But the general pattern of the life of a branch is to abide.
 
Now, as we go back to John 15, I want us to look at the concept of "abide in me" with that in mind.  I’m not talking about reaching absolute perfection and never messing up.  I’m talking about the Christian who for a day, an hour, a week or whatever may have a lapse in his relationship with Christ and he may cease to abide in the fullest sense of the word.  That means this passage is not limited only to the unbeliever.  It could be talking about a believer also.
 
After all, if we were constantly abiding, there would never be any need to prune us an pruning is just as much a part of the passage as is the cutting off and being burned. 
 
So if there is an application to Christians and the plea of Jesus is for not only lost people to be saved, but Christians to fully abide also, then how is that a Christian can fail to abide?
 
 
Let me show you an example from 1:6.  Now in the book of Galatians, Paul is writing to Christians and listen to what he says
 
Galatians 1:6
 
The Galatians started believing a whole lot of lies and Paul says you're not abiding.
 
What was the problem? 
 
Galatians 3:3
 
You know what they were doing? They were saved in the energy of the Holy Spirit but they were living in the energy of the flesh. They had become legalistic and Paul says, "How did this happen?  You’ve stopped abiding and you've started living like an independent branch trying to produce its own fruit."
And it can't be done.
 
You want to know what it means to abide as a believer? Here it is as simple as I know how to say it:  Stay close to Jesus. A branch is a lot better off if it's connected to the vine.
 
You could say, "Well, this branch is doing pretty good, it's only a half an inch away." Sorry to tell you, but to dwell a half an inch away is to dwell in death. To abide is to be totally connected to Jesus Christ in the fullest sense and as the vine sends its energy through that branch to bear fruit, so Christ can send His energy through you.
 
To abide isn't complicated, it's so simple. It just means remain lovingly and obediently close to Jesus Christ and all of His energy will surge through you and fruit will be produced.
 
By the way, let me give you a little bit of advice.  Stop worrying about your fruit production and instead concentrate on your relationship with Jesus.  Most Christians are far more concerned about what they are producing than they are how close to Jesus they are living.  If you will concentrate on abiding, the fruit will come. 
 
So how do you do it?  What’s the key to abiding?  It’s plain as day right there in verse 7.
 
Listen to what Jesus says.  "If you abide in Me...watch this...and My...what?...words abide in you."
 
What is the key to an abiding relationship to Jesus Christ? It's the Word.  A believer who is in the Word is an abiding believer.  Think about the analogy. A branch must draw it’s nutrition from the Vine.  A Christian is nourished as he feeds on the Word of God and nourishes his soul with the truths of God.  It’s just that simple.  Stays in a close, warm, living, vibrant energized relationship with Jesus Christ and when you do, you abide.  And when you abide, you produce fruit. 
 
Now watch this in verse 4
 
To an unbeliever, that says, “You'll never be for real, you'll never have fruit. To a believer that says, “Don't try to operate independently of Me.”
 
And the point is a detached branch is good for nothing. 
 
Look at verse 4 again, right at the end. 
 
You can't do anything. It's not a question of whether you're strong or weak. It's not a question of whether you're good or bad, brave or cowardly, clever or foolish, experienced or inexperienced. Whatever your gifts, whatever your accomplishments, whatever your virtues, whatever your experiences may be or may have been, they are worthless in helping you produce fruit detached from Jesus Christ.
 
That’s why this concept of abiding is so vital to our existence and purpose as a Christian. 
 
How do you abide? Just get as close to Jesus Christ as you can, get into the Word and you'll be an abiding branch.  Don’t worry about the fruit.  That’s God’s department.  You've got nothing to do with fruit.  You just abide and He'll produce the fruit through you.
 
I love what Philippians 2:13 where we are told that God wills to do of His good pleasure in you. Don't ever worry about the fruit. That's not even your concern. The vine will merely use you to hang the fruit on if you abide.
 
And by the way, the plan is not that the Holy Spirit's going to help you bear fruit. It is an unscriptural prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to help you to bear fruit.
 
Listen:  the Holy Spirit won't help you to bear fruit and He doesn’t need your help to bear fruit either. 
So what do we do?  Just abide. Isn't that good? Do you realize how many Christians are frustrated because they think they have to produce fruit?  Got to produce!  Got to bloom!  Have you ever heard a branch groaning and grunting trying to get the fruit to pop out?  Of course not!  Why not?  Because healthy, abiding branches just bear fruit.  It’s not hard.  It’s not frustrating!
 
You and I are to produce fruit.  Not by trying but by abiding. Just make sure you live close to Jesus Christ and that will take care of the fruit bearing.
 
Think about how that revolutionizes our life.  Have you ever tried to read the Bible or pray or witness, and you wind up saying, "I  know I ought to, but. . .”, and then you don’t?  Or you do, but don’t enjoy it, and it’s just so empty and lifeless.
 
Or you go to church and “just don’t get anything out it?  And everybody around you is talking about how wonderful church was and what they learned in their quiet time and they lead 43 people to the Lord that week?  Isn’t that frustrating? 
 
Do you know why it’s that way so often?  Because it is done in the power of the flesh and not the Spirit.  It’s nothing more than human effort.  If you want all those other things to be meaningful, stop making them the focus of what you do and instead work on the life in Christ.  Then the deeds will all be the result of that relationship. And then the joy will be there. Just be concerned with abiding.
 
You know who wants you to bear fruit a lot more than you do? God does. And you can't do one thing to get it. He knows it's all dependent on Him. Just be a branch. Just be close to Jesus. Get as close as you can by being in the Word, by loving Him, by obeying Him, get His life, His strength, His energy surging through you and there will be fruit everywhere and you won't have done anything but abide.
 
Look at verse 11.  We’ll look at this indetail before long, but just notice what it says tonight. 
 
Would you like to live a life that is full of joy?  What do I have to do?  Read the Bible 18 hours a day and pray the other six and find some time to win 25 souls to Christ? 
 
No, just abide. If you're a superficial branch, don't be a Judas branch.  Be for real, be saved.  Really receive Christ.  Genuinely open your heart and ask Christ in. And if you are a believer, then He says to the believer, remember your general pattern is to abide. Don't let those lapses come. Abide in the fullest sense of all that it means and don't worry about the fruit. Just stay close to Jesus and He'll take care of the fruit. 
 
Let's bow in prayer.
 
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