During this fast season we are exploring - through what we read in a chapter a day of the Bible - who God is and what He is like.
1. Pray and read - preferably together
2. Pray and share
God is so awesome and holy, yet because of Jesus’s death and resurrection we can have an intimate friendship with God Himself!
The image of a vine, with spreading branches full of life and fruit, is a wonderful picture of God’s people the church. Jesus would have been familiar with the Old Testament background in Psalm 80:7-14 and Isa 5:1-7.
However there is more than a picture. When we let Jesus’ words sink in, we see the amazingly close intimacy. He is not just the roots or the main stem - He is the whole vine and we are branches.
We are actually part of Christ’s Body, not just as a picture of being part of church, but in a loving and intimate connection. We are IN Him and He is IN us. You cannot get closer than that!
It is a spiritual truth so we can only use pictures and ideas to try to communicate and understand it. But the key is in the phrase “Abide in me.”
The Greek word is normally translated “remain.” The King James Version in 1611 translated it as “abide” meaning “dwell” or “live.” That is old fashioned English now, but some other modern translations use the word as it has become so familiar. Some translations use “continue” and one says “Stay with Me and I will be in you.” The different translations help but the most common is “Remain in Me…”
What does that mean?
The idea is don’t move. Don’t get uprooted. Stay where there is a flow of life. In other words, through our prayer and reading scripture and other ‘spiritual disciplines’ we can open our hearts (the spiritual aspect of who we are) to talk with God, listen to Him, receive life from Him. We can do this both on our own and together with those we are rooted with, the branches and twigs next to us.
What is the result?
We fulfil our calling to bear fruit. Some say we are not called to be successful but to be faithful, and there is wisdom in not chasing success but chasing after God of course. But in fact we are called to be fruitful - see verse 8. We glorify God by bearing fruit and so prove we really are disciples, following Jesus and learning from Him because we are intimately connected with Him.
In verse 16 Jesus explains that when we bear fruit, true spiritual fruit that is the result of co-operating with the Holy Spirit, it results in two things. First our fruit will last through eternity. Second we may ask our Father for anything in Jesus’ name and He will answer. This is not a blank cheque for self-centred prayers. But when we live in intimate friendship with Him, we can pray what is on His heart and see the answers as we trust Him.
3. Pray and act
Remain in Him - devote yourselves to Him - and dare to ask what you feel (together with others) is on His heart!