Vine and Branch“I thought abiding meant to abide by the rules.”

“Our abiding in Jesus Christ is best measured by the frequency with which God gives us the desires of our heart. The fruit produced in our abiding are those answers.”

God has used these two comments – both heard in the last couple of weeks – to encourage me. First, I believe He would have me introduce you to “The Power of Abiding” (Map 22 of The Map Maker).  That comes later.

Secondly (but first), there is the reason my mind has been so captivated by the comments.

The first comment was offered, in all sincerity, by a brother that has been in church for quite some time. As you can see from the definition below (sorry, you will have to click the “read more” link), his understanding is nowhere close to the truth.

However you look at it, this follower of Christ had no idea that abiding meant “to be held, kept”; or “to continue to be”.

How many more have missed the basic meaning of such an important Biblical word and context; not to mention the mystery that lies beyond it? How far has this skewed the understanding, faith – even the very life – of Christians?

Praise God; He is gracious! If you had been there, you would have literally seen, on the face of this brother, the impact “abide” was beginning to have on his understanding as a branch. The Holy Spirit was using the simple definition of a word to transform him by the renewing of his mind!

It was exciting to see! This is the power of searching out the matter and sharing what you find with others!

The second comment (above) had much the same effect on me. The Holy Spirit has been using it to completely redefined my understanding of “bearing much fruit”; and to renew my passion to abide in Jesus Christ more and more each day.

While I knew what “abiding” meant, I did not understand what it meant to abide.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1John 14-15

As I see it, abiding is being so “in Christ” that I know the Father’s will before I ask for anything; AND only asking for the things He wills. Easier said than done? Absolutely! Possible? With God, all things are possible!

So, why is this worth our pursuit? By this our Father is glorified, that we bear much fruit; so we will become disciples of Jesus Christ. What could be more important?

As you are considering that question, here is “The Power of Abiding” – in its entirety:

Through our exploration of the power of His life, we have discovered the depth and height of our participation in the life of Christ. From our death in Him, through burial and resurrection, and all the way to ascension, the supernatural power of God manifests itself in the transformation of His children.

Understandably, you may have come away with the impression that such consideration is “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”. Perhaps you are one of those (like me) that need to know what it looks like and what can be done to lay hold of it.

As we explore further into this life of submission to His power, we will examine the keys for living out of the resurrected and ascended Christ. In our pursuit to know more of God’s mystery, we will discover what can be done to experience the power of His life – by abiding in it. We will uncover His precious and great promises for those who will abide.

Abide (menō): to remain; in reference to place, to sojourn, tarry, not to depart (to continue to be present, to be held, kept, continually); in reference to time, to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure (of persons, to survive, live); in reference to state or condition, to remain as one, not to become another or different; to wait for, or await one. Outline of Biblical Usage

Notice that the meaning of abide extends beyond place and time; to a person’s state of being. We will explore this deeper meaning, along with the idea of “to wait for, or await one”. As we will discover, God’s purpose for abiding is one of the most significant, empowering mysteries of His kingdom.

For Your Journey: Like all of the kingdom mysteries, we must first let the word become faith in our hearts. Belief precedes understanding and revelation. It is only then that the truth will make us free, renew our minds and transform us. So, invite the Holy Spirit to speak the meaning of abide into your heart. The Lord promises that if we seek, we will find. Let Him know you are seeking a deeper revelation as you search out the matter.

The Fruit of Abiding

“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. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:5-8

Every Christian should be familiar with this passage. From it, we know that the life of the vine flows through the branches to produce its fruit. Branches don’t produce fruit. They transport the life that produces the fruit. They are blessed in this limited but important function. To those that abide in Christ, and whom Christ abides in, there are at least four very important things promised:

First, “He. . . bears much fruit . . .without me you can do nothing” – We are promised to be neither barren nor unfruitful. Abiding is the only way to be productive in God’s kingdom. Christ said the same thing about Himself (John 5:19). He then sent His disciples in the same way that His Father sent Him (John 20:21). It is the abiding life of Christ that does what He did!

Second, ” . . .you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” – The meaning of this verse goes back to Psalm 37:4. It is the will of God to give us the desires of our hearts. As we abide in Christ, we discover those desires, ask for them, and they become the purposes of God that will not be denied Him (Job 42:2).

Third, “My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit…” – This is the physical manifestation of the power of abiding. The fruit that glorifies the Father are the greater than works of John 14:12; something greater than the works He did through Jesus. These are the good works of Matthew 5:16 – works that others will look at and say, “Isn’t God awesome!” As we abide in Christ, God’s supernatural work becomes the fruit of our life. This is the life for which we were created: To glorify our Father in heaven.

Fourth, “. . . you will be My disciples.” – This abiding, fruit-producing, Father-glorifying life is the requirement of a disciple of Christ. A sobering thought: Those that are not abiding are not producing fruit, they are not glorifying the Father, and they are not Christ’s disciples. Therefore, we must discover how to abide, and how to disciple others into an abiding relationship with Christ.

Keys to Abiding

Now that we understand the gravity of abiding in Christ, let’s continue searching to find the keys we need to partake of that life.

But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. John 5:38

The word of God did not abide in the Jewish leaders because they did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. It is not surprising that our belief in Jesus is the beginning of the abiding life; and that there is more.

Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 1 John 2:24-25

All that we have heard from God contributes to our abiding in the Son and the Father: Through the teaching, preaching and reading of God’s word; through reading Christian literature; and through the direct words that come from God in prayer, meditation, dreams, godly counsel, etc. This is great news!

But we must remember that anyone who is “a hearer of the word and not a doer, is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” (James 1:23) His faith dies for lack of the work thereof.

My point here is that there is more to the abiding life than just hearing and believing. We must obey what we hear.

But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:5-6

We must walk as Christ walked – in perfect obedience to the Father.

As the Father loved Me, I also have 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. John 15:9-10

As Jesus kept His Father’s commandments and abides in His love, we must do the same in Jesus. By keeping His commandments, we will abide in His love; and the love of God will be perfected in us. In this we can be confident that we abide in Him.

As you can see, our part in abiding is not complicated: Hear, believe, and obey. It is a blessing to know that our loving Father has made it simple enough for children to understand. The faith of a child, with a heart to respond, is all that is required for us to find the power of abiding.

As we submit to the abiding life, the Father draws us deeper into the mystery. He reveals more of His kingdom, we hear more clearly, and the faith of Christ grows. As we respond in obedience, our abiding is strengthened and the cycle of increased maturity continues (from glory to glory).

The Sacrament of Communion

There is another way – a supernatural way – whereby we come to abide in Jesus Christ. So before we leave this subject, I want to discuss the mystery of our abiding through the sacrament of communion. As with all the sacraments, communion is a sacred moment; a moment in God’s presence when we have the opportunity for God to do something supernatural in each of us.

Very early in His ministry, Jesus had some profound things to say about communion. Here are a few excerpts from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel:

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him. (v. 27)

Jesus is encouraging them to think beyond what they have seen – the feeding of the five thousand.

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (v. 28)

Still, their minds are stuck on the miracle – the physical evidence of His power. Without chastening (because the works are important), Jesus encourages them again to think beyond that which can be seen.

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (v. 29)

Interestingly, here we see again the first step of abiding: Belief in Jesus. But their confusion continues, and they ask Him for a greater sign, something like the manna given in the desert (vv. 30-31). In response, He makes this profound statement:

For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always. And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (vv. 33-35)

The mystery deepens as Jesus reveals that He will not only give them “the food which endures to everlasting life” (v. 27), but that He is that food. With passion, He encourages them to come and believe. Then, He pushes them beyond their comfort zone:

. . . Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (vv. 53-56)

For Your Journey: Rather than reject this word of Jesus (as so many did), or pass over it because we cannot grasp its meaning with our natural minds, let’s pause to let the Holy Spirit speak. Just to be clear, I am suggesting that you not read on until you have asked the Holy Spirit for revelation into this mystery. Come back later if you have to. Don’t miss this great opportunity to hear for yourself.

Now, with the limitations of mind and pen, recognizing there is a part I cannot put into words, let me share what these verses mean to me:

The supernatural work of God in communion is our being abided into Jesus Christ. When a follower of Jesus takes communion in faith and reverence, God strengthens their abiding in His Son.

This is why it is so important to approach communion in reverence and faith. Nothing less can abide in Jesus Christ. To come any other way is to waste the sacred moment of communion. Paul put it this way:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

In response to our working out our salvation with fear and trembling, God works in us for His good pleasure – abiding us in His Son; and thereby giving us His kingdom (Luke 12:32).

Furthermore, in strengthening our abiding in Christ, the Father also strengthens our fellowship with each other. This is why we take communion with the community of believers. Our communion is with Jesus and with the Jesus in each other. In communion, the power of abiding is also the power of community.

Abiding in Christ is one of the greatest mysteries of the kingdom; and one of the most powerful. Not only does abiding release the power of God in our lives, but it marks us as a disciple of Christ. If we abide, we will be fruitful – and assured of an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God.

Abiding requires a “believing into” Christ. It comes by faith, not by mental exercise. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

For Your Journey: Marketplace Leaders, our gracious Father has made it simple; and the return on our investment so very great. For the one that will hear and do, searching out the truth of abiding will be the most fruitful adventure of their life.

Searching out the mysteries of God is best done in community. Jesus is with us when we are together; and He always has something to say. Recognize that you do not have to have all the answers to lead others into the mysteries of God. In fact, you will not. Don’t let this deter you. Take the lead in humility. Let others know you need them to help you hear from God. This alone will be one of your best disciple-making moments.

Humbly yours and forever His,

P.S. For the Leader’s Guide, click here.