I’m teaching one of the small groups in our church on John 15 – the passage of the vine and branches. The key lesson is the need to abide in Christ. But what does it mean to abide?
The primary meaning of the word abide is to remain or to maintain a continual presence. The concept of abiding therefore is to maintain an intimate, vital connection or relationship.
When it comes to grapevines (the illustration Christ used to represent the Christian’s relationship with Him) the only way that a branch can bear fruit is to maintain a vital relationship with the vine. Once that connection is damaged or broken the branch is no longer useful to the vine. The only way that Christians can bear spiritual fruit is to maintain a vital relationship with Christ. Once that connection to Christ is damaged or broken our usefulness to God is adversely affected.
A damaged relationship can be the result of a number of different issues. The one that immediately comes to mind is sin. Left unchecked in our lives sin saps our spiritual vitality and damages our connection to Christ. Most Christians understand the danger of not dealing with sin, but there are other issues that can harm our relationship with Christ that we often overlook.
Spiritual apathy is perhaps one of the most ignored diseases (keeping with the metaphor of the grapevines) in the Christian life. It’s a condition of the heart. It rarely, if ever, manifests itself in open rebellion. Instead it’s a secret thing, sometimes not even evident to those around us (although often evident to others before we even admit its presence in our lives). Spiritual apathy doesn’t care; it’s an I-can-take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward spiritual things: Bible reading and study, prayer, worship, church, witnessing, our world view, our service etc.
The thing about spiritual apathy is that it rarely strikes like a bolt of lightning. Instead it sneaks up on you; it’s a process that you don’t see coming. Few Christians become apathetic overnight – but they do over years. We all know people who once were faithful but who over time stopped attending church, reading their bibles, praying, witnessing – in short, stopped living the Christian life in any meaningful way.
Spiritually apathetic Christians rarely admit it, either because they are spiritually blind to their own condition or because of the hardness of their hearts. But make no mistake about it, spiritual apathy will damage your connection to your spiritual vine just as surely as sin. That’s why it’s imperative to abide in Christ, to maintain that vital connection . Because the alternative is to slowly dry up and become useless to the Kingdom of God.
The question that we need to ask ourselves is: What will I do today to abide in Christ? What will I do today to build that vital connection with Him? If we are not actively doing whatever is necessary to abide we will, by default, become one of the damaged branches.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me (John 15:4).
Stay in the Word