The (Third) R of Discipleship: Remain

(Deb Bostwick is a guest blogger who writes for us from time to time)

Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain. Remain.  In John’s Gospel, Chapter 15, Jesus tells us 11 times in only ten verses to “remain” in him. Eleven times.

The last couple of weeks, we’ve been writing on the three “Rs of discipleship.

First was “Return”, how, despite our best efforts after we’ve turned everything in our lives over to Christ, there will be days and times that we still mess up. And, when we do, our first instinct should be to return to the foot of the cross and our heavenly Father who loves and accepts us as we are.

The second “R” is Repentance. The Bible encourages us to take repentance seriously and engage in it every time we sin. Sin is an action that we perform on a daily basis. No matter how minuscule or serious it may be, a sin is a sin. No matter what. We are called to turn away from our sins and transgressions, to come forward, surrender, and repent to our Heavenly Father.

And now, we come to the 3rd “R”, Remain.

The standard definition of remain is to “stay in the same place.”  So, we Return, we Repent and we Remain. Okay, got it. Simple enough.

But does remain also have a bigger meaning?  If it is so simple, then why do I have “remain” tattooed on my shoulder? As I started thinking on this, I got caught in the thought that Jesus asked us to ‘remain in Him.’ In Him, not by him, near him or next to him. In Him.

John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

It’s reciprocal; God’s goodness and power flow to and through us. To remain in Christ is a powerful and special experience! When you become saved, you are able to develop an intimate and personal relationship with Him. As a Christian, you are doing the will of God (bearing fruit), if you remain in Him and strive to keep His commandments.

To remain in Jesus means we must be connected to Him as a branch is connected to its vine. We achieve this connection by using His word in the Bible to guide our thoughts and actions. We are connected to Jesus when we believe His word, His word finds a home in us and we obey it.

To remain … means to keep in fellowship with Christ so that His life can work in us and through us to produce fruit. We remain in Him and He remains in us. Still though, eleven mentions in just ten verses. Clearly, Jesus thought that remaining is something very important.

I like the idea that God can work in us and through us to do cool stuff. This is exciting. I wonder, if we, as Christians, got as excited about staying connected to Christ as we do about coming to Him in the first place, we’d experience more joy. More purpose. We’d become people of impact.

A. Torrey in How to Pray wrote:

“To abide in Christ … is to renounce all life independent of Christ, and constantly to look to Him for the inflow of His life into us, and the outworking of His life through us. When we do this, and in so far as we do this, our prayers will obtain that which we seek from God.”

So, we know what it looks like to come to Christ in the first place—to acknowledge our sin (repentance), to receive mercy and grace, to enter into a love relationship with the Lord—but what does it look like to stay?  What if I get distracted? How can I be sure I won’t go running after some squirrel or bright shiny object?

Sure, we can choose whether or not we want to lean into God, and whether or not we’ll surrender to him. But when daily life happens and when we have to stop being “holy” and deal with real-world things like jobs, kids, finances, and family, how then do we maintain our connection to Christ. How do we remain?

Paul talks a bit about this in his letter to the Philippians: “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13, NLT.)

And then, lest there be any doubt that God is the one who always makes the first move, Paul adds this: “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.” (Philippians 3:12, The Message.)

When we reach out for Christ, we discover that he has already reached out to us. The love that saves us is the same love that keeps us attached. We don’t have to struggle or strive for connection. “Come to me,” Jesus says to the weary and burdened, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV). So, one way to remain? Rest – take a nap!

So How Do We Be Sure to Remain?
  1. Recognize your need of Christ: He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. No branch can bear fruit of itself.” In order for Jesus to help, you need to be “willing to be made willing”. Humble yourself to do God’s good and perfect will so that Jesus can work through you
  2. Practice Full Repentance. Believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins so that those who trust in Him may have true life and be free from the present evil age – accept His free gift of salvation. Confess your sins/wrongdoings to God, asking for God to transform your inner being and life. Turning away from sin, and towards the great love of Jesus is how to daily have a relationship with your Heavenly Father.
  3. Pray. This is not only a major opportunity but a need. We need to be constantly connected with our Lord. Jesus prayed while he was on earth, and taught us to pray. If Jesus felt the need of prayer, how much more do we need to pray? God cares about you and everything that happens – from the smallest plea to the biggest need; what an opportunity.
  4. Read the Bible. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man [or woman] cleanse his [her] way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Setting aside time every day for the Bible is extremely important. Keep your mind fixed on it and allow your heart to be grafted to Christ and molded by it. The Bible is God’s word, and in it the story of God’s redeeming work in this world is told! As you begin to see your place within God’s story, you’ll see why your life matters, and where it is going. Start with the four Gospels: “Matthew”, “Mark”, “Luke” and “John”, then add “Acts” and “Romans.” For if you have God’s life in you, you have the love of God, then your thoughts will line up with Jesus’ teachings, and His commandments.
  5. Give thanks! God tells us in James 1:17 that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” That means we have hundreds of reasons to thank God! For breathing, for food, for running water, for jobs, friends, family, forgiveness of sins, power to overcome evil, and more!
  6. Remember, He cares about every little thing. Ask God to give you the strength to keep His commands. John 15:10 says, “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.” No one is able to do anything for God by his own strength: God is our strength. Without him, we can’t do anything of importance! Be confident in Him.

Think on these things: Return, Repent, Remain.

Remain in Him, as He remains in you … times 11.

Right here with you,

Deb Bostwick
Guest Blogger