Since I’m committed to preaching undiluted grace and say that we can’t add or subtract from Christ’s finished work, people ask me how it is that we are to “abide in Christ.”
It is because we have “the mind of Christ” we sincerely desire to abide in Christ.
And we also want to live out the promise Gods gives in in John 15:5, where He says,
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit.
This verse says that when you abide in Christ you will – not maybe – bear much fruit! Who doesn’t want to bear much fruit? In the end of the day, we all want to make our life count! Don’t you?
And we see other Christians and think “they obviously are loving God and are bearing much fruit” – which leads to feeling inadequate and wanting to bear more fruit ourselves.
So the question of “how do I abide in Christ so that I can bear much fruit” is a good one and deserves a good answer.
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The paradox in telling people to abide in Christ is that they may think there’s something they need TO DO for that to happen.
The reason it’s a paradox is because if you understand the true meaning of “abiding in Christ” it actually moves you away from doing something towards a place of rest, trusting that He’s the One who does what needs to be done – that He is the One bearing fruit in you as you.
Simply put, there’s nothing you can do to produce godly, supernatural fruit.
“Bas, do I hear you say there’s nothing I can do?”
Hearing grace being preached often goes against the way we’ve been conditioned to think.
Let me further explain.
John 15:5 makes the statement that if you abide in Christ you will bear much fruit.”
Read these words of Jesus through a legalistic lens and you’ll end up thinking, “if I fail to abide, I will not bear much fruit. But if I do abide, I will bear much fruit, so I’d better start to do my best to abide in Christ.”
A legalist thinks in terms of conditions, “IF I do this and that, THEN this or that will happen.”
If I do my part, then I will see the desired result. IF I make sure I abide in Christ, THEN I will bear much fruit.”
This way of thinking brings death and condemnation into your life because as soon as you are putting conditions into your relationship with God you’re operating under the death-dealing system of the law and not from under the life-giving system of grace.
To get clarity on the subject matter we need to define what “abiding in Christ” truly means so that you can start bearing much fruit, shall we?
1 John 4:15 gives the answer to what it means to abide in Christ or to abide in the Vine,
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
Have you confessed that Jesus is the Son of God? Then God abides in you and you in Him. You are abiding in Christ because you have confessed Him as Lord.
To abide in Jesus talks about your new birth, not your behaviour.
Are you born again? Then you’re effortlessly abiding, 100%, all the time.
You Are Effortlessly Abiding
Furthermore, in Greek the word “abide” means “not to depart” and “to remain as one.”
And 1 Cor. 6:17 says,
He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
You are one with Christ.
So we have this rock-solid foundation of what it means to abide, that is that you do not depart from Christ and that you’ll always remain one with Him.
Let’s deepen this out more.
Because you’re one with Christ, you are identical to Him in spirit, thus you have the same standing before the Father as Jesus has.
Simply put, what is true about Jesus’ abiding in His relationship with the Father is now true about your abiding in your relationship with the Father.
So Jesus’ abiding has become your abiding.
Now I have a question for you: does Jesus ever need to exert effort on His part in order to remain in relationship with the Father, to remain abiding in the Father’s presence? The answer is of course, “No.”
Since Jesus’ abiding has become your abiding, do you ever need to exert effort on your part in order to remain abiding in Him? The answer of course is, “No”….
To be straightforward, there’s not one moment, nor will there ever be moment that you are not abiding in Christ.
Just has you’ve done nothing to start abiding in Him – except to receive Jesus as a gift with thanksgiving – so you can’t do anything to abide or stop abiding in Him.
The truth is, you are continuously ánd effortlessly abiding, just as Jesus is continuously and effortlessly abiding in the Father’s presence.
Wow, what Good News!
If you don’t know the true meaning of abiding in Christ you’ll probably struggle with fear and anxiety.
Because as a result of legalistic thinking on this issue you’ll ask yourself these type questions:
- Am I abiding today?
- Can I not abide tomorrow?
- Am I bearing enough fruit?
- Can I be cut off the Vine?
- Am I cast out to burn?
You can’t experience love, joy and peace if you’re unsettled in your belief system about what it means to abide in Christ.
Here’s a truth that will set you free from anxiety…
For you not to abide in the vine is for Jesus to stop abiding in His relationship with the Father. Because that will never happen, there is no danger for you of not abiding!
Nothing depends on you and your effort.
It’s all about Jesus and His finished work!
The abiding issue is settled from His side. Abiding means to be in permanent union with Jesus. You may not always feel you’re abiding, but you are.
Simply put, to abide in Christ means one thing: to relax and trust His indwelling Life to motivate and mobilize your actions.
It means to know that it’s not up to you to make something happen. It means to trust Him and stop worrying about yourself. In fact, it means to take your eyes off yourself and just look at Him, knowing that there’s nothing you have to do and that He will show us when to act and what to do when it’s time to do it.
It’s a life of rest.
The irony of the New Covenant of Grace is that you really can’t do anything but permanently abide in Christ.
After all, your very life is found in Him for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). And you live, and move and have your being in Christ (Acts 17:28).
So you abide in Christ every moment of the day, every day, no matter what. No matter if you do something good or do something bad.
To be told by Jesus in John chapter 15 to “abide” simply means to recognize the reality of our union with Him and to give up any silly notions you may have that you have anything to contribute to this arrangement.
The abiding-issue is settled – from His side. You and I can’t add or subtract anything from this covenant type of abiding.
Fruit Doesn’t Struggle
In closing let’s look at how you’ll bear much fruit. Since you permanently abide in Christ – the Vine – how do you as a branch bear fruit?
Imagine a vine with it’s branches having good-looking, green leaves. It is the sap that comes from the vine that both gives life to the branch and produces fruit on the branch.
Anyone who grows grapes will tell you that a branch doesn’t draw sap from the vine, but that the sap flow is driven or pushed from the vine into the branch! It is the vine that draws the life from the earth and channels it to and through the branch. As a result the branch is able to produce fruit any without effort on it’s part.
Because you are brought into participation/union with the life of Christ, God is the one who bears fruit through you – just as a branch is merely a living conduit for the sap of the vine.
In other words, a branch isn’t bearing fruit by trying really hard to draw sap out of the vine but by fully abiding or resting in the vine.
It is the vine’s responsibility to pump sap into the branch so it’ll bear fruit.
Since we are the branches through which the life of God flows, we sometimes think that it is our own holiness that produces the fruit. The moment we think that way, we are no longer resting in the vine, and we will become fruitless if we persist in that legalistic mindset.
This is a great relief if you understand this and apply it. Why? It puts all the responsibility on Jesus.
Your only responsibility is to rely on His ability.
Fruit on the vine doesn’t struggle to grow, to be tasty or anything else. It just hangs there and the nutrients from the earth come up through the vine into the branches and the fruit is the natural (actually, it’s supernatural) result.
That’s how it is when we understand abiding in Jesus Christ. Don’t sweat it. Just take your hands off your own life; off your circumstances and your challenges and your self effort. He has it all under control.
So just relax and say, “thank you very much” and when you’ve done that, you are abiding in the active sense of the word.