Monday, January 04, 2010

Trust God to Keep You Close to Him

(Fruit, in Jerusalem)

(I’m reading Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ with some friends. I’ll be posting my comments, and any of theirs, here.)

In John 14:1 Jesus says to his disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." To "trust" is an action whereby we rely on the object of our trust. "Trusting" here is tied in with Jesus' words in John 15:5 - "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Is it hard to trust in God? Andrew Murray asks, "Is it possible, a life of unbroken fellowship with the Saviour?" Isn't it unrealistic to ask us to stay connected to Jesus, 24/7, like branches attached to a vine?

Such enduring Jesus-attachment is not just for "the strong" but, mainly, for the weak. Abiding in Christ is meant for the weak. We don't first have to live a holy and devoted life. "No, it is simply weakness entrusting itself to a Mighty One to be kept--the unfaithful one casting self on One who is altogether trustworthy and true. Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for us, and in us, and through us. It is a work He does for us--the fruit and the power of His redeeming love. Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform." (18)

"Reliance" is not some kind of "hard work" or striving-thing. If there's any effort involved it's from Jesus' side. Murray writes that Jesus "offers Himself, the Keeper of Israel that slumbers not nor sleeps, with all His power and love, as the living home of the soul, where the mighty influences of His grace will be stronger to keep than all [our] feebleness to lead astray." (18)

But don't we have to "do" something ourselves? Here I remember something Max Lucado wrote. Lucado said, if there are a thousand steps between myself and God, God takes 999 steps towards me. The one step I take is: to trust. To rely on God. To "rest" in Him.

This is a really hard thing for Westernized people to grasp, since so much of our being is a function of our doing. We could engage in some big-time theological discussion here of we wanted to! But note this: Jesus himself attributes the source of all that he "does," and all that he says, to "being in the Father and the Father being in him." Out of the triune perichoretic relationship a whole lot of God-relevant stuff gets "done." So - why not abide in Jesus today and see what gets done? See what God does when his Spirit flows through you?


Hi John,

Happy New Year!

This rest is not acquired but given by God as I be still and know that He is all situations. God enables me to abide and rest because He knows that I can’t in my own strength. He also gives joy in the difficulties of life as I trust in Him.

Grace and peace to you

Scott Douglas

Pastor John,

I have read in a couple places that in Matt 11:30 the word "easy" is not a good translation - maybe enough so that it is actually misleading.

Bill Long

(Bill's comment refers to Andrew Murray's use of Jesus' words "My yoke is easy." [15; Matt 11:28-30] The biblical Greek word here translated as "easy" is chrestos, which means "well-fitting," even "superior." Jesus may be saying, "My yoke fits well.")

Reading Ch. 3 in Abide, it ocurred to me that when we reject Jesus' call (command) to abide through whatever rationalization we use, it is like when Ahaz was commanded to ask for a sign, but he refused to do it.

- Bill Long

Hi John:

Thank you for sending these along - They are a great blessing to read!

Denise bought me Andrew Murray's "The True Vine" for Christmas. This morning we were reading the chapter "Much Fruit" and I just have to share it with you:

“He that abides in Me and I in him he bears much fruit.” - John 15:5

Our Lord has spoken of fruit, more fruit. He now adds the thought: much fruit. There is in the Vine, such fullness, the care of the divine Husbandman is so sure of success, that the much fruit is not a demand, but the simple promise of what must come to the branch that lives in the double abiding -- he in Christ and Christ in him. “The same bringeth forth much fruit.” It is certain.

Have you ever noticed the difference in the Christian life between work and fruit? A machine can do work; only life can bear fruit. A law can compel work; only love can spontaneously bring fruit. Work implies effort and labor; the essential idea of fruit is that it is the silent, natural, restful produce of our inner life.

The gardener may labor to give his apple tree the digging and manuring, the watering and the pruning it needs; he can do nothing to produce the apple; the tree bears its own fruit. So in the Christian life; “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.” The healthy life bears much fruit. The connection between work and fruit is perhaps best seen in the expression, “fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). It is only when good works come as the fruit of the indwelling Spirit that they are acceptable to God. Under the compulsion of law and conscience, or the influence of inclination and zeal, men may be most diligent in good works and yet find that they have but little spiritual result. There can be no reason but this; their works are man’s effort, instead of being the fruit of the Spirit -- the restful, natural outcome of the Spirit’s operation within us.

Let all workers come and listen to our Holy Vine as He reveals the law of sure and abundant fruitfulness: “He that abides in me, and I in him he brings forth much fruit.” The gardener cares for one thing -- the strength and healthy life of his tree; the fruit follows of itself. If you would bear fruit, see that the inner life is perfectly right, that your relation to Christ Jesus is clear and close. Begin each day with Him in the morning, to know in truth that you are abiding in Him and He in you. Christ tells us that nothing less will do. It is not your willing and running; it is not by your might or strength, “but by My Spirit sayeth the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). Meet each new engagement, undertake every new work, with an ear and heart open to the Master’s voice: “He that abides in Me … brings forth much fruit.” You see to the abiding; He will see to the fruit, for He will give it in you and through you.

O my brother and sister, it is Christ who must do all! The Vine produces the sap, and the life, and the strength: the branch waits, and rests, and receives, and bears the fruit. Oh, the blessedness of being only branches, through whom the Spirit flows and brings God’s life to men!

I beg you, take time and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to realize the unspeakably solemn place you occupy in the mind of God. He has planted you into His Son with the calling and the power to bear much fruit. Accept that place. Look always to God, and to Christ, and expect joyfully to be what God has planned to make you, a fruitful branch.

In Him,

Jim Hunter