The Vine and the Branches | John 15:1-11
Brian Hedges | September 19, 2021
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to John 15. If you’re reading along in one of the pew Bibles, you can turn to page 901.
Let me ask you a question as you’re turning there. If you knew that you had only one week to live, what would you do? Who would you talk to? Who would you call? What letters would you write? What would be your final parting words to your family and to your dearest friends?
Perhaps some of you have actually faced a moment like that, where you were on the brink, you thought, of dying; you had a fresh sense of your mortality or maybe something that scared you, and it made you start thinking about those questions. I had that a few years ago. I was up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains and was wondering if it was a heart attack; it turned out my heart is fine, there was nothing wrong there. The doctor essentially said, “Less caffeine, more sleep, more exercise.” But it definitely shook me, and for a couple of days I was shaken by the whole episode and wrote letters to the most precious people in my life, because I wanted to be sure that those things that were dearest to my heart I was able to pass on to them.
Well, the passage that we’re studying together in Scripture right now is essentially Jesus’s last word and testament to his disciples. Jesus is in the upper room, a second-story room in Jerusalem, and it is the night before he dies. It’s the night before his crucifixion, and Jesus is there gathered with his disciples, and he is teaching them, sharing with them the things that are deepest on his heart.
We’ve been looking at this upper room sermon for the last several weeks, and today in John 15 we come to I think one of the most precious passages in all of Scripture. It is incredibly simple, because Jesus gives us a very simple metaphor for our relationship to him, the relationship of believers to Christ. He talks about the vine and the branches. It’s simple, and yet there is a profound depth to what Jesus has to say, something that I think we spend our entire lives learning how to live into what he describes here. So we’re going to look at it together, John 15:1-11, if you want to follow along in your own copy of God’s word. You can also read the words on the screen.
John 15, beginning in verse 1. Jesus is speaking.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
This is God’s word.
The dominant image in this passage is the image of vine and branches. Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” He is the true vine; that’s a reference, I think, to many of the Old Testament passages about Israel, where Israel is likened to a vine (Psalm 80, Isaiah 5, Jeremiah 2, many others). Jesus is saying that he is the new and the true Israel; he is the locus of the people of God. To be connected to God and to God’s people, you must be connected to him.
But the image is more than just one of replacing Israel, it’s an image that suggests how Jesus is the source of life and vitality and joy and fruit in the Christian life. If the dominant image is the vine and the branches, the primary command in this passage is to abide, to abide in Jesus. The branches abide in the vine and we are to abide in Jesus.
Now, you may be reading a different translation, the New International Version or the New Living Translation; the word there is “remain.” But the Greek word meno means to abide, to stay, to remain, to be in a place. It’s the idea of dwelling in a certain location. In old English, people used to refer to their homes or their houses as their abode, their happy abode; it’s the place where they dwelt. That’s the idea here, that the believer is abide in Christ, make his dwelling place in Christ, to remain in Christ.
Now, I want to just ask three questions about abiding:
1. What does it mean to abide?
2. Why do we need to abide?
3. How do we abide?
What, why, how; that will structure everything for this message.
1. What does it mean to abide?
First of all, what does it mean to abide, to remain in Jesus? I want to suggest three answers to the question, and I think these three things really go together. It’s not that these are three steps; these are three aspects of what it means to abide.
(1) First of all, it means to have a life-giving connection to Jesus. I think that’s really clear in the image. The branch is connected to the vine, and as such it is drawing sap, nourishment, life into itself from the vine. It’s a life-giving connection. So if a branch is cut off from the vine the branch dies, withers, and there is no fruit.
Jesus says in verse 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.” So it’s a life-giving connection.
This is what theologians call union with Christ, union with Jesus. That is, we are united to him, we are connected to him, and connected to him in such a way that it gives life. As you can see in this passage, it is a mutual connection, a mutual union. “Abide in me and I in you.”
Jesus has already said this without the metaphor. In John 14:20 he said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.” Now he gives us a word picture. “Abide in me and I in you.” This is the heart of the Christian life; this is the heart of Christian experience. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ that could be described as us being in Christ and Christ being in us. Christ dwells in our hearts and we dwell in him, we abide in him. That’s first; a life-giving connection to Jesus.
Now, when you read that in light of the crucifixion and resurrection, ascension of Jesus Christ, the gospel events that will take place shortly after Jesus says these words—this is exactly how the apostle Paul reads this doctrine of union with Christ—it means that we are connected to Jesus in a life-giving way by being crucified with him and by rising with him and by ascending with him and being seated with him in the heavenly places. Read Ephesians 1, read Romans 6 in light of John 15, and you can see the union with Christ, the “in Christ” language.
A life-giving connection; that’s first.
(2) Secondly, growing dependence. Abiding in Christ means not only life-giving connection, but a growing dependence on Christ. I think this is also implied in the metaphor, and especially in verse 5, where Jesus says, “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.”
The branch is entirely dependent on the vine. The branch gets its life from the vine. In the same way, we are entirely dependent upon Christ. We get life from Jesus. Jesus gives us his life, and it’s through the life of Jesus, as we depend on him, that we are able to bear fruit.
This is a growing thing. It is a growing dependence, a deepening dependence, and I think that’s implied by the progression that’s spoken of here in the passage. Jesus says that he wants his disciples to bear “more fruit” in verse 2, and “much fruit” in verse 8. That implies that there are degrees of fruit-bearing. You can be connected to Jesus as a Christian and abide in Jesus in that sense, and yet it is possible to abide in a deeper way, so that there is more fruit in your life than there currently is right now. A growing dependence on Jesus.
This has to do with our day-by-day walking with Jesus, relying upon him, trusting in him, believing his promises, being in his presence. That’s part of abiding in Christ.
If you’re a Christian this morning, you became a Christian by trusting in Jesus. That’s the same way you stay a Christian, is by trusting in Jesus. That’s the way you live the Christian life; by trusting in Jesus. You rely upon him. That’s what it means to abide in Christ.
(3) Thirdly, abiding in Christ involves constant continuance. The word “abide” means to remain or to stay or to continue. It means to stay in Christ, to continue in Christ or with Christ. It’s not a touch-and-go kind of relationship. It’s not like you get one touch from Jesus and then go the rest of your life without any relationship with Jesus. It is an ongoing, continual relationship with Jesus. In fact, this is essential to true Christianity, to true discipleship. Jesus said as much in John 8:31-32, where he said, “If you abide [or continue] in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
So, life-giving connection, growing dependence, persevering continuance in Jesus. To abide in Jesus as a branch abides in the vine is to be united to him, to rely upon him, and to remain in him.
There’s an old author named John Brown, who wrote a series of volumes called The Discourses in Sayings of Our Lord. I’ve only dipped into it, but it’s really rich stuff. This is what John Brown says about abiding in Christ. Just listen to his words.
“The ideas suggested by the word ‘abide’ or ‘dwell’ are residence and continuance.” To reside, to continue. “When our Lord says, ‘Abide in me,’ it is as if he had said, ‘Think as I think, feel as I feel, will as I wll, choose as I choose, and let my views of all objects and all events be yours because they are mine. Let my feelings, my volitions, my choices all be yours, and let them be yours because they are mine. Prosecute my ends, use my means, rely on me, entirely on me. Let my wisdom be your wisdom, my righteousness your righteousness, my strength your strength. Come out of yourselves, renounce yourselves, your own understandings, your own strength; come into me; unite your mind to my mind, your heart to my heart, and continue to do all this.’”
That’s the idea; to so rely upon Christ that his thoughts are our thoughts, that his strength is our strength. We are entirely dependent upon him.
I think a great illustration of this can be seen in the story of Blondin, who is history’s most famous tightrope walker. Anybody ever heard of Blondin? He was known as the “daredevil of Niagara Falls.” This was in the early 20th century, and he would literally walk a tightrope two inches in diameter and 1300 feet long; he would walk across Niagara Falls on the tightrope. Not only would he walk, he would sometimes do somersaults, or push a wheelbarrow across, or drink a bottle of wine, or carry a camera, stop halfway, and take a photograph of the crowd—all these kinds of things. All of this is documented; you can find it on the Smithsonian’s website.
One time he asked for a volunteer. Would somebody be willing to climb on his back and let him carry him across? Only one person volunteered, and it happened to be his manager, Harry Colcourt. I want you to listen to Blondin’s words to Harry.
He said, “Look up, Harry! You are no longer Harry Colcourt; you are Blondin. Until I clear this place, be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself.” That’s it!
Now, if I was Harry Colcourt, I would have been clinging for dear life to Blondin. That’s what you’re supposed to do with Jesus! You cling to him for dear life, so that his thoughts are your thoughts, his strength is your strength. You’re finding your balance in everything in life in Jesus by cleaving to him, so that you’re moving with him at the impulse of his Spirit, his grace, his power, his life animating you, working in you from the inside out.
The hymn writer put it like this:
“May the mind of Christ my Savior
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and power controlling
All I do or say.”
That’s what it means to abide in Christ: to remain him with this life-giving connection, this union in Christ, as we depend upon him for life, for strength, for everything, and to keep on doing that day by day till the end of your life. That’s what you’re called to. That’s what it means to abide.
2. Why do we need to abide?
Why do you need that? It’s probably pretty obvious to us. We need it because without Christ we’re nothing, we can do nothing, Jesus says. But let me give you specific reasons out of the text, quickly. I’ll give you three; we could add to this a hundred more. Everything that you can do, want to do in the Christian life, you need to abide in Christ to do it. But let me show you the reasons given here in the text.
(1) First, I think it’s implicit in the metaphor, to just experience life. If you want life—eternal life, spiritual life, abundant life, life to the full—if you want life, it’s found in Jesus. You have to abide in him. Look at verses 5-6, and look at the alternative. There’s life and there’s death here.
Verses 5-6: “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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers, and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
That’s two ways to live. You can live in connection with Jesus, where there is life, or you can stay cut off from Jesus, where there’s withering. Jesus says the branch that does not abide in him withers and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
I think here he’s speaking specifically about those people who are in some kind of an external relationship with Jesus but do not abide in him. Their profession is empty; there’s no fruit in their lives, and instead of bearing fruit, instead of being alive, they wither and then are cast into the fire of judgment.
Remember the context here. Jesus has been speaking to his disciples, and there were 12 of them, but only 11 are remaining in the room, because there is one branch, there is one disciples, Judas, who did not abide, did not continue with Jesus, but instead betrayed him and turned away.
I think what Jesus is saying here is that there are only two alternatives. You can either have life, and you get it in Jesus; or you can be cut off from Jesus, where there is no life. That’s an astounding thing for somebody to say. Nobody could say that unless they truly, genuinely believed they were God. Jesus does truly believe that; he’s God incarnate, the word made flesh. So he can say it.
But don’t miss the alternative. C.S. Lewis said there are basically three alternatives: "To be God, to be like God and to share his goodness in creaturely response, or to be miserable. These are the only three alternatives. If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, the only food that any possible universe can grow, then we must starve eternally."
He’s changing the metaphor, but it’s the same idea. You either feed on Christ (you either abide in Christ and have life) or you cut yourself off from Christ and you wither, you starve, you perish. If you want life, you find it in Christ. That’s the first reason we need to be in him, connected to him, abiding in him.
(2) Secondly, we need to abide in Christ in order to bear fruit. In verse 5 Jesus wants us to bear much fruit, and I think the rest of the passage gives us a clue as to what this fruit is, what it involves. He goes on to talk about answered prayer in verse 7 and bringing glory to the Father in verse 8 and obedience to his commands in verse 10; fullness of joy, verse 11; love for others, verse 12; witness to the world, verses 16 and 27. I think all of that embraces what a fruitful life will look like. If we just zero in on one aspect of this, we could say that a transformed heart and the character of a transformed life is the fruit of abiding in Jesus.
Paul also uses this language of fruit. You remember this? Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit. Some of you will have this memorized. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Well, when you look closely at this context in John 14 and 15 you see that the first three things in that list—love, joy, and peace—are all things that Jesus talks about in the context of bearing fruit. In verses 9-10 he says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my life. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my life.” So love is a fruit of abiding.
Or joy, verse 11. “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, that your joy may be full.” Just think about that for a minute! That’s a powerful promise. Jesus is promising that his joy can be in you, and that your joy can be full joy. That’s fruit. That’s a kind of joy that is bigger than what the world can give you. That’s joy unspeakable and full of glory, to use Peter’s language.
And then peace. Remember last week in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Here is a peace that surpasses understanding; here is a peace that transcends circumstances. Here is a peace that can keep you calm and serene in the most difficult circumstances in life. Jesus says, “It is my peace that I give to you.”
This is the fruit! The way you experience this as a Christian is abiding in Jesus. Why do you need to abide? To experience life and to bear this fruit; transformed life through the power of Christ.
(3) Then, finally, the ultimate reason is verse 8: to glorify God. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” I mean, you were created for a purpose; to glorify God. You were redeemed for a purpose; to glorify God. This is good for you—I’m trying to give you reasons that motivate you. You’re going to be your happiest, best self if you abide in Jesus. But ultimately, abiding in Jesus is not about you, it’s about him! It’s glorifying him, it’s honoring him!
Don’t you remember the Westminster Shorter Catechism? If you’ve been around Redeemer for a while, you’ve heard this a hundred times. “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Or to use John Piper’s little spin on that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him forever,” because it is as we enjoy God, as we love him and delight in him, that he is greatly glorified.
You see those two things coming together. God is glorified in verse 8, joy is full in verse 11, and it’s all the result of abiding. So why do you need to abide? To experience life, to bear fruit, and to glorify and enjoy God.
3. How do we abide?
So, the million-dollar question is question number three: how? How do you do it? I mean, don’t you want this? Don’t you want this kind of fruitful life, this relationship with Jesus? If so, how? How do we get this? How do we live like this?
I want to give you three answers that are all rooted in the biggest answer. The biggest answer to the question is you get it through faith. It’s trusting in Christ. You abide by trusting in him, depending on him. You abide by abiding in him, depending on him. But how do you do that practically? I want to give you three answers that I see in the text, and these may be somewhat surprising, at least the first one. But I don’t want to miss this; don’t miss this part of the metaphor in verses 1-3.
Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser,” or the gardener, the husbandman, depending on your translation. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away,” but get this, “and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”
(1) The first way in which you abide and bear fruit is to submit to the Father’s pruning knife. The Father is the vinedresser, and he prunes. Part of abiding in Christ and bearing fruit is a willingness to submit to the Father’s pruning in our lives.
My best friend in high school now runs a vineyard, and a few years ago I was in Texas and went with him to one of his vineyards one day. We were walking through, and he pulled out of his pocket this sharp, sharp little knife, and he just started snipping away all these little knobs and branches on the vines. Immediately I thought of John 15. He’s snipping them away. Why does a gardener do that? Why does a vinedresser do that? In order to maximize the productivity of the vine; in order for it to grow.
Jesus says, “My Father is a vinedresser, and every branch that bears fruit—” the fruit-bearing branches! “—he prunes them so that they may bear more fruit.”
There’s actually a connection between verses 2 and 3. It’s somewhat disguised in English, but it’s very clear in the Greek. Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, and the verb there is the verb kathairo, from which we get our word “catharsis” or “cathartic.” Think about a cleansing experience. And then, in verse 3, when he says, “Already you are clean,” the word is katharos; it’s the noun. “You are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
You put those two together, and I think what becomes very clear is that the Father prunes, and the instrument he uses to prune is the word spoken by Jesus. The Father sanctifies, and the means he uses to sanctify, to cleanse you is the teaching of Jesus. He’s making us holy; he’s cleansing us.
It’s a reference back to John 13, where Jesus talked about his disciples being clean, but not every one of them. One of them was not clean; that was Judas. But he said, “The rest of you are clean.” How are they clean? They’re clean through the word spoken by Jesus.
Jesus here is telling us that the Father prunes, and his pruning knife in this context is his word, which is like a scalpel, right, that cuts away the cancers of our lives. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit.” The word of God is cutting away the things in our lives that are preventing us from bearing more fruit. The Father’s pruning knife.
I think from the rest of Scripture it’s legitimate and justified to say the Father also uses our trials and our circumstances as a pruning knife in our lives. Go to Hebrews 12 and the teaching there about God’s chastening in our lives. Psalm 119:71: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” So part of abiding in Christ is submitting ourselves to the Father’s pruning work, this process of becoming more like Christ, being made more clean, more holy.
Martin Luther understood this. He suffered a lot. Luther, by the way, wasn’t perfect in everything he said, to be sure, but there are some riches to be mined from Luther. I was reading one of his sermons on John 15 this week, and this is what he said about the Father’s pruning.
“This is, indeed, a fine and comforting picture,” he says. “Happy is the Christian who can interpret it thus and apply it in hours of distress and trial, when death upsets him, when the devil assails and torments him, when the world reviles and defames him. Then he can say, ‘See? I am being fertilized and cultivated as a branch on the vine. Alright, dear hoe and clipper; go ahead. Chop, prune, and remove the unnecessary leaves. I will gladly suffer it, for these are God’s hoes and clippers. They are applied for my good and welfare.’”
Are you able to view your trials like that and see that the things that are happening in your life are happening because they are the Father’s pruning shears, there to help you grow, to help you flourish, to help you learn what it means to abide in Christ and bear fruit? That’s the first thing; it’s submitting to the Father’s pruning knife.
(2) The second thing is to let the words of Christ dwell in you richly, letting the word of Christ abide in your heart. Look at verse 7. Jesus says, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” That’s an amazing promise, and he’s pointing us here to the twin disciplines of the word and prayer.
It reminds us of John 14:13-14, which I sort of glossed over last week: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
What is Jesus saying there? He’s not giving us a carte blanche for anything that happens to be on our Christmas wish list. He’s not saying he’ll do that. He’s not promising answered prayer in that sense. He’s saying that when we pray in his name, in accord with who he is, his character and his will; when his words abide in us, and that carries the idea of the specific utterances and sayings of Jesus—they are filling us, guiding us, directing us—and when we are praying with a view to fruitfulness and to God’s glory, then there’s the promise of answered prayer.
Now, that’s very encouraging. It may not mean that you’ll get the new Cadillac that you’re praying for, okay? But it means this, that if you’re praying for more love, you’re praying for deeper joy, you’re praying for deeper peace, you’re praying to be filled with the Spirit, you’re praying for a more effective witness for Jesus Christ, you’re praying for spiritual growth for yourself and in your lives and the lives of those you love; those are prayers you can pray with confidence that Jesus is going to answer those prayers.
Just as we saw last week that the Spirit-filled Christian is the Scripture-filled Christian, in the same way we could say this, that the person who abides in Jesus is the person in whom the words of Jesus abide.
So let me ask you, when was the last time you cracked open your Bible? When was the last time you meditated on Scripture? Are you reading, are you feeding on the words of Jesus? Are you living by his word? If you’re not, it’s no wonder if you find yourself not bearing fruit or not abiding in Christ. The word is central to this.
(3) Here’s the third thing, the third way to abide: we abide in Christ by abiding in his love, by remaining in his love. You see this in verses 9-17, but that gets us into next week, so just look at verses 9-11. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
We’ll explore next week more of what that means to abide in Jesus’ love, but it doesn’t mean anything less than this, that you love Jesus so much and you are so conscious of his love for you that there is an impulse in your heart that leads you to obey him, to keep his commandments. That’s what Jesus says. “If you keep my commandments you will abide in my life.”
To make it really practical—my staff (and I appreciate this) are always pushing me, “Be more practical!” So let’s make it really practical. How do you abide in Christ? You daily trust in him, depending on him, submitting your life, your circumstances to the pruning shears of the Father, trusting him with everything thats going on in your life, and you do that as you fill your mind up with the word of God, with Scripture, and then you do what he says. That’s what it is.
But the root underneath all of that is faith. You have to actually believe that life is in Jesus, that his will is good, that his word is good, that Jesus is the way. You have to lay hold of him by faith.
Now, I want to just end—give me another four minutes—my last four minutes, I want to end by giving you an illustration of somebody who discovered this in a powerful, life-transforming way. His name was James Hudson Taylor; you may have heard of him. He was a great missionary in the 19th century, the founder of the China Inland Mission. There’s this wonderful little book called Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, and the book tells of how, even once he was on the mission field—he’s in China, successful as a missionary, leading people to Christ; he’s seen lots of answered prayers—he’s a Christian, and so to some degree he’s in Christ, he’s walking with Christ.
But he was in this period of his life where he was deeply frustrated and he was struggling daily, struggling with temptation and often struggling with sin—so much that he said, “I have continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious master.” He didn’t feel like he was growing as he wanted to grow, and he felt like he was following from a distance; he was too far from God.
Then something happened in his life, and it changed. His life changed from this point. It was like a new era began in his life because of truth that captured his mind and heart and when he began to understand it and live into it. I want to read a few excerpts from a letter that he wrote to his sister, so you can hear it in his words, describing what happened to him. I’m not going to read all of it; I’m just picking and choosing here. It’s chapter 14 of this book if you want to read this for yourself.
He said, “The last month or more has been perhaps the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. My mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need personally for our mission of more holiness, life, power in our souls. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God. I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the word more diligently, sought more time for meditation; but all without avail. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I would begin the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye off him for a moment, but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, and constant interruptions, apt to be so wearying, caused me to forget him. Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no wonder, for faith and even hope were getting low. I hated myself, I hated my sin, yet gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God—the spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, ‘Abba, Father!’—but to rise to my privileges as a child I was utterly powerless.”
Some of you may feel that way right now. You know you’re a child of God, you’re struggling with temptation and you’re trying the spiritual disciplines and nothing seems to be working; and you feel that kind of frustration. That’s what I’m saying. There’s something more. The disciplines are necessary, but there’s something more, there’s something at the root of all that.
I want you to hear what happened for Hudson Taylor. “All the time I felt assured there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how to get it out. He was rich, truly, but I was poor; he was strong, but I was weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness, but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually light dawned, I saw that faith was the only requisite, was the land to lay hold on his fullness and make it mine, but I had not this faith.”
Then what happened is he got a letter from a missionary, and in the letter he read these words. “'How to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.' As I read, I saw it all. I looked to Jesus and saw, and when I saw, oh how joy flowed! That he had said, ‘I will never leave thee.’ Ah, there is rest! I thought. I have striven in vain to rest in him; I’ll strive no more, for has he not promised to abide with me, never to leave me, never to fail me? He never will.
“Nor was this all he showed me, not one half. As I thought of the vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fullness out of him. I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit! And Jesus is not that alone; he is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh the joy of seeing this truth!”
It changed his life when he began to understand that fullness of life is found in Christ, to be received by faith.
This is what it boils down to, brothers and sisters: depending on Jesus daily, hourly, moment by moment; feeding, nourishing that faith with the word and with prayer, but clinging to Jesus with all of our lives. Are you clinging to him today? Do you have a real relationship with him? Is he in you? Are you in him? Are you bearing fruit? If not, turn to Christ today.