For the past nine months we have been getting some pretty deep theological teaching, such that even my brain is hurting from all of the thinking! And last week I’m sure I made it hurt even more by presenting the huge changes that God has placed on my heart for this church in the near and distant future. If you missed it be sure to catch it online.
And so, what God has also showed me is that it’s time for a little more practical teaching. A little more how to actually live out our faith on more than Sunday morning. And so to start, to start…
Today I want to share a few things with you that God has been working on in me personally over the last six or so months that I hope will help you as it has helped me in living what I’m calling The Impossible Christian life.
So, let’s pray and get into it.
You may have noticed last Sunday that I started wearing this big red leather thing on my wrist. Well, it’s not a watch and it’s not a fashion statement and it’s definitely not a bracelet. And it’s also not a prop I got just for today’s talk. It’s something I wear every day.
And while it is certainly noticeable to others, that is not why I wear it. I got it big and red like this and I wear it on my wrist like this so that it would be noticeable to ME all day.
Why – because it’s a reminder to me of several things associated with my relationship with God that I want to keep top of mind throughout the day.
It was either this or a tattoo – and I guess I’m just not ready to have a tattoo on my forearm or wrist just yet. Or anywhere for that matter.
AUDIENCE OF ONE
Engraved on this leather band is a symbol that I designed myself. It looks like this. And here is the digital version. A big A with a little 1 in front of it. The colors are black and red because those are my favorite colors.
Originally, this was a symbol of my personal motto, which I even wrote a song about awhile back – which is: Live for an Audience of One. With that ONE being the Triune God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I want to live for an audience of ONE – not for the audience of a few or even many. I want to do what I do for the one who made me, the one who saved me, the one who called me. As Paul told the Colossians…
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for people.
This reminder on my wrist helps me to remember that… whenever I’m feeling bummed about how few people there are in the seats AND when I’m feeling puffed up about a lot of people in the seats. It keeps me grounded and even keeled whether I’m criticized or praised. Because it is not human praise I should be after.
So, that’s what the symbol means and what this reminder on my wrist is about.
I need the reminder because it’s not something I do naturally. In fact, as I’ve already alluded to – it is actually impossible to do naturally. But I’ll talk about that some more in a minute.
“Audience of One” was the original meaning, but over the last few months it has actually taken on several new meanings to me. Seven to be exact. Which I’ll be sharing with you today.
While “Audience of One” has been a mantra of mine for quite some time, it wasn’t until early in this year that I was actually contemplating getting what would have been my first tattoo of this symbol on my wrist or forearm. But it wasn’t because of it’s original meaning.
What actually inspired me to even consider the tattoo and eventually get the band was not to remind me that I live for an Audience of One – but that I am Accountable to One.
Not only accountable for my actions, but my thoughts as well.
You might be surprised at this, but pastors are people too. And I’m not only a people, I’m also a man. And I struggle with the same thing that all men struggle with – the fact that God made you ladies so stinking beautiful!
And to be quite frank – sometimes it’s just difficult not to stare.
Which is something that my flesh really wants to do, but Jesus made it clear that adultery was not just something you do with your body – but something you do with your mind.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
I love my wife dearly and do not want to commit adultery against her with my body or my mind, but to be totally honest – it’s hard not to. Of all the temptations that we men face – this is the hardest one. And we live in an extremely sexualized society such that it is all around us all the time. So, what is a man to do?
Well, Jesus offers a solution…
29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Ouch! Does Jesus really mean for us to mutilate our bodies? Of course not, but he is saying that you should take as drastic measures as necessary to keep yourself from sinning – especially in this way. Do whatever it takes!
So, among other things such as no longer watching TV (where sex is everywhere), and strictly filtering my Facebook and internet searching, I thought one thing that might help me as I walk about in the real world surrounded by beautiful women wearing clothes that leave little to the imagination is to have something else to look at . As experts say, it’s not enough to try to stop doing something – you have to replace it by doing something else.
And so, it started one day with just drawing a cross on my wrist with a marker so I could look at it every time I felt tempted to look at something else – and it actually worked rather well. From that I started seriously considering a tattoo and even started drawing this symbol on my wrist just to see if I liked it or not. I haven’t totally ruled out the tattoo yet, but for now I’m sticking with this wrist band instead as it has an added benefit that a tattoo does not have, which I’ll share with you near the end of my talk today.
And this actually works for me, and helps keep me from looking at what I shouldn’t. At the very least it gives me an easy way out and takes away any excuse for sinning. Which is something that I really need….and want.
Because I am accountable. Not only for the sins I commit, but also for what I do with my life in the service of my king. There are plenty of parables and references to the fact that we are indeed accountable for how we live our lives. And so, this symbol on my wrist helps remind me of that all the time.
Now, with all of this talk of living for an audience of one, and being accountable to one, it might start seeming like this would put a lot of pressure on a person to perform perfectly. And it probably would if it were not for a few other things that this symbol stands for.
Such as WHO that ONE is….
The Triune God is also represented in this symbol.
God the Father is my Abba Father
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
The English equivalent to Abba is Daddy.
Because of what Christ did for us on that cross, we are adopted into the family of God, such that the Father of Jesus becomes our Father. And not some distant authoritarian judgmental Father who is going to punish you when you mess up, but God has become our Abba – Our Daddy!
I shared with you some weeks ago the experience I had of God showing me what kind of Daddy he is by pointing out how much better of a Daddy he is than me.
- He is patient with us.
- He loves us unconditionally and is never disappointed in us.
- He is not annoyed at our asking for things.
- He always only wants what is good for us.
- He wants to be with us more than we want to be with Him and if we would let Him, he would pick us up and hold us close such that we could melt into his arms the way my children do for me.
That’s not a bad ONE to live for, or be accountable to, is it?
Jesus is represented here by the cross that the 1 and the crossbar of the A make.
Yes, I am accountable to the Triune God for all that I do, but because of that cross – or really because of Jesus – even though I will inevitably mess up, I am and always will be completely innocent in the eyes of God.
As it says in my favorite chapter of the Bible..
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The sin we are all guilty of is treason. Treason against the true king of the universe. Every time I define good and evil for myself rather than let God define it for me, I am attempting to play God and am guilty of treason and deserving of death. But Jesus was put to death in my place, thus setting me free from that penalty as I surrender my life and my throne to him. Because of Jesus, I can now live according to the Spirit rather than the flesh.
Again, not a bad ONE to live for or be accountable to.
Which brings us to the third person of that ONE. (I know the trinity is confusing – but God is not meant to be fully understood by us.)
The Spirit Paul was referring to is the Holy Spirit, or as Jesus called him in John 14 – The Advocate. The third person of the trinity.
Romans 8 continues to talk about what it means to live according to the Spirit.
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
All of that to say that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, lives inside of those who belong to Christ and HE enables us to be free from our slavery to sin, and gives us the power to “put to death the deeds of your sinful nature” – in other words, we don’t have to try to be good on our own.
As we allow the Holy Spirit, the Advocate to lead us – then, among other things, temptation becomes easier to resist. Which is pretty Awesome!
But the Advocate does so much more than just helping us with temptation.
It’s in John 14 that Jesus tells his disciples about the Holy Spirit he’s going to send them after he leaves.
This is after the last supper – after Jesus had washed their feet and Judas went off to betray him. Jesus is now giving his disciples some final teaching before he is arrested and crucified.
Early in this chapter is the famous and important statement where Jesus pointed out that He, himself, is the only way to heaven – “I am the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Later in that same conversation is when He talks about the Holy Spirit. The Advocate.
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
The Advocate is the Spirit of Truth. The absolute truth. The truth that Jesus himself is. When the Spirit lives in you, then you have Truth living in you.
Then, a little later he says..
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
The Advocate also teaches us. For Jesus’s disciples, the Holy Spirit supernaturally reminded them of all that Jesus said and did such that they could teach it accurately to those who would listen, and for some of them the Holy Spirit guided them as they wrote it down in our Gospels.
For us today, as you read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will make it come alive to you such that you understand it and will also help you remember it.
Here are a few other things that Scripture tells us the Advocate does for us.
- convicts (John 16:8-11)
- illuminates (John 16:12-15)
- teaches (John 16:12-15)
- guides (Romans 8:14)
- assures (Romans 8:16)
- intercedes (Romans 8:26)
- directs (Acts 20:22)
- warns (Acts 20:23)
Basically, if you let Him – the Holy Spirit will literally walk you through this life on the exact path that God has planned for you such that you hardly do anything of your own except willfully surrender yourself to Him.
It’s pretty amazing.
That is the ONE that I live for. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I couldn’t ask for a better audience.
So that covers 5 of the 7 meanings of this symbol. Which covers the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, there is only one audience that matters and He IS watching closely. It also covers the fact that the ONE in question is a VERY GOOD GOD.
But what has not been covered yet is HOW to actually live for this audience-of-one well. How to please a perfect God. How to actually live the impossible Christian life.
Well, that’s what the final two meanings of this symbol are about.
Luke records a short story about an encounter Jesus had with a couple of sisters that illustrates the first one well.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
This is such a significant little exchange because it demonstrates perfectly the difference between how to fail at the Christian life and how to succeed.
In reading this story, all of us first-borns know that we would each have done exactly as Martha did. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. In fact, she was doing exactly what would have been expected of her in those days when a group of at least 13 men stop by your house, tired and probably hungry from the road. She’s making preparations to feed them and such. She was being responsible. But her sister (no doubt a little sister) was being lazy and just sitting around.
But when she pleads with Jesus about it, Jesus chides her and compliments Mary.
Because Mary was doing the only thing that was actually needed in that scenario. Now, if it had been any other 13 men, it would be a different story. But because it was Jesus, there is really only ONE thing that is necessary for us to do with Jesus.
He doesn’t need us to prep a meal for him, or do a bunch of work for him, or behave a certain way for him.
He doesn’t need us to perform for him.
In fact, Jesus doesn’t need a thing from us….but we need a whole lot from Him.
We need everything from Him.
Jesus explained this principle in a very simple but profound illustration in John 15. This is a teaching Jesus gave to his disciples on the night he was arrested, just after he had washed their feet and Judas went off to betray him. And it is the essential key as to HOW to live the impossible Christian life.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, as I also abide 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.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
This illustration reveals several things about the Christian Life, including just how impossible it truly is.
It’s a simple illustration. God the Father is the gardener. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. Just imagine a grape vine or blackberry vine. The vine comes from the ground and grows long and rather straight or curled around a structure. The vine itself has no fruit on it, but it has many branches that split off from it that do bear fruit.
Branches that are fully attached to the vine bear fruit and branches that are disconnected do not. What Jesus stresses here is that both are guaranteed results.
If a branch is truly attached to the vine – it WILL bear fruit. It really has no choice about it because it’s not the branch itself that produces the fruit.
The vine is what produces the fruit, and it does it through the connected branch. Hence the branch is only said to BEAR the fruit.
Similar to how a wire does not produce electricity, but it conducts it, and will shock you if it is connected to a power source. Or how a hose does not produce water but it will certainly spray water if connected to a water source. A branch does not produce fruit, but it WILL bear fruit if connected to the fruit source – the vine.
Hence why his final statement is that “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
In other words, if you are truly my disciple, you WILL stay attached to the vine, and therefore you WILL bear fruit. In fact, the DEFINITION of a true disciple is one that stays attached to the vine and bears fruit.
Likewise, if a branch is not connected to the vine, it cannot bear fruit. It doesn’t have a choice in the matter. A branch that is not connected to the living source is just a stick.
This is why Jesus said that apart from him – apart from the true vine, the life source, the fruit producer – you can do nothing.
Nothing of spiritual value.
You are as dead as a stick.
And the Christian life is most definitely impossible for a stick.
Because the Christian life is required to be evidenced by fruit – specifically the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Notice none of these things are things you can create in yourself on your own. If you are honest with yourself, you know that is true. Only the true vine – only the Spirit of Christ can produce this kind of fruit.
But that doesn’t stop sticks from trying.
It doesn’t stop those still living in the flesh to try to pretend to be living in the Spirit. They will even claim they already have all of these. But I’ve known plenty of people who did that and then actually got saved only to find that what they thought was this fruit really wasn’t. That’s because when a stick tries to produce fruit on it’s own, something else results. Something that Paul lists a few verses before this.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
It is worth noting that the words Paul uses are the FRUIT of the SPIRIT and the ACTS of the FLESH.
That’s because sticks can’t bear fruit. They can’t bear anything. And in their trying to, they end up PRODUCING FORGERIES
Instead of actual godly LOVE, they have LUST / SEXUAL IMMORALITY and think it’s the same thing.
Instead of JOY, they just use SELFISH AMBITION to get temporary happiness and think it’s the same thing.
Instead of PEACE, they have DISCORD, JEALOUSY, and FITS OF RAGE because their lack of peace is everyone else’s fault!
Instead of SELF-CONTROL they have DRUNKENNESS, ORGIES, and the LIKE…because they simply cannot control themselves, and they assume it’s just impossible.
And you can forget about KINDNESS, GOODNESS, GENTLENESS, and FAITHFULNESS…
My friends, the fruit of the Spirit cannot be produced by us, and they cannot be faked. And thinking you have the fruit when you don’t is like thinking fruit flavored candy actually tastes like the real thing. It doesn’t, but you will never know that unless you actually taste the real fruit.
And as Jesus has made so painfully clear, the ONLY, ONLY, ONLY way that you and I will ever get to taste that fruit is by ABIDING IN HIM.
ABIDE is the sixth concept this symbolizes. And it is the most important one, because it is the only HOW to live for an Audience of One.
So, what does it mean to ABIDE?
The literal meaning is just to remain. To stay where you are. In the case of the branch, it means to stay fully attached to the vine. In the case of a person, it means to stay fully attached to Christ.
Which I know is a concept difficult to grasp. So, let me explain.
To abide in Christ is to make HIM the number one most important thing in your life. And not by a narrow margin, like 51%, but most important as in 100%. That’s what Jesus meant when he said you must hate everyone else in comparison to how much you love Him. To abide in Christ is to cling to him like a branch clings to the vine for dear life.
That’s what it means to abide. But what does it actually look like in practice?
What was Mary commended for in the story of Mary and Martha? She was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his every word. She was abiding. She was soaking him in. Letting his words invade her brain and change it.
That’s what it looks like to abide in Christ.
Today we don’t have him stopping at our house so we can sit at his feet. Today we have his Words written down that we can read or even listen to and thus have nearly the same experience as Mary.
And while there is more to abiding than only reading the Bible, it is FOUNDATIONAL. You CANNOT abide in Christ without letting his words abide in you any more than you can build a sturdy building without a foundation. Jesus himself pointed that out with his house on the sand and house on the rock illustration in Matthew 7.
To let Christ’s words abide in you means you know them and you know them well. It means you know God’s Word better than anything else you know. And when you do, Jesus says your prayers will be answered.
If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you can ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
If I, as a believer, stay attached to Jesus – meaning I keep my heart, soul, mind, and strength focused on him at all times – and I have ingested His word on such a regular basis and let it truly invade my brain – such that my mind is now more composed of His words than anything else – then I can ask whatever I wish and it will be done for me.
Because when my mind is made up of the words of God, then my thoughts will be his thoughts – and what he wants, I will want. And thus when I ask, He is happy to say yes.
It all comes down to what Paul says in…
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Couple that with
1 John 5
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
In other words, God only answers prayers that are in his will to answer.
And the way to know his will is to have your mind renewed.
And the way to have your mind renewed is to have the words of God abide in you.
Which in turn is how you abide in Christ, and thus bear fruit.
That is ABIDE.
But ABIDE actually does not stand alone. It has a necessary flip side.
In Romans 12:2, the transformation Paul speaks of is a two part process.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
To renew your mind such that you are abiding in Christ and his words are abiding in you such that you can actually know God’s will – requires more than just ADDING God’s Word to your focus. It also requires SUBTRACTING the things that cause you to conform to the pattern of this world.
This theme is many places in scripture but probably none more beautifully expressed as the first Psalm.
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Basically, if you want to truly ABIDE in Christ – you have to ABANDON the world.
Another way to put this: When you sit at the feet of Jesus, it doesn’t do you much good if you are on your phone the whole time.
ABANDON is the final concept and it goes hand in hand with ABIDE. They are two sides to the same coin.
To ABIDE in Christ is to ABANDON the World. To ABIDE in the Spirit is to ABANDON the Flesh.
Romans 8 also spells it out.
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.
James also puts his blunt stamp on it.
4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
Once again, you can’t be both and you can’t be neither. You are either a branch or a stick. A disciple or a poser. And how you can tell which one you are is by how well the fruit of the Spirit characterizes your life versus the counterfeit versions of the flesh.
Can you now see why the Christian life is indeed impossible if you try to do it without being attached to the vine? It can’t be done. It can’t even be faked that well.
The Christian life is impossible because the only one who can actually live it is Christ himself. And thus in order for you and I to live it, we must let Him live it through us by ABIDING in him and ABANDONING everything else.
This is why Paul said
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Again it’s a hard concept to understand, the idea that I stop living my own life and let Christ do the living for me.
It’s not something you can really explain. It’s really only understood through experiencing it.
So, let me tell you how I do it. Though I don’t claim to be perfect at it. Like I said at the beginning of my talk today, these are things I’m learning.
I have been abiding and abandoning at growing levels for about ten years now ever since I surrendered my life to Christ in the belly of a giant metal fish called a submarine.
Immediately I had a real hunger for God’s Word and started reading and studying as much as I could – ABIDING. As I did that, it started changing me on the inside which led to naturally ABANDONING the pattern of this world as I found it less and less appealing.
It started with switching from classic rock music to Christian music. Then my TV habits started changing. Eventually we got rid of cable but we still had an antenna. Then we got rid of that and used only Netflix. Then we even got rid of Netflix and most of my old DVD collection. Then we even got rid of the TV itself. And for a few years we didn’t even have one in the house. And we didn’t miss it.
Last year we were given a TV and went through a spurt of watching a lot of movies – especially when VidAngel was still working. Now, we don’t have Netflix and all of our DVD’s are for the kids. We still have Amazon Prime I could watch on, but now I just occasionally scroll through the options and am frankly not interested in any of them. Most days the TV is never even on.
Really, my only source of information from the world is through the CBN news app, and Facebook which I’ve filtered pretty significantly.
Now, let me make clear that there is nothing special about me. I’m a normal person who God has changed by His amazing grace! And when He saved me, He gave me a hunger and a thirst for the living water, for his living Word, and the more I drank of it the more the things of this world just grew strangely dim. The things that used to taste so good, were now bland or even disgusting to me. And the Words of God just grew more and more beautiful.
Things I used to obsess over, now I can’t even pretend to care about.
I just don’t think the same way anymore because I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind just as Scripture says would happen.
But I’m far from done.
Abiding is meant to be a lifelong and continual thing. At no time am I supposed to break from the vine. At no time am I supposed to give Christ a break from living my life for me. Though I must admit I often do, hence the need for a reminder on my wrist. I’m better than I used to be but still far from perfect.
As Paul says…
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Which means I must never stop abiding in Christ and never stop abandoning the World. To stop is actually to reverse.
If I stop abiding in Christ and abandoning the world, I have actually now abandoned Christ and started abiding in the world. There is no neutral.
So, how do I ABIDE in Christ on a daily basis now?
Tomorrow, what will it look like for me?
For me it begins at 5am when my alarm goes off and I get up, go downstairs and spend an hour or two with my Lord. Which is something I now do every day except my Sabbath, which is Friday for me. The Lord gave me permission to sleep in that day, but I still spend time with him later in the day.
I didn’t used to do that. I used to think it was good enough that I talked with God and thought about Him all day long. Which is rather easy for me since my vocation pretty much requires that I do that. But it was earnest and still is. I still converse with the Lord all day and have Him on my mind, and not just because it’s my job.
But over the past year and especially the last six months, He has shown me with no uncertainty just how unacceptable that is.
I have learned that there is absolutely no shortcut to spending quality time with the Lord in dedicated prayer and Bible study every single day.
It’s doing what Mary did…before doing what Martha did. It’s sitting at his feet for a while before getting busy.
God knows we have things to do, but just like for Mary and Martha – there is only one thing actually needed in this human existence. The branch MUST remain in the vine, or else it becomes a stick.
My morning time with the Lord is how I make sure I’m still attached to the vine each day. It’s like being that tree planted by the water and soaking up the refreshing nourishment from the Lord before I go about my day. It grounds me and centers me.
At the end of my prayers I always recommit myself to abiding that day, to living in the Spirit. To following where He leads. And I ask for his guidance and wisdom and to lead me throughout the day.
And recently, I also symbolically put this band on my wrist as an act of surrendering my will to His. Almost like chaining myself to Him. That’s why I like the band probably more than a tattoo. It reminds me also that it is my choice to abide or not, a choice I have to make every single day.
And then I simply go about my day as if I really am attached to the vine and I can expect to bear fruit.
And guess what? I do!
And I can assure you that the real stuff is much better than the fake.
Anyway, that’s how I practice abiding right now.
You don’t have to copy exactly how I do it, but you do need to apply the same principles if you truly want results. You MUST be in His Word, and you MUST spend quality and quantity time with Him.
For me, 5am is how I do that. For my wife, pregnant homeschooling mother of 4 small children, that doesn’t work for her. Instead, she takes the time she used to sneak away for chocolate to first spend some time with the Lord, and then have the chocolate.
You need to find what works for you.
And if you’re thinking that you don’t really need that dedicated time each day – just think about this fact: Jesus himself needed to do that – and he was God in the flesh – what do you have that he didn’t? Are you already tighter with God than he was without that extra time?
Yea, that’s what finally convicted me to start getting up early. Hope it works for you too.
Don’t let your bible have the same diary as the video I showed at the beginning.
We all make time for the things that are truly important to us.
God wants to give you a better life, a fruitful life. But you will only bear that kind of fruit if you are attached to the vine.
Otherwise you’re just a stick.
Don’t be a stick.