Updated: May 27
Are you abiding in Jesus? (If you haven't first read this blog post concerning prayer, I suggest that you do so.)
When I was a kid, power outlets were far less important than they are now, especially out in public. In fact, in most business/public type buildings, power outlets were a mostly irrelevant necessity (irrelevant for almost all of the public/customers passing through/by that business or building), marring the buildings walls; and mostly only used for decorative lamps or the cleaning crew’s vacuums. I can remember discussion about “Why would they put a power outlet right there?”.
In fact, if you told anyone back then that these same outlets would become coveted pieces of property, they would have looked at you like you were insane… even more so if you told them that people would crouch up against that same wall, sometimes for hours, just to be able to plug something into that outlet.
Some of you are reading this still thinking that such a notion of “important power outlets” is insane… but that only tells me that you haven’t been to a busy airport in a while. Why?
Because nowhere is a power outlet more of prized real estate than a busy airport (train stations or bus stations can also work for this). The location where someone waits at an airport used to be determined almost exclusively by where the airport placed its chairs and restaurants. But for many travelers, they are beholden to the location of the closest power outlet more than anything else. Their tablet, their phone, their computer, the “personal power station” (that they carry with them in hopes of not being beholden to “the outlet”), and now even their luggage, all need charging before they board their flight/bus/train. I have been there myself. This is why when I travel, I not only bring a few personal power stations, but also an extension cord, that has a 3 outlet end on it (which also came in VERY handy when I had jury duty last time!).
And before you start touting that this is why you live life today like your own personal version of the Amish, with only a pencil, paper, Day Planner Calendar, and a numeric keypad flip phone – just keep in mind how much you still hate it when your flip phone runs out of battery, and you need to use it. (For those of you reading this who don’t know what half of the things are that I just listed out, just think pre-historic type tools before “cool” was invented.)
But now “cool”, and the tools that we use to work and play with in today’s age, all need electrical power.
Yes, back to the mighty power outlet.
In fact, that is the point of this post… how often do you get back to the mighty power outlet of your life?
Jesus didn’t have electricity during his human life, but He very much understood the principle:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He [a]prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already [b]clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [c]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are 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 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so [d]prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:4-11 NASB 1995)
My modern day vernacular:
I am the power source and my Father is the electrician. Plug into me, and I will power you. Just as the device with an empty battery cannot function, so neither can you unless you plug into me. You can’t do anything unless you plug into me. If anyone doesn’t plug into me, that person will run out of power. And what do you do with even the most expensive device that you can’t even just turn on? You get rid of it and get one that works. (I could go on, but you get the point.)
So how do you “abide in”, “plug into” Jesus? Since this is a standard kids and youth ministry question, did those standard answers pop into your head? Prayer, reading the Bible, worship, discussions with other believers who are fully surrendered to Him, and keeping His commandments. (Did that last one surprise you? Reread the passage above… He included His commandments in His teaching about abiding in Him.)
Before you leave this post with, “Got it Ioannis, plug into Jesus – do some prayer and Bible time and good to go” (especially if you are thinking of most modern-day cell phones ability to quick charge to 50%), let me address one major difference between my modern-day version and His version, and the impact of that major difference: batteries.
There are no spiritual batteries. This is a VERY difficult concept for us to understand in today’s worldview. I mean, aside from batteries, our vehicles have fuel tanks, our houses have hot water at the ready, and even our bodies have tummies. Everywhere we look, we store energy for later use. Many of our cell phones sit on the charger at night and are ready to go with us in the morning. These things are so prevalent in our lives, that we even talk about our need to “recharge our batteries” when we ourselves are tired and need a break. But there are no spiritual batteries.
So, to fully understand this passage, we have to go back to the days before anything was “wireless” or even most things were battery powered. If a device wasn’t plugged into the power outlet, it simply wasn’t going to power on or work. And, if you ever unplugged that device, it would lose ALL of the settings that you painstakingly took time to meticulously set. How many people in the 80’s and 90s had tape over their VCR’s digital display, as a way to “solve” their blinking 12:00 problem? How great was the outcry when working on the computer right before a power outage? Don’t believe me… you weren’t on a college campus before computers had batteries. (Yep, there most certainly was a time in recent history when computers as a whole didn’t have batteries attached to them.)
Ok, then what does actually abiding in Jesus truly look like? Do I need to sit in a quiet room all day, every day - praying and reading the Bible? No.
Jesus didn’t do that, and He fully abided in His Father. The Apostles didn’t do that, and they are some of the best examples of abiding in Him that we have.
Now, before I go on, those comments above also don’t reduce the idea of the importance of a daily, set time of prayer and Bible reading, alone with Jesus. In fact, a daily, set time of prayer and Bible reading alone with Jesus, and one that is constantly growing in length and efficacy, is a key beginning to abiding in Jesus. But what else could be abiding in Jesus if it isn’t only that?
Again, look at what he said in the passage above. Part of abiding in Him is keeping His commandments. Now, you may have just read something to the effect of don’t sin, live righteously, or even be perfect. And while not sinning and living according to His “don’t” list is PART of keeping His commands, it isn’t all of it. He has a “do” list too. We normally call that “do” list ministry. Caring for widows and orphans, visiting and ministering to the sick and incarcerated (and healing them too, but that is a different blog post), and telling people about Jesus and how He has and continues to bless you are some examples of ministry. That last ministry commandment is one that Jesus specifically singles out, and outside of loving one another, is probably the most important of His “do” list (if there is a ranking to be had). And that is by no means an exhaustive ministry list.
That is all part of abiding? Yep! An important part of it. Part of abiding is co-laboring in the Kingdom with Him! Or, as we might say it today, working side by side with Him.
Careful, there is a danger in Christians leaning in too heavily to one aspect of abiding over others. Like the pastor who co-labors a lot with Christ but is anemic at best in their set aside time with Him. Or the Christ follower who prays, reads, gives, and serves at church, but doesn’t actively preach the gospel.
Look, let me distill it all down to this - abiding is really about a constant focus and mindset on Him, His Kingdom, and the work(s) that He has assigned you to do in His Kingdom. And since where you treasure is, there your heart will be also… if your heart is on Him and His Kingdom, your focus and mindset will be constantly on Him and His Kingdom, and therefore your actions will be on Him and His Kingdom… no matter if you spend your time behind a pulpit, a telephone, a steering wheel, or a cash register.
Better modern-day vernacular:
I am the power source and my Father is the electrician. Plug into me, and I will power you.. Just as an unplugged device cannot do what it was designed to do, so neither can you unless you plug into me and stay plugged into me. You can’t truly function unless you stay plugged into me. Don’t you buy a new cellular device so that it is always ready and waiting for you to accomplish what you need to through it? And what do you do with even the most expensive device, when that device doesn’t fulfill the function(s) that you purchased it to do (and/or won’t even power on)? You get rid of it and get a new device that does do what you need it to do.
But this is all where MANY believers and even Christian leaders, go horribly wrong. They simply don’t abide in (stay plugged into) Jesus and needlessly suffer greatly for it. In fact, the answer to MANY problems that you face begins with abiding in Jesus! This is why I am ruthless about initially discussing prayer and Bible with all believers who come do coaching with me. Our efforts are absolutely futile if you aren’t plugged into Jesus. And more importantly, we need this “plugging-in” for us to bear much fruit. Why does bearing fruit truly matter? Because bearing fruit is how we glorify God AND prove that we are His disciples. That is very strong verbiage that Jesus used.
That kids’ church/youth group list above looks totally different right now, doesn’t it?
Are you feeling the pressure of the very idea of abiding in Jesus and thinking to yourself that it isn’t possible? He wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t possible. But I admit, it can sure feel that way. But He WILL help you… if you take steps in His direction to begin.
So, are you abiding in Jesus?
That question feels totally different than it did as the first line of this post, doesn’t it?