Abiding in Christ

Recently I was invited be the keynote speaker for the re-launch of a church’s men’s ministry. I was asked to share tools that the men could use to become effective leaders in their homes, church and community. Men love tools! I wrestled with the question, “Given 30 minutes in these men’s lives, what is the one tool I can share with them that will have the greatest impact?”

The answer,  Abide in Christ.

In John 15, Jesus uses the imagery of a Middle Eastern vineyard to teach His disciples about abiding; the new relationship He would have with us in the new covenant.  There are three players in the analogy

  • The Father is the vintner, the owner of the vineyard
  • Jesus is the vine, the life source of the vineyard
  • We are the branches, the ones through which the fruit is produced

In learning about our new relationship with Christ, it is crucial to understand each character’s role. The owner is ultimately responsible for the fruitfulness of the vineyard. He is the one who does all the work, not the branches. The Father is the one who is most concerned about the health of the vineyard and diligently works to produce the best harvest possible.  The key principle here is that God the Father is working in us so that we will live fruitful and influential lives. He is the one doing the work.

The central life of the vineyard is the vine. Jesus is the vine. He is our life source. All of the fruit flows from the vine. The branches simply bear the fruit that the vine produces. All the nutrients are drawn from the soil by the vine.  The nutrients flow through the vine then through the branches where the fruit is produced. Fruit is always consistent with the identity of the plant. We know that a tree is an apple tree because it produces apples. We distinguish a blueberry bush from a blackberry bush because it produces blueberries.  The fruit Jesus refers to in John 15 can be defined as the active expression of Christ’s character in us that nourishes people around us”. People will recognize us as His when they see His life in us. As branches, that’s our job… to simply bear His fruit.

How do we bear His fruit? The same way a vine branch does, by abiding. In fact, abiding is the only way the character of Christ is seen in us. How does a branch abide? By staying connected and being totally dependent on the vine. Everything the branch needs it must get from the vine. If you separate the branch from the vine, it will die and never bear fruit. It’s life is only found in the vine. It does no good to put fertilizer directly on the branch because it can only get its nutrients through the vine. The branch must abide to produce anything. The same is true for us. Trying to manage our life on our own is futile. When we abide we bear a lot of fruit, when we don’t abide we bear no fruit.  Abiding is simply staying constantly connected and desperately dependent on Jesus. Everything in our Christian life flows out of abiding.

Like most homeowners, we have a yard to maintain. In addition to mowing I have to edge it, weed-eat it and blow it.  Instead of buying multiple pieces of equipment, I purchased an all-in-one multi-task tool system which consists of a small engine and interchangeable attachments. Each attachment does a great job as long as it’s connected to the motor. When they’re disconnected they are worthless to me. They are only effective when they’re connected to the power source. The same is true for us. All of the tools at our disposal in the Christian life are useless unless they are connected to the power source.  But when we abide, Jesus does amazing things through us. The secret is staying constantly connected to and desperately dependent on Jesus! Everything God calls us to be and do is accomplished as we abide. Abiding in Christ is the foundational power source of the Christian Life.

Want to learn more about Abiding in Christ? Check out this 5 CD series, Vine Life!

Amy Smithwick