The Secret of the Vine
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“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.”1
How do we produce much fruit? What is the Lord saying?
In the modern world, the work ethic is achieve and produce by working longer and harder! The focus is on getting results through human effort. … But God's way runs contrary to this approach—His way is much more oriented toward process and relationship rather than performance and production. He is interested in results which He calls “fruit”; but not by pushing or egging us on to work harder or longer.
The Lord's way is to work with and through us so that every result or product comes out of our abiding in Him, since without Him we can do nothing.
This is opposed to the culture we live in today, and to human nature in general. … God's way of success produces the results which He values; results which are not produced [solely] by self-effort, but which grow out of an intimate relationship with Him, in which we seek to constantly abide.
The only way we can become abundantly fruitful is to understand the Lord's fruit-bearing process. As we lay down self-effort, our natural human independence, and seek communion with Him, abiding in the Vine, then His power, His will, and His desires will be realized in our lives, which then will bear fruit that remains throughout eternity!—George Whitten2
Christ said, “I am the true vine, and … ye are the branches.” “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
“Abide in me” is an understandable and beautiful enough concept in the elegant English of the King James Bible, but “abide” is not a word we use much anymore. So I gained even more appreciation for this admonition from the Lord when I was introduced to the translation of this passage in another language. In Spanish, that familiar phrase is rendered “permaneced en mi.” Like the English verb “abide,” permanecer means “to remain, to stay,” but even gringos like me can hear the root cognate there of “permanence.” The sense of this then is “stay—but stay forever.” That is the call of the gospel message… Come, but come to remain. Come with conviction and endurance. Come permanently, for your sake and the sake of all the generations who must follow you, and we will help each other be strong to the very end.—Jeffrey R. Holland3
We know the meaning of the word except. It expresses some indispensable condition, some inevitable law. “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine. No more can ye, except ye abide in me.” There is but one way for the branch to bear fruit. There is no other possibility; it must abide in unbroken communion with the vine. Not of itself, but only of the vine, does the fruit come. …
Jesus desires to call us away from ourselves and our own strength, to Himself and His strength. … Abiding in the Vine then comes to be nothing more nor less than the restful surrender of the soul to let Jesus have all and work all, as completely as how the branch, as shown in nature, knows and seeks nothing but the vine.—Andrew Murray4
The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.—1 John 2:65
The branch cannot realize itself apart from the Vine. If the branch is to burst into bud and leaf and flower and fruit, its resources must be drawn from the Vine. It has no sap of its own creation. Its quickening and sustaining power can be obtained only by association.
[In the same way] man can only come to himself by an intimate alliance with Jesus. … If [man’s] capabilities are to become abilities, if his possibilities are to ripen into actualities, if the human branch is to break into bud, and flower, and fruit, and life is to receive its appropriate crown, man must enter into profound and hearty fellowship with Jesus. —J. H. Jowett6
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.—John 15:77
Jesus talked about how to bear fruit in our lives, stating that if we abide in Him and He abides in us, we will produce fruit.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.”8
Jesus also said: “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth…. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.”9
When we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit abiding within us, we will bear fruit. If we are following the leading of the Holy Spirit, if we’re open to the direction of the Spirit, we will be fruitful. He will move us according to His will if we’ll let Him. He will lead. He will show us where to go, what to do, and how to do it. If we will follow and do what He’s showing us, we will bear fruit.
From what Jesus said, fruitfulness is connected to God’s Spirit dwelling in us, from which we can infer that it’s also connected to us following where the Holy Spirit leads. As an individual, where the Spirit is leading you personally is where you will be fruitful. Where God leads you is where you should go. When you follow, the fruit will come.
It won’t necessarily be quick fruit. This time in your life may be like the first few years of the orchard, which will bear much future fruit after a period of preparation and growth. Or the Lord may lead you to a variety of things, some of which bear quick fruit and others that bear fruit for a season, and others that will bear fruit later—but for a long time. There may be some seasons that require all work with no fruit, followed by seasons of fruitfulness.
Some key elements in doing what God shows you to do are faith, trust, and patience.—Faith to follow where He leads; trust that when you do, He will come through; and patience to wait for the fruit-bearing season.
Abide in Him, and your fruit will come.—Peter Amsterdam
Published on Anchor September 2014. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 John 15:4–5 ESV.
4 Adapted from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/murray/true_vine.xi.html.
6 Adapted from Brooks by the Traveler’s Way (London: H. R. Allenson, 1902).
8 John 15:5 ESV.
9 John 14:16–17, 20 KJV.