The Call to Abide

The Call to Abide

Last week, as we celebrated the new movement God is doing and allowing us to be a part of, we looked at our call and purpose from God.

Our call: To love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Our purpose: To make disciples of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)

That sounds simple, right? We can remember those two common lines spoke often in the church. Love God and others, and make disciples. Got it. But how do we actually love God and others? Like how do we love God with literally all that we are and have? How do we accomplish just that part, let alone love others, especially when some make it hard to do? How do we have the courage and confidence needed to really go out into this world and make disciples when so much of world seems like it doesn’t care.

These statements are easy enough to memorize and know, but today I would like us to take it a bit further and ask ourselves, do we really know how to fulfill this call and purpose?

Let’s start to explore this by looking at the book of John. Jesus said….
John 15:1-8
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 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.

5 “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. 6 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. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

John uses a very specific Greek word in verse five. He uses the word “meno” (may-no). It is translated in English as abide, remain, stay, and even wait. So Jesus is telling His listeners, “I am the only way you will receive what you need to be fruitful. So you must remain, stay, abide with me.” There’s a key truth and theme in those verses.

POINT #1 – If we abide in Christ, we will be fruitful in our call and purpose.

God knows the only way any of this is possible is if we remain connected to Him, to abide in Him. This makes sense. We know that in order for a branch to produce fruit, it has remain attached and connected to the source of life, which is the vine. Apart from it, the branch can’t accomplish anything. There is no power, no nourishment, no life.

Jesus gives this clear instruction to remain in Him or to abide in Him because He has big plans for those who put their faith, hope, and trust in Him – plans for them to change the world and He knows we can’t do without Him. If we want to be more effective in fulfilling our purpose as the Church, then we must become more consistent at living our call as the Church.

Let’s back up to chapter one and see this theme of abiding in Christ in another conversation.
John 1:35-39
35 The following day John (John the Baptist) was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.
38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.
They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come and see,” he said.

This sounds like a very casual conversation. “Where you staying” sounds like good small talk when speaking to the Messiah for the first time. “New in town? Oh, where are you staying?” Maybe they just didn’t know what else to say. I mean, come on, this is the MESSIAH!

Whether they realized it or not, this question these simple men asked actually runs much deeper. When they ask “where are you staying,” the Greek translation of that question literally is “where do you abide?” Where do you remain, stay, connect?

And Jesus says, “Come and see,” not where I sleep at night or eat my meals, but come and see the place where I connect with God, where I remain and abide in Him. Come and see the depths of my connection to God. Come and see and make my place of abiding your place of abiding.

POINT #2 – Jesus invites us to come and see.

This is an invitation for all of us, not just for Andrew and John, or the 12 disciples or anyone back then. Jesus, being God, is inviting us all to come and abide with Him. It’s like He wants us. He wants to connect with us, but most importantly since He already knows everything about us, He wants for us to connect with Him. Now I’m convinced that most days I live way beneath my spiritual potential. I know this because I’m not always accepting the invitation to abide with Jesus, to sit with Him in silence and prayer, to trust Him, to run to Him first. Some days are worse than others.

I remember a former pastor of mine, saying to me that we needed a pianist at the church and he knew God was going to fulfill that need simply because he prayed for it. I was skeptical and thought, well God might have other plans; we know how hard it can be to find one. But by golly, we got one shortly after his prayer. He said prayer works, and he was right. But even more, it was because he knew God’s will because had been spending a lot of time with God. He was connected and abiding in God and could hear His voice. If we are willing to take seriously the invitation to abide with Jesus, we just might be surprised at what God is up to.

Isaiah helps us to understand how to abide in God.
Isaiah 55:1-9
“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!
2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.

3 “Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
4 See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
5 You also will command nations you do not know,
and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

6 Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
7 Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

This passage has so much in it that helps us to understand how to abide. But first, I want you to notice something in the passage. Through the prophet Isaiah, God is making the same covenant He made with David, a covenant for spiritual success, for living out our call and purpose.

POINT #3 – God has made an everlasting covenant with us to live out our call and purpose.

David, was one of the most well-known people in the bible. David was the one who took a stone and a slingshot and killed the giant, Goliath. David was the one who became king in Israel and who God blessed greatly. In 2 Samuel 7, shortly after David became king, we read that David has this desire to build a temple for God to reside in. David looked at the house of cedar he lived in and compared it to the tent in which the presence of God dwelled in, and he thought God needed something better than a tent.

So David told the prophet Nathan his plans to build God a house to reside in. Nathan told David to go for it. He too thought it was a great idea! But the prophet Nathan was wrong and realized this that night when God spoke to him and gave him words to share with David.

Paraphrased: “David, your heart is in the right place, but you are not the one to build me a house to dwell within. Remember how I called you and the way in which I have been with you and the people of Israel? I will continue to do that. I’m not going anywhere. But David, you shall not make a place for me, but rather I will make a place for you and my people. I will protect you through one that will be a descendent of yours. That one will build a house for Me and the throne of His kingdom will be forever. I will be His father, and He will be my son.”

David was making the same mistake that many of us do. We try to make a place for God to abide. We want Him to bless what we are doing rather than allowing God to show us the place to abide in and allowing God to show us what He is doing.

We attempt to build a place for God to abide because we are really trying to live out our agendas, our wants, our desires. But God said to David and He says to us, “Don’t invite me to abide with you. I want you to abide with me.”

That’s a powerful thing to understand. The church will be relevant, powerful, able to fully live its purpose and potential if we respond to God’s invitation to abide in Him.

Isaiah says a couple things we have to do to abide in God. First, we must hunger and thirst for God. Do you thirst for God? Do you hunger for God? Or do you look for other ways to quench that thirst and hunger in you? If we are going to be people who abide in Christ, we need to understand that the things of this world are not going to satisfy us. And all to often we keep ourselves so stuffed with those other things, that there’s no room for God.

Pastor and author, A.W. Tozer once said it like this: “God is looking for people through whom he can do the impossible. What a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” …instead of abiding in Him.

Secondly, Isaiah says we must call upon God NOW. Not later. Not when it’s just convent for us. We need to call on Him now. It’s not that God is planning to move away from us, but we all too often move far from Him or build barriers of sin between us. Don’t wait until you have drifted far away from God to seek Him. Turning to God may be far more difficult later in life.

We’ve got to get serious about abiding in Christ now, while we’re here and listening. If we are going to abide in Christ and be the church that God is calling us to be, then the posture has to be on our knees. Then from that posture, we go.

We abide in Christ when we understand the importance of calling on God now.
God says, “Come, listen, seek, call upon me. Abide in Me.”

Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

And just like Jesus said to Peter, when we surrender, God says “I will build my church.” And we will be a church that’s effective, that multiplies because we are a church that abides in Christ.

We should always have a response to God’s word, and Paul’s response was….
Ephesians 3:14-21
14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. He is the source of life. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. It is by the grace of God that we are invited to abide in Christ and fulfill this call and purpose.

Our call: To love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Our purpose: To make disciples of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)