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 (NKJV)
In this age of quick and dirty one paragraph devotionals, is it any wonder that we are often found lacking the spiritual fruit Jesus expects us to bear for His kingdom? That is not to say that you cannot find valuable nuggets of God's wisdom in short sentences but rather that it lends itself to an abbreviated relationship with the Lord. When our relationship with God is abbreviated, our fruit is minimized and when that happens we walk in far less power than God intended for us. Too often we find ourselves powerless as individuals over the trappings of this world and the enemy. Too often our churches are powerless in the advancement of the kingdom. Under the Bible sub-heading "Living by the Spirit's Power", we find the listing of the fruit:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! -- Galatians 5: 22-23 (NLT)
People who are prone to anxiety are lacking peace. People who are prone to anger are lacking joy and possibly patience. Unkind churches will not be advancing the kingdom. Remember we are in a spiritual war and while these are the fruits of God's Holy Spirit, there are also other spirits which lead to other outcomes:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. -- Galatians 5: 19-21 (NLT)
These things war against each other in the spiritual realm within us. Whether it be idolatrous churches mixing secularism with holiness or individuals falling into the temptations of the flesh, there are reasons why we walk sometimes devoid of the power Christ died to provide for us in this life. The secret of fruit bearing is found in our key verse today. There are a few truths to digest from this verse starting with the fact that we are supposed to be in a reciprocal relationship with Christ. That is a fancy way of saying it takes two to tango. Have you ever been in a one sided relationship? Where you were the only one trying? The only one striving to make it work? The only one pouring into the relationship? The key verse starts with "abide in me as I in you." This was not meant to be a one sided relationship beloved. We all know that God has done His part. He has poured into us the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead! His own Holy Spirit. In the old covenant the only place you could go to experience the presence of God was the Holy of Holies within the temple. There was a large curtain from ceiling to floor which separated the people from God's presence. But Jesus tore that curtain from top to bottom with His work on Calvary's cross.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. -- Hebrews 10: 19-22 (NIV)
Now we have confidence to enter into the Most Holy Place because we are that place! The Bible says that we are the new temple. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit who now lives in us. There is no question that God has done His part in our relationship. He is all in. Unfortunately, we can tend to treat God as if we were causally dating Him. We have a set date with Him every Sunday for a couple of hours. Maybe do something on Friday night and a few phone calls during the week; mostly when we want something. That is not a reciprocal relationship beloved. God does not want to casually date you.
The next interesting thing is the usage of the word abide. The dictionary defines abide as to "dwell, reside, to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship ." The truth is that we often lack the power we are supposed to have in Christ because we do not abide very well. We are visiting Christians. We hang out with Jesus but do not make our dwelling in Him. This is part of the dangers of the new theology that turns our Sovereign Lord into our buddy and pal. Yes, God is our friend but only after we have made Him Lord of our lives. Too often we see Christians skipping the first step. The problem is that we do not by nature abide in our friends. We do not obey them as much as we seek their advice. God is not in the advice giving business. The Psalmist reminds us: