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Abiding in Christ

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.
(John 15:1-4 NLT)

In John 15 a picture of true relationship with God is presented. John teaches the reader how to “abide” and stay connected to God. This process is the core of the Christian faith. It is my goal in life to practically understand what this passage means almost 2000 years after it was written. If abiding in Christ is possible then it can only be accomplished thorough the process of pruning, staying connected to the power of God, and having confidence in the stability of the vine.

First we must realize that pruning is essential for plants to grow healthy and properly. There are times when branches have to be cut off so that the entire organism can grow in the way it was intended. John 15:2 states that “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.” There have been times in my life where I was the branch that did not bear fruit. I was not growing in Christ and was not useful to God. I was not worthless to Him, but outside of the purpose that I was intended for God did not use me. It took me several years of struggling with sin before I came to the realization that I was not accomplishing anything with my life as it was. I did not feel God leading my life until I decided to allow Him into my life again. It was at this time that I began to see how God could use me. As I began to open my life up to Him He began to do some powerful things through me. I knew this was not my doing, but only God at work in me. This was an exciting time in my life, but things were still not perfect. I found myself trying to hold on to things that had nothing to with the Kingdom of God. There were relationships and priorities that I had that were keeping me from fully participating in the power of God. As I allowed God to “prune” me and take away the obstacles in my spiritual life the fruit steady came forth from my life. Without that pruning I would still be a useless stick today.

Next I had to stay connected to the power of God. John 15:4 reminds us that “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” I take this to simply mean that I am nothing without God. An appliance is only as good as the power source that it is connected to. If the source of power is gone then that tool is basically just another pretty piece of metal. It is in this context that I understand that I have to stay connected to God in order for my life to have purpose.

I remember well those days when I made plans for how my life was going to end up. By the time I was thirty years old I was supposed to have three children, a PhD, a big house, and be well into my career as a criminologist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have not accomplished those endeavors, but most importantly I never gave those ideas a chance of fruition because I attempted to do them all on my own. I never presented these issues to God. I never asked Him if this was part of His will. I simply told Him this was the way it was going to be. See I was disconnected from the power of God and the fruit did not come. I was the brand new power saw who had the potential to do just about anything, but I was not plugged into a source of power. I know experience God in a powerful way today because I am earnestly doing my best to stay connected to Him. I pray for His guidance, do my best to love other people, and seek His wisdom in my spiritual journey. These practices keep the power flowing and great things are happening because of this lifestyle that I have adopted.

Finally I have to have full confidence in the stability of the vine. John 15:7 declares “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” This passage speaks to the ability and stability of God. It describes how He is able to provide what the branches need. I do not have to worry about anything because my God is able to take care of me. He does not have so much going on that He forgets about my needs. He is personal to me and knows all about me because of our connectedness. This brings me comfort because I know that when the storms of life hit that I am connected to the one who is rooted deep and cannot be moved. If His stability is questionable then I will not be able to survive. It is with this confidence that I can boldly ask Him for what I need because I am not afraid of being rejected. When the fear of rejection is gone the only thing left is joy and it is in this joy that I serve my Father.

It thrills my soul to know that God is the one doing the pruning, supplying the power to my life and has the ability to meet my needs. In this relationship I look forward to being a part of His process because it always leads to success. I painfully realize that abiding takes patience. There are times when I am getting pruned and do not necessarily desire it. There are times when I want the fruit to come instantly, but it does not come. Thank God that He is the gardener and I am not!

Categories: spiritual formation
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