Thursday, February 19, 2009

Abide in Me

Almost half of my last year in law school was dedicated to a class called “Practice Court.” In that class, the professor (who could have been known as “Hannibal Lecture”) combined elements of courses in Evidence, Procedure, Torts, Contracts, and Medieval Torture Techniques to reduce cocky law students to blubbering idiots crying on the courtroom floor.
To avoid such a fate, I agonized for hours and hours preparing a particular “case” assigned to me. In my closing argument before the “jury,” I sought to paint the perfect picture of why my side should win using a detailed analogy to a baseball game.
Returning to my chair after flawless execution, I swelled in proud anticipation as the professor strolled to the front of the courtroom to praise my presentation. Instead, Professor Hannibal torched me into a heap of ashes as he pointed out all of the flaws in my analogy and actually turned my carefully orchestrated analogy around to benefit the other side.
As my ashes scattered to the winds, the professor warned those who had witnessed my incineration to use extreme caution with analogies because an adversary can almost always find ways to turn it around or punch holes in it.

Jesus regularly used analogies, parables, and metaphors to make his point. And they all worked perfectly, no holes, no flaws.
So, it’s been a huge help to me, when trying to get my head around a particular command - “Abide in Me” - to look at and study an analogy Jesus used to tell us what He meant.
You see, I’ve always just looked at “abiding” as some variation of finding an earthly version of that utopian peace I anticipate when I get to heaven. To focus on Christ’s command to “abide in Me,” would bring forth passages or thoughts such as “be still and know that I am God,” “He is my strong tower,” “The Lord is my shepherd . . .,” “lying in green pastures beside quiet waters,” etc.
It has just always seemed to me that to “abide in Him” meant fully trusting Him, having complete faith in His provision, “letting go and letting God.” But that’s not what John 15 teaches us about “abiding.”
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself
unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up;
and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

John 15:4-7
That is not talking about resting and relaxing in the bosom of Christ. It describes “abide” in terms of “action,” empowerment, discipleship – bearing fruit.
It’s a great analogy. A perfect analogy.
In John 15, it’s so easy to see how we have to stay connected to, and draw life from, the Vine. We can’t live the life He intends for us unless we are attached to and getting our nourishment from Him. And it’s not us accomplishing anything – it’s His power flowing through us!
When we are attached to and drawing from Him, His words, His power, His glory – they flow through us for His purposes. Notice, however, that they don’t flow to us, but through us.
The productive branch abides in the Vine. It is a conduit through which He accomplishes His work. It stays attached. It constantly and aggressively draws from the Vine. When it isn’t drawing from the Vine, it’s useless - it dies.
I can understand “abiding” from that analogy. No holes. No flaws. Perfectly clear.
As far as I’m concerned, the case is closed and the verdict must be: “Abide in Christ!”

Just another branch,
Craig Hollingsworth

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