1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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.”
I suppose that I feel like the relapsed Prodigal Son (for the 1,767th time, this year that is). I have a great father, yet I’ve squandered my inheritance only to find myself spiritually bankrupt, alone, and fearful in a far-off city.
Lately, I have felt fearful and distant. I began with a wealth of life and spirit from God, yet out of my fear of being worthless, unlovely, and undesirable I began turning my gifts into a means of getting approval. Instead of doing ministry with Christ as the end, and affirmation and approval as a happy perk. Somewhere along the way, there was a disconnect and I had reversed the two.
Now I have been finding that my world has been coming undone at every criticism aimed at me. I have become unspeakably upset every time one of my actions has resulted in a decrease of someone’s opinion. I fear outliving bright and vibrant life, being left alone; being left useless, ugly, and detestable to the world.
I fear being unwanted, worthless.
Yet in the midst of my fear and confusion, God gives me this scripture, in John 15, to dwell on. This scripture sticks out to me. Christ demands that I “Abide in him,” that “I can do nothing apart from him.”
I have been learning this last point the hard way. “I can do nothing apart from him.” I have been learning that the more I abuse God’s gifts to fuel my voracious appetite for love and approval, the more I realize I do so to quench my fears, and I also realize that those fears are absolutely insatiable outside of God. Ironically so, I feel these fears growing all the more and I feel myself put even more distance between my Savior and I. The more I try to fix my problem the wrong way, the more unlovely and worthless I feel, and I thwart the mission of the Kingdom of God through my life.
“I can do nothing apart from him.”
I am beginning to realize that my trying to fix myself has been a weak and misguided attempt to make the pain go away. It’s as if I have been bleeding to death, yet all I’ve managed to do is take painkillers, but painkillers don’t stop the bleeding, killing my pain is treating the core problem.
But, how do I get fixed? How do I let Christ work in me?
Perhaps the most profound portion of John 15 is the portion that is the most repetitive. It also reveals itself to be the most needed portion of this Scripture, and it is, in fact, the only command that Christ gives in this passage:
“Abide in me.”
The phrase “abide” is peculiar and it paints a profound portrait. It means “live in,” or “indwell.” This is a concept made even more important in light of the time of Christ. One would abide in their home. Your home was the locus of your existence, the center. Home was where your day was began by going out from, where your day ended in coming back to, or your day was spent maintaining. Your home was where the people you loved dwelt. It was a safe place a haven of rest. Home was a reassurance. You knew that you would be okay because you were at home, or could return home.
Your home was the center of your universe. Even with the metaphor of a vine, a branch abides in the vine as the branch’s source, as the branch is supported by the vine and the branch was a conduit of fruitfulness by means of the vine.
Your home was your default.
You abide in your home.
In the Greek, this command is in the Present-Tense, and Active-Voice. Present meaning this indwelling is an ongoing effort. Active indicates that it is an active effort on the behalf of Jesus followers.
Jesus commands me to Abide in him. Therefore, Christ is my source, my days should begin by going out from Christ. My days should end in coming back to Christ and my days should be spent maintaining my relationship with Christ. It is an active effort and it never ends. Christ is my Home. Christ is the goal of my striving. Christ is my every-day. Christ is my all. Christ is my universe.
I can do nothing apart from Christ, I must abide in Christ.
“God help me fall more in love with as I make you the center of my universe. I am so afraid of being left alone and being worthless, yet I have forgotten that your Son died for me, and if the Son of God saw fit to die for me, that means that I must be worth something. I have forgotten that you are my source. I cannot fix myself. I cannot fix my fears. I need you. Forgive for pushing you out of the picture for so long, and forgive me for perverting a beautiful and good thing into a selfish and empty attempt for self glorification.”
“Help me be okay with people despising me, for your Son was perfect and he was reviled.”
“Help me realize that even if my world falls apart and the Wicked fiddle on the brink of Armageddon, that in Christ, I will be okay.”