In John 15 Jesus is giving his disciples some final words before his departure. Jesus uses the analogy of a vine and says that the disciples must “remain in him”, and if they do then he will “remain in them”. He also says that without him, or without remaining in him, we can do nothing! If we do not remain in him then we are like a branch that withers and is cut off. The old Bible language uses the word “abide” rather than remain and this at some levels speaks of a deeper intimacy and tenderness. If we abide in Jesus then his Father the gardener will prune us and in time we will bear much fruit.
No matter how hard I try or how competent I am or how much Bible knowledge I have or how much I do in serving others, if I don’t remain in Jesus I can do nothing. Nothing that will last or be fruitful anyway. It seems that remaining in Jesus is a choice we make. If we take ourselves out of the vine and away from the life giving flow then we will wither and die spiritually. However, Jesus promises that through remaining or abiding in him we will naturally produce fruit without even trying. This may require some pruning and seasons of dormancy, but in season fruit will form.
This passage also makes me reflect on Psalm 1, where another botanical image is used by the Psalmist. Here the analogy is of a tree planted or abiding by streams of living water. Through its location and remaining or abiding near the water source the leaves of the tree never wither no matter what heat comes. It flourishes and again produces fruit “in season”. No matter what season we are in individually or in our ministry areas or as a church, the invitation from Jesus is personal, and it is ongoing and active. Abide in me. Find your life in me. Trust the pruning of my Father. We can choose not to abide in Jesus. We can position ourselves away from the vine and away from the living water. But if we do that, in time we will wither and we won’t produce fruit. What does it look like for you to daily abide in Jesus? What can you do to connect your life directly into his? How can we as a church community continue to be Jesus centred and abiding in him so that through him we might see growth and life and fruit in season?
For me the answer is threefold. Firstly to spend time in his word, soaking in scripture regularly. Secondly to spend time in prayer, not just with wish lists or request, but in conversation and dialogue and thanksgiving and worship. And thirdly to take time to listen and invite the Holy Spirit to be speaking to us. Schedule times of solitude and reflection and adopting a posture of listening to God. All of that will help us Abide in Jesus.
Grace and Peace - Garry