January 13, 2012

This is where I live

A dear pastor used to give each member of his congregation a verse for the year. After he died, and we were living in another city, I was thinking about him and the idea of a focus verse, missing both of them. That very day, a dear friend emailed me. She was thinking that I needed a verse for the year and sent me one!

Since then, I’ve asked God for an annual focus verse. This year, He gave me one from John’s gospel: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)

Jesus is talking about His focus for my life as His child. He selected me to produce fruit, those qualities that only the Holy Spirit can bring forth in me. Tied to this, He also promises that as I obey Him, not only will this fruit have an enduring quality, but whatever I ask God in the name of Jesus, He will give it to me.

As amazing as that is, even as I read it, I must think about the context. The process of producing Holy Spirit characteristics (like love, peace, joy, goodness, etc.) is not something I can do, nor can those qualities be imitated. Some may try to fake them, but by their biblical definitions, they cannot be faked either. The only way I can be the fruit-bearer God asks for in verse 16 is by obeying the verses that come before it.
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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:5–11)
Abiding in Jesus could be compared to living in a place. For instance, at the moment I am in a condo in Florida. This is my abiding place, but as soon as I step out the door, I am no longer abiding here. My earthly home is far from this place and when I’m there, it could be said that I am abiding there. Yet I can leave that place too, obviously. So what does it mean to abide in Jesus and stay there?

As this entire chapter says, to abide in Him is vital for fruit bearing and He explains how to do that in the above passage. Verses 9-10 say, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

Abiding is doing what He says. To move away from that, to step out the door so to speak, is disobedience. Each time I do something that He forbids, or that is a fleshy, sinful and selfish action, I’ve stopped abiding. It might be an obvious thing like gossip or mistreating someone. It can also be hidden, like envy or anger or feeling sorry for myself, even though these eventually show up in words and actions.

The main thing is that unless I abide, I miss out on bearing fruit, having my prayers answered, glorifying God, experiencing full joy and fitting in with the plan of God. He is telling me these things for His glory, but also for my benefit. Abiding in Jesus is a good thing, a blessed way to live. These verses are not only precious but practical.

Jesus, I am thankful that in You, I have all that I need. Not only that, when I abide in You, You can use me to bless others and glorify You. Today will bring temptations to move away, to do my own thing, to be selfish. Keep me continually reminded that You are the vine and apart from You, anything I do has no eternal value and is worthless in this life also.

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