There are many themes that run through the Bible, and there are many different things that God is calling his children and faithful followers to, but lately one theme has shone brighter to me than all the rest.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15: 4-5 ESV
Here in the gospel of John we see this idea of abiding in Christ, so he will in turn abide in us. John 15 starts out with Jesus explaining to his followers that he is the true vine, and that outside of him we will be “thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” v. 6. To me this is such a heart tugging section of Scripture. The first time I read through this I had to read over it about ten times before I understood what Jesus was saying. My mind was saying, “Wait, so if I’m not abiding in Christ, if I don’t acknowledge that I am attached to the vine, which is Him, I will be thrown into the fire?” YES, that’s exactly what he is saying! Oh how important this little section is!
We see now that it’s important to abide in Christ, but why is it important? Well outside of being “thrown into the fire,” Jesus says that, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (v.4). Outside of Christ we bear no fruit. He gives us the strength, power, courage, will, ability, and the skills to bear fruit to those around us. Why bear fruit? “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (v. 8). To bear fruit is to glorify God, and above all else that is our purpose; that is why He made us in His image, so that we may bring Him glory.
When we abide in Christ, he promises to listen to our requests and prayers.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 7: 7
This is not the only time we hear this promise. We get another glimpse of this idea in 1 John 5: 13-15:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (ESV).
God is listening to those who abide in him and his words. So as the busyness of the semester starts to pick up, as life begins to move in fast forward for another season of life, let’s remember the promises of Christ, let’s remember this idea of abiding in him, so that he will abide in us. So often we get caught in the structures of life and the routine of school and activities and just as easily we forget that Christ wants us to be resting in him. Take some time to read John 15 and think about this idea of abiding in him and bearing much fruit.
Henry Francis Lyte was a man who understood this idea of abiding in Christ. Henry, a Scotsman born in 1793, wrote the famous Hymn Abide With Me while being a pastor of a small parish in Brixhom England. Lyte lived for 54 years, and for almost half of his life he was the pastor of this small parish. At the end of his last sermon he said this: “My desire is to induce you to prepare for the solemn hour which must come to all by a timely appreciation and dependence on the death of Christ.” Lyte struggled his entire life with physical ailments and was said to never have been at 100%, suffering from asthma and tuberculosis almost all of his life. Though his physical strength was weak, Lyte was strong in his faith, and gave us an example of what it means to abide in Christ. Here are the words to his hymn:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.