Learning to “Remain” in Christ

How many times have you gotten close to the end of the day and realized that you haven’t yet prayed, or spent time reading The Bible, or even spent a little time listening to some praise & worship music? I know that I can be guilty of this on many occasions.  Even though I know in my mind that I should be better about keeping up with my daily devotions / daily reading time, I frequently find myself falling back into a habit of not making the appropriate time for it as I should.

Recently, while catching up with a devotional I’m trying to read in a year, I was once again reminded of how important it is to “remain” in Christ. John 15:4-6 says,

Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 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.” (New International Version)

These verses probably sound basic to you. You have heard them a million times. I feel like these verses are always taught the same way in churches. {Exhibit A: a Christian bears fruit only if they are connected to Jesus. Being connected to Jesus means being a good Christian who is involved in their local church and does not turn away from the teachings of Jesus.} But when I read John 15 this last time, I took away something new from the passage.

You see, by not prioritizing my devotional time or any prayer time into every single day, I choose to not remain in Christ. By not deciding to make time every day to reconnect with Jesus, I have unwittingly decided that I, myself, should be the No. 1 decision maker. I should now be the principal gauge of appropriate empathy/sympathy in my life. When the challenges of life come my way, when emotional turmoil or hardships come toward me, my instinctive reaction may very well be to use my human brain or to use the experiences from my human existence to determine the correct intellectual or emotional response. This is not a conscious decision that I have made all at once. But over time, I become more and more cut-off from the source, ‘the Vine’, and must rely more and more on what little nutrients remain in me, ‘the branch’.  I start to suffocate and starve myself of the daily nourishment that comes from “remaining” in Jesus.

Because not only do I want to remain a Christian. Not only do I want to remain in church, or remain a member of the deacon board, or even a part of the worship team. My desire should be to remain permanently affixed to Christ. To need Jesus so much in my life, that my daily, or dare I say constant desire is to remain connected to the source that is Jesus. Only then, will I show the fruit in my life that God wants me to show. Only then will my heart be so in line with Jesus’ heart for those in my life (or those whom I may encounter per chance) that I will instinctively react with the Fruit of the Spirit in my life and with Jesus’ heart.  That daily interaction with Jesus in prayer or in the Word is what keeps us close to that source, the Vine, and what keeps our fruit plentiful and appealing to our gardener, which is the Father.

As gamers, it can be easy for us to focus on our hobby and make that the priority, especially when we are excited about something new. We can tell ourselves that we will make up for it later and maybe spend more time in devotions next week. Or maybe we will make sure to take time to pray after we’re done playing the latest game.  We can lose our focus on making Jesus, and The Bible, those things that we prioritize in our daily lives. I don’t get to play video games every day, but it’s amazing what I can move around to make time for them. Yet, someone might find it equally amazing how much harder it was for me to find time to pray or read the Bible on that same day.

Remaining in Christ means that I need to make sure that He is the thing that my life is prioritized around. Jesus’ words in the gospel of John reiterate how important that needs to be to us as followers of Jesus. I know that I want to have a lot fewer of these regretful days in the weeks and months ahead where I found that I never made the time for Jesus. Through correctly prioritizing my daily devotions and my prayer time, I know that I can “remain” much closer to Christ and see the fruits of it in my life.

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