“Abide in Me” – John 15:4a
Ever have a problem with a relationship? Maybe you just aren’t a people person. Maybe you are in a fracturing relationship; a breaking marriage; a conflict with the kids; a problem with your parents; or maybe you’re having a falling out with someone at work or a neighbor. If any of this describes you, help is available. In John 15 Jesus speaks of relationship and how the Holy Spirit, the Helper, helps us with those relationships.
In John 15 we see that the Holy Spirit helps us to have a good relationship with Jesus (15:1-11). Then we see that the Holy Spirit helps us to have a good relationship with other believers (15:12-17). The Holy Spirit helps us in our relationships with those in the world (15:18-25). And lastly we see that the Holy Spirit and His help is a promise from the Father we can rely on (15:26-27).
The most important relationship for anyone is a relationship with Jesus. If that relationship is in order then all others relationships will fall in line. As we examine this chapter in the gospel of John you will see the blessed truth that Jesus wants us to stay close to Him. He’s not just looking for people to serve Him; He’s looking for friends. It’s not that He needs us. It’s that He loves us. What a wonderful Savior we have; One who seeks us out and holds us close. The Holy Spirit helps us to stay close to Jesus. The Helper helps us be held close to Jesus. Let’s looks at His welcoming words.
The Holy Spirit Helper helps us in our relationship with Jesus. “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). This is the eighth “I am” statement of Jesus. And in this “I am” statement Jesus introduces the importance of a person’s relationship with Him. Like a branch that gets its life from the vine it is attached to, so too the follower of Jesus is alive and well only in that they are attached to Jesus.
This is a relationship that needs regular care. As Jesus refers to the Father as the vinedresser and at the end of the chapter refers to the Holy Spirit as the One He will send from the Father, we see the fullness of the Triune God at work in our relationship building. The first relationship, our relationship that must take priority over all others is our relationship with Jesus. Apart from Him we can do nothing.
Pruning involves taking away dead parts, propping up sagging branches and generally caring for the branches. Sometimes a branch laden with fruit is so heavy laden it is bent down almost to the point of breaking. If you’ve ever planted tomato plants you know a time comes, when the tomatoes are getting big that you have to put a stick in the ground next to the tomato branch and tie it with strings to the stick in order that the tomatoes don’t bend the branch down and break it. Similarly the Lord our vinedresser provides a support for us the branch so that we won’t break. “A bruised reed he will not break” (Matthew 12:20). The vinedresser keeps a watchful eye on the vine and its branches and provides loving care so it will produce a good harvest of fruit.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). A healthy branch is fruitful and growing. We are the branches. A branch is attached to the vine and becomes a part of the vine. If a branch is not producing it means it isn’t connected properly to the vine. There may be something hindering its receiving the nutrients it needs to grow. But unfruitful branches are dead. A branch that is not producing fruit prevents the vine from growing and producing properly. A dead branch is therefore removed or pruned so that a healthy fruit producing branch can grow into its place and the vine can produce a harvest.
“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3). A branch needs regular washing. Here Jesus speaks of the importance of the His word to the health of the branches. Branches are endangered by insects, dirt and pollutants. Such things need to be washed off the branch if it is to remain healthy. Branches need watering for nutrients as well as for cleansing. Fruit needs cleaning before it can be eaten. Jesus tells us the health of a branch is dependent on the washing. For us the branches, that washing is done with the water of the word of God (cf. also Eph. 5:26). We need to be regularly in God’s word to protect us from contaminants that would infect us and deter our spiritual growth. If we want to be clean and fruitful, if we want our relationship with Jesus to grow, we need to be washed regularly in the word of God.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). We need to “abide” in Jesus if we are to be fruitful. Jesus illustrates what He means by “abide” (Greek meno – to stay in a given place, to continue in, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, and tarry) with the reference to the vine and its branches. A branch is a part of the vine; you can’t get closer than that. A branch is as close to the vine as it can possibly be. The idea is to be at home with; a branch is at home in the vine. Jesus is saying, “Stay close to Me; make your abode with Me.” How close are you to Jesus?
A branch that abides in the vine gets its nourishment from it. A branch also reproduces according to the nature of the vine to which it is attached. A healthy branch reproduces. We can also say that the vine holds onto the branches. It is from the vine that the branch is produced. There is an attachment to Jesus the follower has. But there is also an attachment Jesus says He has to us. The only way we can be fruitful followers of Jesus is through our abiding attachment to Jesus.
Jesus is speaking about relationship. And it is the Helper, the Holy Spirit who attaches or helps us to abide to Jesus in relationship. Our abiding relationship with Jesus is one where we walk with Him, talk with Him, and regularly consult Him throughout our day and our lives. It is only through this living Holy Spirit produced relationship with Jesus that we can grow in our faith and be fruitful.
And Jesus has referred to “My word.” We abide in Jesus as we regularly meet with Him in devotions prayerfully taking in His word. We abide in Jesus as we get our reproductive DNA. We abide in Jesus as we are nourished from our attachment to Him. We abide in Jesus as through the Holy Spirit we remain in an ongoing conversation with Jesus throughout the day.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit;” (John 15:5a). We can’t do anything without Jesus. A branch removed from the vine dies. Nothing of eternal worth or significance can be accomplished without Jesus. We abide in Jesus and become fruitful in and through Him as we consult Him in prayer, obey His word, and then give Him glory for fruitful results.
What “fruit” are we to bear? What are we to be producing in our lives as we abide in Jesus? The Bible defines fruit as: Winning souls – John 4:27-38; Fellowship – Romans 1:13; Living a holy life – Romans 6:22; Giving – Romans 15:28; Serving and helping others practically – Colossians 1:6, 10; Praising and worshipping God – Hebrews 13:15; and Love – Galatians 5:22. How fruitful are you?
Jesus then points out, “for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b). That done without Jesus has no eternal value. Just as that done without love has no eternal value (1 Corinthians 13:1-3), that done without Jesus has no eternal value. Something done in Jesus’ name means it is done for Jesus glory and the way Jesus would do it. If you leave Jesus out of the equation, what you do is worthless.
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6). Abiding in Jesus is essential to spiritual life. Those who don’t abide in Jesus, who choose to walk an alternative route to heaven other than Jesus, those people wither spiritually. “Wither” (Greek xeraino) means to shrivel up, to dry up, pine away, be past ripening. There is no spiritual life apart from Jesus.
If you’re feeling spiritually dry or shriveled up, maybe it’s because in some way you’re not abiding in Jesus. But there are those who never abide in Jesus. Those will be removed and cast out into the fire; a symbol of eternal fire (cf. Rev. 20).
But there are also times of “the dark night of the soul.” There are times when we become dry or feel distant from God simply because of our humanness. These are times when the Lord allows a darkness and distance between the believer and Him in order to build our faith and better appreciate His presence when we do enjoy it. The dark night helps us not take God’s presence for granted. The dark night provides an opportunity for our faith to be built not on feeling but simply on the word of God and trusting in His faithfulness; who He is.
How do we know whether or not we have distanced ourselves from abiding in God or are simply experiencing a dark night of the soul? Only through walking in the Spirit and meditating on His word can we discern what we are going through.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). Jesus target is our heart. Jesus wants His word to abide in us. But where does He want them to abide in us? Not merely our head, but in our heart. Salvation is in the heart and our heart is where His words need to abide. Our mind is too cool and calculating. It is our heart that is capable of getting a passionate grip on things.
There is a big difference between understanding Jesus with your head and holding on to Him with your heart. Our mind changes its view on things repeatedly. But the heart holds on. Ever date someone you knew wasn’t right for you or that wasn’t good for you? You may have known in your head that the person wasn’t the Lord’s will for you or was not right for you, but it was still hard to break up because the heart holds onto things; onto people.
It is in the heart that God works: “Thy word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not win against You” (Psalm 119:11). “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:17). Jesus wants us to abide with Him with our heart; He wants us to take His word into our heart, because the heart is where we hold onto things, onto people, onto Him. The heart is the instrument of abiding.
Pray with your heart. The word of God and our relationship with Jesus abide in our heart as we prayerfully meditate and contemplate the word and Jesus. As we use our minds to think about the word and Jesus the word and Jesus slowly sink deeper into us and get planted in our heart. Make Jesus the focus of your thinking and He will soon become your abiding Lord. Focus on, memorize and study the word of God and it will soon be embedded in your heart in an abiding way. When Jesus and His words are abiding in us our prayers will be right on target and we can ask and receive freely.
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). Fruitful disciples glorify God. Examples of fruitfulness would be sharing Jesus with other, winning souls, making disciples, sharing His word with others, and living in the love of Jesus; being a disciple. When we do that we bring glory to God. This is a work of the Spirit.
A “disciple” (Greek mathetes) is a pupil, a learner, a student. By referring to His followers as disciples Jesus is implying there is learning involved in following Him. A disciple lives a vibrant alive life of growing in their abiding relationship with Jesus. And all of this begins when one is born again by the Holy Spirit our Helper (cf. John 3).
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John15:9). Disciples of Jesus abide in His love. Jesus again emphasizes the Father’s love for Him and His love for His disciples. And He then He says “abide in My love.” “Love” (Greek agapeo) means to welcome, to love dearly, to love socially and morally. Love as Jesus loved is to love in a self-giving way. Disciples of Jesus stay attached to and live in the love Jesus modeled to them.
“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” (John 15:10). We abide in Jesus’ love through obeying His word. Jesus modeled obedient love through His obedience to the Father. Jesus’ disciples must now follow in His steps by obeying His words as the expression of their love to Him. There is no love without obedience.
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11). All of this produces joy in the disciple of Jesus. “Joy” (Greek chara) refers to cheerfulness, calm delight, a settled assurance based on faith in Jesus that He is in control. When we express our love through obedience to Jesus’ word and are fruitful in the process, it leads to us having a joyful settled assurance in life. The one who trusts in Jesus and abides in Him by the Holy Spirit is the one who will have a settled not rattled outlook on life.
The Helper helps with our relationship with fellow believers. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). With their relationship with Jesus in place, the disciples are to turn to their relationship with other disciples. Disciples are to love one another as Jesus has loved them. There is no such thing as a disciple of Jesus who does not love. A person may claim to be a disciple of Jesus, but if they aren’t loving and growing in love they are making false claims. To abide in Jesus’ word is to abide in His love.
Jesus commands that we love. Love is not optional as far as Jesus is concerned. But love by nature is volitional; you have to choose to love. Machines can’t love. Love must be something agreed to in the heart. We decide whether to obey or not; we decide whether or not to love. Love is an action to take. Love is a matter of faith that works. Love is not a mere feeling. We don’t love or not love based on what we feel. Love is an action to be done in faith. Love transcends feelings. When we love we love regardless of whether or not we feel like it.
Feelings follow acts of faith. If we only acted on our feelings we would do a lot of wrong sinful things and probably neglect what is good and holy and loving. If we only loved those we felt like loving we’d probably not love as many people as God would have us love. But here’s the thing, feelings follow acts of faith. When we take a step of faith and love because Jesus us commands us to love, the feelings usually follow. If a couple has supposedly fallen out of love with each other, if they take a step of faith and act lovingly toward each other their feelings of love for one another will be rekindled. So next time you don’t feel like acting in love just remember, Jesus commands us to love; love is not an option; love is an action commanded for us by Jesus.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). The greatest and most accurate expression of Jesus’ love is in laying down our life for others. “Greater” (Greek meizon) means larger, matured, and stronger. Love is mature and full when we lay our life down for others. Love by nature is counter to the flesh which is consumed with serving self. If the greatest love is defined and expressed by laying down one’s life for others, then the cross of Christ is the greatest expression of God’s love for us in eternity.
When England was in the throes of debauchery and a corrupt church, John Knox prayed, “Lord, give me Scotland, or I die.” That is a popular cry referred to when we want to emphasize the passion needed to win the lost. But what is not often included in John Knox’s cry is what John Know wrote of God’s answer to His prayer. Knox wrote that after He made His plea God told him “First die, then I’ll give you Scotland.” Are you willing to die for the Lord? Are you willing to die for others? Are you willing to die to see your enemies come to salvation in Christ? That is what Jesus’ brand of love is all about.
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). You can’t claim friendship with Jesus and then disobey our live counter to all He represents. Two can’t walk together unless they are agreed (e.g. Amos 3:3). “Friends” (Greek philos) are people we are actively fond and associate with in order to wish them well and support their welfare. A friend is someone who encourages another to attain their best. A friend is one who desires God’s best for another. In that case, Jesus is our best friend; He is always looking out for our best interests.
Is Jesus your Friend? Jesus said the disciples were His friends. They were flawed in many ways and yet Jesus befriended them. We are flawed in many ways, and yet Jesus befriends us. Jesus doesn’t call us friends because we are smart or part of the “in” crowd. He befriends us because He likes us, He loves us. He enjoys us. We are a pleasure to Him. Have you befriended Jesus?
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). There is a relationship with Jesus that is greater than a servant relationship. We are called to be servants of Jesus. Jesus modeled service to us (cf. John 13). But Jesus is speaking about a relationship with Him that is greater than a servant relationship; a friendship.
“Servants” (Greek doulos) are a slave, one in subjection to, bound to another. Jesus points out that He doesn’t look at His disciples as merely hired hands to be ordered around. Jesus partners with us in friendship. A servant is someone the Master says, “Go do this for me” to. But a friend is someone Jesus says, “Come on, let’s do this together” to.
Therefore we minister with Jesus and we minister together with Jesus too. We all abide together in Jesus the Vine. As we abide in Jesus together we are brought together as friends.
A “servant does not know what his master is doing.” Servants simply obey at their master’s instructions. But a friend is someone who is clued into the why of what they are doing. As “friends” of Jesus, He gives us insight into ministry and our working with Him in life. Jesus doesn’t just command us to do things without giving us some sense of “why” He is asking us to do it. True ministry is done with Jesus. True ministry flows out of our informed friendship with Jesus.
As friends of Jesus we are given insight into the purposes of what He calls us to do. That doesn’t mean we will have all the answers and information in all our ministry situations. It does mean that Jesus will be with us as we minister, directing us along the way. We are co-laborers with Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9).
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16). This is similar to what Matthew records in his gospel account when Jesus is recorded to have said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). The gospel is offered to many people and a good number respond in faith and become born again believers in Jesus. God desires none would perish (2 Peter 3:9). Reality reveals that not everyone accepts Jesus as their Savior. But of those who do answer Jesus call to repent and be saved through faith in Him, only a few answer the call to discipleship and ministry service. This is the big problem with the church of our day. We live in a lukewarm Laodicean church age where the church is filled with Christian couch potatoes who do little more than attend services. That only leads to spiritual constipation; people constantly taken in spiritual information but hardly ever applying in life; the result is Christians bound up and immature in their faith.
Jesus chooses us. Jesus “chose” (Greek eklegomai – to select, choose, make a choice) the disciples. They didn’t choose Jesus. Jesus walked by them and called to them to follow and they chose to respond to His call by following. Jesus initiated their lives as disciples. The fishermen, tax collector and others were all busy with their daily work and lives. But Jesus took the initiative to break into their lives and invite them to follow Him. And they chose to answer that call and respond to follow Him. Jesus calls us to follow Him. Will you follow Him?
Jesus appoints us. He “appointed” (Greek tithemi – advise, appoint, commit to, conceive, lay down, ordain, set at a purpose, sink down) them to be apostles (i.e. sent ones). Jesus appointed the twelve and then seventy other disciples to go out into ministry. Of the general population of His followers he called or appointed twelve to be leaders. Of the twelve it appears peter, James, and John were then appointed to be three who were with Jesus on particular situations (e.g. transfiguration; Gethsemane). To be appointed is apparently to be selected for a task or position. When Jesus chooses and calls you to follow Him, will you then obey and do what he appoints you to do?
Jesus produces through us. Jesus’ purpose of choosing and appointing us is to bear lasting fruit. One plants, another waters and the increase comes from Him (1 Cor. 3:7). Jesus chooses and appoints disciples to bear lasting fruit. Fruit is lasting that is reproducing and eternal in nature (e.g. souls saved, disciples made). Our lifeline to bearing lasting fruit is prayer. Jesus says the ones He chooses and appoints for the purpose of bearing lasting fruit are also those who “ask the Father in My name” – that is prayer. Notice how Jesus alludes to and interweaves prayer throughout His words in this chapter. Lasting fruit is a product of prayerful dependence on the Father in the name of Jesus.
That which is done “in My name” is done as Jesus would do it. When we do something in Jesus’ name it must take on the nature of the One named; Jesus. Jesus didn’t cut corners or bend the rules. Jesus was without sin and righteous. That is how that done in His name should and must be done.
If I write a check for a million dollars and sign my name it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on. But if I present a check for a million dollars on it and it is signed by Donald Trump, that check is worth something. Similarly when we present a check to God in prayer and it bears Jesus’ name in its intent, purpose and request, that check is worth something. Ask in Jesus’ name and your request will be granted. And it is the Holy Spirit who helps us in this prayer life (Rom. 8:26-27).
What is the nature of doing things in Jesus’ name? Jesus said again, “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17). Ministry done in Jesus’ name is done in and through love. Again Jesus emphasizes that in all our work with other disciples and all our work done period, it must be done in Jesus’ love. Jesus keeps bringing the disciples back to His love.
The Helper helps us in our relationships with unbelievers. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Jesus now swings the disciples to their relationship with those in the world. We should not be surprised if the world rejects and hates us. The world hated Jesus and ultimately cooperated in His crucifixion. Because we are not of the world anymore once we turn from our sin to follow Jesus as His disciples, we can expect that the world will hate us like it hates Jesus.
The world loves its own. If the world loves you, maybe you’re too close to being of it instead of being of Jesus. If you fit right into the world you’re probably too close to it. Jesus chooses us “out of” the world. That doesn’t mean we no longer interact with the world. It does mean that while we still live in the world we are not like the world; we no longer have the same interests and priorities of those in the fallen world. Does the world love you? Do you love the world?
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:20-21). The response we should expect from the world is that the world will treat us like it treated Jesus. How do we know we have the right relationship with the world? We have the right relationship with the world when we see it treating us like it treated Jesus. Does the world persecute you like it did Jesus? Does the world keep your word like it kept Jesus’ word? Does the world know the Father?
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ (John 15:22-25). The world is without excuse. Jesus spoke a clear message to the world. He did mighty works that testified of who He was and is. But the world turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to Jesus and instead hates Him. Because of this the world of the lost is without excuse. No one will have an excuse for not following Jesus when they stand before God on Judgment Day. Jesus response to those attempting to excuse themselves will be “They hated Me without a cause.”
The Helper is the fulfillment of the Father’s promise. “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). Jesus is speaking of Pentecost here when he says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father.” The ministry of the Spirit in and through the follower of Jesus is essential to experiencing all that Jesus is speaking about here. That is why at the end of the gospels Jesus instructs His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are empowered by the Spirit who will come upon them (e.g. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).
The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth.” Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). The Holy Spirit is the revealer and illuminator of truth. If you want to know the truth about something seek the illumination of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-14). God’s word is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is filled with truth (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Go to God’s word.
The Holy Spirit “He will testify of Me.” The Holy Spirit doesn’t bring attention to Himself; he shines the light on Jesus. The Holy Spirit works in the background. He always directs people toward Jesus. You know the Spirit is in a work when Jesus is exalted and lifted up. You know the Spirit is working in and through you when “you also will bear witness” of Jesus.
All of what we see Jesus sharing in this chapter is a work of the Holy Spirit in and through His disciples. Is the Holy Spirit in you? Is the Holy Spirit helping you? How are your relationships? Are you relying on the Holy Spirit’s help? Jesus is calling you to a close abiding relationship with Him. Will you answer His call?