Remain

“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.” (John 15:4, NIV)

My parents were in charge of the twenty-somethings group at a church I grew up in.  I was not twenty-something, but more like six-something, but I got to be part of the group because my parents never got babysitters for me.

One day, my dad was enlisted to do a children’s talk before the pastor’s sermon on John 15:4.  The twenty-somethings group helped.  And the six-something (me) got to help.

The day of the skit, the church’s children gathered around my dad, who sat in a chair.  He gave each of them a piece of yarn that was tied around him.  Dad said, “I want you to hold onto this, and not let go.”

A couple of the twenty-somethings also had yarn.  Their job was to let go of theirs.  I don’t remember much about what distracted them, only that one was supposed to be really vain and obsessed with looking into a mirror.

One by one, they let go.  Then, it was my turn.

My job was to let go when one of the twenty-somethings tempted me with a vase of plastic flowers.

At the end, all the kids were still holding tight to their yarn.

Then Dad said something like, “Good job, you held onto the vine.”  And he gave each of them an apple.  The twenty-somethings who had let go, and me, did not get an apple.  I remember my job was to drop my head and slink back to my seat.

I guess it’s been over 20 year ago no, that I let go of the yarn and lost out on the prize.  But the imagery of that day has stuck with me.  Most of all because I’ve found how hard it is to

remain in the vine

It’s been almost three years since I committed my life to Christ, and I am still so immature.  It’s still so easy for me to wander away.

I was reminded of that in the doctor’s office today.  I had quiet time to read God’s Word while waiting for the doctor to see me.  I have been inconsistent with reading God’s Word lately, and of all things, I should know better.  And I do.  But I make the most ludicrous excuses for not reading God’s Word.

I tell myself I know what God is saying.  That I’ve got it down.  That I need to listen to a Christian song instead.  Or write a letter to a friend.  Or check facebook to see if anyone wants spiritual advice. Or watch a Christian DVD.  Or read a devotional book.  Or write a blog.

This is such a sham.

What happens, what always happens, is that when I’m not remaining in God’s Word, I am straying from His teaching.  And eventually I recognize I’m in the wilderness of my own mind trying to find meaning.

Why, why is it so hard to hold onto the vine?  Why is it that I effortlessly manufacture excuses not to read God’s Word?  It’s like chasing after dusty plastic flowers in a vase–only this is not acting.  This is real life.

The word remain (NIV, NLT, WEB) or abide (KJV, ESV, NASB, ISV) for Jesus’ command: really important.

When I think of “remain”, I think of “stay right here.”  “Don’t go anywhere.”  “Don’t move.”

I remember an old Garfield cartoon where Garfield draws a large ‘X’ for Odie to stand on until he gets back.  Of course, wacky events happen to Odie, and he’s carried across town by various machines.

 That’s pretty close to the way it is with us.  New believers want to remain in Christ–so what happens?  Why is it so easy to wander away?  Like Odie, we’re dragged about by the undercurrents of this world.  But unlike Odie, we’re not helpless to these forces.  We can resist, through Christ.

He (Jesus) also gave apostles, prophets, missionaries, as well as pastors and teachers as gifts [to his church]. Their purpose is to prepare God’s people to serve and to build up the body of Christ. This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God’s Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray. Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16, GW)

I remain in Christ when I unite with His people in an effort to unpack the glorious riches of His Word.  There are so many people working together to lead me to a closer understanding of Jesus through His Word.  But I can’t just passively listen.  To remain, I must stay at His feet, listening to, and acting on, His Words.

Twenty years ago, I didn’t mind walking away without the prized apple.  But in eternity, I want to show Jesus that I have held on to Him by the mercy given in His Word, through His Spirit.  That is the prize I want.

Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17, NLT)

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Photograph by Basheer Tome, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/basheertome/

Photographs is under Creative Commons License.

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