On Vines and Branches

Mick Turner

Life in our hustle-bustle western culture is mostly outwardly directed. To some extent, this is a necessity given the realities of the myriad responsibilities placed upon us by making ends meet. Yet all this focus on the outer world does not come without a price. By paying so much attention to our outer world we run the risk of dying spiritually. Do you think this too strong a statement? I think not. Scripture repeatedly tells us that, as Children of the Light, we are called to be separate from the world. Our values are not to be the values of the crowd. Instead, we are given a higher and more difficult calling. We are called to be holy. This means we are to be set apart. We are called to be in the world but not of the world.

 

We are further called to pay more heed to our inner world and find the Kingdom of Heaven which, as Christ so directly stated, is within. Proverbs 4:23 tells us:

 

Keep watch over your heart, for therein lie the wellsprings of life.

 

For the Christian, this means that life is to be lived from the inside out. This is something that cannot be reiterated too often. The wellsprings of life flow from within. Christ calls his followers to tap into the divine source of power residing within. We do this by aligning and abiding. Without this vital connection we can do nothing. It is only by realizing that there exists within us a Divine Light that gives us both life and power that we can begin to accomplish any task that Christ has set before us. It should by now be obvious that the core of the Christian life involves connecting with that Divine Source, which is the Mind of Christ, and abiding in its light.

 

When this awareness finally dawns in our hearts and minds, we can exclaim along with the apostle John:

 

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.  (1 John 3:1 NAS)

 

What happens when a person begins to abide more consistently in the Light of the Holy Spirit? What sort of changes is wrought in his or her character and what impact does this have on daily life? Thomas Kelly tells us:

They become a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our minds be stayed on Him who has found us in the inward springs of our life. And in brief intervals of overpowering visitation we are able to carry the sanctuary frame of mind into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness, and in a hyperesthesia of the soul, we see all mankind tinged with deeper shadows, and touched with Galilean glories. Powerfully are the springs of our will moved to an abandon of singing love toward God; powerfully are we moved to a new and overcoming love toward time-blinded men and all creation. In this Center of Creation all things are ours, and we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. We are owned men, ready to run and not be weary and to walk and not faint.

 

Kelly’s vision of the person abiding in Christ is astounding but not different from what Jesus prayed to the Father in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Imagine what it would be like to be touched with Galilean Glories, to be owned men…ready to run and not be weary and to walk and not faint. These truly are the blessings of abiding.

 

When we abide, truly abide, the living and Word of God becomes a concrete reality in our lives, giving us guidance, comfort and peace. The Living Word becomes a tangible reality, not a distance, broken echo.

 

When we abide, truly abide, our spiritual life becomes a living organism, not a withering garden. We are grafted to the life-giving vine. Kelly says:

 

To that divine Life we must cling. In that Current we must bathe. In that abiding yet energizing Center we are all made one, behind and despite the surface differences of our forms and cultures. For the heart of the religious life is in commitment and worship, not in reflection and theory.

 

And when we become deeply engrafted into the Vine, God speaks to us on all levels, giving direction, comfort, strength and assurance. A.W. Tozer says it well:

 

He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills, and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion….

 

So when we sing, ‘Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,’ we are not thinking of the nearness of place, but of the nearness of relationship. It is for increasing degrees of awareness that we pray, for a more perfect consciousness of the divine Presence. We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.

 

Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Our intimacy with God deepens and our sense of his presence becomes more consistent and less sporadic. In fostering our ongoing connection with the vine, we come closer and closer to realizing that divine light that shines somewhere in the breast of every believer. Tozer speaks clearly to this theme when he states:

 

As we begin to focus upon God the things of the spirit will take shape before our inner eyes. Obedience to the word of Christ will bring an inward revelation of the Godhead (John 14:21-23). It will give acute perception enabling us to see God even as is promised to the pure in heart. A new God-consciousness will seize upon us and we shall begin to taste and hear and inwardly feel the God who is our life and our all. There will be seen the constant shining of the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:9)

 

In his own marvelous and direct way, Steve Brown shares with us the fact that he, like so many Christians, was well educated about the realm of the spirit, even that quiet center that so many have described over the centuries, but had little personal experience of that quiet abiding.

 

I was only a tourist describing a country I had never visited. I was convinced that the country was there, I had read the travel brochures, I had worked hard at learning the language of that country. I had even met people who lived there and had listened to everything they said about the country. The problem was that I had become an expert on a country that I had never visited.

 

Richard Foster opens his classic book Celebration of Discipline by stating that what is needed today is not more gifted people or intelligent people. What is needed today is more deep people. And how to we become deep? We become grafted into the Living Vine. We abide.

 

On a practical level, put aside time in the next few days to get quiet before God and directly ask him what changes you need to make in your life in order to deeply abide in Christ and in the Word. Inquire, with a humble heart, what might be keeping you from abiding and/or what you can do to bring the benefits from abiding out from the sanctuary of your quiet time and into the streets of your daily life.

 

(c) L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

 

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