The Secret of Abiding in Christ and of a Fruitful Life

The following series of questions were handed to us during special meetings held for the help of young Christians. We publish the questions and our answers in the hope of helping many others who nave similar exercises

In John 15:4 the Lord Jesus says "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." The following questions arise from exercise of soul upon this verse: —

1. Does not "EXCEPT" imply that we are not always abiding in Christ?

No! that is not the meaning of these words. What they plainly teach is that the only possible way of fruit-bearing is by abiding in Christ as a branch abides in the vine; and that the one evidence of abiding in Christ is fruit-bearing.

And perhaps it will help you in the understanding of the passage if you see that it is not a question of a branch abiding in Christ today and not tomorrow, but of two sorts of branches, the fruit-bearing branches and the non-fruit-bearing branches. It is a question of what professes to be for the Lord on earth, and in that sense every professor is a branch; but if there is not vital union with Him there will be no fruit, and such a branch will eventually be cast forth, as Judas was. Notice that the Lord changes the word when speaking of this. He does not say, "if one of you" — the true disciples — "abide not in Me," but "if a man abide not in Me" (v. 6).

2. It is clear from the verse that if we were always abiding in Him, everything else would be right in our lives and we should be fruitful and well-pleasing to God. This is what we want, to bear fruit. What is it then to abide in Christ?

Having settled the question as to your vital oneness with Christ, and that it is no mere matter of profession with you, though the subject of the Lord's words is really our responsibility as having professed identification with Him, you must next inquire as to what it is you are thinking about first and most. Is it your fruit-bearing or Christ? If it is your fruit-bearing it is self-occupation, and as a consequence the fruit will be both poor in quantity and quality. But if you have learnt what He means when He says, "Without ME ye can do nothing," and so have turned wholly to Him — the Source of your life, strength and energy — fruit will not be lacking. You abide in Him when you realize that you can't do without Him, and when you know that all you need is in Him. Two words cover it. He is INDISPENSABLE to you, and He is ALL-SUFFICIENT. To abide in Him is to cleave to Him with purpose of heart, as Acts 11:23 says, but it is more than that, for there it is a question of grace from Him, here it is life in Him and the grace which is the strength of that life. In abiding in Him you stay where grace has put you. When you came to Him at first in all your need as a sinner, you turned away from every other hope and helper and from all your own efforts to secure blessing. Then salvation and life for you were in Christ alone; now, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Col. 2:6-7). Go on as you began; as you found all you needed in Him for salvation, now find all you need in Him for fruit-bearing. Derive from Him, draw upon Him, cleave to Him, so that His life may find expression in you in fruit-bearing.

3. What is the secret of constant abiding in Christ?

There is first the sense of your need of Him; when you have this you will cleave to Him INSTINCTIVELY as a babe cleaves to its mother's breast, but you will also cleave to Him INTELLIGENTLY as you grow in the knowledge of His resources. But there is more than what He can be for you, there is what He is to you. You will abide in Him HABITUALLY when you know His love as greater than all other loves, Himself better than the brightest and best below. So the 9th verse would answer your question. The secret of constant abiding in Him is simply the knowledge of His love. "As the Father has loved Me" that is the measure of it — "so have I loved you: continue ye in My love."

But there is another side to the question of fruit-bearing, namely, the purging and the chastening of the Father's hand (vv. 1-2). If you are a fruit-bearing branch, and the desire to be constantly abiding in Christ would be a bit of evidence that you are, the Father's eye is never withdrawn from you. He sees all the tendencies in you that would lead to self-confidence or dependence on men or things instead of upon Christ, and these can only spoil the fruit, so in faithful love He cuts and prunes at these. Are you ready to be wholly in the Father's hands as to this matter? It may mean painful experiences and disappointments, but with great compensations; for what is cut away will make more room for Christ and His life; and though you may not be quite so showy, like a vine closely pruned, yet "Herein," says the Lord, "is My Father glorified," and that is your desire.

Then you must not overlook verse 7, "If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done to you. As you abide in Him, His words will be infinitely blessed to you. You will long for them, listen to them, meditate upon them, cherish them and obey them.

What letter is that for which you eagerly looked and read over and over until you knew it by heart, and yet continued to read it until you got another in the same handwriting? That was a letter from the one you cared most for in all the world. Let the words of Jesus be like that to you, so that they fill your thoughts and form your desires and abide in your heart. Then you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done for you, for then His will will be yours, and your praying will be in response to His words. Your prayers, as in this chapter will have fruit-bearing specially in view, and they will be answered by an energy of the Holy Ghost which in you will manifest the life of Jesus. Not notable deeds or spectacular service that will make much of you is the fruit here spoken of, but meekness, gentleness, forbearance, forgiveness, sell-forgetting service, love, joy, peace, long-suffering — these are the fruit of the Spirit, for these are the graces of Christ, the much fruit by which the Father is glorified.

4. We are often told that all we have to do is to be "beholding the Lord's glory," "be occupied with Christ," "feed upon Christ." We believe this, but will you please explain how this attitude of soul is to be maintained?

You may have heard of the young lady who, when asked at the close of a Gospel address if she would give her heart to the Lord, replied, "He stole it away in the meeting." Well, if He really had done that, she would not be contented with hearing about Him once a week, she would desire to be occupied with Him continually, and she would wish to feed upon Him, and to know where He is that she might see Him if that was possible. It is the desire for Him that will make you seek Him and His company, and you shall learn that He is not here. He has gone from the world. He is apart from all its empty attractions, its schemes and glory, and if He is more to you than all it has to offer, you shall find the way you seek, for He does not withhold Himself from those who seek Him; He delights to manifest Himself to those who appreciate His love.

It is the knowledge of His love to you that will set things in motion on this line; as you know that love that passes knowledge you will be constrained to respond to it, and in that you will have the help of the Holy Ghost. The way the mother bird teaches her fledglings to fly will illustrate this point. She hovers over the nest, calling her young with a peculiar call, and they in response look up and desire to reach her in the air, and lo! they discover that they have the power to do it. They do not think of their wings or the use and power of them; they see the mother bird who has been indispensable to their life and existence hitherto; they hear her voice and desire to join her where she is, and at once a power they knew nothing of before comes into play, their wings become the servants of their desires. So with you, let Christ fill your eyes and heart, and you will spread your wings. You will find that you have the power of the Holy Ghost on your side — the very same power that raised up Christ from the dead and set Him above all principalities and powers and every name that is named is the power that now works in you. It is thus that your question will have a most blessed answer in your experience.

5. What is the meaning of "Ye are filled full in Him"? Are we to seek to get the fullness out of Him into us or just to rest in His fatness, realizing that we are part of Him?

Your question refers, we suppose, to Colossians 2:9-10. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power." It is the truth of Christ as Head of His body that is developed in the passage, and the blessed fact is brought clearly out that the members of His body have all they need in Him who is their Head and their life. They need neither human wisdom nor human religion — both rationalism and ritualism are snares to be avoided, for both displace and obscure Christ. You as a member of the body of Christ are in Him, and you are complete in Him; nothing can be added to Christ, nor can He be improved in any way, and you are filled up in Him. You need nothing apart from Him. Not alone as a unit, as a branch in a vine might be, but as part of His body. The earlier questions have to do with individual life, for you could abide in Him and bear fruit if nobody else did, but here you are part of a body with many members. In the Head of the body, Christ, the glorified Man, all the fullness of the Godhead dwells for His body, and there is no life, or wisdom, or power outside of Him for it or for you as a member of it; but there is an absolutely and ever-available sufficiency of all these things in Him. As you learn the great truth of your oneness with Him, and of His all-sufficiency for His body, both on the side of its nourishment and protection and edification, and also on the side of the manifestation of His life, grace, wisdom and power through it, you will turn from all worldly support and wisdom and hold to Him, the Head of the body; then there will be no hindrance to the manifestation of the fact that He is in you, and the energy of His life in you will find its expression in the Christian company in which you have your part. The way in which this will be seen is described for us in chapter 3:12-17; there we see Christ in the saints; and if every member of Christ on earth knew the truth and walked in it, that would be the life that they would live.

6. How do we enjoy our possessions as Christians? Is it simply by believing God's Word that they are ours?

No, simply believing is not enough for the enjoyment of our blessings. God's Word tells us what we possess in Christ, and we believe God, and faith gives us the boldness to enter into what is ours and to enjoy it. But we could not enjoy the things of God apart from the Spirit of God; this is made pain in 1 Corinthians 2:9-14. Every blessing is God's gift to us. Faith gives us the boldness to appropriate what God gives but it is by the Holy Spirit that we possess in conscious enjoyment what is ours.

7. When we grieve the Holy Spirit of God through sin, do we lose His witness that we are sons of God?

We lose the joy of the relationship of sons when we grieve the Holy Spirit, though not the knowledge of the relationship, and often the Spirit uses the knowledge that we have of the relationship to produce in us the deepest repentance and fullest confession for our having sinned in spite of it. Not only what we may call sin grieves the Holy Spirit; earthly-mindedness, worldliness, and everything that would cause us to be indifferent to Christ, or to think little of our heavenly place and inheritance — these are the things and ways that grieve Him, just as Israel grieved Him in the wilderness when they despised the pleasant land and turned in heart back again to Egypt. And the impoverished, lethargic, lack-lustre Christian lives, and immature fruit in them, are the result of the Spirit being grieved. But if Christ is the heart's object, if He is paramount in our lives, all is well. We may often fail on that road and sometimes stumble and fall, but there is grace for all that, and in spite of our failure the Spirit will find His delight in leading us into a fuller knowledge of Christ and of those blessed relationships into which grace has put us. The listening ear and responsive heart, the single eye and the subject will, these are the Holy Spirit's delight, whilst self-sufficiency, pride, indifference to His holy mission and the glory of Christ, these are a perpetual grief to Him.