Yes, my title has a double meaning: The vine in John 15 is Christ, who is Divine, and we live life connection to the Vine. So one way to refer to the Christian life is: living a D’Vine Life.

A couple years ago I wrote a devotional book about inChristness in the letters of Paul—100 short devotionals on the various ways the Apostle Paul uses the expression “in Christ” (or similar expressions) in his letters. It turns out that one of the most important passages for understanding inChristness in the letters of Paul, surprising as it may seem, is not even in Paul’s writings. It is a passage spoken by Jesus, recorded for us by one of Jesus’s disciples in John 15. Notice Jesus’s use of the word “in.”

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)

It is almost impossible to believe that the Paul wrote so much about being “in Christ” without ever thinking about Jesus’s teaching about abiding in the vine. Paul didn’t make up the idea of inChristness at all; he learned it from what Jesus taught about living a D’Vine life.

But unlike Paul, Jesus applied a verb to help us respond to this “in Christ” relationship, the verb “abide.” Some modern translations render this Greek word (menō) as “remain.” Probably the most accurate translation of this word in context I’ve ever come across is the Hawaiian Pidgin translation, which renders John 15:4: “Stay tight wit’ me.” That translation brings out the relational closeness inherent in Jesus’s teaching the way the word “abide” mostly doesn’t and that “remain” doesn’t at all. It is not just that you continue following Christ; rather, you live in such a tight relationship with him that only a preposition like “in” can approximate it.

The Apostle Paul seized hold of this; that’s why he weaved inChristness into his writings and used the concept to connect so many major teachings. Paul remembered that Jesus was the first to tell his disciples, and disciples of all time, to stay tight with Jesus. Paul decided to apply that truth to almost everything else in the Christian life.

I had the privilege of sitting through two year-long Bible classes with Mrs. Lucille Carr during my late teens. Mrs. Carr was old. (“How old was she?” you ask. She was so old that she had served in China as a missionary before the communists took over.) My friend Trudi (now my wife) used to admire all the wrinkles on Mrs. Carr’s face! I knew Mrs. Carr loved me, and I gathered that she was praying for me. But now that I’m all grown up, I think it likely that she also had concerns about my impulsiveness and self-confidence.

It was nearly summer break. I remember it well. Mrs. Carr wrote a private note encouraging me to spend the upcoming summer meditating on John 15.

So I did. Mrs. Carr was a godly woman, and despite my young age I recognized the wisdom in listening to the advice of a matriarch in the faith. But try as I might, I never really got John 15 that summer. All that vine-branch stuff was a lovely metaphor, but I knew we weren’t going to change the world hanging around like branches on vines!

I’m older now. Not as old as Mrs. Carr—I don’t think I’ll ever be that old—but old enough to have discovered that life isn’t primarily about doing stuff. That’s what Mrs. Carr wanted me to learn. Life isn’t primarily about evangelization or Bible memorization, or even obedience to Christ’s commands, important as all of those are. Life is, first and foremost, an abiding relationship with a gracious and loving Lord. It is living a D’Vine Life in Christ.

Do you want to learn more about living an “in Christ” life? Let me recommend reading How to Live an ‘In Christ’ Life: 100 Devotional Readings on Union with Christ. This post was adapted from the Bonus Chapter at the end of the book.

This post and other resources are available at Kindle Afresh: The Blog and Website of Kenneth Berding.