“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. John 15:1-4
Jesus uses the idea of grapes, branches and vines to create an earthly picture of union between God and creation. This union is spoken as 'friendship' by the Lord, born out of love and obedience to the Father, who is the gardener in this parable. The expectation of heaven is that we will produce fruit for the gardener as we remain in friendship with the vine. But when Christ expresses friendship, it is epitomised through the laying down of one's own life for another (John 15:13) - this is the same love and friendship Jesus calls us into. Not just to know, but to do. Not just to talk about, think about, expand about and learn about, but to remain on the Vine is to really love one another and obey Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus is costly, but I wonder if this is also a sign that we need a refreshing touch from the presence of the Lord. I wonder if it is a call for another 'One Day' in His presence.
Moses made an astounding request to know the Father by being in His presence as recorded in Exodus 33:12-23. It was a 'One Day' moment that the Bible records where Moses wanted something more from Him - and God was pleased with this desire. The desire of Moses was for the presence of the Lord, just to be close to the Father - or maybe to be 'In Him'. Is that your desire? Moses specifically proclaimed, in faith, that:
"Your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.....show me your glorious presence."
I believe that this is what it means to remain in Jesus and this is what continues to set us apart today, and forever. To be in His presence is to remain in Him, to continue and abide in Him. When Jesus calls us to remain in Him, He is calling us to an attitude and desire to be in His presence. And from that attitude and desire, I believe we can experience His presence. To know His presence. And to remain in His presence.
You cannot have true friendship without being in the presence of your friends. Friendship requires presence. Jesus came to earth to give His life for us - He calls us His friends. In fact, an Old Testament type of servant pointed to Jesus who loved the world so much, that He gave His life. Jesus was like the servant who declared He loved His master (The Father) and He loved His wife and children (Us) saying that He did not want to go free, but instead allowed His master to drive an awl through His ear, signifying His commitment and desire of remaining a servant to the Master for life. (Exodus 21:5-6) Jesus allowed the nails to be driven through His hands and feet, determined not to go free, but to obey the will of the Father. The fruit of obedience was the glory of the victory of God over sin, and the salvation of creation. The fruit of this obedience was an ongoing friendship between us and Jesus - to be in the presence of the Lord forever.
This week ahead, decide in your heart and mind to obey the commands of Christ afresh. Determine soberly to follow Him and remain in Jesus afresh. Give time for the Spirit of God to strengthen you and experience afresh His presence. Give time to prayer and invite the presence of the Lord into your life as Moses did. Let us be a people who obey and make disciples. Let us be people who know the presence of the Lord. Let us by a Church who love one another.
Let us choose today - 'I will not go free...I love my master...I will serve Him for the rest of my life...'
Remain in Him.