John 15:1-10, Psalm 80:1-19
This is part of a 10-day series on the person of Christ in the 2016 Lent study.
I’ve often wondered what it means to “abide” or “remain.” It seems like such a passive role, which is what, I think, can make it feel so frustrating.
Many of us are much more comfortable striving, accomplishing, and achieving. To strive is to grab life by the horns and take control of a situation. To abide is to take a posture of rest and trust, worship and obedience.
Especially in the West, and particularly as men, we’ve had it drilled into us over and over again that prosperity and success are found by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Through books and film, we’ve found reason to praise the self-made man. However, it seems clear from Jesus’ teaching here in John that there is no such thing as a spiritually self-made man. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus says in John 15:5.
Rather than abide, oftentimes we dig deep, and push, and battle with everything we’ve got. We hope it will be enough, but eventually we are forced to recognize that it won’t be.
It seems counterintuitive, but the really good news of the True Vine is that you can never be enough, you can never do enough, you will never be strong enough, wise enough, or holy enough. Often though, we have to come to the end of our own strength and influence before we’re ready to acknowledge this.
When was the last time you saw someone wearing a shirt at the gym that just said “Abide”? Maybe your gym is a little different than mine, but I have a feeling that we favor a more active posture over a more trusting, carefully measured sense of trusting in Christ.
The fact of the matter is that “to abide” is not really a passive task at all. The verb John uses over and over again occurs in the active voice. To abide is not to be complacent. Far from it. To abide is to actively place our trust and sense of identity in the True Vine. It is an invitation to fruitful and purposeful connection. It is a cure to the emptiness we’ve all felt when we tirelessly spin our wheels. It is the antidote to a lifetime of chasing after the wind.
When we trust the Vine, we naturally grow and expand in the proper direction. We have the nourishment we need to thrive, not just the bare essentials to temporarily survive. To abide with Christ, our True Vine, is to live knowing that we are joined to Him, and that everything we need—for everything He has called us to do and be—comes from His hand.
Thank God we are free from the responsibility of becoming spiritually self-made men. May that freedom cause us to worship our source of life this season—the One who died and rose again, Jesus Christ.
written by Andrew Stoddard