A Branch–No More, No Less
by Fred Swartz
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.” (John 15:4, ESV)
I am beginning to write this conversation with God on my 19th wedding anniversary, and we moved houses last week. The convergence of these two events triggered some helpful reflection on the topic of abiding. With all the upheaval that comes from moving a family of eight, I found myself frequently reaching out for a little stability however I could grab it. By God’s grace I have come to know that true stability is found only in Him because I abide in Him as a branch in a vine. My permanent address is Jesus Christ, no matter what my bank statement says.
In His grace, my good Father has brought me a slightly tangible taste of that sort of permanency in my marriage to Lacey. As long as we both have breath, she will be with me, no matter where we live, no matter what circumstances may surround us. She meant every word when she said, “till death do us part.” For as long as God grants it, my almost permanent address is my wife.
The link, of course, is that what lasts, what endures, is relationship. People and God are the only eternal things out there, and our abiding must always be in the context of relationship. We abide in Christ Himself as a branch in a vine, but we equally abide in the Body of Christ, the church, for the fruit that we bear as a branch has no meaning without relationships in which to express them. Think about it—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are all pretty pointless in isolation. Who we are as Christians finds full expression in the context of the Body of Christ.
Abiding, therefore, guards our identity. So long as a branch acts like a branch, fruitfulness is assured, but when that branch tries to be something other than what it is, frustration and disappointment are unavoidable. The enemy will try to deceive us with all sorts of lies about our identity, all sorts of deviously twisted truth to make us think we are either more or less than a branch in a vine. However, if we abide in the vine, we are defended from such deception. Our identity flows from the vine. Same DNA, after all.
And when we rightly abide in the Body of Christ, we are also protected from such deception. If we are in relationship with other believers and seeing the fruit of the Spirit in us impact them, we will have before our eyes clear testimony of who we are in Christ. The enemy can counterfeit gifts of the Spirit, but he can’t counterfeit the fruit of the Spirit, so when that fruit is abundantly springing out of us and those we walk with, the power of deception withers. By their fruits you shall know them.
So it is that abiding protects us from deception, but it must be complete abiding. Not just the mystical personal relationship with Jesus, but also the vibrancy of Spirit-empowered fruit bearing for the blessing and up-building of others around us. With the rear guard and front guard firmly in place, no lie shall prosper over us.
Warmly in Christ,
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16, ESV)
- How has the fruit of the Spirit in your life overcome doubts the enemy has thrown at you?
- How have you been tempted to think that you are something more than a branch in a vine? How have you been tempted to think you are something less than that?