Saturday, April 1, 2017

Learning to "Remain in Him" - Part 1

By Alfred Turley

A very critical passage of scripture for my own life has been from the book of John, chapter 15.  This chapter and passage cast a very clear emphasis on remaining in Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.  (John 15:5-8 HCSB)

But how do we do this?  And what exactly does this mean?  

This hit me even harder when just the other morning I was reading the book of Matthew and the very first chapter vs. 23 says this:  "and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated 'God is with us.’”  I was struck at that moment of the incredible clarity that God is in fact already with us.  He sent His Son, then gave us the Holy Spirit to live inside of us, and for those who have turned to Him and begun a relationship of following Him, He confirms that He is in fact living within us in spiritual form.  It is all over the New Testament.

So now I’m back to the question…. If He’s already with me and even living within me, what does it mean to remain in Him?

The answer has grown simpler and simpler to me the longer I walk with Christ:  
I have Him.  Does He have me?

Does Jesus have my AWARENESS?  Does Jesus have my OBEDIENCE?  Does Jesus have my AFFECTION? Does Jesus have my AGENDA?

My Awareness:  I am astonished at how much I can go through the day, and not pay attention to the fact that the trinitarian God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is with me in spiritual form at every single moment.  And the moments when I do realize it, it changes my reality.  It’s like standing in front of a wasps nest afraid, and then someone hands you a can of that spray that shoots out like 50 yards and you know that those wasps are now going to flop on the ground and be wasp stew.  It’s over.  I’ve been in meetings where I was nervous and afraid, and then just perked up and thought, “Hey, He loves me, and He’s here!  He’s got this!”  And peace floods in.  I have found that cultivating awareness of the presence of God in my life has been one of the biggest factors of remaining in Him I could I ever do.  Being aware of Him changes everything.  And He is absolutely with you!

My Obedience:  Simply put, He is the King and that is the relationship we sign up for.  While He loves us, and is our Heavenly Father, He is the also the King.  He is also our friend, and calls us friend.  But He is still the King.  Friends and family... we don’t have to do what they say!  But a King is different.  When we surrender to Jesus, we have to move to a posture of obedience.  We have to start thinking about our actions, and whether or not we are obeying Him.  If I’m not obeying Him, He does not have me, and I am certainly not remaining in HIm.  Now I do want say there is disobedience out of ignorance and not knowing better, and that’s not what I’m talking about.  While that matters for sure, our lives are journeys of learning about God and His goodness, and frankly the older I get the more I realize how much I’ve messed up in the past.  But He loves us and His grace is sufficient. 

My Affection:  As touchy-feely as that may sound, affection is a choice we make.  Will I choose to express love, appreciation, honor, esteem, etc. to someone else?  It’s a choice I make, not a feeling I feel.  I love my wife and feel that love.  But I choose (joyfully I might add) to show her affection and esteem.  Remaining in Christ means He gets some affection, some intentional acts of appreciation and thankfulness.  And not just a “thank you for the food.”  I choose to sing songs to Him in our church services, and I choose to talk to Him (that’s what prayer is) and tell Him, “Thank you!”  And I choose to tell Him how much I appreciate all the grace and mercy He has shown such a mess-up like me!  It can be that simple!  But I also try to do it regularly, and that’s part of it.  Make it a habit, and it’s another great block in the foundation of remaining in Christ!

My Agenda:  I like a plan, and I have plans.  I try to work by plans.  Many of us do.  We have habits and rituals and things we get darn excited about doing.  Is pursuing Jesus and obeying Jesus on our daily agenda?  Is there anything at all?  Is there a “I will work on my marriage today out of obedience to Jesus”?  Or “I will spend time with the kids in obedience to Jesus”?  Or how about, “I will work on patience with my boss today in obedience to Jesus”?  That right there will shake things up for you!  If the things of God don’t affect my to-do list, how can I think He has me, and that I am remaining in Him?

Here’s the beautiful part of all this:  when we remain in Him, His promise is that we will produce much fruit!  That is a promise I want in my life today!

Let’s remain in Christ today by letting Him have more of our awareness, our obedience, our affection and our agenda!

(In part 2, we will cover more on practicing and cultivating Awareness.  Stay tuned!)


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