Abide in the Kingdom

 

John 15:1-11

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 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. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

 

Today I want to focus on that archaic word used in this passage: ‘abide’.  It is such a rich word that we have no real modern equivalent for

 

So because we don’t use it at all now, let me explain it: It means in the original Hebrew to dwell, remain or to sit.

Those definitions are active terms: something we do.  But more importantly for us today, it also has a passive meaning: to be inhabited, to cause to sit and dwell. In the KJV its predominant translation is dwell 437, followed by inhabit 221 and sit 172 times. [1]

 

 

It is that passive sense of dwelling, inhabiting and sitting that I want to focus on today.

 

It flows on from what we have spoken about in the last few weeks: of being rather than doing; the BE attitudes; of our role in the Kingdom of God.

 

Yet this little 5 letter word is one of the hardest to actually achieve.

 

In our busyness and activity, the hardest thing for us to do in this world is just to be, to just dwell, to just sit, to just inhabit, to just abide.  We think to be meaningful we have to do, and do and do and do until we die.

 

We speak of mission statements and 5-year plans and purposeful planning, and working things out, making things work. 

 

Let us consider this statement from Richard and Henry Blackaby in their book Spiritual Leadership: moving people on to God’s agenda:

If every time God's people need direction they turn to their core values, then they have inadvertently found a substitute for God. The greatest dangers for apostasy are not departing from God to a distant shore but moving half a degree away from where God wants you to be. In Scripture, an idol was anything you turned to or trusted in that God asked you to go to him for. When a purpose drives what you do, you no longer need to abide in an intimate relationship with Christ or hear his voice. You simply need a list of core values. [2]

 

[Repeat 2nd to last sentence.]

 

I wonder whether the book Purpose Driven Life, and the series 40 Days of Purpose was the right thing to read and to do.

 

Now lets re-read the abide passages from John 15:

 

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. … Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 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.

 

The whole passage is about dwelling, inhabiting, sitting.  I want you to focus on this concept of  abiding.

 

The Fijian born NZer Rasik Ranchord describes abiding as the living union or connection, interpersonal relationship between Christ and us. [3]

 

Abiding does not depend on our strength, growth, feelings, failures, or success, but on his ability to place us in the vine and keep us there [4]

 

Abiding is best illustrated by horticultural analogies.

 

I have fruit trees on our property and at this time of the year I cut out the unruly branches, which are heading in the wrong direction (either crossing others or cutting out the light for others); I cut out the branches which did not fruit last year; I cut out the spindly weak branches; I cut out the diseased branches before they infect the whole tree.

 

And then I have a pile of cut off branches lying on the ground. Can I expect fruit from them? And the answer is clearly no, because they are detached from the tree and detached from the roots which provide nourishment and life.

 

On our front lawn of church, there has been similar activity on our rose bushes and the cut of limbs are evidence of that.  Can I expect flowers from the cut of limbs?

 

When I had a grapevine at our old place, I would cut the branches back to the main stem every year to promote strong vigorous growth and then when the new branches grew, I would nip off that branch 2 leaves past the baby grape cluster, so the goodness went into the fruit and not into unproductive leaves. And I would cut off any branches that did not produce a cluster at all (the rogue leaders).

 

And if I was my poppa (grandfather), I would take a stool and sit down by the vine with nail scissors and cut out the small grapes in the cluster so that the larger stronger grapes would get fat and juicy.

 

The spiritual analogy is obvious.

 

Branches that will not submit to the purpose of the tree, the dead branches, the diseased branches, the non-fruiting leafy branches, the rogue leaders are removed, not by me or the church leadership but by the orchardist – God.

 

God wants us to be fruitful and will do all in his purposes to achieve that in us.

 

Remember, it is God who produces the fruit in us.  Abiding cannot be faked.

 

Michael Wells in his book tells us that there is contrast between the Christian who imitates and the one who abides. Those who work are noisy and feverish; their efforts do not produce a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord. Their fruit, which often will fool others at first glance, will be found merely to be counterfeit. But the believer who has learned the secret of abiding is quiet, refreshing, and full of real life - Christ's life![5]

 

The fragrant, revitalising fruit that is produced by the abiding Christian is the fruit produced not for himself/herself but for others to enjoy, so that others may be renewed and live. It is the ‘breathe out’ that we have been talking about.

 

The abiding Christian never emphasises the doing but focuses on the abiding, and his eyes do not stray from the precious vine. As we said last week: “Seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added to you”. Focus on the Kingdom of God.

 

The abiding Christian has no worries, because he trusts the orchardist and the tree to take care of everything. Again we were reminded last week that we do not add a day to our lives by worrying. Worry is actually a sign of distrust that God can provide for us. It is a sign that we think we have to do it all ourselves.

 

The abiding Christian submits to pruning readily, for each pruning has brought greater closeness to God and more abundant life. If we could ask a tree if it likes being pruned, the answer would probably be “no”. Similarly it does not seem pleasand when we or the ministry we love or the church we love is pruned, but it is in our best interest as Christians and the church to be pruned by God, in order to better produce his fruit.

 

The branch does not try to produce fruit by its own will, or by its own agenda, or its own 5-year plan. It produces fruit because it is attached to the vine (Jesus) tended by the vine keeper (God).

 

The fruit is not our fruit.  This apple is not the fruit of branch B. It is the fruit of the apple tree. The same with us. The fruit is not ours, it is Gods.

 

It is the life giving sap that brings the nutrients from its source that produces the fruit.  Straining to produce anything does not produce anything, it is only abiding in the vine or in the tree that allows fruit to be produced. The Holy Spirit is that sap for us.

 

Because this concept of abiding is so foreign to our way of life, let me give you some tips on how we get to that place of being able to abide. (courtesy of Michael Wells)

 

The first step is to know ourselves and carry the attitude of absolute dependence that comes from this knowledge throughout the day. Trust God with all our heart and soul and mind!

 

The second: each of us must take his place as one who believes. Faith is waiting on God to provide in quiet confidence. Faith in God to do in his timing. The branch does not fret and worry about the fruit, it waits for the right season and the right time, trusting in the vine and vine tender.

 

Third we are aware that the abiding life is not a feeling, but an awareness. When one is filled with the spirit he generally feels nothing, since it is a natural and normal way of life. The ones who flit from spiritual experience to spiritual experience, constantly chasing the next ‘move of the spirit’ are more like the bees raiding the flowers rather than the flower which will in turn produce the fruit. Be the flower!

 

Fourth, we take our place as the creatures and give up our tendency and desire to play the role of the Creator.

We are not God and we have to relinquish our thoughts that we are.

 

Lastly we resolve to live only one moment at a time.[6]  This ties in with Scripture that says today had enough things to think about without worrying about tomorrow.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Abide in the Kingdom of God

 

Matthew 6:33 seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

I leave the final question to Hudson Taylor:

Are we willing to abide in him, and so to ‘bear much fruit?’ [7]

 

 



[1] http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/yashab.html

[2] Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God's Agenda  Richard and Henry Blackaby 102

 

[3] Rasik Ranchord Dare to be a disciple 55

[4] Michael Wells Sidetracked in the wilderness 169

[5] Michael Wells Sidetracked in the wilderness 158

[6] Michael Wells Sidetracked in the wilderness 166-168

[7] Taylor, Mrs Howard Behind the Ranges: Fraser of Lisuland, 170