By Brandon Sutton
As I was taking my daughter to kindergarten today, she started talking about where we should place the Christmas Tree in our house this year. Why? I have no idea. Five-year-old brains are interesting. As we discussed the placement of the tree, she asked about her aunt and uncle’s choice to buy a real tree every year. We have always used fake trees. I, for one, have no desire to crawl in the snow and cut down a tree in the middle of winter, haul it back to my house and then have to discard it later on. Thankfully, my wife and daughter feel the same way. My daughter then asked, “How do they plant the tree once they get it home?” I told her they don’t plant the tree. They cut the tree down and put in their house. The Christmas Tree will look nice for the Holiday Season, but it’s dead once they cut it down. When that tree is separated from its root system, death is immediate, and decay is certain.
This is analogy Jesus uses when it comes to bearing fruit in the Lord.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:4-6).
The imagery Jesus uses is that of a vine with many branches. You can think of a tree with many limbs. Jesus is the vine. He is the root system and source of life. We are His branches. His life flows through us as we abide in Him. By doing so, we will bear much fruit and God is glorified. He is glorified not only because we’re productive for the Kingdom, but our productivity is a direct result of our dependence on Him.
Recovery, in a nutshell, is dependence on Christ. In step one we admit that we’re broken. Our lives are unmanageable. Sin has ruined us and we are unable to break our sinful patterns and behaviors on our own. We are powerless! Therefore, we need power. To overcome our sin, we need a power outside ourselves, and this must come from God. This is step two. Step two is believing that God’s power can fully restore us. Once we believe this is true, that’s when we trust in Christ. We surrender our entire life to the One who can save us. We trust His promises, His character and His will. We deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Jesus. That’s step three. We trust in Christ and turn our lives over to Him.
Moving forward, we work to develop this trust as we learn to depend on Christ daily. We remain with Him. That’s what it means to abide. We literally stay with Christ. We don’t deviate to the left or the right. Every day, we look to Him in prayer and through His Word. We stay in fellowship with other believers. We go to church to worship and hear the Word preached. We participate in all the means of grace He has given us because that’s how we abide in Christ.
Otherwise, we will fall away, and I have seen this happen many times. Addicts begin to get their lives on track. They start to build a relationship with the Lord, and things go really well…for a time. Then they stop doing what once helped them. They stop going to church. They stop going to meetings. Their prayer life ends. They quit reading the Word and spending time with fellow Christians. And what happens? They revert back to their sinful patterns. They relapse. Why? Because they failed to abide (remain) in Christ.
A pastor was having a cookout at his house. As he was cooking some burgers, he saw a man approach him who hadn’t been to church in months. The man did not look well. He told the pastor that he was depressed. He lost his joy in the Lord. Many of his old sinful ways came back. As the man talked, the pastor took his tongs and removed a burning coal from the grill. Finally, the man said, “Pastor, what is wrong with me? Why are things so bad?” The pastor looked at the man and said, “Do you see that coal I set aside? When it was in the pit among the other coals, it burned hot and did its job, but now it’s cold and useless because it is in isolation.” The man instantly knew what the pastor meant. He was that cold coal.
To abide in Jesus is to abide with His people. This is crucial for the addict. Recovery is life and death. Therefore, we must abide in Christ every day. You don’t usually see trees with just one branch. They have multiple branches. The same is true for Christians. We are connected to Christ spiritually, but we are also connected to one another. His life flows in and through us to other people. His life flows from other people to us just as the vine gives life to all the branches on a tree. We cannot detach ourselves from these things and expect to thrive spiritually any more than a Christmas Tree can expect to live once it’s cut down. So remain in Him and you will bear much fruit.