Once we move past identifying the characters in this teaching (Jesus is the vine, God the Father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches), we can clearly see the focus is on bearing fruit (more fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains). But the key to having a relationship with the Lord that allows us to bear the kind of fruit that brings glory to the Father (John 15:8), is being able to “abide” in Him, in the vine. In fact, we find that phrase repeated over and over again in this amazing discourse. Consider the following:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)
So the concept of abiding is not something to be taken lightly. Obviously, it is a description of the relationship Jesus has with the Father, and the relationship all Three share in the Godhead. And the amazing thing is that He commands us, no, He invites us to abide in Him the way He also abides in His Father. What a wonderful privilege He offers each of us.
But let’s address the elephant in the room, the $64,000,000 question. What does abide in this passage really mean?
United in Heart, Mind, and Will
On a simple level, the word abide (ménō) means to “remain, dwell, live.” In John 15:11, the word is translated “remain” when it says “that My joy may remain (ménō) in you.” But the word has a much deeper meaning than that. In John’s writings, it conveys more with the mechanics of the relationship between one thing or person and another. Thus the context of (ménō) could be “remain in or with someone.” We see this in 1 John 2:19 where (ménō) is translated “continued with us.”
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us (ménō); but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:19)
In John 15 (ménō) means “to be and remain united with Jesus, one with Him in heart, mind, and will, and to remain steadfast, unwavering in that relationship.” Now, that changes everything.
“Abide (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in Me, and I (abide) in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in Me.” (John 15:4)
But it gets better. Next, He tells us how to bear fruit to bring the Father glory and to prove we are His disciples (John 15:8).
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who (what) abides (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in Me, and I (abide) in him, (what) bears much fruit; (how) for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
As I shared in my last post, this is only the beginning. Join with us as we endeavor to grow closer to the Lord by becoming a fruitful branch of His vine, for the glory of the Vinedresser. Because at this time in our history, nothing else really matters.
The following is a study on John 15:3-5 on how to Abide in Him.
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His initial message was the same as John the Baptist. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). And throughout the next three years, one underlying theme in His teaching was about life in His Kingdom. When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach His message, He said, “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ ” (Matt. 8:11). Jesus even told those close to Him why He spoke to the crowds in parables. And His answer had to do with concealing from some the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven. He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matt. 13:11). Which begs the question, what does it mean to follow Jesus? And what is life like in His kingdom?
Finally, He shared parables specifically pointed to revealing what the kingdom of heaven, His Kingdom, was like. He said it was like a “man who sowed good seed in his field” (Matt. 13:24). Or, it was like a “mustard seed” which, being small, grew into a tree “so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matt. 13:31). Jesus likened His Kingdom to “leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened” (Matt. 13:33). And to express how wonderful His Kingdom is for those who possess it, He said it was like a “treasure hidden in a field” (Matt. 13:44) or a “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:46) that was worth all one had on earth.
Jesus then asked His disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord” (Matt. 13:51).
I wonder what our answer would be today? Do we understand His Kingdom? Do we fully know what it means to follow Him? Can we honestly say we are proficient in following Jesus?
I’m not so sure. And maybe you aren’t either.
What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus and Live in His Kingdom?
Let’s just take a flyover view of the first few chapters in Matthew and see if we can determine some principles and instructions for what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven. And then compare them to what we teach in church today, and I think you’ll be as shocked as I was.
Blessed… or Not So Blessed – Matthew 5:3-12 Self Identity – Matthew 5:13-16 His Standard of Righteousness – Matthew 5:20 Anger – Matthew 5:21-26 Lust and/or Sexual Sin – Matthew 5:27-30 Marital Relationships – Matthew 5:31-32 Oaths and Dishonesty – Matthew 5:33-37 How to Respond to Evil – Matthew 5:38-42 How to Respond to Haters – Matthew 5:43-47 Be Perfect – Matthew 5:48 Self-Promotion – Matthew 6:1-4 How to Pray – Matthew 6:5-13 How Much Forgiveness? – Matthew 6:14-15 Fasting and Other Disciplines – Matthew 6:16-17 Our Life Focus – Matthew 6:19-21 Everyone Serves Somebody or Something – Matthew 6:24 Worry, Doubt, and Fear – Matthew 6:25-34 I’m Right and You’re Wrong – Matthew 7:1-2 I’m Good and You’re Bad – Matthew 7:3-6 What is a Life of Faith – Matthew 7:7-11 Treat Others Like You Treat Yourself – Matthew 7:12 Turnstile or Interstate – Matthew 7:13-14 Fruit Inspector – Matthew 7:15-20 Doing and Not Just Talking – Matthew 7:21-23 Don’t Be Stupid! – Matthew 7:24-27 Minister Within Your Reach – Matthew 8:1-17 Everything Costs Something – Matthew 8:18-22
And so much more!
Remember, following Christ means to forget everything we think we know about everything but Him, and simply trust in child-like faith. Our entire reality now changes, as citizens in His Kingdom, to something incredible and supernatural.
Do you want to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus? If so, then keep listening.
The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.
We have looked at what it takes to become a Faith Prepper over the last few weeks. We did this by learning to pray at all times by letting the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, direct your prayers. And we also spent some time learning how to trust at all times by allowing your faith to grow by having it exercised in often unpleasant situations. But even with all of this, we still are plagued with a few questions.
How do we go from talking about faith to living by faith?
How do we learn to trust the Lord in all things?
How do we know and understand His will?
What are the practical steps we need to take to surrender our all to Him?
And how can we go about doing just that?
The answer, according to Scripture, is found in the single word, surrender. It means “to yield, give up or over, submit, abandon, relinquish, cede, waive, or capitulate. From the Christian perspective, it means to relinquish ownership of what we consider ours: our property, rights, time, decisions, future, independence, basically our life.
Surrender, like most things, is a choice.
The classic passage on total surrender is found in Galatians 2:20. It reads: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
But there is so much more.
Everybody Serves Somebody
In order to surrender our life to the Lord, we must first recognize we are created as a triune being. We consist of three parts: mind, body, and will. Total surrender comes when we purposely and with intention surrender all parts of ourselves to Him.
First, we must surrender our mind.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every (what) thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
Next, we must surrender our body to the Lord. And then finally, we must surrender our will to the Lord.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” – Luke 9:23-24. Note both “desire” and “deny himself, and take up his cross daily”. This speaks of both the surrender of the will and the body or flesh.
Remember, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit because you desire to be filled nor because you confess your sins or present your body a living sacrifice— you are filled by faith. So it is with a surrender to the Lord. If we are willing but find your flesh weak, God is strong and will complete what you are unable to do. What God is initially looking for is your willingness to be all His. It all begins with desire.
One final note, if you believe God is good and He is sovereign, can you give me one reason not to fully submit and surrender yourself to Him?
Me neither. Other than pride. And that’s not a good thing.
So where are you in your journey to surrender your life to the Lord? Have you surrendered yourself and left your life in His hands? Or have you, like many today, surrendered one moment and then snatched it out of His hands the next? Are you tired of the endless struggle and sense of failure? If so, then keep listening.
The following is a study on How to Surrender Your Life to the Lord.
Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer’s ancient adage proves true: Familiarity Breeds Contempt. It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love. It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter.
What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best? What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, “we’ve lost that lovin’ feelin'”? What happens then?
How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering? We find the answer in the Lord’s letter to His church in Ephesus.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord. They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” – Revelation 2:2-3.
In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.
“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character). And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work).”
I get tired just reading all that they did. But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus. The relationship!
“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)” – Revelation 2:4.
Sobering words. The Lord said He is “against” them… even after all the good they had done. How could that be? And what can they do to right their sinking ship?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard.
“Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent” – Revelation 2:5.
Do You Remember?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard. Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:
What does it mean to remember?
Take a moment and remember your first few weeks as a new creation in Christ.
What were you like?
Back then, how would you feel about yourself now?
Did you make any promises to the Lord that you would not even think of making today?
Did you keep whatever promises you made to Him?
Has your relationship with Him cooled over time?
If so, did it happen gradually, like a slow leak?
Or did it happen all at once?
What do you remember about that time?
There is so much more to remember. To find out about the forgotten discipline of remembering, keep listening.
There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice. And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with. Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable? The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings. And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.
After all, we sing songs about Him being a “good, good Father.” Do we really mean it? Or is that just for church?
The question or choice is simply this:
Are you in? Or are you out?
If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question. Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions: “Do I continue in the course that seems right to me? Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known? How much faith do I really have?”
We call these moments Divine Interruptions.
In this message, we’ll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:
James and John and Peter and Andrew
And finally, Hosea.
A Personal Note
And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude. In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry. And I rejoice in that. Why? Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.