Abiding in love
One of my favourite biblical words is the word ‘abide’. So much of the promise of the Father to the children seems to be tied up in ‘abiding’. I have to confess (and I do so willingly) that the actual experience of ‘abiding’ is very much a foreign one to me. But if I have any ambition left in terms of Christian ‘ministry’ it is this. The one thing, above all, that I would want to have is the ongoing and proven personal experience of “asking whatever you wish and it will be done for you”.
That statement right there is an outstanding statement – all but a few believers throughout history have a massive credibility gap in their experience of this, of the actuality of it, in a ‘proven beyond doubt’ result of this magnitude! In John 15:7 (where this verse comes from), this proven result has a very precise pre-requisite. The pre-requisite to “asking whatever you want and it will be done for you” is this – “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you”.
If my primary aim in Christianity is to experience the fulfilled promise “of asking what I want and it will be done for me” then it is vital to know what it means to ‘abide’, and furthermore, how to know when I am abiding and when I am not abiding. On reflection, it seems to me that when “it is done for me” I am abiding, and when the contrary happens I am not abiding. On this I need much revelation, but an initial clue is given using the picture of a fruit-bearing branch on a vine (v4). The branch which bears fruit abides in the vine. This means that it is permanently attached to and of the same substance as the vine. The branch that ‘abides’ is the branch that has sprouted from the tap-root of the vine. In verse 5, Jesus made a simple statement (spoken to His disciples). He said “I am the vine, you are the branches”. He seems to have spoken this as a simple and indisputable fact. John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love”. In this verse it appears that Jesus is taking the metaphor of the fruit-bearing branch right back to its source – that of the Father loving the Son.
The source of the vine is the Father’s love for the Son, and that love flowing through the branches to bear the fruit of answered requests. If the Son is the Vine, then the Father is the taproot of the Vine, or even the soil in which the Vine is planted and from which it is nourished. And the sap – the life-energy which flows through the Son and produces fruit on the branches – is the Father’s love! The incredible thing about this saying of Jesus, is that the fruit is not ‘Christian character. Nor is it even the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ of Galatians 5 (which is doubtless true as well). What I wish to emphasise here is that the fruit conveyed in this picture, by which the Father is glorified, is the proven results of having “whatever you ask” done for you!
Jesus said that he abided in the Father’s love by keeping the Father’s commandments. Then, by extension, he said that we could abide in His love by keeping His commandments. Initially, this feels like a ‘should’. It feels like we have to do something in our strength….until you realise that the ‘commandment’ is ‘to let the love flow’ from the Source, through the Vine, to the branches. “Love one another as I have loved you”. What is first here? “As I have loved you” then you can “love one another”. The Father’s commandment to Jesus was to be a conduit for the Father’s love. It is the same for us. The ‘conduit of love’ gets everything he or she asks for. In verse 16, Jesus again repeats “You did not choose me but I chose you”. He is establishing that the initiative does not come from us. “I appointed you to bear fruit that abides, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you”.
James Jordan said once that you should never make a prayer request until you have basked in the experience of being the Father’s beloved child. The only way for me to enter in and experience “asking whatever I wish and it will be done for me” is to receive the Father’s love and rest in that love. I am left somewhat bewildered by these verses. I am left bewildered because I see a massive ‘credibility gap’ in my own personal experience. I am bewildered because I do not perceive my prayers to be effectual. I am bewildered because it seems that all my ‘successes’ are equally shot through with failure. I am bewildered because my life is such that I cannot turn away from and ignore these words. But I cannot strive in my bewilderment. All I can do is abide in the Father’s love.