“‘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’” (John 15:4).
Jesus’ words to His disciples just before His arrest are some of the most beautiful in the Bible. The Gospel of John devotes four whole chapters to Jesus’ final discourse, in which He speaks eloquently of what it means to be His disciple and how the Holy Spirit interacts in the life of a believer. In chapter 15, Jesus shares with His disciples the analogy of the vine and the branches as an illustration of how we as His followers are to view our relationship with Him.
According to this analogy, Jesus is a fruitful vine from which many branches sprout. These branches are those who believe in Him and have become His followers. The branches are useless on their own; if they’re cut off from the vine, they also lose their source of nourishment. They will wither and die within moments. In the same way, people who cut themselves off from Christ and try to bear fruit on their own will soon discover that they’re doing nothing but dying. It is impossible for them to bring about any results aside from the power of Christ.
Too often, we try to do things on our own. When we first believe, we’re excited to work with God, eager for Him to use us. But in time, our old arrogant ways return, and we start to think there are some things we can do on our own. We neglect our time with God, insisting we’re mature enough to not need as much nourishment from Him. Yet in doing this, we’re removing ourselves from the very source of our life. We cannot exist apart from the vine.
Jesus uses the word “abide” to describe how His followers ought to interact with Him. Abiding implies much more than simply living in something; it denotes a purposeful fellowship, a relationship from which the person doing the abiding draws strength. It goes far beyond familiarity; this is a deep, committed relationship. Abiding in Christ involves spending time with Him and then acting in obedience with what He teaches us. We cannot do this on our own; apart from Him, we are nothing.