Sharing God's grace to walk in fullness of identity and power

Abiding in the Vine: Are You in Danger of Being Thrown Into the Fire?

John 15 is known as the “God is the Vine, we are the branches” chapter.

This chapter seems to promote self-effort on steroids. Work hard, do your best and you will abide in Jesus and He in you.

However, if you fail to keep your end of the bargain, you run the risk of being cut off, pruned or even cast out and thrown into the fire.

The question we’ll discuss is: are you in danger of being thrown into the fire?  

Here is the video in full glory and made directly in front of our house (unique for in crowded Amsterdam, but we have a big park as our front yard)

 “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. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:5-6).

There are two possibilities presented by Jesus:

  1. You’re abiding in Him, and you’ll bear much fruit.
  2. You’re not abiding in Him, and you’re cast out, you wither and get thrown into the fire.

Legalistic glasses

I used to read these words of Jesus through legalistic glasses thinking, “if I fail to abide, I will be cast out and burned. But if I do abide, I will bear much fruit, so I’d better start bearing fruit.” A legalist thinks in terms of conditions. “IF I do this and that, THEN God will reward me with this or that.

If I do my part, God must do His part. If I stick in enough prayer, Bible reading, fasting and church attendance into the Divine Slot Machine, then God must come over the bridge and give me what I ask or what I need.” God doesn’t reward your fleshly sweating and striving. He’s already rewarded you by giving you Jesus! Jesus is your everything.

To read the words “abide and bear fruit or don’t abide and be burned” with legalistic glasses will become law for you. You either need to produce fruit or you’ll perish. Wow, that’s pretty scary! If I don’t keep doing my utmost best to be a good Christian and bear fruit I run the risk of being cast out and burned! That’s what it sounds like, right?

Abiding in the Vine

If you don’t abide you’re cast out. That sounds as if Jesus is putting conditions on us. You have to do something otherwise you’re thrown way and burned. But what is the something we must do?

  • Pray?
  • Read the Bible?
  • Tithe?
  • Attend church?
  • Confess our sins?
  • Witness?

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with all of these activities in and of themself, but does your abiding or remaining in the Vine depend on doing these things? I hope not! God expects perfection: “be perfect as I am perfect” (Mt. 5:48). And in the weakness of my flesh I constantly fall short of His perfect standard. If abiding depends on me doing good and avoiding evil then there’s not one moment I’m abiding. Bad news indeed!

Let me ask you a question: how much good works, like praying and Bible reading did you do to get saved, to get ingrafted into the Vine? None!

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)

In other words, you aren’t saved – ingrafted in the Vine – by your good works but by grace through faith. All you did to start to abiding in the Vine was to positively respond to what God already had provided in Jesus. Just as you’ve done nothing to start to abide in the Vine – except to receive Jesus with thanksgiving – so you can’t do anything to abide in the Vine.

Jesus’ abiding = your abiding

Well, what does it mean to abide in the Vine? The answer to this question will help you understand how you can know you’re not a branch that’s thrown into the fire.

Here’s the answer to what it means to abide in the Vine: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15). Have you confessed that Jesus is the Son of God? Then God abides in you and you in Him.

You are abiding in the Vine because you have confessed Him as Lord. To abide in Jesus talks about your new birth, not your behaviour. Are you born again? Then you’re abiding. How much can you add or subtract from the finished work of Jesus and your born again state? Nothing.

Just as a branch doesn’t try to abide in the vine but simply is part of the vine, so you don’t try to abide in the Vine because you are already abiding in the Vine due to your divine nature.

Furthermore, in Greek  the word abide means not to depart and to remain as one. “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17). You are one with Christ. Therefore, you do not depart from Him and you will always remain one with Him. Because you are identical to Him in spirit you have the same standing before the Father as Jesus.

Jesus’ abiding has become your abiding.

For you not to abide in the vine is for Jesus to stop abiding in His relationship with the Father. Because that will never happen, there is no danger for you of not abiding! Nothing depends on you and your effort. It’s all about Jesus and His finished work! The abiding issue is settled from His side.

Abiding means to be in permanent union with Jesus. You may not always feel you’re abiding, but you are.

When Jesus said, “anyone who does not abide in Me is cast out as a branch, withers, and is thrown into the fire,” He is not referring to fruitless Christians. We discussed in an earlier post that they’re lifted up from the dirt.  He was describing people who refuse to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He was describing those who are looking for life outside of the true vine.

How to be a fruiful believer!

Doing the impossible

Law preachers emphasize what you must do instead of what Jesus has done and say things like, “You need to abide to bear fruit or else…you’re in danger of being toast.” Law preaching always creates anxiety and insecurity. It has you focus on you and your performance instead of Jesus’ performance and leaves you wondering:

  • Am I abiding today?
  • Can I not abide tomorrow?
  • Am I bearing enough fruit?
  • Can I be cut off the Vine?
  • Am I cast out to burn?

You can’t experience peace and confidence in your relationship with God if you’re asking yourself these type questions. Allow yourself to focus on Jesus Christ and what He’s done for you. Listen to His voice. He’s always affirming and encouraging you about your permanent place in His family and how much He adores you and likes you.

To listen to God’s voice is to live in freedom and security. “A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).

This law-mentality is re-inforced due some of our English translations: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:9, NIV). That sounds like a condition. If your abiding performance is up to par, then I will reward you by abiding as well. Instead of “remain in me, and I will remain in you” in Greek it reads “Remain in Me, and I in you.” It is not a condition to make us sweat; it is a promise to make us rest.

You either trust Jesus’ performance or your performance. Jesus expects you to do the impossible: to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out devils, etc. (Matt. 10:8). You’re in big trouble if you rely on your performance to bear such fruit! Rather, we can do these impossible things because it’s God in us who performs these miracles through us. The command “abide” is to trust in Jesus and His performance and not trying to impress Him with yours.

Instead of reading the “if you do this, then God does that” statements through legalistic glasses and think you’re never good enough and you never do enough, we need to read these versus through a set of Grace glasses. Where the law demands you to abide, Grace provides the abiding for you. All you have to do is to labour to rest in the finished work of Jesus.

To sum up, abiding means to be united with Jesus Christ. You’re abiding in the vine if you’ve confessed Jesus as Lord. God Himself abides in you and you in Him. A branch that’ll be cast out and thrown into the fire does not talk about fruitless Christians but about rejecting Jesus and His sacrifice. Carnal religion says it’s all about you and your abiding, so you’d better perform, but the gospel of grace declares it’s about Him and His abiding, so rest!

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Comments

  1. Cornelius Harding says:

    Hey Bas,
    I was just wondering what you think is meant in James by “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”(James 2:19). If it isn’t to say simply knowing who Jesus is, i.e. knowing who God is isn’t enough to save you. Also I was just wondering what you think Jesus meant when he said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21). Also I find it interesting the passage you used 1 John 4 goes on to say (vs 19-21) “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a LIAR. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” This seems to fit with Jesus own teaching in Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” for just as we are forgiven and loved we must forgive and love, we can not say I am forgiven or I a loved unless we do likewise. I am not a legalist in any way shape or form and don’t think it is because of what I do that I am saved, but out my relationship with Christ flows love, forgiveness etc. i.e. it bears fruit – the one who doesn’t bear fruit in this way – whom John refers to in his letter is a LIAR when they say they love God, when they say Lord, Lord Jesus will say to them…

    Would be good to know your thoughts?
    Cornelius

    • Bas Rijksen says:

      I’m glad we got to spend time yesterday Cornelius and talk about these things…

      • Malphin says:

        Bas,

        It would be great if you could share what you have discussed with Cornelius regarding the verses (James 2:19, Matthew 7:21 and Matthew 6:15).

        • Bas Rijksen says:

          James 2:19 I haven’t studied that out 🙂

          Matt. 7: 21 is a classic example of an often quoted Scripture of out its context. I let a brother explain: let me begin with the passage in Matthew 7:14.Matthew 7:13-14 The Narrow and Wide Gates “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” I have always thought this a warning to those who didn’t follow the 10 commandments and that the narrow gate is to keep the law. I was wrong. Jesus was speaking to law believing Jews who were already keeping or at least trying to keep the 10 commandments. So why he did say it and what did he mean? In his culture and time everyone is Israel had only known of a righteousness that came from rule keeping. That was what everyone was doing. As such that was the wide gate. The narrow gate is a reference to him. He alone saves. Not their rule keeping. Again here the wide gate is a reference to legalistic righteousness and the narrow door a reference to faith righteousness by the grace of God.
          Now let us deal with the passage in Matthew 7: 21-23.
          Lord, Lord! I never knew you. I  have always been troubled by the way Matthew 7:21-23 is used. In summary I was taught that ‘not everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord is saved but one must do the Father’s will in order to remained saved!’  I was taught that ‘you have to serve God faithfully,  give up everything for Jesus, obey the commandments, and crucify yourself, so that Jesus will not say that He never knew you.’ In gist, make sure you live such a life of dedication liked the one Jesus lived, in order that God would be satisfied. That was being taught as doing the will of the Father. Sounds good?
          I tried.  I was so performance oriented that I judged myself on Jesus perfection everyday. I realised I was still involved in the same sins; pride, lust and envy.
          Hence on the outside I looked great  but deep down, I was rotting away. The problem is this, the more I preached about the more you need to serve, the more I felt like a hypocrite. The reason is this: you can never do enough to compensate for what Jesus had done for you.
          I thanked the Holy Spirit for showing me what I am about to share with you all. Firstly, Matthew 7:22 says that the people whom Jesus never knew were very involved in ‘doing many things in Jesus’ name!’ Even miracles. Yet they were not doing the will of the Father! In fact, Jesus called them evil doers.
          I began thus to realise this: to ensure Jesus never rejects you, you only need to do ONE thing. The will of the Father! What then, is the will of the Father?
          In John 6:28 the people asked our Lord ‘what must we do to do the WorkS (note plural) God requires?’ The crowd was faced with same problem. What must we do? Note Jesus’ answer. This is the work (note singular) of God: to believe in the one he has sent!
          God actually considers belief in His son as work. Further, this one act is ALL Father requires from me! Then Jesus says in verse 40 in John 6, ‘for my Father’s WILL is that everyone who looks to the Son and BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP ON THE LAST DAY.’
          Lastly, Hebrews chapter 10:10 says ”For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” The verse is stated in the context of the Holy Spirit testifying “I will remember your sins no more!”
          The Father’s will is always for us.
          The will and the acceptable work which God’s require is your faith and not your deeds as you have been SAVED by Jesus! The people Jesus  referred to were doing so much that they missed out what God’s will is. Like Martha we think we are pleasing to God when we give to Him. Yet Jesus says to her ‘one thing is needed and Mary has chosen the right thing.’ What pleases God is not your service but who you place your faith in: your service or your saviour?
          Note if your confidence lies what you do for Jesus, Matthew 7:23 calls us evil-doers. Since realizing this, the Lord in His grace has restored me.
          The will and the work of The Father is you believe in His Son. Your faith will cause Him to produce deeds in your life as James says.

          Matt. 6:15 read with legalistic glasses becomes a conditional Gospel for you. For example, rededication prayers often sound like, “I’m so sorry, I want to ask Your forgiveness for….how I’ve failed You in my Christian life.” Under the law, forgiveness was conditional. You had to forgive others or ask God for forgiveness to be forgiven. Under grace, however, you are totally forgiven of all sins, including your future sins. Remember, God is not restricted by time. When Jesus died for our sins 2000 years ago, they were all future sins.

          Your forgiveness is a free gift. No strings attached. No conditions to meet. In other words, it’s unnecessary to forgive others or continuously ask God for forgiveness in order to be forgiven. You’ve already been forgiven once for all. I’m not saying to not forgive people. As Colossians 3:13 says, we forgive others because we have been forgiven – not to be forgiven.

          Where is your focus if remaining in a state of forgiveness depends on you constantly asking to be forgiven. On you or Christ? Your focus would be on yourself, all the time. It’s not only hard enough to keep up with the wrong things you might have done, but what about the things you didn’t do which you should’ve been doing? You understand that if we had to seek forgiveness for the bad we do or the good we fail to do we would not get of our knees since we would need to continuously beg for forgiveness due to the weakness of our flesh. Talking about mission impossible!

          If all future sin are already forgiven, wouldn’t people just go and sin their brains out? No, it has actually the opposite effect. When we see yourself as forgiven, loved, holy, clean and new creations in God’s sight and we set our minds on that fact, the love of Christ expands within us and He motivates us and empowers us towards a Christ-like life.
          You behave according to what you truly believe about yourself. You will live godly, not because of disciplined determination, but because that is how you want to live – it is who you are – and because freedom from condemnation opens the door to God’s power as the driving force behind your actions. You will not act out of good intentions and your promise keeping, but from your true identity.

          Enjoy your Grace Walk Malphin!

  2. As always bas great post and Great Read 😀 always love reading these so much they always help life me back up to look up at Jesus when I feel that I am never doing enough good works in my life and feel that I am doomed because of it but reads like this always uplift my spirit and I turn my View right back to that Cross and look forward to the day when Jesus comes for us!!

  3. Bro. Bas , why most churches teaching the tithe? They teaches Jesus Christ redeemed us from the curse while they teaches too that if we don’t tithe we are curse. Explain please.
    God bless you.

    • Bas Rijksen says:

      Hi Robert.

      The answer: people still teach tithing due to lack of understanding grace/the new covenant. Thus we still hear a mixed massage of grace + law, which equals to law…thus living in bondage.

      Let’s be committed to pure Grace teachings, thus merely talk about Christ and His finished work 🙂

      Cheers,

      Bas

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