What does it mean to abide in the Lord? I prayed and asked God where I should begin researching. He led me to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, where I discovered a treasure-trove of interesting words, such as:
Dwell, continue, engage, remain, tarry, persevere, stay, cleave, bask, saturate, soak, and endure!
Wow! Who would have thought that one word would have so many meanings? God gently shifted my attention to John 15:5, NKJV:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
That living, breathing verse in John 15:5 jumped off the page and grabbed my attention! You see, I struggled with a decision that required me to sever ties with a group of people that I had developed an unhealthy dependence. I sensed God inviting me to trust Him and seek more balance in my relationships. It felt gut-wrenching, and I wasn’t sure how I could survive without them.
I prayed, and He spoke clearly through this verse that my life would not bear fruit if I did not trust Him, abide in Him, remain in Him, and stay in Him. If I wanted to be a person who was grounded in Christ and would make a difference for the Kingdom of God, I needed to quit clinging to the unfruitful vines and relationships that were drawing my attention away from Him. It was time to let Him prune the unfruitful vines of money, power, and prestige. They produced nothing but rotten fruit in my life. Would I trust Him enough to stop clinging to people, places, and things causing distractions in my life?
I still remember the day abiding in Christ became real to me. It was a sweltering, sultry day in August when I rode in the front seat of our Chevy Suburban. My eyes were glued to every page of No Compromise, the life story of Christian singer-songwriter Keith Green. Keith challenged Christians to live sold out for Jesus without hypocrisy.
Keith was on a lifelong search for the absolute truth and struggled to live up to his ideals. When his wife Melody was expecting their fourth child, Keith, his pilot, and two of his young children boarded a small-engine plane. Unfortunately, they all perished on that flight just a few miles from their home in Texas.
Closing the paperback cover, I knew God was drawing me to surrender my entire life and repent. I bowed my head with tears in my eyes and prayed. I asked the Lord to forgive me for living a double life, wearing a mask to hide my sins, and being a total hypocrite who pretended to be someone I wasn’t.
Overcome with a bright light, I felt the Lord’s glory illuminating the space. It felt as if everything old had become new. I will never forget how clean I felt. Over the following days, months, and years, as I read my Bible, God lifted a veil off my eyes. The gospels came alive! I had an insatiable hunger to read scripture and pour out my heart to God in my journal, noting all He was teaching me. I remember hearing the Lord say to me when I agonized over how I should organize a prayer event in town, “Lori, without Me, you can do NOTHING!”
Months later, when our Sunday School class leader asked me to buy 12 copies of the study called Experiencing God (Blackaby, Blackaby, and King, 2007), I flipped to the first page of the very first chapter and read this:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NKJV)
There it was again! The phrase God whispered to my heart repeatedly, “Without Me, you can do nothing!” God was speaking directly to me. What was He trying to say? I drove home and turned on Christian television. The preacher was reading this verse from his Bible, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NKJV)
OK, THAT’S IT! I almost fell off my chair with amazement. It was no longer a coincidence. The verse was in my workbook at church and spoken by the preacher on TV. I called my friend to tell her what had happened. She explained that the Lord gave me a rhema Word: A rhema Word is when someone speaks the written logos Word from the Bible as an utterance to the one reading it. What a precious gift that God would want to abide with me! What a blessing that He would gently remind me that He is my strength and my life. I don’t have to do anything apart from Him.
Over the years, I have continued to learn about abiding in the Vine: Jesus wants us to live a life that produces eternal fruit. The only way to do that is to abide in Him. We do this by reading His Word and listening for His voice.
Without Him, you can do nothing! … With Him, the possibilities are endless!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Green, Melody. 1996. No Compromise. Harvest House Publishing.
Vine, W.E. (1999). Riverside Book and Bible House. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words with their Precise Meanings for English Readers