In my recent devotional time, I came across a passage in the gospel of John that I'd read many times but I had, for the most part, failed to grasp how it applied to my daily life as a Christian. Jesus, as told to us in John 15:4, says this: "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." So, you might ask, what did these words say to me this time, that I failed to grasp before? I'm often struck by how naive and unconcerned we are about our own faith and how we live that out on a daily basis. We wonder why "life" seems so difficult and severely lacking in any help that we might find by placing our faith and hope in our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We wonder why we seem no different than our neighbor or our best friend that claims to follow little or no religious belief system whatsoever. And we continue asking ourselves these questions day in and day with little or no answer to the apparent problem that these questions pose for us as supposed followers of Jesus. So, what's the answer? John 15:4 says it well. Jesus tells us that we are to live in him. We are to make our home in him as he has made his home in us. And, just like a branch cannot produce grapes unless it remains joined to the vine, we cannot expect to live the truly abundant life that God promises us unless we are fully joined with God.
And now for the harsh and yet much needed words. How can we expect to bear any fruit, to live a life that truly appears and feels different than the non-Christian when we continuously fail to "remain" in him. We cannot remain in him by simply going to church on Sunday morning and Youth Group later that night. Don't get me wrong, this does help us but it isn't enough. We need to feed on God and God's Word daily. We can't simply be Sunday Only Christians and expect to be fed for the remainder of the week. We need to feast on this "daily bread" much more often - yes, even daily. In my own personal life, I know what it's like to begin the day with God or without God. I've done both regularly. But I can honestly tell you that the days where I begin with prayer and scripture are without a doubt the most enjoyable and the most fruitful as well. If we've had that amazing religious experience at a retreat like the Midwinter Advance at America's Keswick when we've made a serious commitment or recommitment to God, the only way to "remain" in that experience and to stay true to that commitment that we've made is to "remain" close to the one who gives us the power to live the Christian Life. When we fail to read God's Word on a regular basis, we fail to hear the words of life that God gives us. When we fail to read God's Word, we forget about the true source of our hope. And when we fail to read God's Word, our focus is off of God and our source of life becomes something altogether different that can in no way, shape, or form help us to live our daily life as Christians. Our hope as Christians is in Jesus and it is through remaining in him and him only - on a daily basis - that we can find our way.