In our faith walk, we often hear the concept of “abiding,” but what does that mean? What does it look like to abide in Christ? At first read, we might see it as a reminder to follow His commands. Yet, in digging into John 15, we realize that the call to abide in Christ is much more profound; it is less of a mandate and more of an invitation enveloped in grace.
The word “abide” is used ten times in the first ten verses of John 15. Looking at the Greek roots of the word, we discover helpful definitions. To abide is to “dwell,” “remain,” “be present,” and to “be held and kept.” Abiding addresses our posture and place. Where are we in proximity to Christ? The imagery of abiding extends further to the concept of rest. When we dwell in God’s presence and remain in His Word, we experience His power and peace. Abiding is not about our efforts; instead, it draws our attention to Christ’s accomplishments on our behalf. We are held and kept in His peace and promises so we can enjoy His deep rest.
When we picture a garden, we often visualize many colors and textures. We might imagine a vine climbing a trellis or a wild bouquet of natural blooms bursting forth from buds. If we close our eyes, we might even smell the sweet, aromatic fragrances that overwhelm the senses while walking along a cobbled pathway. But those who have tended gardens see an additional layer beneath the beauty — one of dedication and hard work. They can feel calluses from digging and the ache in their lower back from bending over and weeding. John 15 is rich in gardening analogy as Jesus employs the language of cultivation. In this passage, we see ourselves as branches with the potential to bear fruit, Christ as the vine on which we depend, and God as our vinedresser. John 15:2 shows us God’s active work in our hearts, “every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
We often think of pruning as an act of cutting away. But looking closer at the original language, we’re given the image of cleansing. God purges us of anything not from Him. Like a tree pruned of dying or excess branches, the process makes us healthier to bear more fruit. But how does this cleansing or pruning take place? Jesus explains in John 15:3, “Already you are clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you.” We read that abiding means to dwell in God’s presence, and one essential way of doing this is by hiding His Word in our hearts. Hebrews 4:12 offers a vivid image of the power of God’s Word in our lives, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The power of His truth uproots misconceptions and confusion as we hide God’s Word in our hearts. He prunes any wayward or distracted thoughts and prepares the soil of our hearts and lives to produce good fruit.
After the initial ten mentions in John 15:1-10, we see the word “abide” once more in verse 16. But in this instance, it is not tied to our abiding. Instead, it is our fruit itself that abides. Jesus said, “…I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide….” What a beautiful picture of lasting fruit! As we abide in Christ and as Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” the fruit we produce will be lasting. It will not fade this side of eternity but extend into heaven. Our fruit will not spoil but instead dwell in the lives of those around us.