“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.
I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do no good thing.
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love.”
Jesus is a good place to start in a blog about quiet times. I have recently discovered that Jesus means a lot more than I thought He did. That is because I never asked myself these questions:
Have often do I solely focus on Jesus?
How much do you love Jesus for who He is?
Don’t roll your eyes at me. These are the most important questions for a Christian, not just the most obvious ones. When you ask them to yourself, you should ignore the first answer that pops into your head and wait for the next one. Trust me.
As I was studying this passage and learning about loving Jesus, I started to feel like a baby Christian. How could I have missed this? I asked myself. Why is thinking and talking about Jesus and spending time with Him different now than it was just a few weeks or months ago? Then my amazingly Spirit-filled friend reassured me by pointing to God’s sovereignty. He reveals things to us when He wants to, so sometimes things suddenly make more sense for no reason.
It’s not like I didn’t love Jesus before. But I didn’t realize that I could know most of what Jesus said and did, tell Him all about my day every day, and still not have the abiding relationship He talks about. All year I have made it my mission to have an abundant life and have complete joy. That didn’t work. God did wonderful things in my life that I’ve recognized throughout the year, and yet…
See, whenever I focused on Jesus, it was usually the result of someone telling me to focus on Jesus. Otherwise, even during my quiet times, I focused on whatever was going on in my life, on how I was feeling, or on whatever distraction appeared. Then one day during my quiet time, I read John 17, where Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and all believers before he was arrested. Something awakened in me – I didn’t know Jesus like this. I knew his parables, his commands, his miracles, his words to his disciples. But I didn’t know his heart. I knew his Spirit was in me, but I didn’t know what was inside him, because there on the page I saw his soul bared out in his prayers to God and it felt like a new experience. I always pictured Jesus on the cross, paying for my sins. But I started to spy on him kneeling in the garden instead. I listened in on something that wasn’t necessarily for me to hear.
Jesus wasn’t a very open guy most of the time. He spoke in riddles and parables. He said wise things that were way beyond the understanding of anyone he was talking to. But there he was, talking to his Father. Imagine the kind of intimacy they must have had when Jesus was on earth, even putting all complicated thoughts about the Trinity aside. All the people whose relationships with God you admire have nothing on Jesus. He was so familiar with God. Listening in on his prayer, recognizing his closeness to the Father, knowing everything I knew about him, made Jesus look so vulnerable and beautiful. And then to hear his prayers about me!
I could go on and on. Go read the passage.
So then I started wondering, why don’t I know Jesus like that? Why was my relationship with Jesus not as familiar, vulnerable, and beautiful as his with the Father? After all, the Holy Spirit is in me. I am a part of this whole God-family thing. Let me in on the good, heart-changing stuff.
And he did. Not right away.
I read that passage over and over in the months following, just because I was curious. I wanted to know more of Jesus. To see him in a place like that again. The sad thing was, the Bible didn’t have enough stuff like that for me to be satisfied. Most of the Bible isn’t about the inside of Jesus. So recently I started praying that God would show me things that stir my affections for Jesus. Then I was inadvertently told that that was a silly prayer to pray.
As it was explained to me, when you pray that your affections for Jesus be stirred, there’s very little that can happen. In the past, I would see something pretty after praying a prayer like that. I would take a picture and say that it was God romancing me. But really my eyes were just opened to beauty the more I prayed. It wasn’t really God reaching out and planting something in my path that would stir my affections for Jesus because I asked Him to.
No, see, Jesus already did enough. If you’re praying that He would stir up your affections for him, as I learned, you are forgetting that he already did everything he could to get us worthless people to notice him and love him for who he is. And I was asking him for more??
Praying that God would give us things that stir our affection for Jesus reveals our sin, but it also reveals misplaced love for him. I honestly, shamefully, can tell you that I love Jesus because he created a place in heaven for me, he comforts me, he heals my heart, and he said good things. He tells me what to do, and I know that if I do them I can live abundantly and joyfully. That’s what I thought. But that only led to me trying to make decisions that pleased him, worrying about discerning his will, valuing my own actions over the state of my heart, and missing the point.
What Jesus points out in John 15 is that we need to know him and love him. Remaining in Jesus does not mean starting my day in the Word, ending it in prayer, and filling the middle with talking about him to others. Remaining in Jesus means loving Jesus, being near to him, and knowing him. Valuing him and treasuring him above all else. Just knowing that he alone will satisfy me. That stuff’s not a lie or spiritual fluff. It’s legit, down to earth as real as the nose on your face.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t romance you through His beautiful creation, through people, or through your morning cup of coffee. He is constantly perusing us, and we should take joy in the ways He does. But our love for Jesus for who he is should be the sole focus of our lives, what matters most, so that everything else is walking in step with him. Affection for Jesus is the only thing that will make us holy.
Experiencing the Gospel daily starts with loving Jesus daily. That we get to know him is the goods of the Gospel. Not that we are saved from sin, but that we get to experience communion with the Savoir. I can’t explain how that switch happens, but for me it started with understanding the intimacy of Christ’s relationship with the Father and knowing I can be in on something like it, and finally praying for the right things. To know him more, love him more, and seek him more. Not because we want him to do things, but because he is all that matters.
I could go on and on, but from here (and probably a few hundred words ago) your thoughts will do more for you than my thoughts. Just make loving the Lord your focus daily. The end.