Day One – Abiding in the True Vine
This weekend we looked at John 15:1-17, where Jesus tells His disciples to abide in Him using the example of a branch and a vine; He is the vine and we are the branches.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
Think of the endless ways you attempt to “bear fruit” based on your own strength and control. We are constantly trying to make things happen for ourselves. But this is not the fruit Jesus talked about.
Paul explains in Galatians 5 the difference between fruit of the Spirit and fruit of the flesh. Abiding in our own flesh will bear strife, jealousy, anger, division, impurity and more. Abiding in the Spirit will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. (Galatians 5:16-24)
This week we will explore one way to abide in God daily – silence and solitude.
“We enter into silence and solitude on the basis of our desire for God, and it becomes a place for being with our desire in God’s presence. Even if we also experience some resistance (which is quite normal, especially in the beginning), when the desire is deep enough to overcome our resistance, we are on our way.” – Ruth Haley Barton
We can guard against abiding in our human desires by sitting with God every day in silence and solitude. Even for ten minutes a day, we can open our hearts to God, meditate on a word or even our breath and trust that He is working goodness within us, even if we don’t see it right now.
Practice: Take at least 10 minutes today to sit and be still before God. This is different from a prayer in that you don’t have to talk with Him. Meditate on a word, your breath prayer, or just your breath and sit silently in the presence of God. Trust that He is doing a good work in you.
Yesterday we took at least ten minutes to sit silently in the presence of God. It’s likely that you experienced quite a few distractions before or during this time. Welcome to reality. This is normal, and it takes time to sew this practice into the daily fabric of our lives, but it’s vital that we do so.
Day Two – Reviving a Withered Branch
“There is nothing in Western culture or even in our religious subculture to support us in entering into these times for ‘unproductive’ being rather than frenetic doing.” – Ruth Haley Barton
Barton goes on to talk about how our souls are battered by an onslaught of texts, emails, notifications and a million other things vying for our attention. This inflames our longing for God, to experience Him alone in silence and solitude. Nothing but His presence can fulfill this longing.
Jesus knows how battered we become when we attempt to abide in our flesh, which is why He tells us that abiding in Him is essential to our survival.
“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:6)
Have you ever felt like a withered branch? So overwhelmed by the pace of life that you know there are no nutrients in you to produce fruit. Jesus tells us that in abiding in Him, we can be a representation of Christ to everyone we come across, and we will have the fullness of joy. There is no fruit to share if you are a withered branch. Abiding in Him is essential to our survival.
Practice: Take at least ten minutes to be still before God. Allow Him to revive your soul. Maybe you’re battered, withered, overwhelmed. Trust that abiding in Him will give you the fullness of joy; you will be a walking representation of Jesus Christ, and God will be glorified in you. (John 15:8-11)
Yesterday we talked about reviving withered branches. When we work for too long in our own strength, not relying on Jesus, we are burnt out. We cannot bear the fruits of the Spirit without abiding in Jesus. The fruits of the Spirit give us the capacity to love one another well, which Jesus tells us is the purpose of abiding in Him.
Day Three – Loving One Another Well
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:16-17)
Jesus often tells His disciples that people will know them as His followers when they love well. We do not love one another well when we are withered branches, depending on our own strength for personal gain. But the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – are the perfect tools to love people well.
Imagine if you had the mental, emotional and spiritual capacity to pour out these fruits on the people in your life. We know this is rare in our world today, and it would certainly point to your devotion to Christ. There is no other possible explanation for treating people in such a way.
Jesus tells us that the Father is glorified by our abiding in Him. He is glorified when we spend time with Him daily. He is glorified when we love one another well. What greater calling do we have than glorifying the name of God?
Practice: Take at least ten minutes to sit silently in the presence of God. Continue to trust that He is reviving you from a withered branch to one that bears much fruit. Meditate on the ways God will be glorified when you share these fruits with the people in your life and love them well.
As we cultivate a practice of abiding in silence and solitude, we cannot assume it will be happiness and roses all the time. Jesus tells us that abiding in Him produces growth, and the best way to grow branches is to prune them.
Day Four – Pruning the Branch
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
Pruning hurts. It means cutting off the dead, diseased, damaged parts of the branch to give more room for healthy growth. God shapes us and cuts off the dead parts of us that are not conducive to bearing fruit, but sometimes those unhealthy parts of us feel like comfort zones, bad habits and destructive relationships. It’s painful to have parts of yourself torn away, even if you know they’re unhealthy.
To make matters worse, God might not forcibly remove those damaged parts of us; it’s up to us in our obedience to recognize the unhealth and get rid of it. This is another reason why silence and solitude is so important; God can reveal to us what needs to be pruned.
The good news is that as we grow in our practice of silence and solitude, pruning becomes easier. Not because it’s less painful, but because we have grown in our relationship with God and trust that the pruning will ultimately bear more fruit.
We understand that nothing is worth getting in the way of glorifying God, and it can be considered joy that He cares for us enough to prune us. Because it means He wants to use us in His mission on earth.
Practice: Take at least ten minutes to sit silently in the presence of God. Meditate on the areas in your life that might need pruning. What would it take to prune them? Ask God to reveal them to you and celebrate your call to glorify His name.
This week we have meditated on what it looks like to abide in the True Vine by practicing silence and solitude. Often times, this can feel like a chore. We talked about the million different distractions that keep us from this practice, how it can often be seen as unproductive, and sometimes it means pruning. Today, let’s see abiding in light of what Jesus meant it to be – a gift.
Day Five – Abide in Love
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:9-10)
Abiding in Jesus, and now the Holy Spirit, is a gift of love directly from the Father. Sure, it takes effort because of our broken humanity. But we only have the option to love because He decided to love us first. (1 John 4:19)
This gift goes all the way back to creation, to Genesis 1 and 2 when God decided to create man and woman and dwell with them in the Garden of Eden. They were able to abide in His love without any barriers, and God said this was very good. He did not have to create man; He chose to create man out of love and the desire to be in relationship with us.
This is the essence of abiding in the True Vine. When we abide in God’s love, we are dwelling with Him. We heal the broken place of Separation from God, and He gifts us with the fruits of the Spirit, which are our tools to heal the other broken places – pain, isolation, decay, injustice and hatred. Abiding in God is a matter of life and death because it ultimately restores God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.
As difficult as it might seem to build the habit of abiding into your daily life, when you view it for the gift it is, it becomes more of a delight than a chore.
Practice: Take at least ten minutes to be still before God. Meditate on the profundity of His love for you, His original intent to be in constant relationship with you. This intention has never changed.
This week we have encouraged you to take at least ten minutes a day in silence and solitude before God.
Day Six – Call to Unity
Our hope is that by this last day of our practice, you yearn to take more time with Him. If you sew this habit into the fabric of your daily life, God will show up.
This last day is a transition into our next topic – unity. Jesus ends His lesson about abiding in the True Vine by imploring His disciples to unity in love. He tells them that the whole reason for the lesson was love.
“These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:17)
So that. All of this stuff – the abiding, the fruits of the Spirit, the love from the Father – is so that we will be known as people who love one another.
Think about our world today. Even in the Church, we do not see people loving one another well. This was not Jesus’ heart for His people. Our unity was so important to Him that He spent His last words on earth, even His last prayers, imploring us to be unified in love.
Jesus calls His people to love everyone well, even our enemies, several times throughout His ministry. But this particular time is not about loving the whole world, it is about loving each other, our brothers and sisters who profess to be His followers. If we cannot achieve unity here, where can we achieve it?
And if we do not take the time to revive withered branches by abiding in Him, by taking time for silence and solitude before Him, we will not have the capacity to love. This calling is bigger than our personal survival, it is about the survival of the Church Body.
Practice: Take at least ten minutes to be silent before God. Consider the Church Body around the world. How have we fallen short of our calling to love one another? How can you be a part of that healing process?