by C. Parker Thomas

(The following was transcribed and edited from a message preached by Bro. Thomas on March 29, 1978 in Southern Pines, NC.)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

“If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love: even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:1-14.

I am particularly interested in the word “abide” or “abiding” and the result of abiding and the result of not abiding. Now remember Jesus said that he was the true vine. You know there is a wild vine in the Old Testament. This is the true vine and “my Father is the husbandman”. The husbandman is of course the farmer or the one who owns the vineyard and looks after it. Jesus likens himself to a vine and his Father, our heavenly Father, the husbandman. Now, he says that we are the branches. We are not the vine, but we are the branches. We come out of the vine.

And he says that “every branch that beareth not fruit, he taketh away.” That’s the action of the Father. He takes it away. What all is implied there, I don’t want to be dogmatic. I don’t think I can afford to be dogmatic. But nevertheless, there certainly is something that he is talking about. I might say that in Matt. 15 where Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes when they were so concerned about eating with unwashed hands, you know that Jesus said on that occasion that it is not what goes in but what comes out that defiles a man. Also Jesus said “and every plant that my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.”

Two Plantings
All scripture has to harmonize with other scripture. We know that we have a picture of two plantings, the Son of man, the Lord, sowing the seed and the enemy coming along sowing the tares. We know by this that those tares are not planted by the Lord, but the wheat. In a lot of respects tares resemble wheat and they react to the rain and sunshine very much like real wheat.

It’s very difficult to tell the difference between tares and wheat, but God, of course, knows the difference. However, the branch is taken away that does not bear any fruit. Perhaps we could equate that with the tree that is planted but not by the Father. Anyway, in verse four, he begins to use the word “abiding.” He says “abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine. No more can ye except ye abide in me.”

Now, our part in this abiding is for us to abide in the vine. This is something that we have to do. This is not talking about conversion but it is talking about something that we are responsible to do ourselves. We have been speaking about the two rests and taking his yoke, presenting our body a living sacrifice, and learning of him. Meaning of “Abiding”

And this abiding, in the Greek, means “to stay in a given place or state, or relation, or expectancy, abide, continue, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry.” Now, the word “abide” as it is used here is not a geographical state. It’s a spiritual thing, agreed? That is a spiritual state. Now that may involve a position.

Abiding would certainly involve coming to church, and would involve participation, and giving of ourselves in a common cause. It would involve doing a lot of things. But, nevertheless to abide simply means to remain in that position or that place spiritually speaking, where we have a communion, we have a union, we have a oneness with the vine.

We know that a branch has to draw its strength, its sustenance, it has to be nourished through the vine that it’s growing on, that it’s a part of. Isn’t that right? And we also know that it is the branches that bear the fruit. Go look at a grape vine. (So often when a vine is used as a type in the Bible, it is a grapevine.) Notice the pods of grapes. They are always on the branches. We are the branches, the Lord Jesus Christ is the vine. The fruit has to be produced through us. His life produces the fruit through us. His life is ministered to us through the vine and goes into the branch and consequently fruit is produced.

A Change of Position
Now, when you cease to abide in the vine you simply change your position. There is a change. Something alters your previous conduct, your previous attitude, your previous outlook. It’s changed somehow and we could say through adverse circumstances. But we can’t blame all of the change on adversity, or bad things that may happen to us.

That’s what the enemy would like to do. The enemy always likes to give us an excuse when there comes about a change in us. Our mind is affected adversely. Adversity does not cause it to be, but your mind is affected adversely. Any time something happens to you to cause

you to want to look at your situation in life and blame something or somebody, the real problem is that you have ceased to abide in the vine.

We must see that failure to abide in the vine, or Christ, failure to maintain an open channel, communication between you and the Lord, involves people. It is never just me and Jesus in the sky. It always involves people. Failure to abide in the vine, or in Christ, is effected through change of attitude or relationship toward man, or your brother.

Note verse twelve. This is not incidental or irrelevant but is certainly related to what he is talking about because out of the blue sky the Lord would not have spoken these words had it not had a bearing on this context of scripture. There has been no mention here of love, no mention of your brother but suddenly, in verse twelve, he says, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.”

Because the truth is, it takes the grace of God to continue to love a person -- and when I say love, I don’t mean to feel something, but it means to show love. That scripture where it says “husbands love your wives” does not mean to have some kind of feeling, or joy, or ecstasy, be thrilled toward them. God is saying for you to do the things you ought to do to show that you love them.

Lest somebody think that I mean this love has to be a mushy display of kissing, hugging and squeezing, and all of that stuff, boxes of candy, cards, and I’m not trying to do away with all of that -- that’s too good to do away with, -- nevertheless, real love is something more than just that. Do you want me to tell you why? I’ll tell you, if you can find a new boyfriend or a new girlfriend that is charmed with your physical attributes, they’ll show you all that stuff, but they don’t love you. They don’t love you one bit. They don’t know what love is, so don’t confuse the issue.

There are men, and women, no doubt that love their husband or wife, whichever the case may be, that actually don’t show so much mush but they have their interest at heart. They are concerned, they want them to be happy, they want them to be provided for. I’m not saying it isn’t good to show some of the other but the thing is we need to understand what love really is.

Now, “that ye love one another”. You know, sometimes love has to tell you the truth and it may not make you feel good. There is a part of you that you inherited from Adam that doesn’t like the truth, especially if it’s coming against you. So, in that case the scripture would be fulfilled which says that the wounds of a friend are better than those old kisses of an enemy. You see, the enemy can kiss you and the wound sometimes, if you can accept it, will heal you. Even the Lord says, I wound and I heal. Sometimes it’s necessary for the Lord to do that. Hallelujah!

I said that this involves your brother, man, and human relationships. This abiding in the Lord certainly involves varied human relationships. The reason I say varied is because it could be your neighbor. If you have a bad spirit and a bad attitude, you were not nice, you were not considerate, something happened to cause you to fall out with your neighbor and you went around with an old stubborn, rebellious, “to heck with him” attitude, just as sure as you are born, in that respect, you have stopped abiding in the vine and that’s against Christ.

Then again, I do want to say something in respect to your brother. Who is your brother? Now, abiding in the vine, which does involve man and your varied relationships with man, does not mean that you would forsake a proper position with respect to someone that the church has dealt with and judged and he or she will not hear the church. I don’t care what we think or how sentimental we are, if that is the deliberation of the body of Christ, the church.

The Lord himself said, “he that will not hear the church let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” What he is saying is that you no longer count him as a brother. The heathen man and the publican is not in the strictest sense to be considered a brother. That is your relationship. In fact, to go and consort with, play tiddlywinks and have that old sentimental hogwash, human sentiment rule you and to just turn your back upon that church, you shouldn’t even be a member of that church.
Fellowship Involved

So, I want to make a distinction when I say such things as your brother where he says to love one another. When people repent after the church has spoken and really show evidence of repentance, then we receive them. What I’m say here is simply this, to abide in the vine absolutely involves a fellowship with your brother, particularly with the church. It involves a fellowship. There is something about all of us that wants to be independent entities, living way up on a hill in a castle with barred fences, moats, or big dogs to keep everybody away. But that’s not the way the Lord wants us to live. He wants us as a part of a fellowship, sharing, communicating, walking together, having a common vision and a common cause.

If you abide in the vine, you’re going to be in that fellowship. It is impossible to abide in the vine apart from fellowship. It is impossible to have fellowship with the Father and His Son apart from fellowship with each other. We can claim that we are having fellowship with the Father and His Son but if we absolutely have a spirit that will not embrace our brother, we are lying, and we do not know the truth. We are walking in darkness.

Now remember, the author of what we are using here in John 15 is the author of this, too, in I John. He is the human author. God would give one man a revelation and it seems that that theme would come to the surface in other places. I have noticed in the writings of the various men and sayings of various men a trend of thought. They seem to come back again and again to a revelation that seems to be uniquely a revelation of God through them.

I John 1:3 says, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us.” “Become one with us,” John is saying. Then he says, “and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Now it’s significant that he doesn’t say that if we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with the Father or the Son. No. But he says that “if we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another.” You see, beloved, the only way you can tell that a person really has fellowship with the Father and his Son is through a fellowship and a relationship with his brother.

I’ll say this to husbands. Husbands, your wives know whether you really honor God or not. Your wives either have a respect for you or you have conducted yourself and lived in such a way that you haven’t manifested enough of the life of God so that they can respect you. And yet I’m saying we should respect people. Why should you respect your husband? Not because he actually deserves it but because he is your husband and because God wants you to respect him. In the same way, children should respect their mother and father, not because they necessarily deserve it all the time but because they are their mother and their father. It’s the same way with a man and his wife.

You see, when your mind becomes adversely affected toward somebody else whether it be a husband or a wife, or a neighbor or somebody in the church, you begin to see every negative thing. The devil magnifies that. He blows that all out of proportion and you are prone then not to see anything good, because he doesn’t want you to see any good. You are disobeying God and not thinking on the good things. He said to think on these things: whatsoever is of faith, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, etc. Your mind has altogether to do with how you get along with a person. You show me two people that are not getting along and I can show you somebody whose mind is adversely affected toward the other every time.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another,” -- and this we have brought out so many times -- “and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” That’s part of the same statement which says “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another.” That is part of the same declaration of truth. But if we do not walk in the light as he is in the light, what about the blood then? Would there be cleansing? No, there would not be. There would be defilement. This cleansing is a continuing thing. And this abiding is a necessary thing if we maintain cleansing.

As I have said, abiding, for the most part, involves a relationship, an earthly relationship. What is the result of abiding in the vine? First of all, you bear fruit. And herein is the Father glorified that we bear much fruit. Without abiding in the vine we cannot bear fruit. There has to be some abiding in the vine. Preoccupation, mental occupation with things other than Christ, the church and his kingdom, where the mind is too filled up, too engrossed with something other than the things of God, the word of God, is a state of ceasing to abide in the vine. You are moving away from that position of abiding in the vine.
Our Responsibility

Abiding in the vine is something that we have to do. That is not talking about salvation but rather something that we have to cultivate and exercise ourselves in. There is a personal response on our part in abiding in the vine. So, the result first is to bear fruit. There can be no fruit apart from abiding in the vine. There are all kinds of fruit which is produced by religious people but it is not always the kind of fruit the Lord wants. In Jude, the Bible speaks of the fruit and says that is is twice dead and plucked up by the roots and withers. But now the evidence of abiding in the vine is fruit that abides. That is a good standard criterion. Absolutely, I’m going to tell you, that is the mark, fruit that abides. Why? Because that branch which is abiding in the vine is drawing its life from the one who produces fruit and the fruit which he produces does remain.

Incidentally, in verse 16, the fruit is mentioned again, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” That is really the mark. Paul said to the Corinthians, “The seal of my apostleship are ye in the Lord.” This is what God really ordains. The other kind of fruit, as we said, withers, will not remain and when you see too much of that it doesn’t look very good. There has to be some fruit that remains.

And so, we bear fruit. Abiding in the vine results in fruit bearing and results in something else. We have joy. Let’s note this in verse 11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you.” Let me say this, that joy remains, continues. That abiding means there will be a remaining joy. One of the characteristics of an abiding Christian is joy. Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you rejoicing? Be honest about it, how happy are you? Do you glory in the Lord? Do you ever just have to stop and give God praise and glory because He’s so good to you? You ought to. If you don’t you’re not abiding in the vine.

It’s possible to have the joy of the Lord today because you are abiding, your relationship is good, it’s wholesome, it’s constant, but tomorrow you could be drawn away from that abiding position and the joy does not remain. See, God is a faithful God. One of the ways the Lord has of letting you know that you are not abiding is that there is a depletion of the joy. It leaks out. When you come back to where you were, you get down and recognize that you have been drawn away. This is the hardest thing in the world for most of us human beings. The devil does not ever want us to acknowledge or repent because if we repent he knows that the joy is going to be restored.

The saddest thing in the world is an unhappy Christian, one that is not enjoying the fellowship of the brethren, not rejoicing over the word of God. If we are abiding in the Lord, then this word that is coming forth will cause us to rejoice. You will be saying “Praise God!” Not, “Oh me”. It’s the truth, because the word is what you live for. It does something for you. Not that I want your “Amens”, yet I do too. Like Paul spoke of something, “Not that I want it but that it might be placed to your account.” I want it for that reason. Because it is going to do you good.

The “Praise God’s,” the “Amens,” the “Hallelujahs” are doing something to your spirit. You are exercising yourself in a spiritual way. You may think it is not important, but it is. And when you cease to abide in the Lord it is hard to praise God. Your flesh does not want to do it because your joy is gone and you are in bondage. If you tied my arms to my side, I couldn’t talk,because I have to have my hands to talk. It’s a gesture. I’d be in bondage and when the joy of the Lord goes out because some way or another the enemy has tricked you, no matter what it is about, immediately you get into bondage.

Speaking of the joy, let’s go back to I John and see how related this scripture is to what he is talking about relative to walking in the light, about having fellowship with the Father, fellowship with the brethren. In verse 4, chapter 1, the wording is almost identical, “These things write we unto you that your joy may be full.”

All right, let’s go back to John 15. He speaks of joy here in two senses, first that your joy might remain. Remember now if you don’t abide -- and the question is abiding -- and that position is not maintained, then the joy will not remain. You see, the joy of the Lord is our strength. Take a joyful Christian, one that has joy and victory, praise God, he has strength.

Just as soon as Satan robs you, gets you away from abiding in that vine, your joy goes. You become a prey to your adversary and you have no strength. The devil cannot stand the joy of the Lord because the Lord dwells in the midst of the praises of Israel. And the devil hates that.

Psalm 51:12-13 says, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways: and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Now David had gotten away from God in this respect. He was not abiding in the Lord. He had done some terrible things and was in an awful condition and in awful bondage. The joy of the Lord was gone. David is wounded and grieved, the joy of the Lord has fled and this whole chapter is a prayer of repentance and crying out to God. Note that there is a need for cleansing, and in verse 10 he says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Any time you get away from the abiding presence of the Lord the enemy comes and defiles.

If you remember in I John he says that if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and, listen, the blood cleanses. Now note in this Psalm he says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. When you don’t have liberty to praise the Lord you are in bondage. Amen! Be honest, recognize it.

Now note verse 13, “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” All of this is the result of abiding in the vine, every bit of it. I’m going to say this folks, I don’t believe that a preacher or a Christian that does not have the victory and the joy of the Lord can produce fruit. Another spirit has hold of them. They may go through a lot of religious performances and may even preach, but they’re not going to bear any fruit. It might bring forth something but it won’t be real fruit that will remain. Hallelujah!

So, our joy will remain. That is great, isn’t it? And our joy will be full. There is one thing about everyone that does bear fruit, the Lord purges you that you might bring forth more fruit. One aspect of this purging is cleansing. If you will note though, in walking in the light as he is in the light you will have fellowship and there is a continual cleansing. We will be purged to bring forth more fruit and that of course ties right in with I John 1:7 which says that the blood cleanses us of all sin. Fellowship, or abiding, leads to cleansing, purging.

Here is another thing that abiding does. You may not see this in the scripture but it is here. Remember how I pointed out that the scripture spoke of loving one another, in verse 12? In order to do that, verse 13 says what you have to do: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Do you know how this is accomplished? You lay down your life. Do you know the only way you are going to remain in a constant abiding position and have fellowship and an open communication, or channel, to the Lord? It is through your brother as you lay down your life.

When you cease to abide and get into bondage, on some point, you have refused to die. Self has asserted itself and demanded its right. One way or another self came into manifestation. One of the main jobs is to be humble and submissive to one another and to the Lord. It does mean to lay down your life. That’s why this is in here. If it isn’t related, why is it included in the context of scripture? It is related.
Access to Divine Wisdom

Abiding results in communion and understanding of the Father’s will. This is something that is really rich. When you cease to abide you cut yourself off from divine wisdom, divine knowledge. Now let me bring this down to an earthly relationship where you can understand what I’m talking about. There is a cutting off of communication when something happens to two human beings that adversely affects the minds of one or the other. If there is any communication, it is of a negative and not an understanding sort. There is no real communication.

In every case, and I have dealt with hundreds, of men and women whose marriage is on the rocks, I have found couples who ceased to communicate. Many times both are to blame. Each one blames the other. When a situation like this develops, at one time or another something happens to your relationship, if you are a married person, between you and your wife. I have never met the couple who said they had never had a hard word in all their life, a cross word toward each other. I don’t know that couple. But nevertheless, when something really does happen to cause a gulf, a separation, it’s because one, or both, of their minds had been adversely affected.

The moving of the abiding position that I am talking about could take place in many ways. The result then is a lack of joy, unhappiness. You are not happy, folks, when you are not abiding but rather very unhappy. The Holy Spirit is very grieved. Failure to abide in the vine has to do with human relationship every time. It could be a wrong relationship that draws you away from a proper relationship. You could be drawn, on one hand, by listening to the wrong counseling or wisdom. That separates you from a relationship in which you need to maintain communication and a proper abiding stance and position.

The Lord showed me that whatever people have on the inside of them, no matter what, they minister. Let’s say, whatever spirit is in the driver’s seat, or in the ascendancy or predominance in your life, that spirit is ministered to other people. If you begin to draw too close to those possessed by a negative or wrong spirit and you are with them too much, don’t tell me they are not going to minister to you. They are going to minister to you. That is why the Bible says to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.

I used to look at this as penalizing the person (having no fellowship with him) and there is a place where the Bible says to do such that they might be ashamed. That is kind of a penalizing thing that you do that that person might realize his or her condition because you bear witness to the fact that they are wrong. But when God says to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness it is because he knows that if you are around that too long, it will minister to you. It is to protect you.

People with the same spirit minister to each other and strengthen each other. When two spirits get together it is because they like each other. The devil recognizes the devil in each other. God is revealing these things because he wants to bring deliverance. There are certain people that are not good for you. But God wants us all to be free. And he is freeing us, but we must learn how and when to draw the line. The Lord is actually giving us his word. Or do you just think it is pretty good preaching that the preacher is doing? If that’s all it is, you don’t need it. If you’re not abiding in the Lord you can’t see God in it. You’ll see everything else.

Abiding results in communion and understanding. For instance, let us bring it down to an earthly relationship. Let’s say there is a father and a grown son and their relationship remains steadfast and good and they talk to each other. The father says to the son, “John, son, I’m going to be going over here today and I have such and such a thing to do.” The son listens respectfully and says, “Well, father, I would like to do this or that.” The father then communicates with him and reveals to him his will. In other words, he takes him in on what he is doing. First of all, he can trust him. The son won’t betray him. He knows that the son is wanting to please him because he is his son, and because he is his son’s father.
Jesus’ Friends

Note now, where it speaks of loving one another, laying down your life for your friend. Verse 14 says, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” And then, “Henceforth I call you not servants.” Beloved, when we enter the relationship that we are talking about here it is not the relationship of a servant and a master. Galatians 4:1 says, “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant.” This is a true heir, a son or a daughter that has really been born but as long as he is a child, he differs nothing from a servant. You cannot give him or her any responsibility. You cannot trust them with major responsibility because they won’t take care of it because they are children. They differ nothing from a servant.

You don’t tell them all about what you are doing. What do you tell them? “Look, Joe, Bill, I want you to go out and chop that wheelbarrow load of wood and bring it in and put it on the porch. I want you to draw water for the mules, throw them some hay, shuck corn.” That’s all. You don’t say, “I’m going to go over here and do thus and so, etc., and now you take care of things.” No, no, you tell him specifically what you want him to do. This is the way God uses a lot of people. That is the only way He can use them. “... But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.”

I have been speaking very much about being taught and that is the first principles of the oracles of God. That is why God is revealing his word to us. This is where we are, under governors and tutors right here. What for? Not to keep us where we are. I’m not going to be around always. I probably won’t live to be over ninety. It’s terrible to have to put up with me that long. But let me say this, God is teaching us because he wants us to go on. There is a future here for some of us. Some don’t have a lot of future. We might as well face it. Our days are numbered. But God is good in trying to help us prepare for the future.

Galatians 4:3-7 says, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Now, we are still too much in the place of a servant until we learn.

Back to John 15, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” That’s a desirable position. That is when we learn how to abide in the Lord. That’s real fellowship with the Father, isn’t it?

That’s what God wants with his church in the earth, too. The Lord wants his church to be a church that he can communicate with. Did you ever stop to think that Abraham was called the friend of God? God wouldn’t do anything until he revealed it to Abraham. He said, “Shall I do this and not reveal it to my servant Abraham?” He was a friend of God. I’d like for the Lord to be my friend. Hallelujah!

So, abiding results in communion and understanding of the Father’s will. When we cease to abide, whatever the cause, it results in a separation. It makes no difference how it is brought about and the enemy is very subtle. I would say that thousands, on this point, are not aware of what the real cause is or what brought it about. They are not aware of what brought about the failure to continue in the abiding position. But if we do not abide in Christ, remember what the scripture says - if we cease to abide we wither. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered. Note, “cast forth as a branch.” Failure to abide results in a separation like a branch being cut off.

This is not literally what take place necessarily but it is a type. It results in somewhat the same thing. Whenever you cease to abide, for whatever reason, that communication, that good position, that place of expectancy, anticipation of remaining in that good tenable position, that place of union, is lost. What really happens to people when a relationship is affected is that they are cut off from the vine and immediately begin to wither like a branch which is severed. Take a branch: it has leaves on it, the bark is green, when you scrape the bark down you see the lining underneath it, all fresh, the sap will run out of it, it will bruise, it’s tender; it’s got life in it. But cut it off, throw it on the ground and there is no life to nourish it: it lays there.

When we think that we don’t need our brother, that we don’t need fellowship and we do not need the source of life that God uses to help us we are deceived by Satan. We are really blinded. We are not abiding in the vine. We are saying, “I can abide in myself.” And we will begin to wither. Now that withering results in bondage, results in the lack of joy, lack of liberty, freedom. It results, instead of a good spirit, in a bad spirit. Here’s what happens. When we begin to wither, we do not have any strength or the ability to withstand the process of death that’s creeping in. There is a dissipation. Life goes from us, like David said, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, uphold me with thy free spirit, then will I ....”

But we cannot do this whenever we begin to wither. When we begin to wither we are in a bad condition and the enemy is forever seeking to separate us from the Lord. Now he doesn’t come up to us and say, “You don’t need Jesus, he’s no good, he’s a fake.” But he can certainly get in and violate, and contaminate and through his subtlety can adversely affect our relationship with our brother, and he can minister negativism to us and we’ll become an accusing and condemning vessel. Any time you see a human being that is accusing and condemning, the enemy has a hold on him. He doesn’t have the peace of God. He is tormented and miserable. His joy is gone.

In that condition, you can’t help anybody. A man is responsible to be under the headship of Christ because if he is under the headship of Christ he can do a lot to protect others and to help others because he has the strength, he has the life, the ability to help them when they are attacked. And vice versa, if a woman has more light and understanding, and she is a Christian, she is responsible, whichever the case may be. I am greatly responsible to remain in an abiding position that I might help you, that the Lord through me might protect you and help you.

When we begin to wither we do not have strength, we do not understand it, we become a prey to the enemy through men and of course through the devil working on our own mind too. Men gather us and cast us into a fire. What does that mean? We know here that he is literally using the branch that would be severed from a vine and how it would wither and how it would be gathered up off the ground where it has been laying and no good for anything, no life in it. It can’t draw any life because it is cut off by itself, it’s alone and is good for nothing but to be gathered up and build a fire with others like it and throw them in the fire and burn them to get them out of the way.

Ultimately and finally, I believe that everything that is amiss and out of harmony with God, everything that is not in union with and abiding in God and his love through his Son Jesus Christ will be as branches cast into a fire. I believe that, but the thing of telling us to abide and if we don’t we are like a branch that is cast forth and has become withered, men gather them -- I believe that is speaking of what happens to us. We become a prey to the enemy.

Fire is a symbol of judgment, severe trial, temptation, of the fiery darts of the wicked. Fire symbolizes all of those things and of course, torment, misery, all of that. We refer to going through these things as a fiery temptation or fiery trial, just like Peter refers to the fiery trials. But in every case Satan is the one that ministers these things and God allows it. But when you fail to abide in the vine you’ll be gathered by men. You have no strength of your own and actually you will be thrown into the fire. The more you listen to the wrong source, the more you pay attention to the enemy, the worse your condition gets.

Satan has many devices to lead us away from this abiding position and his whole purpose is that he might get to our lives, that we might cease to be effective as Christians, that he might destroy our liberty, our joy and destroy many other aspects of our life. He can even destroy earthly relationships, all those things.

Folks, this abiding in Christ is far more than just some kind of a vertical relationship. But if the vertical relationship does not come down here and go out here, there is something wrong with it. It doesn’t just come from God down here, it goes out from us. There is no way that I can abide in Christ and not make every effort to communicate with you and do right by you. I have to have a right attitude and spirit toward you if I have one toward God. This is what abiding in the vine really means.

If you are not abiding in the vine, if you have come to the place where you are withered, look back and think and say, “Lord, help me.” Get honest with yourself, get honest with God, get honest with one another. Come back to that abiding position. The Lord loves you and wants to help you.

Satan is forever working. This is why it is very difficult for people to come into a church like this. I don’t mind telling you, folks, God has blessed, God has worked and God has helped people from the time that God saved me until this day. There have always been people who received help. They have been blessed, nurtured by the things of the Lord and people have been saved. But I say this to say something else. Satan has forever fought people and tried to separate people from me for one reason and that is to cut them off from Christ.

And it’s not easy. You’ll find also that this purging thing works. God comes to grips with things in your life to help you. If you can’t see the Lord in it, then it is of no use. I can’t help you. But if you can see the Lord in it, then God is going to do something for you.

And the devil works overtime to separate people from the influence of my ministry. He does everything in his power to do that. He’ll work through your family, your husband, your wife, kin folks, neighbors, through the churches, the preachers and everybody else. Sometimes he’ll do it very sweetly and subtly, sometimes like a roaring lion, but nevertheless he is trying to adversely affect your mind to keep you from receiving the life-sustaining grace of God that has to flow to you through the vine. Now I believe this, I’m not the vine but I believe that if we are abiding in the vine there will be a proper relationship between you and me and between you and your brother. It has to be. God bless you.

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