Abiding with Christ – Luke 10; John 15
How many moms feel like they need a quarantine? Have you tried any of those maneuvers-hiding in the closet or buried under the covers in bed? I like snack time in the car especially when the kids say we see you in there! But as a mom, alone time might be very difficult to get right now. Gone are the precious hours when your kids are at school-they’re with you everyday, all day! And somehow you’ve added to your list the role of being your kid’s teacher as they have to do all their schoolwork from home. One of my favorite statements I saw posted on Twitter this week was a mom saying If you would have asked me what the hardest part of battling a global pandemic would be, I never would have thought it was 4th-grade math! So as a mom you’ve had to brush up on your math and science and literature skills to help your kids-you’re also feeding them all the time. Who doesn’t want to snack when you’re home during work or schoolwork? I think right now during this pandemic we all fall into 1 of 2 categories-either you’re home, your family’s home, everybody’s together basically 24/7 and you desperately want some space and some alone time! Or you’re home, maybe your spouse is with you, but otherwise, the house is really quiet and you haven’t seen anybody in a long time. So where are you at on this alone spectrum? Everybody’s home from work and school and your house has never been so loud and bustling before? Or no one’s home and your house has never been this quiet before or gone this long without visitors? Moms-where are you at? Have you gotten some time for yourself-or is that about as hard to obtain as the video show-tried to read a book in the closet? Maybe today on Mother’s Day is when you can enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet!
But this issue of being alone and having some quiet time is what we want to talk about today. Over the past few weeks following Easter we’ve talked about the resurrection of Jesus, then we talked about His ascension into Heaven, last week we talked about the Holy Spirit who’s come and descended into our lives as Jesus is in Heaven. We looked at Gal 4:6 that says God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. This week we want to look more closely at that idea. What is the nature of our relationship with God, the nature of our ongoing relationship with Christ who’s Spirit dwells within us when we believe in Him. What does that look like on a daily basis? I don’t know about you but I’ve always been challenged by the words from Mark 1:35. Now you might be rather envious that Jesus was able to find a quiet, solitary place to go and pray. Maybe you’re thinking-that’s exactly what I need to do too. When the kids ask me where I’m going so early in the morning I’ll tell them I’m following Jesus example! But what I love about this verse is how Jesus intentionally carved out time to be by himself in the Father’s presence. That Jesus found the space to have that uninterrupted time to pray and communicate with God. And uninterrupted time might be very scare and hard to come by in your life right now. But the point of this verse isn’t the time of day Jesus went to pray, it’s the fact that He had a real and vibrant relationship with God the Father and did what was necessary to spend time with Him. This verse isn’t saying that if Jesus got up to pray at 4 am you should too. Like the fish are biting better at 4am so must God be listening better to our prayers then. God can your prayers any time of the day-morning, noon or night. The key is the relationship. Jesus got away from other distractions in life, from other people in life, in order to refuel, refocus, to strengthen and energized, to speak with God the Father. And look at what happened afterwards-Mark 1:36-37. And for a lot of us with a busy and hectic schedule ahead, with people wanting our attention, looking for us and seeking us-wouldn’t time in prayer be the one thing we’d neglect? The one thing we would set aside and say I’ll do it later. God knows I’m busy, I’ll pray when things settle down. But Jesus didn’t do that. Other people, other needs, other issues could wait until He had spent time with His Heavenly Father. And if Jesus did that-we certainly need to-because at it’s core-what is Christianity? What does it mean to trust the Lord and follow Him? It means you have a relationship with Him, just like Jesus had a relationship with God. Christianity is not a religion-it’s a personal relationship with God whereby we lift up our voices and speak to Him. Jesus didn’t get up at 4am to go do some religious activities or rush over to the temple. He rose at 4am in order to let His voice rise up to His Father in Heaven. So here this morning we realize that Christianity is a relationship-but how many of us still live like it’s a religion following all the rules and making sure we do everything right.
Think about it this way, how many of you have a relationship with someone where you have to meet with them for same length of time at the same time of day and if you don’t you spoiled the relationship? No-that kind of relationship would be very artificial. Religion places all the emphasis on rules and rituals that are supposed to either manipulate God or earn His favor. If I do this-if I get up at 4am and have my daily devotional, God will be very pleased, if I don’t God will be angry or upset with me. It’s all on your shoulders. Relationship on the other hand, is all about the relationship. I meet with God, I pray to God not because I have to but because it’s precisely what I want to do-what I need to do, what I can’t help doing. Relationship with God-like every other earthly relationship is about delight. That’s what we see from Jesus-a delight to rise early, not because He doesn’t like staying in bed longer, but because He delights in that solitary time with the Father. And that same delight is in the next passage we’ll look at this morning.
If you have your Bible, turn to Luke 10 this morning-and what it describes is Jesus interaction with two sisters hanging out at home. Very timely for all of us-Luke 10:38-40. How many times growing up have you said this to your parents-Tell them to help me out with this, I’m not doing all these dishes myself! And this is even better because Martha gets to go directly to Jesus. She thinks this is a closed case. She thinks of course Jesus will tell her sister to get up and quit being lazy and help her. I think that’s what all of would expect reading this. In many places the Bible tells us to love others, help others, serve others. This is a perfect opportunity for Jesus to tell Mary to stop sitting around and help with the serving, clean the dirty dishes-that’s the Christian thing to do, that should be Mary’s duty to do her fair share-but Jesus doesn’t do that. He doesn’t say that. Jesus highlights Mary’s delight and her delight is in Him. Look at v. 41-42. Mary isn’t running all about, going here or there, she’s staying still-remaining in the presence of Jesus. In fact we get the idea that as soon as Jesus entered the house, Mary went right to Him. Maybe one of the sisters yelled out, “Jesus is here,” when He arrived and you can imagine Mary setting down her serving tray or her chores and running to Jesus to sit and listen to His teaching. She didn’t leave Him, she stayed right there, she wasn’t distracted with other things, she was zeroed in on Him. And that’s what Jesus affirms-v.41-42. Does that picture of Mary describe you? Her decision to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen wasn’t forced, it wasn’t an act of discipline or regulation-it was what her heart desired to do. For Mary it was the priority, other things could be set aside. For Martha, well-she had a lot of other priorities and finding time for Jesus would somehow have to get worked in later, when all the serving was finished. This is where many of us are at-Martha’s situation-which is why Luke includes it because it’s so powerful and convicting and relevant.
First of all the challenge for each of us is to rethink our priorities-and not be like Martha so anxious and troubled-so stressed out and busy that we have no time for anything else. And we’ve said over and over that this time in life is a reset, it’s when normal life is on pause, everything’s on hold-and yet do you still find yourself busy and stressed out? Don’t let that happen. Intentionally choose to do what Mary did which is to stop and sit and Jesus’ feet. Soak up what He has to say. So secondly, the challenge is to not cling so tightly to all those other things you think you have to do-and let worship of Jesus become central in your life. What did Jesus say-one thing is necessary. And that wasn’t the chores or the serving-that was the sitting and the worshipping. I think a lot of us understand this concept-and that need to come before the Lord. But we open up our Bible or devotional, read it, pray, shut the Bible and say-Finished. Let me move on to what’s next. And we go about our day, not connecting with the Lord again until devotion time the next day. But Mary’s story is telling us to communicate with Him throughout the day-no matter what’s happening. Schedules and busyness and long hours shouldn’t push worship of Jesus aside-instead He ought to be the center of all those things-that your mind and your heart is continually dwelling on Him, seeking Him, listening to Him and speaking to Him.
Have you gotten outside and done any biking during this time? Maybe you’ve taken your bike and hit the trails or you’ve had a family bike ride together. You may not have thought much about this part of your bike-hub. That’s the hub, the center of the wheel. And that’s a perfect picture of what Jesus ought to be in our lives. He’s at the center-and all the spokes, all the other things in our lives radiate out from Him. Jesus isn’t just one of the spokes, one aspect of your life, like all the other aspects of your life-your work, your hobbies, your interests, etc. He is your life. We saw that verse last week in Col 3-For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears then you also will appear with Him in glory. He is at the center.
Challenge yourself to let that be true of you-to speak with Him, to spend time with, uninterrupted time like Mary where other things can wait-because that’s what a relationship is all about. Pt1:Religion is compartmentalized; a Relationship with Christ is comprehensive. Big difference with massive implications. Religion says you do your duty to God, check that box on the list, then off you go to do other things. Relationship, or the other hand, is comprehensive because it says Lord, I want to connect with you in every part of my day. Compartmentalized Christians like to keep God in a box. He has a certain part of the day but that’s it. Comprehensive Christians say, Lord, you have all of my day because you have all of me. Compartmentalized Christians have a hard time bringing Jesus into their work, into their speech or thoughts-there’s this separation between their normal life and their religious life. Comprehensive Christians have allowed the Lord to remove any separation-everything they do is done in worship in Christ. Do you remember the final words Jesus said before He left earth and ascended into heaven? Behold, I am with you always. That’s the key word-He’s continually there. You don’t have to stop and wonder about the Lord’s presence-the question is yours. Where are you? Do you abide with Him?
That leads us to the next passage I want to look at this morning from John 15. These are the words of Jesus, of which Mary has just given us a great example of what it looks like. Listen to this-John 15:1-2-and here’s the key verse-John 15:4. How many times did you count the word “abide” or if you have the NIV, the word “remain?” Three times in one verse. But this word “abide” is great. There’s nothing uniquely religious about it. The word “abide” as Jesus is using it is just the ordinary word for “stay” or “continue” or “sit here” which Mary did. Jesus is simply saying, “Stay with Me,” “Continue with Me,” “Keep Me as your dwelling place; keep Me as the central hub of your life.” And so this word “abide” or “remain” deeply challenges me because…I tend to wander. My natural tendency is not to live each day, each hour connected to Christ. My tendency is to do many. many things, to stay busy and hectic and basically keep Him over there. My mind gets caught up in the tasks of the day, in pursuing my goals. I find myself following my own wisdom and not pausing to listen to that still, small voice of the Lord-to speak with Him-and allow Him to direct me.
I love the insight CS Lewis had in his classic book Mere Christianity. So we’re back to mornings-but he isn’t saying read a certain number of Bible verses, or pray a certain length of time-Lewis has nothing to say about regulations-he’s talking about a relationship-about what’s at the heart of Christianity-and that’s each morning renewing your mind in Christ, in committing your day to Him, in letting Him be your guide and companion all day.
And so Jesus says-Abide in Me and I in you. He isn’t talking about past tense-If you’ve abided in Me then you’re filled up and good for a while. He isn’t talking about future tense-Plan on abiding in Me when you get a chance it will do you good. No, He’s saying-Abide in Me-meaning now, meaning later today, tonight, tomorrow morning-continuously stay connected to Me. And He tells us why-John 15:5. That’s a convicting statement! The branch-which is us-you and me-cannot produce it’s own life-it can’t produce it’s own fruit. The branch must draw it’s life from the vine. If you cut a branch from the vine it won’t continue to grow-it will die. Why? Because it’s been cut off from it’s source of life. Think about your body-if a part of your body fell off-like an arm, a finger, or a toe-it would not continue to live and grow. It would grow from purple to black and die unless a surgeon puts it back on. I’ve never lost any digits-and don’t plan on-but aren’t you supposed to pack it in ice-haul it to the ER in a cooler-so you can slow down the decaying process? Someone let me know on that! But I’m sorry to be discussing chunks of fingers or toes that fall off-but Christians can be exactly the same. If you’re not connected to the source of life, you’ll shrivel up and die. Not physically of course-but spiritually. You’ll flatline-no walk with Christ, no activity-just a dull, dry spirituality that’s basically empty. It all changes when you’re continually abiding with the source of life-and that source is Jesus Christ. Pt1:Religion is compartmentalized; a Relationship with Christ is comprehensive.
The examples are all around us-it’s not just dismembered body parts. Think of all our electrical devices. They have to be plugged in and charged. What happens when your phone goes dead? You’re stuck-it’s like life is over! We all spend some part of our day thinking about how much battery life in on our phone and when we need to charge it. Or maybe you normally charge it overnight before heading off to work or school the next day-what happens when you forget. You arrive at work with a super low battery thinking my phone isn’t going to last the day until I can find someone with a spare charger. You and I are identical-but Jesus isn’t just saying we need a charge-up now and then when our spiritual batteries start running low. He’s saying you and I need to be constantly, continuously plugged in to Him. Back to v. 5.
How seriously do we take those words? Jesus is saying that there isn’t anything you can do or accomplish for His Kingdom-if you are apart from Him. What a humbling-but true thought.
We like to think of ourselves as talented, skillful people who have so much to offer-potential waiting to be unleashed. The reality of this passage is that we aren’t. In our own strength and ability we have nothing to offer God. In our own power, we’re a potential for disaster. So praise God that He allows us to be connected to Himself-Abide in Me and I in you. What an incredible promise that the Lord will always be there in you-that He’ll never leave you nor forsake you-that through Him, you can accomplish much-v.8-11. Not halfway, not partially, not being one of those sour-faced Christians. What a martyr I am as I serve the Lord. Not at all! Living a life connected to Christ is joyous, it’s fantastic, it’s the life He intended you to have-that staying in fellowship with your Maker and Savior is what a comprehensive relationship with Christ is all about.
So this morning’s application isn’t to go and do this or do that and all will work out. Pt2:Religion seeks a quick answer or solution-but a Relationship with Christ grows and develops. It’s organic, it isn’t just applying one or two steps, making sure you check off all the right religious boxes-it’s letting your whole life be changed-to be turned inside-out as you’re centered on Christ. Do you have a relationship with Him? Ask yourself that question-because it’s the most important question in life. Do you have a relationship with Christ-and it begins by trusting in Christ. Realizing that what saves you isn’t what you do-but it’s who you know. Do you know the Savior who came to this earth and died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins so that you could be forgiven and made new? Has your heart personally called out to Jesus-and said I need you to come into my life and save me. I need you to forgive me and restore me. I need you to abide in me. That’s where it all begins. And that’s how it continues every day of your life. Back to v. 4.
Ask the Lord to help you do this-to start putting aside your schedules and busyness and all that normally consumes you and let these three words describe you-Abide in Me. Let these three words work through your soul and roll around your head every morning and see where they take you. And guess what? It’s different for everybody. Maybe it does mean you get up extra early at 4am to pray, maybe that’s beginning a structured Bible reading plan, maybe it’s a devotion time with your spouse at night or family devotions after dinner, maybe it’s time spent outside worshipping God enjoying the beauty of His creation, maybe it’s nothing structured at all but a renewed passion to continually speak and listen to the Lord and sit at His feet-just like Mary. The goal isn’t to say-I did this or I did that. The goal is to say these 3 words-I abided in Him. And there’s no better time to do that than right now. Today-to abide with Christ.