“Remain in me, and I will 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.” (John 15:4 NIV)
If you think about the truth of this statement by Jesus in John 15:4, in a purely physical sense—that of a literal vine growing in a vineyard or even a tomato vine, it seems too simple to even give much consideration. Duh! Of course the branch needs to stay attached to the vine to grow and bear fruit. Everybody knows that! Cut a branch from a vine and it will shrivel up and die. Why is it then that we seem to have such a hard time applying this Scriptural truth to our lives?
Perhaps some people think that if they are in close proximity to the church that this will be enough for them. Try that in your garden. Cut a branch off, but leave it near the plant and see what happens. Obviously, we don’t even need to try this. We know what will happen—it will quickly lose all signs of life and die. We have to be more than near the church, and still more than being in the church. We have to be “in Christ”, which is to make Him both Savior and Lord. He is our source of life and strength. He is the Vine!
The King James Version uses the word “abide”, which might be more helpful than “remain”. To abide somewhere is to take up residence, to not depart, to continue to be present. A verse later in John 15:5, Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Not only can we not do anything apart from Him, but reading down a bit further in this passage, we find that branches that do not remain in Him are picked up and cast into the fire. This does not just mean that we remain useless, as bad as that would be; this means that a judgment is coming and once we are picked up and thrown into the fire, there is no coming back from that. Once we leave this life, our connection to the Vine or lack thereof determines our eternal fate. The difference with a branch that is picked up and thrown into the fire and a person who is judged to be apart from Christ is that the branch will eventually be burned up and no longer exist. The fate of those who remain apart from Christ will suffer eternally.
So what does it look like to “remain” or “abide” in Christ? Verse 7 answers that question. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Sometimes we’re apt to hear the latter part of that verse and ignore the first part. Don’t make that mistake. We need to remain completely trusting in Him and have His words remaining in us in order to come to Him and make our requests. The difference is that our “asking” will be dramatically different by our remaining in Him.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen