We say Christian life, and rightly. I like to say also, the true, the natural, life. Any other is abnormal, unnatural, untrue. I might say, "of the higher Christian life," following the common usage of these latter days. I still prefer to say true life. Higher means that there is a lower life. And that this lower is reckoned Christian, too. That is the bother, the cheapening of things; we call a thing Christian which is less than the thing it is called.
Some of us need to go to school, and to sit down in the lower classes where spelling is taught. We can spell believe in the common way with seven letters. We must learn to spell it with four letters -- l-o-v-e. We need to learn to spell love with a b and a y -- o-b-e-y. We need to learn to spell obey with five letters a-b-i-d-e. We need to find that abide is spelled best with four letters o-b-e-y.
We need to learn this simplified spelling a bit, then all will become simplified, living, loving, witnessing, praying, winning, singing with joy over the results of our new spelling in the syllables of daily life. Blessed Master, we would come to school to Thee to-day. Please let us start down in the spelling class. And teach us, Thou Thyself teach us.
But the vine -- let us make that the central picture on the wall, with the Master in the picture pointing to the vine. And under the picture the one word abide. Then the whole story is in easy shape to help, pictured before our eyes. Abide -- that is Jesus walking around in your shoes, looking out through your eyes, touching in your hand, speaking through your lips and your presence. He is free to; that's your side of it. He's unhindered. He does it; that's His side of it.
Look up at the picture on the wall. The whole vine is in the fruit, is it not? The whole of the fruit is in the vine, is it not? That's abiding. The whole of Jesus will be in you as you go about your daily common task, singing. The whole of you is in Jesus as everything simple and great, is done to please Him, singing as you do it.
And just as between vine and fruit there are branch and blossom, pruning and careful handling, sun and shade, dew and rain, so there are betweens here before full ripening of fruit comes. There's purifying, cleansing by blood, cleansing by a soft fire burning within, and pruning by the Gardener and by His human assistant, you, sharp, incisive, hurting pruning.
There's feeding, -- the juice of the vine flows in, and is taken in; the divine word of the divine Master is meditated, the cud of it is chewed daily. There's obedience, -- perfect rhythm of action between vine and branches. There's prayer, the intercourse of our spirits, His and ours, together, the drawing from Him all we need, and the letting Him use us in His interceding for His world. These are some of the betweens. Through these comes the ripening fruit.
And the outer crowd comes eagerly for the fruit hanging over the fence within easy reach. There's a warm sympathy with one's fellows; only the thing's more than the words sound. The Jesus-spirit within will be felt by those outside, something warm and gentle and helpful. There will be things done, many things, earnestly thoughtfully done. The proper word is service. But the thing's so much more than the word ever seems to mean.
And there'll be yet more, a more of a surprising sort. The classical fox called the grapes sour because he couldn't reach them. There'll be some outside sour talk because some of the crowd won't reach the fruit. It wouldn't agree with them the way they insist on living. The Jesus-life abiding within and flowing freely out is a protest against the opposite. The mere presence of a Christ-abiding man convicts people of the sin of their lives and their treatment of Jesus. It convinces them that the absent Jesus is right, and so they are wrong. So there's trouble out in the crowd just because of the ripe good fruit hanging in plain sight and easy reach over the vineyard fence. And that double result goes on getting more so, some coming to the vine drawn by the fruit, some talking against fruit and vine. But the man abiding is of good cheer. He sings. For the outcome is assured.
So every grape-vine, in garden, by roadway, or on hillside, with its vine-stock, branches, blossom, and fruit, tells of the Father's ideal for men, a unity of life with Himself, and with each other. And every bunch of grapes hanging on one stem, with its many in one, tells of that same ideal, the concord of love with the Father and with each other.
And that unity of love dominating all is irresistible to the outer crowd, in the winsomeness of its wooing.