As followers of Jesus most of our struggles arise from our lack of discipline. Relationship takes effort. Relationship with Jesus takes desire and then effort. Sometimes when we fall in love we fall in love more with the idea of love than with the actual person. This describes many who claim to be followers of Jesus, who like the idea of the relationship but who don’t make it a priority and don’t put in the effort of discipline. This is what causes Christianity to become a religion instead of a relationship.
Jesus did not set up a practice of religion, instead he told us to do something very important: to remain in him. It’s not with him but in him. Read what he said:
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. (John 15:4)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9)
We don’t have to pray a certain way, perform certain ceremonies, chant a mantra, or any other requirement. All he told us to do is remain in his love. However, he did not leave it as some pie-in-the –sky idea either. He made remaining in his love a concrete and measurable thing:
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10)
Obedience, not sacrifice, is the measuring rod of our love for Jesus. Some people continue in their sin, rebellion and disobedience and say “Yes, but God loves me.” His love is not the question here; it’s whether we love him. He has done everything he can to save us, but now it requires our response. We say that we love him but do we obey in the same manner that Jesus obeyed? Jesus didn’t just teach it, he modeled it. Let me point out that there is great benefit to obedience born out of love:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
Blessings come with obedience and what greater blessing can there be than his joy made complete in us? He told us that he has given us his peace which is ours even when circumstances should disturb that peace. He has given us a completed joy which no circumstance should be able to take away or diminish. In fact, there should be no one else who demonstrates a life filled with peace, joy and love like a follower of Jesus.
Our struggles are rooted in the unfortunate fact that we do not remain in Jesus’ love. In fact, we more often take ourselves out of it than leave ourselves in it. Yet, outside of that love there is only death and destruction that comes at the hands of fear, worry, and anxiety. We worry about things we have no control over and we fail to add a single day to our life. In fact, we are probably reducing the days of our life. No success, no amount of toys, no great mounds of money, no satisfying career offers what a strong relationship with Jesus offers.
When we remain in his love, in a strong, vibrant relationship with him, in him, we discover that the scary things of this life are not so scary. He is our security and future. He is the source of everything we need; love, peace, joy, fulfillment, purpose, blessings. In this relationship of “oneness” we discover that all of his promises are real and already ours. However, it is also easy for us to neglect this relationship, to step into disobedience, to allow it to lose all its value, to become a religion. Jesus said it is all about remaining in his love and he said that we can measure this love by our obedience. It is time to cast off the things of this world, renew your first love and to walk in obedience to Jesus.