By Sue Desmarais
Many of us are at an advantage today as we read John, chapter 15, for all of us in the northern hemisphere are experiencing spring just now; when the promise of new life is bursting forth all around us! It was this same time of the year when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples.
Their dinner had ended and they were walking past flowering gardens and orchards, heading towards the
to pray. Have you ever walked
past orchards when they’re in full bloom? The blossom’s scents can be over
powering and are always more fragrant in the evening as life settles down. I
believe Jesus, knowing He has only a few hours left before He will be arrested,
tried and crucified once more takes something very familiar to all of them to
drive home something terribly, terribly important; Garden of Gethsemane
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. 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. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:1-7(emphasis mine)
It was verse seven that grabbed my attention and sent me on my detective mission this week, for that’s an awfully bold statement, don’t you think? Surely, Jesus doesn’t expect us to think of Him as a genie in a magic lamp. There had to be a catch, which could only be found in the word “abide”. What exactly does He mean by “abide in Me, and My word abide in you”?
My first stop was to the dictionary where I discovered abide meant, “to accept without objection”, to "await," "remain," "lodge," "sojourn," "dwell," "continue," "endure”. Hmm.. I still wasn’t sure, for how does His word dwell, sojourn or continue in us? Some might say it’s through memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. Here are eight reasons John Piper came up with as to why we should be memorizing Scripture:
1. Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when I can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway of deeper understanding.
2. Memorizing Scripture strengthens my faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, and that happens when I am hearing the word in my head.
3. Memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint.
4. Memorizing Scripture makes God’s word more readily accessible for overcoming temptation to sin, because God’s warnings and promises are the way we conquer the deceitful promises of sin.
5. Memorizing Scripture guards my mind by making it easier to detect error—and the world is filled with error, since the god of this world is a liar.
6. Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist, and so protect myself and my family from his assaults.
7. Memorizing Scripture provides the strongest and sweetest words for ministering to others in need.
8. Memorizing Scripture provides the matrix for fellowship with Jesus because he talks to me through his word, and I talk to him in prayer.
He has made a very good case, but I still wasn’t convince it was simply memorizing Scripture, for even the devil himself could quote Scripture when tempting Jesus in the wilderness, and the Pharisees had spent most of their lives memorizing Scriptures and just look what Jesus said to them in John 5:38, “You do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.”
Therefore, if the word is to abide in us, we must believe in the word and the one who spoke it, right? Somehow the words of Jesus must take root within, germinate in each us and bear the fruits of faith and holiness. In other words, they must find a home within not only our minds, but our hearts. Look what else Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.” (John 8:37). It was in their heads, but it had not settled in and taken root in their hearts.
So, how does God’s word find a home in some of us and not in others even though all are working to memorize the Scriptures?
I believe that answer is found in Jesus analogy of the true Vine and the branches. John 15:1-3 is our position in Jesus, the Vine. God the Father or Vinedresser grafts us in and also removes any branches that aren’t rooted and bearing fruit. Our responsibility comes in verse 4a, “Abide in me, and I in you” and the key to abiding is found in the verses that follow, “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. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Abiding then must be believing, depending, and truly surrendering to His lordship in our lives. We’ve got to come to the point where we understand we are wholly dependent on Him for everything!
Mjr. W. Ian Thomas in his book, The Saving Life of Christ gave a great example using a glove. (We are the glove and Jesus the hand within the glove). Left alone the glove can do nothing but lie there, but when filled and controlled by the hand, the glove can do all the things the hand can do! However, each finger of the glove must also be surrendered for the hand to function properly. I’ve discovered over time, that abiding, depending, surrendering; whatever you’d like to call it is a moment, but moment occurrence. I can think I’m wholly surrendered one minute and then suddenly pride rears up and I’m seeking my way and will the next. For example, I can offer my time, rights and all my possessions to the Lord and then suddenly I’m asked to host a party for all these families of unruly children and instantly my mind can start searching for a way to decline gracefully. The truth being, I hadn’t really surrendered to the Lord at all!
I’ve begun using this picture of my hand each morning as I sit before Him consciously surrendering each area and inviting Him to come fill me up completely and show me throughout the day areas I haven’t wholly surrendered to Him.
I’m finding there is a constant daily battle between my desire to be wholly surrendered and abiding in Him in order to be used by God, and my desire to have things my way, but I’m confident all of us will get there one day. However, it’s going to take a constant effort on our part to surrender or abide; which is why I believe Jesus exhorted us here in verse 7 to ask Him for anything we need along the way and He will supply it. It’s as simple as that!
O Father, You are holy, and o so worthy! All I am and all I have are gifts from You! Thank You, Father a thousand times- Thank You! My heart longs to abide; to leave all that I am and all that You've given me in Your omnipotent hands. I so much want to give You all my time, my talents, my loved ones, my rights, will, and reputation, my money and possessions, but You and I know I will quickly grab some back given the chance. So, may I grow more deeply and intimately in love with You each day in order to trust You with everything! O Father, may I become wholly Yours and abide in Your Son each moment of each day! Amen.