"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" (John 15:6)
The lessons these words teach are very simple and solemn. A man may believe he has a relationship with Christ - he may count himself to be in Him - and yet he can be cast forth. There is such a thing as not abiding in Christ, which leads to withering up and burning. There is such a thing as a withered branch. It is one in whom the initial union with Christ appears to have taken place, and yet it seems that his faith was only for a time. What a solemn call to look around and see if there are withered branches in our churches - to look within and see whether we are indeed abiding and bearing fruit!
And what may be the cause of this "not abiding"? With some, it is that they never understood how the Christian calling leads to holy obedience and loving service. They were content with the thought that they had believed, and were safe from hell. They had neither the motive nor the power to abide in Christ - they did not know the need of it. With others, it was that the cares of the world, or its prosperity, chocked the Word. They had never forsaken all to follow Christ. With still others, it was that their religion and their faith was in the wisdom of men, and not in the power of God. They trusted in the means of grace, in their own sincerity, or in the soundness of their faith in justifying grace. They had never even come to seek an entire abiding in Christ as their only safety. No wonder that, when the hot winds of temptation or persecution blew, they withered away. They wee not truly rooted in Christ.
Let us open our eyes and see if there are withered branches in our churches. Look for young believers, whose confession were once bright, but who are growing cold. Search out old members, who have retained their profession, but have lost the life that once appeared to be there. Let ministers and believers take Christ's words to heart, and ask the Lord whether there is anything to be done for branches that are beginning to wither. And let the word "Abide" ring through the Church until every believer has caught it - there is no safety without a true abiding in Christ.
Let each of us turn within. Is our life fresh, green, and vigorous, bringing forth its fruit in its season? (Psalm 1:3; 92:13-14; Jeremiah 17:7,8). Let us accept every warning with a willing mind, and let Christ's "if a man abide not" give new urgency to His "abide in me." To the upright soul, the secret of abiding will become ever simpler - just the consciousness of the place in which He has put me. It will be the childlike resting in my union with Him, and the trustful assurance that He will keep me. Oh, do not let us believe there is a life that knows of no withering, that is ever green, and that brings forth fruit abundantly!
Withered! O my Father, watch over me, keep me, and let nothing ever for a moment hinder the freshness that comes from a full abiding in the Vine. Let the very thought of a withered branch fill me with holy fear and watchfulness. Amen