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Remain in Me (#GrowDeep)
by Rey Diaz
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2017
I’ve always wondered how the eleven disciples felt about Judas. Once the news reached them, of his tragic fall from grace, of his betrayal, how did the disciples respond? Did they weep?  Did they feel guilty?  Did they feel overwhelmed? He was at best a friend and at worst a coworker who they had spent about three years with walking, eating, boating, and doing life with. They had all experienced the miraculous and supernatural. They had witnessed forgiveness and grace.  They talked face to face with the embodiment of love and compassion. They had tangible proof that hope was real, that faith was empowering and that love could not be crucified. Yet one of their own walked away from all that.  Why?

Over the past 20 years, I’ve walked alongside heroes and saints who have given everything to address the global orphan crises. One of the graces I have thanked God most for are the people He has sent into my life to help me grow my faith. I’m humbled to have learned how to serve and sacrifice at the feet of these ambassadors of God.  Yet the greatest challenge I have grappled with these past years is watching some of these same heroes and saints fall by the wayside. Whether due to burn out, fatigue, disillusionment, temptation or sin, I’ve a seen giants fall.

I’ve resonated with the disciples and have wrestled with unanswered questions. Why?  How did they fall?  Could it have been avoided?  How can I avoid that future?  How do WE avoid that future?   As we conclude these devotionals, this is the question I would like for all of us to address.

The easy answer is to grow deep.  So how do we grow deep, so that the waves of this culture don’t allow us to drift away from God.  If we do not resist the inevitable pull of drifting, slowly and subtlety, without intent or awareness, we will end up far from the source of life, God.

One of the passages in scripture that paint a beautiful picture of growing deep is found in Jesus’ farewell address in the book of John.

 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!  When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. (John 15:1-8)

Jim Bungoma

The phrase that Jesus repeats over and over is simple and profound – “Remain in me.” You can imagine the emotional context, as Jesus’s death is imminent.  He knows that Peter will deny Him and that Judas will betray Him.  He knows His best friends will scatter.  So He pleads with them all – remain in Me. Another translation uses the word ‘abide’.  What does it mean to remain or abide? It means to persevere, continue, last, stay committed, dwell, maintain, and connected.

The analogy Jesus chooses is one found in the world of agriculture.  As a branch must stay connected to the vine, so the disciples must stay connected to Jesus.  If a branch is not connected to the vine it doesn’t fulfill its purpose, it won’t have life, and it withers away.  This brings us to the most important truth found in this passage.  The relationship we have with Jesus Christ is our most important relationship; it is vital, necessary, defining, life-giving.  We cannot do anything without Christ. The abundant life, the promised life, the victorious life is only available if we REMAIN connected to Christ - despite what may happen.   He is the source of all life and productivity for the disciple and for us.

Grow deep means staying rooted and growing in this truth.  In means remaining rooted in Christ. When we disconnect from the source of life, we are setting us up for a fall.  Jesus is giving us a choice.  We can connect or disconnect.  The decision we make will determine the trajectory of our life.

Its impossible to remain and drift at the same time.  So why did some people make the choice to not remain?  As I have looked back at some of the reasons people have fallen, there tends to be some pride involved, or what CS Lewis called the “great sin”.  In Jim Collins’ book on ”How the mighty fall” he identifies what all companies had in common before they crashed. The concept, applied to humans, states that people, no matter how successful they once were, can spiral towards destruction if they are not careful.  Again, he identified pride a prime culprit – “hubris born of pride.”

Pride can reveal itself in many ways.  There is an attitude of “look at what I have accomplished.”  There is also the attitude of “I can do this and don’t need anyone’s help.”  In both cases, the branch is ignoring the vine.  The branch cannot accomplish anything without the vine, yet in its hubris it continues as if everything is normal. Maybe this attitude is what led people to walk away from God.

faith 5

If we are committed to growing deep, to remaining in God, there is no substitute for time with God.

Devotion time.

Prayer time.

Quiet time.

Spiritual disciplines.

Seeking the Lord.

Whatever you call it, a common denominator for people who “finish well” is “personal vibrant relationship with God right up to the end.” (Dr. Clinton) Yet everyday I wake up to massive to-do lists, emergencies, emails, and so much more.  The tyranny of the urgent doesn’t take any days off. When I feel crunched for time (every day) and I have a choice of getting work started early versus spending time remaining in God.  Sadly, more often that I care to admit, in the past I would usually choose extra work.  Its seems like no big deal.  I can just pray later.  I can just connect in the future.

But that is drifting.  Science and sociology all point to this being the first step in a habit. “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making … So unless you deliberately fight a habit — unless you find new routines — the pattern will unfold automatically.” (Duhigg)  We don’t fall all at once.  We fall one step at a time.  It’s the pattern that develops of ignoring our source of life.  It’s the habit that slowly but surely loves us farther away from God.  “Do I think that 30 minutes of extra work can do more for the cause of the fatherless than by spending 30 minutes with the Father of the fatherless?” (Gary Haugen)  There is a bit of pride in thinking that I can solve or do more by myself disconnected from God.

So that is the challenge for all of us.  Remain in God.  Fight for your time with Him.  Don’t allow anything or anyone hijack that time from you.  No matter how you feel now.  No matter where you are in your faith journey.   Listen to Jesus begging us “Remain in me.”  Collins states “It turns out that a company can indeed look like the picture of health on the outside yet already be in decline…that’s what makes the process of decline so terrifying: it can sneak up on you.”  The same is true for us.  Our only hope is to grasp on to grace and not let go.

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.


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