Abiding : The Place Where Christ is With Us

There is a danger in putting second things first.

It’s easy to do. Who doesn’t want to put play before work, privilege before responsibility, or submission before honor, dessert before dinner. But the results are never good.

As I’ve wrestled to understand the meaning of abiding in Jesus I realize something: I rarely hear people mention boo about what Jesus says before He exhorts his disciples to abide.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” ~John 15:1

I am the true vine. In the gospel of John we receive the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus.  “I am the true vine” is the last. Is this important? I think there are a number of possibilities indicating it is:

1. Saving the best for last? {After all, seven is the number of completion.} If we read the Gospel of John like a story rather than as independent verses that we pick like lottery numbers we discover that the conflict of this story is about ready to meet its climax.  The intensity of revelation is reaching its fulfillment. Hints and rumors of death have turned into imminent probability and Jesus declares, “I am life!”

2. Symbolic significance? A vine is an important symbol in Israel’s history. Often through the prophets God spoke of Israel as a vine (Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 8 & 16; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1…to name just a few). The vine was so important to the identity of Israel that it was the symbol on the Maccabean coin.  But we know Israel’s failure, their unfaithfulness, how their vineyards had been trampled, the vines found fruitless. Jesus—the True Vine—the One who cannot fail says, “Hope again!”

3. A picture of a restored garden? The story of God’s revelation begins in a garden. Is it not fitting that it should continue there? Where he tends it? Where the Vine provides life?  On the seventh day in the first garden, God rested. In the seventh statement of Jesus, man rests. In the first garden, death entered. In the Master’s garden, life—flourishing and eternal—enters. In The Vine there is resting that leads to true life and ended forever is the striving that leads to death.

This “Abiding” series is seeking to understand what it means to abide with Jesus. (Part One.) We begin with Jesus in the place where he is declaring “I AM” to our dead places. Israel had never been able to achieve its own redemption; neither can we. When Jesus declares, “I am the true vine” he is saying there is no life outside of him. All other gardens of safety, significance, and salvation will dry up and pass away; only where Jesus is, is there life.

Without Christ, we are dead—spiritually speaking. No amount of tilling, planting, watering, or fruit-bearing will make us alive. Jesus finds us already dead and he places us in the Vine—in himself—and his life begins to flow in us. Yes, we hear the heart beating, we feel the thumping of the pulse, and we rise with the intake of air in our lungs. But make no mistake—it’s not our doing. It’s all His. If we don’t get this and orient our faith around this fundamental truth we could end up spending our whole life just shuffling dead things around. You might even to make it look good for a moment, but you’ll be tired, worn, and longing for more.

This is why Paul says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).  The first man was placed in the garden; we are placed in the Vine—the place where the love of God flows right through Jesus to us.  {Please stop and think about that for a minute…wait with the words until they awaken awe!}

Jesus is our only source of spiritual life. I see in so many others and myself this desire for more vitality. We run, we seek, we adventure to find something that will give us a jolt. A new book, a new blog, a new pastor, a new spiritual practice, a new ministry—we’re trying it all. But they’re all mere carts before the proverbial horse. In themselves they aren’t bad things {well maybe, depends…}, but I fear for us in the Church today and here is why: We know so much {thanks to the internet} about spirituality, but are so personally unfamiliar with Jesus—the Vine, the only One whose life in us will wake us up to the beauty, goodness, truth, and love of the Father.

Sometimes I wonder if the Church even sees the necessity of Jesus anymore. “Just keep doing,” it tells us. Salvation is necessary. It ought to be celebrated in our life everyday. But we don’t. Why?  Because we make too little of what Christ has done for us and we make too much of what we are doing for him.  In so many ways we’ve got secondary things in primary places.

I am the true vine.” Do you hear the invitation to unity with Jesus? Do you hear his desire for you to be with him? He is sharing himself with us. This is about our connection to Jesus.

I am the true vine.” Do you hear the essential and exclusive nature of Jesus as the source of life? Is He essential? It’s the personal question we all must ask. Are you trying to draw life—salvation—from some other place?

We do this when the vibrancy of our spiritual life depends on some other condition—when I’m healed, when I’m appreciated, when I’m doing something important, when a relationship is restored, when the bills are paid, when my boss stops hating on me, etc.

Friend, if you’ve received Jesus you have been placed where he is at—in the flow of the Father’s love. You can’t earn, prove, or demand your place on the vine—He places you there, in his Father’s garden, and there is life. You have been placed–chosen–into a rich and abundantly flourishing life. It is the place where the “I AMs” of Jesus quiet and still all the strivings of the me-centered life. Do you hear him?  Where you are, I AM is there. 

This is the truth that changes everything. The first priority of abiding is not our abiding in Christ but that he is abiding in us (John 15:4). He is with us–he is our life! Theoretically, that is. Because when we’re washing the dishes that someone else left, or yelling at the kids, or grieving the loss of a treasured part of our life, we forget this. But what would happen if we remembered?

Where Jesus is, there is life. Are you shuffling around dead things and calling it life? Look to Jesus. Start with Jesus. Stay with Jesus. He has the only life that is worth living. Everything else is just second bests.

4 thoughts on “Abiding : The Place Where Christ is With Us

  1. Thanks for this powerful meditation. “We could end up spending our whole life just shuffling dead things around.”–so true. And I love your point about Adam being placed in the garden, but we are place on the Vine.
    By the way, have you ever read Andrew Murray’s “Abide in Christ”? It’s an extended meditation on this that I keep returning to.

  2. Pingback: Abiding {In the Gaze of the Father’s Love} | Once Upon a Truth

  3. Pingback: Abiding {Remaining Where Christ is Already At} | Once Upon a Truth

  4. Pingback: Abiding {Dwelling Where Jesus Dwells} | Once Upon a Truth

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