Christ, in the Gospel of John chapter 15, makes his final “I am” statement. He calls himself the “true vine” and God the Father the “vine dresser.” In the analogy, we, the followers of Christ, are the branches that come off of the vine. In verse four Christ commands his disciples and the reader to “Abide in me.” Christ is commanding us to stay attached to him. Just as a branch must remain attached to the vine in order to receive its nourishment and vitality, our spiritual lives are dependent on Christ and the “nourishment” and “vitality” we receive comes directly from our ever deepening relationship with him.
On a very simplistic and practical level, abiding in Christ means to continue in a day-after-day, individual relationship with him. This relationship with Christ will be characterized by obedience, trust, love, and joy as we see in later verses ( John 15:9-11). John writes in 1 John 2:6 that “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Obviously we cannot repeat Christ’s saving death for mankind, but we can mirror his life of faith, love, godliness, obedience, and self sacrifice. There must be an understanding on an individual believer’s part that this is not without effort.
If becoming a follower of Christ instantly brought us into constant communion with Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit, then in this passage “abide in me” would not have been a commandment. However, we find that is exactly how Christ stated it: as a command to followers and believers of him. The truth of the matter is that many of us have latched on to what we could call “false vines” of this world. There are other places other than Christ and his word that we attach to and draw from that what we believe will nourish us and keep us healthy spiritually, but don’t realize that it is only providing partial nourishment.
On a very practical level many believers depend on books, devotionals, and pastors as their only nourishment and not the word to sustain them spiritually. I am not saying that any of these things are evil in and of themselves. I am an avid podcaster, reader, and blogger but if at any time those good things replace the best thing ,which is time in the Word and prayer, then I am in a heap of trouble. The best example for this is soda and water. One cannot live healthily if you only drink soda. Water is the essence of health and life, and although a small part of the ingredients in soda is water, it is not water in its purest form.
Christian books, devotionals, sermons, music, and so on are wonderful sources of inspiration and motivation and may even have some elements of God’s Word in them, but they will never compare to the pure, clean, refreshing water that is the Word of God. The very basis for “abiding” in him is being fed by him, drawing your nourishment from him! For a person who desires to live in the context of spiritual health, and desires to experience growth in their spiritual lives to the fullest, attachment and nourishment from the true vine must be a priority. In a world and Christian culture where “false vines” are not only unchecked, but popular, we must guard ourselves and never abandon the greatest gift that is the Word of God.