In John 15, Jesus teaches us that we are to abide in Him as the branches abide in the vine. This is an image of the continuous life of feasting on Christ that we are to have, and there are 3 main truths about abiding in Christ for us to eat this morning.
First, abiding in Christ means feeding off Him. As the branch only has life as it comes from the vine, we only have our spiritual life to the degree that it is Christ who lives in us. He is our heavenly food, the Bread of Heaven, as He offers Himself to us each day. If we feed off Him, then we become spiritually alive and healthy and bear fruit. But if we don’t, then we are like the dead branches we’ve all seen on trees that are still attached to the tree and look like they’re alive, but when you touch them you realize they are dead and brittle and will soon be broken off.
Sometimes, we seem to assume that this abiding in Christ by feeding will happen automatically, without our choosing to eat Christ. But in the Christian life, there is no IV drip, which enables us to lie comatose so that Christ feeds us regardless of our efforts to seek Him. As with the manna in the wilderness, we have to go out and gather it daily.
It’s true that by the grace of the one who planted us in Christ, we have a direct connection to the Vine who is the source of our life. Jesus Christ is in every sphere of our lives, offering Himself to us that we might abide in Him and be fed by and become like Him. But we have to come to Him in order to abide in Him.
Rather than seeing each day as something that just happens or as something that we ourselves direct, what if we began to see each day as the daily bread that Christ is giving us? Furthermore, what if we learned that each day, and all of its events, is the very way that Christ comes to us?
When we awake in the morning and when we go to sleep in the evening, Christ is there to greet us, offering Himself to us as our daily bread, our heavenly food. And we insist on choosing coffee and toast or milk and Lucky Charms instead. Every earthly food that we eat is to be a reminder that Christ is feeding us and that we must lift our mouths and eyes and ears to Him to take Him into us so that we might become Him. And so some of us remember to give thanks for our earthly food, that we might feed off Christ.
But it’s not just the eating of food where Christ is present but every activity of your every day. Each new activity of every day is an activity to which Christ is calling you and is one of His means of feeding you, if only you will abide in Him. It’s been my intention to offer a brief prayer before I begin every new activity of the day so that I may continually feed off Christ and see Him in all things. I realize how imperfectly I’ve been doing this the last several weeks, and so I’ll begin again.
Andrew Murray wrote: “We begin to number our days not from the sun’s rising over the world, or by the work we do or the food we eat, but the daily renewal of the miracle of the manna – the blessedness of daily fellowship with Him who is the Life and the Light of the world.”
Second, abiding in Christ means being pruned by the Father (verse 2.) God’s pruning of us, also known as His loving discipline, and which comes in the many species of suffering and not getting what we want – is to teach us to abide in Him and to help us to bear more fruit. Without the suffering in our lives, we are much too likely to think that we have gotten the good things in our lives by ourselves – that we are autotrophs who produce their own food. If God doesn’t prune us, we grow chaotically for the sake of growth, and all of our growth is self-directed; all of God’s good gifts go to make us obese on His goodness because we have not expended His heavenly food on others, which is the fruit of love.
The suffering in your life is one of the greatest ways to abide in Christ and live in Him. If it’s true that our life is in Christ and that He abides in us and we in Him, then we get all of Christ: the glory, yes, but also the suffering. This week above all other weeks should remind us of this principle: first comes the suffering of the Crucifixion, and then the glory of the Resurrection. First comes Good Friday, and then Easter.
The suffering that is in your life is the suffering that God has assigned you. It is a personalized cross, lovingly measured and handcrafted by the Master Carpenter just for you. Your cross, the suffering in your life, becomes the means of participating in and abiding in Christ and His Cross, to which you are united. But only if you seek Christ through it; otherwise, suffering is just suffering (which stinketh!)
Therefore, when you see suffering in your life, greet it as Jesus Christ Himself, who is coming with His Cross for you.
Finally, abiding in Christ means bearing fruit. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (verse 4.) “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (verse 8.)
A vine is planted for the fruit it yields, and it is judged on this basis. The vine and the branches do not exist only for themselves. What, then, is the fruit of which Christ speaks and which we are to bear? Primarily, it is to be made like Christ in all things. If you abide in Jesus Christ and feed off Him daily and minutely, then you will bear fruit because Christ will be living in and through you. In fact, if you are abiding in Christ, you can’t help but bear fruit. On the other hand, if your life seems dry and not to be bearing fruit; if you are not becoming more like Christ; if you are not sowing His seeds among others: then the odds are you haven’t been abiding in Him as much as you should.
There are many fruits that abiding in Christ yields. Chief among these is the abiding itself, the union with God through Christ that is the goal of all mankind and our greatest dream. Abiding in Christ, living with God, is nothing less than heaven itself.
But there are other magnificent fruits, such as the fruits of the Spirit that are increasingly manifested in us. When we abide in Christ, just as His suffering becomes our suffering (and vice versa), His joy becomes our joy (verse 11.) His love becomes our love (verse 12.)
How was it that the life of Jesus Christ yielded such abundant, sweet, and nourishing fruit? Because He abided in the Father. How did He do this? By perfectly obeying the will of the Father. This, too, is the way we feed off Christ and yield fruit: to obey His commandments. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (verse 10.)
Ultimately, love, that topic which I can’t seem to escape in my meditations on Christ and the Word, is the measure of how much we are abiding in Christ. Love God, obey His commandments, and love your neighbor by serving Him, and you will be abiding in Christ. To the degree that we are obeying God every moment and living in His presence, we will be abiding in Christ. To the degree that you abide in Christ, you will bear fruit, the fruits of love and obedience; of joy and the other fruits of the Spirit; of feeding others in love and spreading the Seed of Christ across the earth; and the most blessed fruit of all: His life-giving, awesome, ecstatic presence with you.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for uniting me to Your Son Jesus Christ and giving me life in and through Him. Lord Jesus Christ, I thank You for feeding me with Yourself, my daily manna from heaven. I ask that You will give me an increased desire to abide in You that I may bear the fruits of the Spirit in my life, and especially the fruit of love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Meditate more deeply on the way you have chosen to abide in Christ today. Prepare to feed off Him in this way. Remember Him in this way throughout the day.
- Renew your vows for Lent one more time, using them as a means of abiding in Christ, and not allowing them to become routine or thoughtless.
Resolution: I resolve to practice one way of abiding in Christ today: seeing Him in my daily life; turning more frequently to Him in prayer; accepting my suffering as His cross for me; giving up myself for another; etc.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day