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
Valentine’s Day provides lots of opportunities to buy a bouquet of beautiful flowers for the one you love. But those flowers, whether roses or carnations, will soon wilt and end up in the garbage can. The reason is obvious: they are not connected to the roots which provide the necessary nutrients. When we see this happening, we should think of John 15 and what Jesus teaches about our lives needing to be constantly connected to His if we are going to bear fruit.
What is it to be a “cut flower Christian”? John MacArthur, in a sermon on Philippians 1:10-11, refers to this: “We’re not going to be what Elton Trueblood years ago called “cut-flower Christians, who are shallow, frail and short-lived.” They’ve been cut off from the roots and the source of power, and they bloom a little while, and then they just crumble. We have to live by being deeply planted in the rich soil of biblical truth, so that our roots tap deep into the divine revelation, and we flourish and flourish.” (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/50-6/essentials-for-growth-in-godliness-part-2)
How do we not become this? How can we “abide” in Him and bear “much fruit”? Actually—there is a needed question behind the question of “how”, and that is: “Do I want to abide in Christ and bear fruit?”! Is this an everyday thought and concern of mine? Do I really care about this, or am I content to just call myself a Christian and go to church? Are we, LRPC, going to be zealous for Christ or lukewarm in our Christianity?
We really ought to be concerned about abiding in Christ and bearing fruit that will last (Jn. 15:16 niv). Matthew Henry comments on these verses: “It is the great concern of all Christ’s disciples constantly to keep up a dependence upon Christ and communion with him, habitually to adhere to him, and actually to derive supplies from him.” Do you catch the meaning? Are you remaining in and with Christ daily through the Word and prayer? Do you seek to stay and even sink more deeply into your relationship with Jesus? But none of this is mere sentimentality or shallow emotionalism! Listen to what else Henry says: “Those that [have] come to Christ must abide in him: ‘Abide in me, by faith and I in you, by my Spirit abide in me, and then fear not but I will abide in you’ for the communion between Christ and believers never fails on his side. We must abide in Christ’s word by a regard to it, and it in us as a light to our feet. We must abide in Christ’s merit as our righteousness and plea, and in it as our support and comfort” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible on John 15:1-8). Stop trying to live on your own or get your security from what you do. Rest and remain in Christ! Rely on Him and God’s grace and strength to do all you need to do every day to His glory. Read His Word to nourish your heart and mind and then pray for His help to obey. Recognize and remind yourself that salvation comes from the Lord and that you are kept by Him (Jonah 2:9; John 17:11-12)!
There is another plant that is prominent in the Old Testament—olive trees. Not only is this important in the home, it is also essential in the Temple. Both prophets Jeremiah (ch. 11) and Hosea (ch. 14) liken Israel to the olive tree and the apostle Paul picks up this image graphically in Romans 11. Paul particularly helps us understand how we “abide” in Christ—we have been “grafted in”! God in His amazing grace has united us to the “nourishing root”; it is the root that supports the branch, not the other way round (v. 18).
In addition to grapes from the vine and olives for the press, the Israelites had another important fruit-bearing plant: the fig tree. Jesus uses this common crop as a picture of spiritual realities as well. In Luke 13, Jesus warns the people with Him that “unless you repent, you will all like-wise perish” (vv. 3 & 5). And then tells them a parable about a barren fig tree (Lk. 13:6-9), illustrating both God’s mercy and patience as well as the certainty of judgment. A fig tree also features in the final week of Jesus life before His crucifixion: Mark 11 tells us that following the triumphal entry Jesus went up to a fig tree that had every appearance of bearing fruit with its leafiness, but it was fruitless and so was cursed. In the context of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, this is most likely a picture of its judgment for barrenness too (cf. Jer. 7:1-15; 24:1-10; 26:2-6).
What’s the point of piling up all these metaphors? My prayer is that each of us would “examine ourselves” (1 Cor. 11:28) and make sure that we are aware of the danger of being nominal Christians (Christians in name only). Oh! That we would be zealous to know Jesus’ love for us and that out of that fullness of love and joy that we would love one another as He has loved us (see John 15:10-12)! May we want to bear better fruit and welcome the pruning shears and whatever else our Heavenly Father, the Good Gardener, needs to do to make us most productive in His service.
Be encouraged by His commitment to you and your fruitfulness,
And Happy Valentine’s Day,
Valentine was a third-century pastor who was imprisoned for his faith. He wrote small pastoral notes to members of his congregation on leaves he was able to pluck from a maple tree just outside his cell. These little “Valentine’s cards” expressed his love for the flock, and his desire that they demonstrate love toward one another. Gradually the tradition grew up for Christians to exchange notes of love and encouragement to one another on this, his birthday.George Grant & Gregory Wilbur, The Christian Almanac, p. 102. .