Saturday: From Striving to Abiding

Each day of our 2017 fast has included a short reflection on each of the 7 Movements of Discipleship. The 7 Movements are the way we explain the transformations that come as we follow Jesus.

The fast ends this morning and it's the perfect time to consider the final movement in the 7 Movements: moving from Striving to Abiding.

In John chapter 15, Jesus says to you:

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.

You are the branch and you are connected to the vine, which is Jesus. The life flows through the vine and into the branches. 

Jesus explains that if we 'remain' in him and he in us, we will bear fruit. Fruit are the good, positive things of the kingdom that come from our lives. Think of a place where the New Testament describes "fruit": 

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).

And then Jesus goes further: "Apart from me you can do NOTHING."

Wow. Nothing? Jesus is welcoming us into Kingdom life--the life of radical dependence. Jesus describes himself the same way:

"Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19)

There is a way to live the Christian life that isn't like Jesus at all. This is the way of striving. When we are striving, we are making great efforts to achieve something. But, following Jesus isn't about achieving anything.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 18:3

The way you get into the Kingdom is the way you live in the Kingdom. The way you got in was by becoming like a child, giving up your own ideas, your own efforts, your good works and your sin. It was by dying to yourself and receiving Jesus' life in exchange.

The Christian life doesn't work for many of us because we're trying to make it work on our own. The life of following Jesus is all about abiding. In this case, abiding means to be joined to Jesus and receiving his life. Notice that? Your life is primarily about receiving something, not achieving something.

This abiding, resting with, joining to, staying with Jesus is the exceedingly simple, yet difficult, transformation we must make in our journey to become whole people reflecting God's image. Without this, there is no real experience of life, nor fruit, nor love.

Your life is not a performance--it's a gift. If you want your life to be fruitful, stop thinking so much about the fruit. Stop comparing yourself to others or judging. Instead, come close to Jesus. Invest in relationship with Him and that connection will grow the fruit. Fruit just grows when the plant's got what it needs, no? So, you can stop striving. When you're done and you have nothing left, you can begin receiving life from Jesus. Walk with Him, read His words, talk to him, listen to Him.

Who knows what might happen.

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Thank you for committing to this week of prayer and fasting. The 7 Movements are the way we explain the transformations that come as we follow Jesus. What Movement will you make?