In order to enter into a life of discipleship there are three initial steps we must take. These are expressed by the following commandments of Christ.
- Follow Me: abandon your own course of life and pursue an obedient relationship with Me (Mt 8:22; 16:24; Lk 5:27; Jn 1:43; 8:12; 21:19).
- Take My Yoke: allow Me to change you until you become like Me. You too will learn to let God initiate all ministry and depend on His power for results (Mt 11:28-30). You too will have a heart like Mine.
- Abide in Me: refuse to allow your personal relationship with Me to be broken. Dont return to an independent lifestyle. Intimacy with me and obedience to My commands must become your new lifestyle (Jn 15:1-11).
These three statements highlight how radically our independent, self-directed lives must change. To become Christs disciples we must go deeper than mere intellectual belief in God, and even deeper than a theological faith in the truths of the gospel. He wants us to develop an intimate, personal relationship with Him, by way of the Holy Spirit, similar to His own relationship with the Father. In fact, He says this level of relationship is absolutely vital if we are to continue in genuine faith over a lifetime and if we are to produce spiritual fruit that actually pleases God.
Today well focus on the third of the above commands (Abide in Me). Well examine His analogy of a grapevine, well define the key words abide and fruit, and then well discover the amazing array of blessings promised to those who will obey this command.
1. The vine and branches (vs 1-6)
Just as Jesus maintained a genuine, personal relationship with His Father we too are to maintain this kind of relationship with Him. Like a branch growing out of the woody stalk of a grapevine, we must continually draw our spiritual strength from that living relationship. Over time this relationship will produce much spiritual fruit.
- (Def): to stay in place, to remain, endure (Jn 14:2, 17, 23).
- Jesus is telling us we must remain in a continuous, dependent relationship with Him.
- It must include:
- Faith: decision to believe, trust
- Intimacy: the experience of loving and being loved
- Direction: hearing/seeing the Spirits leading
He wouldnt warn us if it werent possible to stop abiding. In fact there are strong forces that draw us away from this relationship: busyness, self-reliance (trying to do Gods will in our own power), shame, anger, disappointment.
If we are to continue in His spiritual life we must nurture our relationship with Him. Its not automatic. We must repeatedly decide to pursue it. It requires time spent with Him.
Fruit speaks of a plants reproductive cycle. The process by which it makes more plants. We bear fruit when we multiply to others what God has given us:
- Salvation (Jn 4:35-38)
- Knowledge (Ro 1:11-15)
- Encouragement and care (Php 4:15-18)
4. Promised blessings
- Fruitfulness (v 5): your life will affect many and bring glory to God.
- Answered prayer (vs 7, 16): the person who abides is given unrestrained authority.
- His love (v 9): the main thing we discover when we abide is the awareness that we are deeply loved by God. Our transformation is not found in our love for Him but in His love for us. With a quiet voice He speaks to us calling us His beloved. We need to hear this voice regularly because there are forces constantly eroding our assurance of His love (sin, tragedies, aging,unanswered prayer, being eclipsed by others
). We lose our confidence that He wants to bless us.
1) Describe how you have a quiet time with God.
2) Describe the changes that happen inside you when you spend time with God.
3) Evaluate your condition right now. How aware are you that God loves you? If your answer is not much, do you know what has eroded your confidence in His love? Feel free to ask people to pray for you if necessary.