When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a small apartment. He was on shift work and I was often alone, and it didn’t help that I knew absolutely no one in the town where we lived. I remember receiving our marriage certificate and getting so excited, mainly because it meant I could change all my ID over to my married name and I could finally get a library.
One of the hardest things for me was being married and living with my husband, but feeling like I still didn’t know how to be a wife. The whole adjustment period took a lot of time, especially because he was working shift work.
Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you were part of something by name, but still couldn’t get a handle on how to function as part of that? Maybe, like me, it was your marriage. Maybe it was a sports team or a new job. Maybe it was a friendship or your role as a mother.
In reading John chapter 15, Jesus implores us to remain in him, but something felt so familiar to my new wife experience. Let’s check it out!
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. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
– John 15:4-5
First, don’t give up seeking Christ, even when you don’t know what that looks like.
Can I confess something to you today? I used to have no idea what that looked like. I thought “That sounds great, but how? How do I abide in Jesus while I’m cleaning my house. How do I remain in him while surviving on no sleep? How do I bear much fruit when I feel like all I’m bearing is survival? Do I ask Him exactly what He wants me to do in every little situation? Is that the answer?”
I struggled for years by pretending I was abiding. I looked the part, played the good Christian girl role by reading my Bible and praying. But guess what? I wasn’t abiding.
It was very much like the story I told about the beginning of my marriage, where I was in name and position my husband’s wife, but I really didn’t know how I was supposed to be and function as a wife.
Second, remaining in Him is not part of a Christian check-list.
Fortunately and unfortunately, there is no Christian to-do list. If there was, we’d still all fail miserably. Plus, Jesus came to show us, as we talked last week, that it’s a matter of our heart.
Which is why, remaining in Him has to be a day by day, moment by moment, sometimes minute by minute action. And do you see how many times Jesus tells us to remain in Him in this section of John 15 verses 1-17 alone? I counted 6 in my version.
But can I share a warning? Doing a study like this, or any study of the Bible really, can cause us to become caught in the check-list mentality, especially if we are at all an achiever type.
We must not turn away from His Word after we are done with our homework and say, “That was so good. Now let me get on with my day.”
We must really let what we’ve read permeate our every day tasks, relationships and thoughts. We must open our hearts to allow Jesus to really get His words and message to become the language of our heart.
Now, you may be saying, I know all that! Great! Then let me encourage you to not sit on what He is doing in your life. Share it with others. Encourage them by sharing your ups and downs, because not everyone is where you are.
You may be saying, “That’s great and sounds nice, Erin, but it’s still all clear as mud what this whole remaining in Christ thing means.” Then let me encourage you again by saying, don’t give up. I can tell you honestly that within the last year is the first time I’ve really felt I “got” what remaining in Him means for me. And as I said to the others, don’t keep your ups and downs to yourself. Share and allow others to encourage and support you.
Remaining in Christ is the way He changes us and molds us. Wendy Blight says, “Our inward abiding leads to outward change and bountiful fruit. We willingly walk in obedience to His Word, even when it’s hard and we don’t understand.”
Let me wrap up today by say, God loves you so much and He wants to do a work in you. He wants to see you flourish and bear fruit in His name and He can only do that when Christ is where you remain each and every day.