“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.”
As we carry out the various pursuits of day-to-day life, we may consider ourselves to have a certain affinity or connection to Christ. We may be mindful of Who He is, and even grateful for all that He has done. But are we actively receiving His life? This is a very important question. For a believer, the preferred answer would obviously be “yes.” But how can we know for sure if Christ’s life is operating in us or if it’s not? Today’s verses reveal the answer… they show us what happens when the life of Christ is present and when it is absent.
Let’s first look at the factors surrounding the absence of the life of Christ. For those who choose not to abide in Christ, there is a non-negotiable sequence of events awaiting them: a casting forth and a withering. The phrase “cast forth” means to throw out or throw away. If a person turns from receiving the active indwelling of the life of Christ, where His presence is not permitted to enter them, transform them, and work through them, that person shuts out the means of fulfilling their very purpose, and instead carries out a spiritually useless existence. And there is no other lasting life to turn to, either. Jesus is THE LIFE (Jn. 14:6), thus to resist Him is to resist life itself. And for those who choose this road, they are thrown out and wither up. At this point even people’s pretense of having Jesus’ life fails… their withered existence reveals that He is not there.
Before we go on, we should be mindful that there is a difference between withering and pruning. As we saw in verse 2, the purpose of pruning (or purging) is to produce more fruit. Pruning removes our unnecessary “extras” so that the life of Christ can multiply and produce its eternal results through us more directly. If we are ever going through a “pruning process” where it seems like everything around us is dwindling away, we may think we are withering up and dying. But the result of pruning is an increase in the power of Christ’s life, where Jesus Himself is able to more clearly and directly perform His divine work through us.
Withering, on the other hand, does not result in more evidence of Christ’s life, but rather makes it evident how absent Christ’s life is. We should not mistake pruning for withering; but of possibly greater importance, we should not confuse withering for pruning. If we notice a decrease happening around us, we should never automatically conclude: “Oh, God is just doing a pruning right now.” Our primary focus should be on Christ and receiving His life. If, through a process of loss, we find Christ’s life increasing within us, we are experiencing pruning. However, if the process of loss results in Christ being less focused upon and known, where the influence of His Spirit decreases, we are experiencing a withering. The end of this road is to be gathered up with all the other “dead sticks” and to be consumed; a destiny that results in nothing but loss.
To Be continued. Part two will be posted tomorrow.