Keeping Christ central
A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration
In a recent staff devotions, I asked our team a simple question: “How many of you have thought sometime today, ‘God really loves me’?”
Everyone in the room had John 3:16 memorized, knew other verses about God’s immeasurable love, and could chime in on “Jesus Loves Me” in the time it takes to say flannelgraph. So every hand shot up, right? In actuality, four hands out of 30 went up. Only four.
And this isn’t unique to HOPE. In asking this question to dozens of followers of Jesus, I hear the same thing:
I just don’t think much about God’s love for me on a daily basis, and if I’m honest, I struggle to believe it.
This struggle isn’t usually due to lack of information. We know God’s love led to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. But our conviction that God’s love secures our salvation doesn’t always translate into confidence that He really wants us near Him today. It’s like we are playing the old game of “He loves me”—pull off a petal—“He loves me not”—pull another one, laughing at our foolishness even as we hope for some feeling of certainty.
In His last major teaching before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus chooses a vivid metaphor that reveals His heart for those who follow and obey Him. He states in John 15, “I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser,” going on to compare his disciples to branches that must abide in the vine in order to live and bear fruit.
This word “abide” in Greek means to “keep continually” or “remain as one.” It occurs 11 times in this chapter—not “strive,” not “do,” not “achieve.” Abide. First and foremost, Jesus invites us into relationship with Him, to “abide in His love” (verse 9).
If this was Jesus’ major point of emphasis as He prepared to leave His disciples and go to the cross, how much more do we need these words today?
If you, like me, have struggled with this, here are some practical things God has been teaching me.
- First, deeply receive the love of Jesus that He declared to be the reality of your life in Him. The truth is that all of His followers are intimately connected to the Vine, and all life flows from Him. He loves you. He even likes you. He wants you near Him.
- Second, receive this love every day. His grace and sacrifice purchased your salvation, but they are also His heart toward you today. We were not made to live this life apart from a daily reception of the nourishing sap of His love and forgiveness.
- Lastly, out of this place of His declared love, obey what He commands. His love isn’t license for disobedience, but our sin also doesn’t negate his forgiveness and affection.
While abiding might seem tangential to our work at HOPE, I believe it’s vital. Only when we regularly receive God’s love can we share that love with clients. Only from a posture of abiding can we truly bear fruit for God’s Kingdom.
May we all learn to receive God’s limitless affection, His delight in us: broken, foolish humans that we are. Abide in His love. Receive it every day. And then with the joy of Christ in you, live every moment for Him.