This blog was originally posted on January 8, 2015.
Every year I seem to make the same new years resolution. It always has something to do with drawing closer to God. Basically doing better at John 15:4, “remaining” in him. This year is no different.
John 15:4: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
What does it mean to remain in God?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary “remain” is defined as: “to stay in the same place or with the same person or group”
So it sounds like we just sit here? Not really moving just waiting for something to happen. Is that the secret to a life giving, fruit producing life?
The King James Bible uses the word “abide”. But that doesn’t really help much either. Both words seem a little hard to wrangle in my mind. If I say smile, you may or may not do it but you understand it. If I say, wiggle, spit, jump, scream, burp, fly you may not do it but you understand what I am saying. But remain?? What does that mean?
One thing I find interesting about this verse is that Jesus is speaking with reciprocity. Mutual response. He says “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Basically if you do this I will do it back to you. Reciprocity. There aren’t many other places in scripture where this happens.
“Follow me” Jesus says in Matthew 4:19… and I will follow you??? No. He says “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
“Obey my commandments.” Jesus says in John 14:15. He doesn’t say in turn I will obey your commands.
It seems there is a unique element to this “remaining”.
I typically don’t refer much to the Message Bible by Euguene Peterson but I think it may have something here:
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.” – John 15:4
Making a home: the place where you live and dwell. Where you inhabit and reside. My wife and I are making a home together. We confer with each other on decisions and listen to each other’s ideas. I support her and she supports me. We stick together and have each other’s back through thick and thin. I think that is what Jesus is saying.
Stick to me and I will stick to you. Together we’ll produce great fruit.
There is a process in horticultural where you take the stem of one plant and merge it together with the stalk and root system of another. Basically you take two and make it one. However, you don’t just push the vines together to connect them. (Duct tape won’t work either.) Instead there is a calculated process called grafting. The cut stem must be properly sliced and connected to the stalk and roots of the new plant or it will die. Overtime they become stuck together. The nourishing sap of the rooted plant will begin to flow into the new stem producing flowers, fruit… life.
The Bible is clear—without God we aren’t going to get far. Using our talents, wisdom, creativity and ‘hustle,’ we can actually get a lot done. But the Bible teaches it’s insignificant compared to the fruit God wants to bring; in fact, Jesus says without remaining in Him we can’t bear any fruit at all.
I don’t know about you but I want to be connected to the nourishing sap this year. I want to be stuck to the vine. I think this is what it means to remain in God. To allow your life to be filled, led and lived in the Spirit of God. When we do this I think we will experience fruitfulness and life as God promises. (John 10:10)
How does this start for you?
Maybe with a simple time of silence and listening? For others it may mean dedicated time of reading and meditation on scripture. For some that may mean faith in action through service and love of others. Whatever the case for you, make this a year that is defined by remaining.
I think we are all prone to “stick” to something; materialism, food, guilt, bitterness etc. But the only real life comes when we stick to God. He has chosen to remain in us, if only we can be dedicated to remaining in Him. That’s one of my goals for 2015. How about you?Image courtesy of Vega A. / Flickr.com