This month I’m kicking off a series of blog entries entitled “A Devoted Life.” Throughout this month and sprinkled through the year this will be a place to unpack scriptures that encourage a life that is devoted to God, through Jesus Christ. Over time the idea of devotions, having devotions, has gotten away from the church. Without getting into speculation as to why we’ve gotten away from it, this is a great time to reacquaint ourselves with the practice of setting ourselves, our minds, and our attention on Christ.
To start, let’s explore what it means to abide with the Lord. When we decide to devote ourselves to Christ, it takes effort on our part. It requires us to be deliberate in setting ourselves apart for and to Jesus Christ. Within the verses of John chapter 15 are three temptations that Jesus was equipping the disciples to overcome in order to abide in Him: 1) the temptation to reject the teachings that did not reveal Christ as Savior, 2) the temptation to grow strange toward each other, which is to not show fellowship or love, and 3) the temptation to shrink back from their responsibilities as apostles when times got hard. Each of these instances can likely ring true in our personal lives. And now, just like then, Jesus’ words are meant to give us strength, confidence, and power to live a holy life in a fallen world AND bear fruit while doing it. Of course, this ability is not something we accomplish on our own.
In verse 4, we see where Jesus says “abide in me.” To abide means to endure without yielding or giving up, to accept without objection, and to remain stable or fixed in a state. When you look at a vine you see that it grows from the root and grips its foundation and then there are many, many branches that come from it and they wind, climb, and coil within themselves and other branches. On the branches you’ll find either flowers like the morning glory, fruit like grapes, or vegetables like the cucumber.
When you break a branch from off of the vine, it dries up. The branch does not have the necessary nutrients to live. It’s just all by itself, subject to being blown away or picked up and thrown away or even burned up, as it’s illustrated within chapter 15. But when the branches are connected to the vine it continues to grow and flourish. It gets nutrients from the root and yields its crop. People can pick the crop and because the branch is still connected to the vine, more will grow. This illustrates the value of being connected to Christ in order to remain strong. When we help people, do our jobs, do our schoolwork, and do it all in our own strength, we get burned out, frustrated, confused, and out of sorts. All kinds of ugly just sets in because we tried to do something and Jesus already said we can do nothing unless we’re abiding in Him.
When we abide in Jesus, the vine, we will always have what we need to bear fruit. Fruit is the evidence of and benefits for being connected to Jesus Christ. The fruit we can display includes transformed personalities, Godly temperament, honest and moral conversations, good works, the display of being devoted to God in prayer and reading His Word and being in His presence. We cannot do these things on our own or according to our own righteousness. We need Jesus to survive and thrive in this life. I encourage you today to connect or reconnect with Christ and stay connected…Abide in Christ.