Abiding

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
John 15:4 NKJV

From JesusisGod316 Blog

“One of Augustine’s favorite biblical texts is John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing.” For Augustine, we are totally dependent upon God for our salvation, from the beginning to the end of our lives. Augustine draws a careful distinction between the natural human faculties – given to humanity as its natural endowment – and additional and special gifts of grace. God does not leave us where we are naturally, incapacitated by sin and unable to redeem ourselves, but gives us grace in order that we may be healed, forgiven, and restored. Augustine’s view of human nature is that it is frail, weak, and lost, and needs divine assistance and care if it is to be restored and renewed. Grace, according to Augustine, is God’s generous and quite unmerited attention to humanity, by which this process of healing may begin. Human nature requires transformation through the grace of God, so generously given.” (Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought, p. 71)

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:4-5
What does it mean to abide in Jesus?
1. Abide in Me, and I in You: Jesus emphasized a mutual relationship. It isn’t only that the disciple abides in the Master; the Master also abides in the disciple. Something of this close relationship is described in Song of Solomon 6:3: I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.

a. Jesus used this picture to assure His disciples of continued connection and relationship even though He was about to depart from them. Yet He spoke this in a way that also indicated an aspect of choice on their part. Abiding was something they must choose.

b. “When our Lord says: Abide in me he is talking about the will, about the choices, the decisions we make. We must decide to do things which expose ourselves to him and keep ourselves in contact with him. This is what it means to abide in him.” (Boice)

c. Does Jesus give up on me if I haven’t been abiding in Him? “Jesus invites the weary and the burdened to come and receive rest from him. “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The one who came as a servant, and was destroyed by suffering, died that we might join him in the life-changing, life-giving presence of God. Jesus takes us as we are—broken lives, clouded visions, weary hearts—and invites us to abide in all that he is, in all that is enduring, in all that is God. He remains a mysterious, suffering, captivating servant… in whose presence we are undone.” (Carattini)

The vital relationship between the branch and the vine.
1. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine: It is impossible for the branch to bear grapes if it isn’t connected to the vine. The disciple can’t do true good for God and His kingdom if they do not consciously connect with and abide in Jesus.

a. “All our sap and safety is from Christ. The bud of a good desire, the blossom of a good resolution, and the fruit of a good action, all come from him.” (Trapp)

You cannot bring forth any worthwhile fruit unto God apart from that indwelling power of Jesus Christ. Anything that you endeavor to do for God apart from Jesus Christ is worthless. It is as wood, hay, and stubble that will burn when the day of judgment comes. The only lasting fruit is that which is produced as the result of the relationship with Jesus Christ. And here again, the idea of fruit indicates to us the method of God. The fruit that comes forth from our lives is a very natural thing; it’s not forced. That apple hanging on the tree is not out there struggling and striving and pushing and doing its best to get ripe. All it has to do is just hang in there and it’s going to ripen. And it’s going to come to maturity. And I just need to hang in there, just to abide in Christ, and the natural result of abiding in Christ is my life is going to bring forth fruit. One of the problems in the church today is this endeavor of forced fruit. “Now, you ought to be doing this for the Lord…” And you’re being pushed into all kinds of activities, not really directed by the Spirit. And this can become worthless expenditures of energy, unless God is behind it and God is guiding it and God is directing it. Unless you’re abiding in Him, you cannot bear fruit of yourself. You cannot sit down and say, “Now, this is what I’m going to do for God this year. And these are the projects that I’m going to endeavor. And this is my plan by which I intend to fulfill this goal.” That bearing fruit that God desires is the most natural thing that can happen to you as you abide in Christ. It’s just a natural function. And so, “Abide in me. You can’t bear fruit of yourself.”” (Smith)

b. “`Stay close to Me,’ Jesus is saying. `Abide in Me. Cling to Me because if you don’t, there won’t be any fruit coming forth from your life.’ What is fruit? Fruit is vital to spiritual life. It’s where it’s at for your life presently, and it will effect you eternally. Romans 1:13 and John 4identify fruit as winning lost souls. Romans 6:22 defines fruit as holiness. Romans 15:28 names financial giving as fruit. Colossians 1 describes fruit as helping practically. Hebrews 13 tells us that the fruit of our lips — giving praise to His Name — is fruit. And ultimately, most importantly, Galatians 5:22 teaches that the fruit of the Spirit is love. Love is the ultimate fruit. What about joy, peace, and longsuffering; gentleness, goodness, and faith; meekness and self-control? Doesn’t Galatians list them as fruit? Yes, but the fruit (not fruits) of the Spirit being singular, those are definitions of what love is. So, when you’re life is filled with love, when you’re giving financially, when you’re praising the Lord verbally, when you’re doing good things practically, when you’re witnessing to the lost boldly, when you’re joyful, peaceful, patient — all of these constitute fruit.” (Courson)

2. I am the vine, you are the branches: Jesus perhaps spoke so perhaps because they were so accustomed to thinking of Israel as the vine and thought mainly in terms of their connection to Israel. They now had to think of Jesus as the vine, and emphasize their connection to Him.

a. McAllister: To the Israelite, the vine was an essential part of their history, their identity, and in particular, their special relation with the living God. Israel had been taken as a vine out of Egypt and planted in a foreign place in order to bear fruit for God.

However, as we have been reminded in the Old Testament, all had not gone well. Their high calling had been neglected, violated, and at times even rejected. The covenant people had failed time and time again to live out what God had called them to. When Jesus spoke of being the true vine in first-century Palestine, his audience would have been painfully aware of their history and painfully aware of their current bondage (Roman occupation) and spiritual need.

In this period of history, there was an increasing apocalyptic expectation and the hope that the Messiah would come, Israel’s enemies would be scattered, and God’s righteous rule would be established. Jesus had announced the kingdom, claiming that it was here and now, claiming that he was the vine and his father the gardener. His bold proclamations and his clear and unambiguous choice of metaphor dissolve the sentimental and revisionist views that cite him as a mere poet or storyteller. To any serious Israelite, these words would be highly provocative.

The word “true” is a Greek word that conveys the sense of the truth as in the real thing, as opposed to the copy or model. (It is similar to the way Israelites understood the tabernacle built by Moses: the tabernacle is the copy; the true one is in Heaven.) Jesus’s claim is astonishing, particularly to faithful Jews. The people of Israel saw themselves as the vine chosen and rooted in God. Here Christ is claiming to be the true vine, the real fruit of Israel. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

The message is abundantly clear, and an important truth is being emphasized. All through John and the Scriptures, an important distinction is drawn between true and false faith, between true and false morality, between real and phony spirituality. Not all those who were in Israel were the true Israel. It was not birth or proximity that placed them in the kingdom but faith and obedience to God. Only insofar as one is rightly related to the source can fruit be possible. All other branches are cut away.

When we confess Jesus is the Christ, when we say he is the vine through faith and obedience, then the transforming power of his life begins to work in us and to bear spiritual fruit in our lives. His life flows into our lives, and from our lives it flows on to others: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” Apart from him we are like branches that wither, needing the vine but having turned from the source, cutting ourselves off from the gardener.

3. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: Fruit bearing is inevitable with abiding. The quality and quantity of the fruit may differ, but the presence of fruit will be inevitable.

a. The purpose of the branch is to bear fruit. Though there are uses for grape leaves, people don’t raise grape vines to look at the pretty leaves. They take the trouble to cultivate, plant, water and tend the vines so that fruit can be enjoyed. In this sense, we can say that fruit represents Christian character (such as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5). God’s work in us and our connection to Him should be evident by fruit, and perhaps by much fruit.

b. Fruit also implies inherent reproduction. Virtually every piece of fruit has seeds within it, seeds that are meant to reproduce more fruit.

Courson: I like this! In the beginning of verse 2, there was no fruit. In the middle of verse 2, there was fruit. At the end of verse 2 there was more fruit. And here in verse 5, there is much fruit! How is `much fruit’ produced? By abiding. I have an apple tree in my backyard which bears prolifically. Suppose I brought in a branch from this apple tree and said, `Hey, gang, this tree produces so much fruit that we’re going to set this branch right here, and in April it’ll start blossoming — and a couple months later, we’ll have all kinds of apples right here in the Sanctuary.’

`That’s crazy,’ you’d say. `The branch has gotta be linked to the trunk — otherwise there’s no way fruit will be produced on that limb.’

And that’s what Jesus is getting at. We might know how we should behave and what we should do — but if we’re cut off from the Lord, if we’re distanced from the Lord, there just isn’t going to be any fruit. We need to be in His presence daily, in His Word continually. If not, we’ll cut off the flow of sap which would have produced in us fruit for His pleasure and rewards in eternity. If there’s a lack of fruit in our lives, we mustn’t say, `I don’t see why there’s not more fruit coming my way’ — because an irrefutable fact of spiritual life is that every man, every woman is only as close to the Lord as he or she chooses to be. And if you choose to abide in Him, to intertwine your life with His, to wrap yourself around Him and stay close to Him, you will inevitably bring forth much fruit.

How is fruit produced? By abiding — not struggling, not striving. The apple tree in my backyard is interesting. As I’ve watched it for many years, I have never once heard it struggling or complaining or groaning to bear apples. I’ve never in my whole life seen branches struggling or straining to produce fruit. Yet I have seen Christians, myself included, struggling and straining to control temper or change character. But it never works in the long haul because sooner or later (usually sooner), the old character will emerge and dominate once more. The only way you can really bear fruit — which is love defined by joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith; the only way you really bear fruit — which is boldness in witnessing, sincere expression of praise, and generous giving — is just to abide in Christ. What does the apple branch do? It just hangs in there day after week after month after year. And in due season, the blossoms come and the apples appear, and there’s fruit — all because it just hangs in there. So too, you hang in there with the Lord, and as the days turn into weeks, turn into months, turn into years, you will see fruit and then more fruit and then much fruit. And you’ll say, `Wow, what’s happening in my life? This stuff is popping out, and I don’t even know from whence it came!’ It just came from your abiding in Christ, just enjoying Jesus. It’s so simple — profoundly so.

c. The concept of abiding is not restricted to our abiding in Jesus; it also includes His abiding in us (and I in him). It is a mutual dynamic that expects our life to be spiritually and practically in vital connection with Jesus, and that expects Him to indwell us in an active, real way. In no way is the responsibility for abiding only upon the believer.

Now this is really progression and this is growing. I start out as I receive Jesus Christ. I am grafted into the vine; I become a part of it, I begin to take nourishment from Him. And as my life begins to bring forth fruit, then His World cleanses me that I might bring forth more fruit. And as I abide in Him, then I begin to bring forth much fruit. And herein is my Father glorified; this is what my Father wants, that my life bear much fruit for Him. So, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit.”” (Smith)

d. Shull: We often want a One Minute Spiritual Life that still yields unbounded growth and instant transformation. We expect the constant flow of “good feelings” surging through us. If we do not experience these things, or if we don’t perpetually experience something novel and instant from the rhythm of worship, prayer, or study, then we believe that something isn’t right. Sadly, we eschew the repetitive nature of discipline and routine.

Ritual, discipline, commitment, and structure seem impediments to growth, rather than the soil in which spiritual growth is nourished and fed. The drive for efficiency lures us into wanting a spiritual life more like osmosis—a process over which we have little control or responsibility.

There are not three easy steps to a vital spiritual life, nor an efficiency guide to greater transformation. In his own life and ministry, Jesus makes this connection between growth and discipline. In the gospel of John he exhorts his followers to “abide” in him—literally to rest and to take nourishment from the life Jesus offers. In Jesus, somehow, rest is the opposite of the efficient. In addition, as we abide we are told: “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” Jesus insists that joy flows from a life of discipline and obedience that includes keeping his commands. They are not separate endeavors, but intimately enjoined to produce abundant life.

How ironic this statement seems when most of us do not associate joy with discipline or endurance! Our daily living often feels like monotonous routine. We can understand the desire to find a short-cut that brings excitement or instant results. But joy is not a feeling, nor is it dependent on the whims of our personalities. Joy is the result of a life lived in Jesus—who offers the rhythm of rest, routine, and discipline. Following in the way of Jesus can sometimes feel both tedious and difficult, as surely it is both tedious and difficult at times. But disciplined obedience is not a blockade to fullness of joy, but rather a doorway that opens into the abiding presence of God. There, we encounter one who produces something beautiful that remains.

Is it possible to produce fruit for Jesus without Him?
1. Without Me you can do nothing: It isn’t that they disciples could do no activity without Jesus. They could be active without Him, as were the enemies of Jesus and many others. Yet they and we could do nothing of real, eternal value without Jesus.

a. “The ‘I am’ comes out in the personal word ‘me,’ and the claim of all power unveils the Omnipotent. These words mean Godhead or nothing.” (Spurgeon)

b. “It is only by union with Him that any branch can bear fruit: once that union is broken, the sap no longer flows; and fruit in that branch is no longer possible, though the remains of the sap that lay in it may be enough to bear leaves and so for a time give semblance of life.” (Trench)

If you’re not abiding in Christ, whatever you’re doing is a huge waste. It’s nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. It’s worth nothing. It will not count. It will not be there in eternity. `Oh, but I’m a Kiwanan, or a Rotarian, or I work for the Red Cross.’ If it’s not done as you’re abiding in Christ, for the glory of Christ, because you were led by Christ, it is for nothing. Period. Why, then, do people donate time to the Red Cross? Why do they join service organizations? Why do they perform good deeds? Perhaps to appease a guilty conscience, to be part of a fraternity, to strike up business deals, for camaraderie — for lots of reasons which have nothing to do with absolute goodness. Only what you do in Christ and for Christ and because of Christ will count in the ages to come. That’s why Jesus says, `If I’m not in the center of it, it’s worth nothing.'” (Courson)

c. “Paul does not use the Johannine idiom but he expresses the same truth when he says, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20), and ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13).” (Bruce)

d. “‘Without me ye can do nothing;’ if this be true of apostles, much more of opposers! If his friends can do nothing without him, I am sure his foes can do nothing against him.” (Spurgeon)

I’ve got that underlined with a bold underline in my Bible. Because I have tried to do so many things on my own and failed. I wonder, “When will that truth really sink into my heart?” That I might realize that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. It’s futile for me to even try. Any service towards God not directed by the Spirit is worthless. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Now, I have here a reference to another verse that Paul declared in Philippians 4:13, “For I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” So they go together. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. Through Him, I can do anything. Nothing is too hard. I can do all things through Christ, but apart from Him I can do nothing.” (Smith)

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Even the idea of “the culture,” in the way we now use the phrase, is fairly new. The New Testament, especially the Gospel of John, prefers the term “the world” (cosmos in Greek) for what we might call “the culture,” especially systems of ideology and influence that operate independent of God. But it also speaks of “nations” or “peoples” (ethne in Greek—today we might call them “ethnolinguistic groups”). We are called to resist being “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2, ESV), and to make disciples of all ethne, in the hope that they all will join in the multinational, multilingual, multicultural chorus around the throne of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9).

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When Ezekiel entered the valley of dry bones, the outlook was bleak; death hung over the battlefield like a thick dark cloud of gloom. Then suddenly God rocked Ezekiel’s world when He asked the prophet a ridiculous question: “Can these bones live?” The great prophet staggered to comprehend the possible outcome of God’s incredible inquiry. Finally, he gathered himself and answered, “You know, Lord.” The rest is history: a mighty army emerged from the valley of dry bones as Ezekiel prophesied life into that graveyard (see Ezekiel 37:1-10).Our world today seems to be in complete disarray. Poverty, immorality, and injustice are pelting our nations like a plague, and yet once again God’s prophetic people stand in the valley of the shadow of death, and once again God is asking us the same question: “Can these bones live?” The history of our nations hang in the balance as we ponder the answer to this profound question; will we inspire mass despair, or will we equip a mighty army of light bearers who transform this deep darkness? The world waits in hopeful anticipation as God’s prophetic people stand in the valley of decision. My prayer is that God would once again equip us to see a mighty army rise from the dry bones of global despair and shine the light of hope into this desperate and dying world!

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  • 00:16 Bennet?s ministry with the Zacharias Trust
  • 01:15 How Bennet moved from being an LGBT activist to working with Ravi Zacharias Ministries International
  • 03:30 Bennet?s journey from atheism to Christianity
  • 08:36 Bennet?s struggle to reconcile sexuality with his faith
  • 10:08 Bennet?s journey to Oxford
  • 12:57 Bennet?s message to people in the LGBT community
  • 16:45 Bennet?s new perspective on sexuality and individual identity
  • 19:33 God, sexuality and the human desire for transcendence
  • 23:06 Romantic love and the search for lasting human fulfilment
  • 26:00 The sacrifices God requires of same-sex attracted Christians
  • 31:20 Bennet?s encouragement drawn from Isaiah 56:4-5
  • 33:12 How the church can be supportive of singleness
  • 38:55 Advice for Christians engaging with the LGBT community
  • 44:09 The importance of patience and support in ministering to the LGBT community

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Beyond a simple proof-text, though, it seems very apparent in Scripture that God is not hedged in or boxed in at all. The Triune Creator freely brought everything into existence out of nothing by his word and maintains it at every moment (Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-3). He is all-powerful—there are no metaphysical limits to stop him. And he seems to have the right to dispose of all of his works as he sees fit—I mean, doesn’t a potter have the right to do what he wants with his works? (Isaiah 45; Romans 9) He is the Lord of history who directs the courses of nations, which are but a drop in the bucket compared to him (Isaiah 40-55). Certainly the Author has authority over his creation?

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