The Vine and the Branches Parts 3,4

 
Chapter 3
 
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit…” “Abide in me, and I in you.”[John 15:5,4]
 
We have thought of the tragedy of the fruitless branch, and seen how impossible it is for a branch to produce fruit by any effort of its own. Now the vine and the branches have another lesson to teach us, a lesson which only those are prepared to learn who have in some degree mastered the former lessons.
 
If God expects me to bear fruit in my Christian life, and if I cannot produce that fruit by any effort of my own, how then does He intend that fruit to be produced? We have the answer in this parable. The fruit is produced by the life of the vine in the branch. God intends that the fruit in my life should be produced by the Life of the Lord Jesus living in me. “I live,” said the Apostle Paul, “yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). “Not I,” not by any strength or goodness of my own, no more than there is any life in the branch because of anything the branch has done; – “but Christ lives in me,” – His life is working in me the things which are pleasing to God, just as the life of the vine works in the branch to produce fruit.
 
This is God’s plan for every Christian that the Lord Jesus, who lives in us by His Holy Spirit, should work in us all things that are pleasing to God, producing fruit in us to God’s glory. When you have seen that, you have seen the greatest secret of the life which God wants you to live. The Holy Spirit dwells in every Christian, and his purpose is to do all the work that God requires, all the work which is necessary for the production of the fruit for which God is looking. Only those who have learned the lesson of the utter helplessness of the branch can fully appreciate this wonderful truth. Just in so far as you have grasped the great fact that you are utterly helpless even to begin to live a life which is well-pleasing to God will you understand the meaning of this, that God has given you the Holy Spirit to do ALL the work. His plan is not that the Holy Spirit should help you to produce fruit, any more than the vine helps the branch. It is not even that the Holy Spirit should work, and that you should help him all you can. The branch cannot help the vine in any way. No. Christ must do ALL in you, even as the vine must do ALL in the branch.
 
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
 
Let me emphasize that, for it is a truth that we are so slow to learn. How much does the vine life do towards producing the fruit? Everything. How much does the branch do to help? Nothing. How much must the life of the Holy Spirit do in you? Everything. How much must you do to help? Nothing. Just as Christ in His death and resurrection did everything for your justification, and you did nothing, but simply accepted the benefits of a work finished twenty centuries before you were born, so Christ in you must do everything for your sanctification, and you must do nothing, but simply accept the benefits of a work which He will complete as surely as He has begun it (Philippians 1:6).
 
“But,” you ask, “must I not do anything?” “No, nothing.” “Oh, but now you are going too far. You can’t carry things to that length. Of course I must do something. Mustn’t I read my Bible and pray; mustn’t I witness for Christ; mustn’t I surrender everything to Him; mustn’t I do good works whenever I get the opportunity?”
 
Do you know what you are like? You are like a branch saying, “It’s no good you telling me that I mustn’t do anything in order to produce fruit. That’s going too far. Of course I must do something. Mustn’t I produce fruit?”

I should say to that branch, “Yes, of course you must produce fruit, but you’ll never produce fruit by trying to. It is not the fruit you need to be concerned about, but the life. If once you have got that, the fruit will come all right.”
 
And so I reply to you, yes, of course you must read your Bible and pray and witness and do good works; of course you must surrender completely to Christ, but don’t you see, all these things are part of the fruit. You cannot do them by trying to do them; you can only imitate them; you can only be like a branch tying on artificial fruit, because it does not understand that real fruit must be the result of the vine life within. Leave the fruit for the moment. Apart from HIM you can do NOTHING; and prayer and witness and surrender are all included in that “nothing.” Every single bit of fruit has to be the result of the life of Christ in you. It is the Life you need to be concerned about; if you have got that, the fruit will surely follow.[4]
 
HIS PERFECT WORK
 
So leave the fruit just now. Forget, just for the moment, about the need for Bible reading, prayer, witness, and all the other things, and concentrate your thought on the Life which must be the source of all these things. That Life is Christ in you. He lives in you by the Holy Spirit. He waits and longs to do His perfect work in you. He cannot do it while you try to do it for Him. Is that what has been wrong with your Christian life – you have been trying to do his work for Him? You have read the Bible and tried to understand its meaning. You have succeeded in getting quite a lot of it into your head, and perhaps can give very nice addresses from it, but it does not live to you. You have tried to pray, but it has been a burden, and you know little of real fellowship with God. You have witnessed but there has been little power. You have tried to surrender everything to God, but more and more you are finding that your sinful heart does not want his will.
 
You are trying to do His work for Him; that is your trouble. You have taken upon yourself the responsibility of a work for which He wants you to cast the responsibility on Him. It is His work to make His Word come alive to you, to open the eyes of your understanding, to behold wondrous things out of His law. It is His work to witness with your spirit that you are a child of God, till prayer becomes to you the glad fellowship of a child with an infinitely loving Father. It is his work to give you power for service, filling you with Himself, and making perfect His strength in your weakness, so that, as you lean on His strength, things happen as a result of your witness that are worthy of His power. It is his work to bring you to that complete surrender which He requires, shining the light of his Presence upon the things displeasing to Him, filling you with His love till you see that it is best for Him to have His way with you.

This is all His work. You cannot do it for Him. You cannot in any way prepare yourself for His working. You must stop your futile efforts and look for Him. He is in you, God’s full provision for all you need. He waits to do His work, if you will let Him. He will work so surely, so wonderfully, if you will give up your feeble trying and cast yourself on Him. He will perfect the work which you cannot even begin. Will you not look to Him now, tell Him that you are not going to interfere with His working any more, and ask Him to complete in you the work which He has begun?
 
“Work on then Lord, till on my soul
Eternal light shall break,
And in your likeness perfected,
I satisfied shall wake.”

 
Chapter 4

We come now to a critical point in our studies of the Parable of the Vine. We have seen how necessary it is that we should bear fruit to the glory of God; we have seen that we cannot bear this fruit by any effort of our own; and we have seen that God’s way is for the fruit to be produced by the Life of Christ in us. The questions that naturally come to our lips at this point are: But how is all this to become real in my experience? How can I enter from a life of fruitlessness and failure into this life in which Christ, by his Holy Spirit, is working in me? How can my nothingness be connected with his fullness? How is this wonderful prospect, of having the Holy Spirit working in me, making Christ real, making the Bible a new and living Book, making service fruitful and prayer a joy – how is this to change from a wonderful prospect to a personal reality? What must I do in order that all this may be real in my life?
 
A VERY SIMPLE STEP
 
Before we look at the answer which the Lord Jesus gives to these and similar questions, let me emphasize one thing. The step from a life of striving and struggling and emptiness, of failure and feebleness, into a life of fullness and power and satisfaction, is a very, very simple one. I want to lay great stress on that point. It is very important. Will you accept it and believe it before we go any farther? You can begin to enjoy all the blessing we have been thinking of by a very simple step.
 
“Oh, how unlike the complex works of man,
Heaven’s easy, artless, unencumber’d plan.”
 
Satan will try to make you think it is complicated. He will tell you about all sorts of things that you ought to be and do. Do not listen to him. Leave alone, for the moment, all the things that you ought to be and do. As we have already seen, they are the fruit. “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). The way to this life of fullness is very simple indeed.
 
Now listen to the words of the Lord Jesus:
 
“Abide in me, and I in you. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (verses 4-5).
 
Here, then, is the simple lesson that we have to learn now. We can put it like this.

All that the branch has to do is to remain in the vine, and so the life of the vine will remain in the branch.

“Abide in me and I in you.” “Abide” simply means “remain.” The branch is in the vine. In order to have life flowing through, it has to remain there, that is all.[5]
 
When you received the Lord Jesus, God forgave your sins and placed you in Christ. In order that His life may flow through, you have only to remain where you have been placed.
 
“Yes,” you say, “but what exactly does that mean?”
 
Let me answer with another question. What did you do in order to have your sins forgiven, and to be placed in Christ? Think back to the time of your conversion. You heard that the Lord Jesus had died that you might be forgiven. And you just trusted Him to save you because He had died. Very simple, wasn’t it? Forgiveness was there for you all the time. It became yours when you took it. That taking is called FAITH. Then God placed you in Him. So all you did in order to be placed in Christ was simply to trust in Him.[6]
 
HOW TO “ABIDE”
 
Now, how are you to remain, to “abide” in Him? In exactly the same way as you were placed in Him. Listen while He tells you that you are a branch in Him, the True Vine. And then just simply trust Him that His life is flowing through you.
 
So many people make the mistake of thinking that they got placed in Christ by trusting, and that after that they must bear fruit by trying. No. You remain in Christ in the same simple way that you were placed in Him. BY FAITH.
 
Faith is hearing God’s word and acting on it. That is how you abide in Christ. You hear His word that you are a branch. Then you take Him at His word. You say, “Lord, if I am a branch and in you, I thank you for it. I thank you that just now I am in you, and your life is flowing through. So I shall no more bother and try and struggle to be a Christian, but live my ordinary life, counting that you are living through me.”[7]
 
TAKING YOUR POSITION
 
You see, it is just a matter of taking a position that is already yours. So many Christians will not take the glorious position which is theirs in Christ, and so they miss all the blessing. It is as if a very rich man owning a great mansion and a vast estate became possessed with the idea that he was poor, and shut himself up in a small attic at the top of his mansion, and wished all day that he was rich. He dressed in the shabbiest clothes, and ate the scantiest food, and sat on the floor because he thought he could not afford a chair, and made baskets in order to earn a living. And all day long he wondered how he could get enough money to buy a big mansion and own a vast estate. There he would be, living in a little, cramped room with scarcely enough food to eat, and dressed almost in rags, existing like a pauper. Why? Simply because, having a position, he would not occupy it.
 
But it would be a very simple thing for him to change his method of living. He would need first to have his eyes opened to the fact that he was actually living in a great mansion and that it was all his. Once he had seen that, it would be the simplest thing to change his whole life. He would only have to act on the knowledge that he had. He need not even leave the room to begin with; he need not change his ragged clothes. There and then, sitting on the floor of that attic in all his apparent poverty, he could take the step that would be the entry into a new life. He’d only need to say, “Why, I see it now. I have all that I have been wanting. All that I have most desired is mine. From now on I will live as if I had it, and be a fool no longer.”
 
The devil has filled the minds of many Christians with the delusion that they are poor, and in their poverty they must work and grind and toil in order to buy the blessings which are already theirs in Christ. Perhaps he has deluded you in that way, and now you are just beginning to see that all that you need you have in Christ. That is the fact. There is no need of yours which is not fully met in him. You cannot name a need which He does not fill. All you need you have in him – now. And you are in him. You only need to take the position which is already yours.
 
Do it now
 
Will you do this now before leaving this article? Don’t wait until you feel differently; your feelings have nothing to do with it. Don’t wait until you might understand things better; you already understand enough to be able to obey what He tells you to do.
He says: “Abide in Me.” You are in Him. So take that position through a deliberate act of faith. From the bottom of your heart pray a simple prayer like this – and, if you prefer, you might use the same words: “Lord Jesus, I thank you that I am in you and that Your life is in me, that all I need for all of my Christian life I have. Now, oh Lord, I come to abide in You, and from this moment on I will go out into daily life counting on You, that you are living Your life through me.”

Then trust that He will do His work, just like the branch counts on the vine. Whatever your feelings may be after this, trust in Him; however much there might be that you still fail to understand, count on Him. Don’t expect to feel any different. You aren’t any different – you still are a branch of the Vine, just as useless as you have always been. But now you have come to occupy your place in him, and He will do his work.

If, until now, you hadn’t understood what it means to abide in him, then take this simple step – right now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

[4] The author emphasizes that the life source is exclusively God in the believer. The believer is to “accept the benefits” of this Abiding Life. This does not teach passivity, but a trusting, responsive, cooperation. “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12,13,NKJV). As Francis Schaeffer put it, “You and I have the possibility every moment of our lives to hand ourselves to the Lord, to be that out of which He will bring forth all that is wonderful. ‘Yield yourselves’ (Rom. 6:13) is an ‘active passivity.’ People are naturally afraid of that which is only passive, but we should be afraid of that which is only active as well. Our calling is to active passivity. God will bring about our sanctification, but we are called to be active partners in the process as we yield ourselves to Him. And as we do so, we will discover the possibility of a truly Christian life, both now and in eternity, ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’.” – The Finished Work of Christ (quoted in GracedAgain.com).

[5] Abide: Gk: “meno”: “1) to remain, abide: 1a) in reference to place, 1b) in reference to time, 1c) in reference to state or condition, 2) to wait for, await one” (Thayer). Use of “meno” in the Gospel of John (KJV): Abide: 1:39; 3:36; 5:38; 7:9; 8:35; 10:40; 11:6; 12:24,34,46; 14:16; 15:4,5, 6,7,10. Continue: 2:12; 8:31; 15:9. Dwells: 1:38,39; 6:56; 14:10,17. Endures: 6:27. Present: 14:25. Remain: 1:33; 9:41; 15:11,16; 19:31. Tarry: 4:40; 21:22,23.

[6] Cf. Col. 2:6

[7} As saving faith flows from repentance, abiding faith flows from an attitude of surrender (Acts 20:21; Rom. 12:1,2; Luke 9:23).

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