John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
A friend of mine had a tree. It’s upper branches were tall – seemingly majestic in stature. To the passer-by, it looked like the birds enjoyed it’s limbs for refuge. Yet the purpose of those branches was to produce — and they bore no fruit.
Sometimes we can feel like we’re growing and reaching – doing great things for God. And certainly to others we may look like we’re exceeding in the Lord’s work. Let us ask ourselves, is it done out of surrender? Or are we functioning on self-effort?
I for one have an inkling to follow rational thoughts away from leadings of the Holy Spirit. Or I find myself adding things onto the Holy Spirit’s agenda. Doing things my way, whatever seems logical instead of obeying.
On further look, that same tree had new, smaller branches, close down on the trunk. Those branches seemed insignificant, dwarfed in the shadow of the canopy above. Yet they were loaded with good juicy fruit.
When we allow ourselves to remain in God, in His instruction and care — He produces fruit in us. We may feel unworthy, perhaps of humble stature — trivial in His plan. God loves to use those cast aside by worldly standards to do amazing things for His kingdom. When we trust IN HIM. (Hebrews 12:2)
Throughout the old testament we see many unlikely instruments of God. Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-24), and Ruth the moabite (Ruth 1:1-4:22), Moses (Exodus 2:1-40:38, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) , Gidian (Judges 6:1-8:35), Hannah (1 Samuel:1:1-2:11), to name a few. Even David wasn’t a worldly choice for king, but Saul caught the liking of the people (1 Samuel 8:1-16:13). All these people had humble beginnings, yet were notable by their great faith in God, followed by obedience. An exciting section to read on this is the ‘hall of faith’ in Hebrews 11. Even the apostles themselves weren’t considered special, by worldly standards, when Jesus chose them.
Today’s verse reminds us not to go out on our own limb, doing things we think will help God. Our identity, in this passage, are ’the branches’, “because of the word I [Jesus] have spoken to you” (John 15:3). I love this balance of grace and truth. Here, we see God’s grace of the Word (Jesus) already being implanted in us. Then expectations follow, showing us what ‘abiding’ in Jesus looks like.
From the same passage in John 15, we find 4 ‘if’s. The first ‘if’ is a warning, to remain in Jesus, or be thrown away and wither, and burn in the fire. (John 15:6) The second ‘if’ is much more positive, God answers our prayers as we remain in Christ, since we’re on the same page as God. (John 15:7) The last 2 ‘if’s emphasize obeying Jesus’ command to abide in God’s love, loving others as Christ loves us. (John 15:10,14)
It’s simple. Abiding in Christ is not about what we do for God. It’s not about us. It’s about God taking His sovereign place as our God and King. His will working through us, by His grace!
Thank-you Our Father, the Gardner. You are so gracious for enabling us to be branches abiding in You. Help us not to follow our own ideas of what’s right, but to always consult Your Holy Spirit, in accordance to Your word, Your will and ways. ~Amen.
For more on Abiding in Christ see ‘Connected to the True Vine‘.