Running on Empty – Let it Glow
Let’s talk about abiding, or more commonly referred to in most newer versions of the Bible as remaining.
As I read the whole passage John 15: 1-17, again, I realized that Jesus says remain eleven times. Yes, that is right, eleven times. Friends, whenever Jesus repeats Himself, it means it is vitally important. We must pay close attention to these repetitions.
Now what is interesting about the repetition found in this section is that this repetition builds on itself to teach an important lesson.
The first four ‘remains’ are the overarching lesson Jesus is teaching. He uses a metaphor that would have been easy to understand to these disciples. The grapevine was an important plant in this region and symbolized blessing and prosperity. Jesus starts the lesson with the great opening sentence in any good lesson. He says, “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).
Then Jesus dives deeper into His lesson. With the fifth ‘remain’, Jesus teaches us in who to remain. He says, I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit (John 15:5)
With the sixth, seventh, and eighth ‘remain’ He teaches us why we need to remain in Him. He first says, “if anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers” (John 15:6). Then He shows the opposite of the negative juxtaposing with the positive. He states, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you” (John 15:7).
With the final three ‘remains’ Jesus teaches us how to remain in Him. He says “As the father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love” (John 15:10)
Obeying God’s commands is how we remain in His love. So, what are His commands? He also repeats this in this same lesson. He states, “My command is this, love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12) and He repeats it at the end of the lesson, “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17).
But how do we love each other? I mean, I consider myself a fairly loving person most of the time and yet I just shared that I lose it at the people I love most.
What I find so interesting about this idea of obeying God’s commands as the way to remain in God’s love is that one of the ten commandments is resting on the sabbath day. The Lord said to the people, “Remember the sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you or your son or daughter, nor male of female servant, nor your animals, nor any animals residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
Clearly, God thinks of resting as good. I wonder why I believe that rest is not good? Could it be that our enemy wants us to be too busy for God? I have heard that we live in the busiest, most anxious culture on record. Apparently, we need to go radically counter-culture here, see God’s commands as something that is good for us, and then obey them. We need to think of rest, real rest, the kind that fuels us up as a good thing and then do it!
Father, you are so good to us. You command rest to us and call it good because you know that we need it. Help us to slow down to the pace that you designed us to live in, rather than the one our culture demands of us and drains us. Show each of us a unique way to remain in your love, that will fuel us to love others. In Jesus name, Amen.