EXCEPT YE ABIDE
As the Branch Cannot Bear Fruit of Itself, Except It Abide
In the Vine; No More Can Ye, Except Ye Abide in Me--John 15:4
We know the meaning of the word
except. It expresses some indispensable condition, some
inevitable law. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
except it abide in the vine. No more can ye, except ye
abide in me." There is but one way for the branch to bear
fruit, there is no other possibility, it must abide in unbroken
communion with the vine. Not of itself, but only of the vine,
does the fruit come. Christ had already said: "Abide in me";
in nature the branch teaches us the lesson so clearly; it is such
a wonderful privilege to be called and allowed to abide in the
heavenly Vine; one might have thought it needless to add these
words of warning. But no--Christ knows so well what a renunciation
of self is implied in this: "Abide in me"; how strong
and universal the tendency would be to seek to bear fruit by our
own efforts; how difficult it would be to get us to believe that
actual, continuous abiding in Him is an absolute necessity! He
insists upon the truth: Not of itself can the branch bear
fruit; except it abide, it cannot bear fruit. "No
more can ye, except ye abide in me."
But must this be taken literally?
Must I, as exclusively, and manifestly, and unceasingly, and absolutely,
as the branch abides in the vine, be equally given up to find
my whole life in Christ alone? I must indeed. The except ye
abide is as universal as the except it abide. The no
more can ye admits of no exception or modification. If I am
to be a true branch, if I am to bear fruit, if I am to be what
Christ as Vine wants me to be, my whole existence must be as exclusively
devoted to abiding in Him, as that of the natural branch is to
abiding in its vine.
Let me learn the lesson. Abiding
is to be an act of the will and the whole heart. Just as there
are degrees in seeking and serving God, "not with a perfect
heart," or "with the whole heart," so there may
be degrees in abiding. In regeneration the divine life enters
us, but does not all at once master and fill our whole being.
This comes as matter of command and obedience. There is unspeakable
danger of our not giving ourselves with our whole heart to abide.
There is unspeakable danger of our giving ourselves to work for
God, and to bear fruit, with but little of the true abiding, the
wholehearted losing of ourselves in Christ and His life. There
is unspeakable danger of much work with but little fruit, for
lack of this one thing needful. We must allow the words, "not
of itself," "except it abide," to do their work
of searching and exposing, of pruning and cleansing, all that
there is of self-will and self-confidence in our life; this will
deliver us from this great evil, and so prepare us for His teaching,
giving the full meaning of the word in us: "Abide in me,
and I in you."
Our blessed Lord desires to call
us away from ourselves and our own strength, to Himself and His
strength. Let us accept the warning, and turn with great fear
and self-distrust to Him to do His work. "Our life is hid
with Christ in God!" That life is a heavenly mystery, hid
from the wise even among Christians, and revealed unto babes.
The childlike spirit learns that life is given from Heaven every
day and every moment to the soul that accepts the teaching: "not
of itself," "except it abide," and seeks its all
in the Vine. Abiding in the Vine then comes to be nothing more
nor less than the restful surrender of the soul to let Christ
have all and work all, as completely as in nature the branch knows
and seeks nothing but the vine.
Abide in Me. I have heard, my Lord,
that with every command, Thou also givest the power to obey. With
Thy "rise and walk," the lame man leaped, I accept Thy
word, "Abide in me," as a word of power, that gives
power, and even now I say, Yea, Lord, I will, I do abide in Thee.
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