Summer is almost upon us. The season of bright sun and bright smiles. Of warm weather and cool drinks. Of ice cream and watermelon. Of diving in and staying up late.
It’s a season of adventure. Of exploring and discovering the new; trying new things and going to new places. And it is also a season of enjoying those favorite pastimes with your favorite people. The months are full of a lot of play and a lot of rest.
Summer is also a time for growth. The gardens are planted, tended, and cultivated. Roots going down deep, drinking in the rains, soaking up the sun.
And those gardens in the back yard aren’t the only places that need cultivating.
Our hearts do, too.
The most important thing to cultivate is our relationship with Jesus. Without our relationship with Christ, the whole garden will whither. Good fruit will not be produced. Jesus’ Word is like the rains, nourishing and cleansing. He is the Light that causes our righteousness to shine forth in the world. He is the One we are to be rooted in, standing on His truth and following His guiding.
Jesus teaches this in John 15:
Jesus calls us to remain in Him. Other translations of this passage use the words “abide” and “dwell.” We are to remain in Jesus like a branch remains in the vine. The vine is the very life source of the branch. So is Jesus our life-source.
The words “abide” and “dwell” especially bring to my mind a sense of rest. We are abiding in Jesus. We are dwelling in Jesus. In His strength, His might, His wisdom, His comfort, His peace, His love. When we abide in who Jesus is, rather than striving in our own strength, we can truly live as who we were meant to be.
Abiding in Jesus is an intentional choice. We must choose to be present in His Presence, to actively seek His will and follow His leading, to purposefully cultivate Christ-like character in our hearts.
In earlier verses, we read of the work God does in our hearts to bring about this Christ-likeness:
God grows us. Planting His seeds of love and grace in our hearts. Watering the soul-soil with His truth, so that we will bear fruit by His Spirit. Fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
And part of the growing process is pruning. God prunes us to mature us. Cutting the unproductive buds and getting rid of the bitter, decaying fruit - such as ungratefulness, bitterness, selfishness, or unforgiveness - to make room for the good fruit of His Spirit to flourish and multiply.
The pruning is not always easy, or convenient, or comfortable, or even wanted. But if we wish to remain in the True Vine, we must allow the Gardener to take care of us, and to prune anything that is not taking in the nutrients of the Vine. For the fruit produced in our lives is a direct result of the nutrients we are taking into our hearts. If we want to change our fruit, we need to start with changing our roots. Or rather, what we are rooted in.
Jesus warns us that “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.” (John 15:6, NLT)
Not remaining in Jesus causes us to become unproductive. No fruit comes forth. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. And those unproductive branches will wither. They are disconnected from the life-source and can no longer survive.
Our words, our actions, and our attitudes are to bring forth this fruit as a reflection of the Gardener.
Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is evidence of our identity in Christ. We are His. We are His disciples, listening to His teaching and following His example. He has chosen us to reflect Himself by sharing His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control with the world. As people encounter the character of Christ through us, God is glorified.
Jesus says we produce fruit by remaining in Him. We remain in Jesus and His love by following His commands. And one command He gives in this passage is to love others as He loves us.
Jesus showed us great love, the greatest love, in laying down His life for us. And He calls us to lay down our lives for others. Growing in love is all about laying down our pride and selfishness. It’s about sacrificing convenience and comfort and what we want, so we can benefit others. This laying down doesn’t just happen in the great heroic actions, but also in the little, simple day by day ways we care for others.
When we cultivate our relationship with Jesus, when we remain in Him and obey His commands, when we love as He loves, His joy blooms in our hearts.
Cultivating leads to flourishing. Abiding leads to abiding joy.
Jesus gives us His joy so that our joy may be complete. When we cultivate our relationship with Jesus above all, every other area of our lives will flourish with His joy and love.
The post Abide first appeared on The Overflowing
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I'm Jessica, a single,
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