First Things First
I remember the day as a young pastor when it dawned on me the importance of my relationship with the Lord. I remember thinking “It all revolves around this relationship!” That may seem like a ‘duh’ statement to you, but to me at the time it was revolutionary. Here’s why: I spent my days working. I was in school full time and pastoring my first Church. I loved my work and was constantly fulfilled by it. But, at the same time, I felt a growing emptiness inside of me. The emptier I became, the harder I worked. I wasn’t doing enough, I thought. I wasn’t working hard enough, I reasoned. And so became the cycle. The day of my revelation was the day I began to learn the secret of abiding in Christ.
Jesus tells us about this wonderful secret in John chapter 15. He simply says this “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” These words are transformational on so many levels. For the person desiring to be productive, we learn that our best productivity comes from that deep relationship with Jesus. When we divorce ourselves from Him, when there is a break in our relationship, we find ourselves sitting still with empty hands. For the person who desires to know God and His will for your life, we learn that Jesus is waiting to lead us every step of the way. He IS the Way! His purpose for us lies in the middle of our relationship with Him. For the person who desires nothing more than to just be held, this invitation to abide cannot come at a better time. Jesus positions Himself as the One who knows you better than anyone and is ready to embrace you fully. Let Him!
Let me take a few moments and share something with you. I never want to waste our time with these words. My goal is always to lead you into a sweeter relationship with Jesus. So often I meet people who say all the right things but do not have this abiding relationship with Jesus. As we visit they express the emptiness I shared with you a moment ago. While they would describe their lives as good, most will say that they want something more; something deeper; something more real. I want to invite you to slow down long enough to examine your heart. Take a few minutes and ask God to probe down deep. Ask Him to show you if there is any part of your heart that is distant from Him. Ask Him if there is any sin present that would keep you from abiding in Him. Ask Him to forgive you for the dark things that He reveals. Ask Him to show you what it looks like to repent or walk away from that sin.
At its heart sin is an abandonment of our relationship with Jesus. It is us choosing to go our own way instead of Jesus as The Way. The presence of sin in your life does not mean that you are going to Hell. It means that you are human. You and I were born this way. We will wrestle with sin until the day we die. Hell is reserved for the people who refuse to allow Jesus to deal with their sin. He says this in John 15: “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.” This is a warning for those who think they are good enough to please God on their own. Jesus has news for us: You’re not.
This idea of sin causing death and destruction is offensive. There is no way to soften it. But it is not a threat. We do not see a picture of a muscled God threatening blows to all those who refuse to repent. Not at all. Instead the Bible presents a picture of a God who has warned us of death and is waiting with His solution. His invitation has never been to just escape Hell. His deepest desire for us is that we would be fulfilled; that we would be satisfied in Him; that we would know Him in the fullest way possible.
When you look at your life are you satisfied? Are you fulfilled in all your work? Do you feel like you are impacting the lives around you in a positive way? Are people being drawn to Jesus as a result of your life and work? Would you say your days are full of encouraging moments? If so, keep doing what you’re doing! If not, know that Jesus is waiting to yoke Himself to you. He tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light; that He is waiting to give rest to our souls. To abide in Christ is the single greatest challenge you could hear today. Don’t ignore it.