ABIDE IN ME
During the COVID-19 pandemic we have constantly been encouraged to socially distance ourselves from family, friends and loved ones. We’ve been reminded with signs entering any store or restaurant, we’ve seen illustrations all over the ground with arrows pointing us to the appropriate direction of traffic flow, and I’ve even seen illustrations of eagles and bears in park entrances showing wingspans and lengths reiterating the fact that we must stay 6 feet apart. I recently went on a nice walk with my family and on one particularly narrow trail, it suddenly turned into a one way path to avoid breaking this rule we’ve been reminded of over and over again for months. In the midst of these constant reminders, God has been reminding me of something as well.
As we continue to socially distance ourselves from others, God continues to do the opposite. He draws near.
God draws near to us daily, and it is up to us to either distance ourselves, or draw near to Him. In John 15, we see what happens in our lives when we abide in Jesus, and we see what happens when we don’t.
The Vine and the Branches
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[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 “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. 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 remain in me and my words remain 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. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
So what happens when we do not abide in Jesus?
Jesus says in verse 6 that, “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.”
During the busyness of prepping for Easter services last year, this passage of Scripture became more real to me than ever before. After one of our pastors shared this exact passage during our week of prayer leading up to Easter, it hit me that night as I lay in bed restless, that I have not been abiding in Christ. This tends to happen naturally every Easter and Christmas if I am not careful. With the relentless pursuit of organizing services, teams, songs, rehearsals and overseeing how we will visually share the Gospel, I quickly find myself feeling like a branch that is withering away. I get so bombarded with the ‘to do list’ that I fail to observe and acknowledge the fact that Christ is present with me and drawing near to me in the midst of the chaos.
When we do not abide in Christ, we wither away and it becomes evident to not only us but everyone around us that we have not been receiving the proper nourishment we need to bear fruit.
After hours of trying to fall asleep that night, I got out of bed and went downstairs to pray (with the accompaniment of my guitar). It was in that moment where I heard the song “Abide in Me” sung over me. Now, I am very reluctant to say that God gave me this song and that I heard him sing it over me. I’ve had many artists tell me God gave them songs and when I listened to them my first response was, “well you better give it back.” “Maybe he wasn’t finished writing it?” Or quite honestly, “Don’t you dare blame God for this!” All that being said, I cling to Zephaniah 3:17 that declares that God is present, that he quiets me with his love and that he “rejoices over me with singing.”
That night I feel like I heard the song He was singing over me. In that moment my soul was realigned, and I found myself exactly where I needed to be: at His feet.
What does it look like to abide in Jesus?
In verse 10, we get a glimpse of what this looks like. Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” What are the commandments Jesus is referring to in this moment?
In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
I believe that first commandment is the foundation of the second. When we love God with all our hearts, souls and our minds, that overflows into loving our neighbours as ourselves. Everything stems from this love. When we love God, we observe his leading, acknowledge his presence and obey his commands.
What happens in us and through us when we abide in Jesus?
We see the fruit of love displayed in our lives. This fruit is a testimony to the world around us that we are connected to the Vine.
Love is not the only fruit that grows on us as simple branches when we are connected to the Vine. Jesus says in verse 12, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” So we also receive Joy! Not just a temporary joy, a complete joy!
Thinking about the love and joy we receive when we are connected to the Vine makes me think of Galatians 5:22 where the apostle Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Without being connected to the Vine, we have no nourishment to bear fruit.
I encourage you today wherever you are at to realign your heart to His. I pray you can have a moment just sitting at his feet. Not doing anything, just being. Acknowledge that he is present with you in whatever situation you find yourself. Observe the reality that he has led you to this place and that he will continue to lead you to the next place he has in store for you. Obey his command to love Him and love your neighbour as yourself.
So, as we keep hearing that we must stay 6 feet away from those outside our bubbles, know that Jesus is in your bubble, drawing you closer and closer to Himself. Social distancing does not apply to the Lord, so rest at His feet and Abide in Him today.
-- Andrew Marcus
Andrew Marcus's new single "Abide in Me" is available now. With six critically acclaimed recordings to his credit, including his BEC RECORDINGS debut album Constant featuring writing and vocal collaborations with Leeland and Paul Baloche, Marcus continues to write powerful prayers to encourage his local church community in Canada.