“Stay united with Me, as I will with you–for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from Me. I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with Me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from Me you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with Me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up.” (John 15:4-6)
There is an effort required in maintaining our union with Jesus. He commanded us to stay united with Him, indicating it is possible to leave that place of union, to disconnect ourselves from Him. However, He promises to remain united with us. I believe He is saying in effect, “I will do My part, if you will do yours.” Without continual union with Him there is no fruit, period. It cannot come forth; it is impossible.
Verse five was my life verse for several years, and the Lord still reminds me of it from time to time. From this, I have learned that the only thing the branch has to do is stay connected, or in union, with the vine. Fruit will come naturally, with no effort at all when we do that. Apart from Him, we can do nothing except utterly fail! We will never be literally apart from Him, for He has promised to never leave or forsake us. Through Him and His strength, we can do all things.
What does it look like to stay in union with Him? I believe it means we continually commune with Him throughout each day, talking and listening, as we would with a friend. We consider His thoughts and feelings when making decisions. We welcome His guidance and correction. We live with the sense of His presence – knowing He sees all, hears all, and knows all that we think, say, and do each day. Our desire is to please Him more than ourselves, and we live our lives accordingly. We will still make mistakes, but there will be no fear of punishment or rejection. Instead, we will repent in confidence that He knows our hearts and understands the weakness of our flesh. He is always for us, seeking to help us love and obey Him.
We can choose to stay connected to Him or not, and if we choose to disconnect, we will dry up like a branch that lies on the ground and dies. His life is our life, and if we do not draw from His life continually, we quickly become barren, with nothing to give. He desires that we bear much fruit for His glory. He will be faithful to do His part, and if we are willing, will even help us be faithful to do ours.