What Does it Mean to 'Abide in Christ?'
Torches and twilight marked the path as the bewildered disciples followed Jesus towards their destination. They trudged along the winding path with heavy hearts, not from the evening’s meal, but from the conversation that ensued during it. On this night, Jesus and His disciples celebrated The Passover. They celebrated with a meal that commemorated how God had rescued His children from slavery in Egypt, an event pointing to the ultimate rescue from sin that Jesus would soon accomplish through His sacrificial death on the cross.
Throughout the evening, Jesus prepared them for the events that would soon take place. He warned them of his pending suffering and death. Skeptical of the message, yet believing the messenger, the group grappled with the news shared with them this eve.
Leaving the Passover meal, Jesus and the disciples walked along in silence until they happened upon a vineyard. Jesus, knowing this was His final moment with them before His death, took this opportunity to share a fundamental truth.
In my opinion, a person’s last words are pretty significant. Final thoughts, farewells and instructions are often given in these moments. History is full of both funny and moving “last words.” When the final words are from Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, then I think we should pay particular attention. The following scripture is the last lesson Jesus taught His followers before dying on the cross.
As we read these words of Christ, let’s keep in mind that Jesus journeyed with this group for three years. During that time He taught them many things about life: forgive those who hurt you because you, too, have been forgiven. Love others because love is the number one characteristic of a person who knows Him. Live humbly because pride is the root of all sin. Jesus also taught to not judge by externals but rather look at the heart of a person. This group had heard Jesus instruct them on many things, and His words transformed the hearers.
But as the group traveled through the vineyard, Jesus took this final moment to teach one last and extremely powerful truth: For a life overflowing with true joy, one must stay connected to the one true source of life, Jesus Christ:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.
Abide, remain (stay connected to) in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow”—(John 15:1,4-5, 8-11).
The setting for this talk was a vineyard, a place where grape vines traverse along the lush hillside yielding bountiful fruit. When Jesus compares Himself to a “vine” and calls His followers “branches” the imagery is clear. Just as a branch is dependent on the vine for life, so are we dependent on Jesus for real life. The grapevine sends nourishment and food to the branches, which in turn produce abundant grapes. When we are connected to Christ, His life flows in us and through us and the outcome is the fruit of joy. If we want to have the overflowing, joy-filled life that Christ offers us, we must stay connected to Him.
What does it mean to abide or remain connected to Jesus? To abide in Him means we recognize our full dependency on Him. Recognize that we will not find “what we are searching for” to complete us apart from Him. Like a branch that is dependent on the vine for life, the woman who is connected to Jesus receives life from Him. Her identity, her worth, her strength, her hope…all of these come from the One who is the real source of life. Instead of looking to people to define us or depending on substances to comfort us, we turn to Christ to fill us.
Remember, that's why He came in the first place... to reconnect us with God.
When sin entered the world and separated us from God, our problem of “looking for love” began. Disconnected from our source of love, comfort and life, Jesus came to reconnect us—to restore the joy, hope, love, life and security that we find only in Him. We grasp at the things that represent comfort and make us feel secure because those are the exact things we lost in the garden. We lost the real sense of security that tells us all is right and good in our world. That security comes from only one place.
Author C.S. Lewis, a convert from atheism to Christianity, said it best when he described man’s dependency on God for life and joy as follows:
“God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
To “abide in Christ” is to daily rely on Him. This is the essence of relationship. Christianity is not a one-time decision to believe in Jesus. No, as followers of Jesus Christ we are fully dependent. Not just on Him for salvation, but for all things. In our daily relationship with Jesus we turn to Him for all things… this is what it means to abide.