So, you made it through Christmas. You reconnected with relatives, exchanged gifts and read Luke 2 as a family. You talked about Jesus being the reason for the season, and really made an effort to keep your priorities in order. But what about now? It isn’t Christmas, it is “National Fruitcake Day.” You don’t have lots of gifts to open, but a faint feeling of guilt at throwing away $80 worth of lightly used gift bags. Jesus has come to visit, but He has not come to abide.
How do you keep Jesus at the center of your life when you feel like keeping work, family and church balanced is like sewing on a unicycle (unsuccessful, ultimately painful and impossible to find a picture of)? If I only talked to Colleen on our anniversary or her birthday, I would have a very unsuccessful marriage. But we are content to live with Christ once or twice a year, plus every-other-weekend visitation.
I hope your heart craves for more. If so, the secret is in John 15:1-10.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
I have bad news for you: your Christmas tree is already dead. When you separated it from the root, it lost the source of its strength. Christians are the same way: if we are not intimately connected to the Savior, we wither and die fruitlessly. There is a lot of depth to this passage which I will not be able to tackle in a short blog post, but let’s keep it really practical. How do you abide in Christ, so you can bear fruit on National Fruitcake Day and every day?
“Abide in Me, and I in You”
The first point is very obvious. You cannot abide in Christ unless He abides in you.
You must be a genuine Christian to abide in Christ. Are you just a cultural believer, with some faint sense there is a god and a family affinity for the Christian one? That is not good enough. You must come to a critical point, where you realize that you have been in rebellion against God, and surrender to Him. Do you realize that, if justice were done, God ought to punish you – but He took the punishment on Himself instead (look for a more detailed post on this soon)? Do you give up all claims to yourself, and let Christ live in you? That is absolutely essential. Superficial Christians will be cut off and cast aside. Make sure you know for sure that you are saved.
Second, the Father must prune you. If you are a real Christian, you will not be cut off, but parts of you may need to be. Being pruned is as painful as it sounds, but it is essential to bear fruit. If you are going to be a fruitful branch, there are certain things you will not be able to do.
“…every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”
I am not even referring to sin (although repenting of known sin is a key part of abiding), but to the frantic, busy lives we lead. A vine (although we may be more familiar with fruit trees in Brazoria County) can have lots of pathetic fruit, or a smaller quantity of excellent fruit. The secret is to prune some branches, not only those that are bad in and of themselves, but to allow more room and strength for the chosen ones. You are only humanl you can do do twenty things poorly or three things well. What areas of your life do you prayerfully need to let God prune, even if it hurts? What areas are sapping valuable strength, but bearing no lasting fruit? Don’t let good things get in the way of the best things.
Isn’t is incredibly counter-cultural? but being truly connected to Jesus – like branches and a vine – will mean that you can’t do everything. There is a certain amount of faith required here: do you believe that God is able to take care of the things He has not called you to do? This is not an excuse to do nothing but sit around in holy-looking contemplation. It is the reality that, to live with Jesus in the every day, you will have to make room for a few key things, and aggressively channel His strength into them.
Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly
Finally, if you are going to bear fruit, you need to let His Word abide in you. It is not enough to read the Bible at Christmas and pat yourself on the back. You need to be in the Scriptures every day. Let’s get really painful here, because it is an area where I fall short as much as anybody.
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
You need to be in the Scriptures twice every day.
Once by yourself, and once with your family. How much effort would it take to get on a daily Bible reading plan for yourself (we are launching one on January 1st that will take you in detail through the New Testament in 15-20 minutes a day), and then read a chapter out of Proverbs with your family at dinner? If you have kids, they each get to pick one verse for you to explain to them, and once verse to explain to you. Then trade prayer requests and pray. Sing, if you want! But get God’s Word into your life and into your heart. When His Word abides in you, then you can abide in Him. There is no better time than now to get into the habit, and teach your family how central the Word of God really is to you. Build Jesus into the rhythm of your normal life, and watch your heart change.
Make sure you are genuinely a Christian who really understands the gospel. Prayerfully remove the clutter from your life. Deliberately prepare space for God and His Word. Abide.