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In John 1:39 Jesus invited potential disciples to come see where he lived. In Matthew 4:18 he invited the first disciples to come follow him. He continued to issue the invitation to follow, but some people had excuses and distractions. Some he sent on missions of their own.
Now Jesus gives them a more urgent call: Abide in me.(KJV) In John 15 beginning in verse 4 he describes the invitation as more consuming. The NIV uses the word remain. The invitation is also reciprocal: verse 4 says "If you remain(abide) in me, I will remain (abide) in you..." This is not just checking things out or even just following and observing. It goes beyond fellowship. My Websters New World Collegiate Dictionary gives these meanings for the first choice of abide: stand fast, remain, go on being.
The second meaning is labeled archaic: stay, reside. The King James Version may well be called archaic, however, with explanation, I believe it is justified. Remain fits comfortably in that definition, especially when you read verse 5. It is because the branch is attached to, resides in, abides in, remains in the vine that it has life and produces fruit.
Metaphors and analogies break down when you get too specific, and this one does too. The branch has little choice about where it lives or abides. We, on the other hand, have that choice. We have to yield to the vine to have communion with Christ and to read the Word. Our place in the vine is by choice. After we choose to be believers, we are under obligation to be obedient.
It's a little like joining the army. You may be a volunteer to get in, but after that you do as you are told. You may resign, but there are no half-way measures: I'll march in a line, but I won't wash dishes.
It's like that with Christ, too. I'll sing in the choir, but I won't serve in obscurity. When you are a servant of Christ, you don't get to make those choices. Abiding in him, remaining in him means you go where he goes and do what he does.
It's a tough invitation not for sightseers or casual dabblers. Jesus only issued it when he was preparing to die. It provides a way to carry on his work and message. Have you heard that invitation? Are you sure you want to?
Click here to read An Invitation: Come and See
Click here to read An Invitation: Come Follow Me