Text: 1 John 2:5-6; 4:9, 17-18
Summary: During this global slowdown, it is time to learn how to abide in Jesus Christ.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Do we really believe this? That means anything we do without Jesus is a zero. Then we read in Philippians 4:13
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Can I really do all things through him who strengthens me? I can’t dunk. I can’t run 300 meters in under ten seconds. So what does it mean that we can do nothing apart from Jesus, and yet we can do all things through him who strengthens me?
For whatever reason, God has not answered the prayer of God’s people, of stopping the spread of this Coronavirus. And God is obviously powerful enough to stop it if He wanted to. But for some reason, God has chosen to let this go on. That means aside from police and doctors and nurses and military and very unique sectors of this world and our workforce, for the most part, all of us are at home.
And I know we’re all generally busy. But probably there’s never been a time like this that you can remember in recent years that you’ve been forced to stay home. And so what would God want in a time when most of us are at home? I think He wants us to abide in Jesus and not use any excuses. I’m so busy with school. I’m so busy with my research. My boss is riding me. I have so many deadlines. I have so many meetings throughout the day. I’m commuting for an hour to West Hollywood. I have to drive my kids to and from sports practices. All of it has ceased.
And we have to ask from God’s perspective, why would God want a global slowdown? I think He’s giving us room and He’s taking away all the excuses that we give and we give to ourselves to abide in Christ. And Jesus describes the Christian life in John 15 as a branch and we’re the branch and Jesus is the vine.
And the same way that Jesus was abiding in the branch of His Father during His earthly ministry, He didn’t speak until He heard from the Father. He didn’t do anything until He saw the Father doing work. Jesus modeled for us the Christian life. He is our forerunner. He is our model. He is our example. And so Jesus is the person we’re following and emulating and imitating.
And that’s why it says in 1 John 2:5
1 John 2
5 …By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
And so Jesus walked this earth in a certain way. He was obedient to the Father. He patiently waited for 30 years before even beginning His earthly ministry. And every day of the 3.5 years of public ministry, He was getting direction day by day from the Father, and He only spoke when He heard the Father. He ministered on one particular day to 2000 people and He feeds them. On another day, He is alone. Or He is ministering and hanging out with His disciples.
And so everything that Jesus did was a demonstration of what a life of abiding looks like. And can you describe your life as abiding in Christ the way that Jesus abided in His Father? Two images came to mind as I thought about abiding in Christ. One is when you’re trying to glue two pieces together, even if you get Gorilla Glue or Krazy Glue, whatever strongest kind of glue that you can find, and the two pieces, especially if they’re not flat, you have to hold the pieces together for the bond to form.
Another image that came to mind for the Christian life and what it means to abide is the three-legged race. You may have attended some church picnics where you did the three-legged race. And imagine if your left leg was attached to your friend’s right leg using just a small strip of Scotch tape. And that’s all that was binding your two legs together and you try to do the three-legged race. It just wouldn’t work because your legs would come apart. Imagine if your friend was doing the three-legged race and was counting and stepping every second and fourth beat, and you are stepping every first and third beat. Again, it would just tear that piece of tape apart.
And so when we are talking about abiding in Christ, we need time for that bond to form. You need a strong bond between the two legs to do a three-legged race, you need a stronger piece of rope to tie the two legs together. And so as a branch attached to the vine, we need to have time with Jesus alone to form a strong bond.
In our daily life, with our technology and with our cell phones, I wonder if you can describe your life as having portions of your day connecting and reconnecting and coming before Jesus? Or is your life more like a three-legged race with two legs attached with a piece of Scotch tape or two pieces that you try to glue but every few seconds you let go and the pieces fall apart?
We need time in this worldwide slowdown as I see it. Because God could have answered our prayers weeks ago and He may answer it tomorrow, He may let it go for another week. Another two weeks and it may spread and this may be stretched out to be months or even longer.
We don’t know the Lord’s will, but all we can say is that in this season, when we are all at home, you can distract yourself, even be more distant from Christ during this lock down than when you had your regular schedule. People can consume media and be on their phone all day long and complain and try to come up with something to fill their time. You may allow this season to pan out like that.
Or you may say, Lord, you’ve given me a unique season that I’m in. And rather than being afraid and reading all the news, I would recommend turn it off. It is the details of all the things that are happening in this world that may not be helping. Maybe you can check once a day. You know generally the state of our world. It is not helping to read all the details of the news that will only promote more fear. This is a time when you and I, we need to get alone and learn how to walk in the way Jesus wants.
And how can you walk in the way Jesus walked? You have to be close to Him. You have to abide in Him. That means the way that Jesus was perfectly obedient to the Father. Did you know that you and I, we can be perfectly obedient to our Heavenly Father and we can do His will and everything that God the Father has hand-picked you for to accomplish in this life. You can do all things because Christ is strengthening you, because you’re doing it with Him (Phil 4:13). You’re not doing a solo journey. You’re doing it with Him. And apart from him, you can do nothing (John 15:5).
Another verse that came to mind is 1 John 4:9.
1 John 4
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
Not only are you close to Him, not only are you abiding in Him, not only can you do all things with His enabling power, it says we’re doing life through Him. That means everything you do, it’s not W W J D. It’s not “what would Jesus do?” That’s not very biblical. People have those on their bracelets and we’re trying to imagine what Jesus would do in my shoes. No, it says we’re doing life through Him. That means everything you do, can you picture yourself fellowshipping and partnering with Jesus in this? That’s how we’re to think that I can do life through Jesus. That is different than imagining if Jesus were in my shoes, how would He act? No, we’re actually doing life through Him and with Him.
1 John 4
17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
And that’s an interesting phrase that stuck out when I read it a few weeks ago in v17. Confidence for the day of judgement because, as he is which is, as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. And so the way that Jesus lived in this world, in perfect obedience, in perfect righteousness, in perfect confidence that He would be reunited with His Father. No fear, perfect confidence, He had perfect peace, He loved perfectly, as He is, so also are we in this world.
And that is a high standard for the Christian. We are actually supposed to walk in the way that Jesus walked. The way that Jesus was in this world during the 33 and half years. So also are we. And that can be our reality. If we can learn how to allow ourselves to stick to Jesus. You cannot stick when you’re only spending a minute here and a minute there, you can’t stick. When you have just a little piece of tape that’s keeping you connected to Christ. You need to have time for that. For that grafted branch to be reattached to the vine.
You know, when a branch breaks off, if you actually put it back soon enough and you tie it together, did you know that branch can naturally graft back into whatever tree that it was broken from?
And so we as branches, the moment you feel like I am separated from Christ, first of all, do you even notice it? Do you notice that a day went by and you didn’t even think about Jesus once? Abiding in Christ is everything. That you are walking in the manner in which He walked. As He was, you are in this world. You’re living life with Him, but but also through Him. Once this clicks, then on a daily basis, you will notice, I went through this whole day apart from Jesus, I’m actually like a branch that’s withering. I’m drying up, and as you get closer to Jesus, you will actually feel even on an hourly or even a moment by moment basis, I’m growing distant from Jesus.
And you can see it through your emotional state. You can see it through the rising fear. You can see it through your irritation toward the people you’re supposed to love. You know, there are families that, it’s a very sad but very common story, that usually both parents are working, but suddenly they’re at home, and usually the kids have been sent away.
But suddenly the kids and the two parents are together and the parents, they’re so wishing that this season would pass so that they can go back to work. It is God’s call upon your life that you have to love the people that He has put in your life and that irritation that desire to just want to go back to work. I just want to go back to my routine.
I wonder how sad God must feel because God wants us to become people of love. And that’s another thing that emerges in 1 John. Imagine that Jesus was so irritated by Peter because of his hardness of heart. And James and John, the two sons of thunder, wanted to sit on Jesus’ right hand and to His left, and Jesus could have been so bothered and irritated and want to be left alone by these hardened of heart disciples. But Jesus was not like that.
And so for us, let’s not be so quick to want to return to our normal routine. This is such a unique time in history. In my 45 years I’ve never had a season like this. When the world is on a lock down and globally there’s a slowdown. It is a God given opportunity to just even check yourself, am I being dragged along by the routine of church and gathering with brothers and sisters?
Is that what is pulling me along in my faith journey? Do I have any personal connection to Jesus? These are the kind of questions you want to ask. You want to look in the mirror and say, OK, I complained that I didn’t have enough time when I was working multiple jobs and I was running around driving my kids. That was in the past.
But right now, when you’ve had a week, two weeks and this may be months of being at home and only going out whenever it’s absolutely critical. But for the most part, being holed up in your home. Do you have a desire to connect to Jesus? Does that come up in your mind or apart from Jesus, you can actually do fine. And you don’t need Christ’s strength because you can do it on your own strength?
And isn’t it a wonder that if you live like that, you don’t walk in the manner in which Jesus walked? You actually keep on sinning. You can’t break addictions. You have an excuse for everything. I’m in a bad mood because I’m tired and my boss is stressing me. There’s always some kind of an excuse for how we are. But Jesus says the way that I walked now you can walk, too. The way that I did not sin, you can also stop sinning. The way that I practice righteousness, you can also practice righteousness. The way that I loved my own, you can love starting with your family instead of being annoyed. You can actually start loving your wife and your kids.
And for those you know, in a church context, because we can’t be together, what should we do when it comes to loving one another? Because it’s not like we can gather freely during this time. One verse that I want to close with.
1 John 5
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death…
And so how should we be praying for one another during this time? Ask God to give us life. Ask God if you’ve not been born again to send Jesus and for Jesus to meet you. If you have no desire to meet God, ask for God to change your heart, to open up your heart so that you would want to meet God. If you’ve been a branch that has been cut off, ask God to revive you and this is how we should pray for one another.
Let’s pray that God gives us life, that God revives us, that God gives us a desire for life. Life is not just going to school, getting a degree, getting your dream job, earning money and dying. That is not life. Life is connecting to the Author of Life and having eternal life. That is a life that is promised if we learn to abide in Christ and let’s pray that God gives life to one another.
Let’s pray for kids who are not saved, that God would open up their hearts so that they would want to be saved. Let’s pray for those of us who are struggling, and we’re having a hard time connecting to the Author of Life.
Let’s ask that Jesus himself would come and revive us. Let’s pray for the church that is asleep. And people just are being pulled along by the routine of church and they don’t have the ears to hear and the eyes to see that their spiritual life is nonexistent. They’re just going through the motions.
Let’s pray that during this season, when they cannot gather in a traditional sense, that they would have eyes to see that actually that one of the greatest blessings that God would stop people from going through the motions and to look in the mirror and say, what is my faith when I’m by myself? When no one is inspiring me? When no one is teaching me the Word, can I actually hear from the Word myself? If I get my Bible open because Jesus says you have the Holy Spirit who is your teacher and He will teach you about everything.
Can you actually do that? That if you’re on an island and we were all separated and technology was cut off and all you had was you and the Bible, can you thrive? That is what God wants for you to do. For you to thrive in Jesus because you just have Him. And that’s all that you need. Apart from Him, you can do nothing. That means if you have everything else minus Jesus, you have nothing. You accomplish nothing in God’s eyes. But if you have Jesus, everything you do that is in the will of God for you, you will succeed and you will thrive and you’ll have success.
That doesn’t mean you’re trying to imitate me. Because you have a unique will for you. And as you abide in Jesus, He will tell you, here’s your next assignment. I want you to obey this and everything with and through Him who strengthens you because you’re doing life through Christ. You will be successful and you will thrive even when there’s panic spreading throughout this world.
I think what’s spreading in this world, sure it is a coronavirus. But what it’s spreading even more insidiously is fear. Let’s ask for the perfect love of God to flood our hearts as we abide in Jesus so that every fear is cast out in Jesus’ Name.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, you could have chosen anyone to live in the year 2020. But before the foundation of the world, you chose us to be in Christ and to live in the year 2020. There’s a reason, Lord, you’re giving grace and space to your church. Your true church to reevaluate. This is like a midterm exam for many of us. How are we without the normal routine of life? How are we without the normal routine of church? If we’re stranded on a deserted island and all we had was our Bibles, could we meet you? Could we thrive? Because apart from you, we can do nothing.
But with you and with your strength, we can do everything that you have purposed for us. Father, we want to walk in the manner in which you walked, Jesus, as you were in this life while you walked for 33 and a half years. So are we in this life, we can be perfectly obedient, perfectly righteous. We can be perfected in love. These are the promises of 1 John and John 14-17.
And Lord, we ask that in this season when we were being slowed down, and Lord, you’ve redeemed pockets of our time. We don’t have to commute to work. And in that redeemed amount of time, I pray that we will learn to abide.
Father, many of us don’t even desire that. So, Lord, we ask that you change our desire. We pray for one another that we would desire life, true life, not the counterfeit life that just goes through the motions. We want true life. Open up our hearts that we desire life. Open up the hearts of our children who have yet to meet you so that they would desire life. Change our desires. I pray that you would revive us, Lord, the true church of God that is asleep. I pray that you will revive us and wake us up during this season.
We don’t know how long this coronavirus lock down will remain in place. But we understand that you can at any moment lift it. But also we understand you have given us a God appointed season to learn how to connect to you when we have no more excuses. No more excuses. We don’t want to consume the time with entertainment and with consuming news which will just promote more fear. Lord, we want to be still before you and have that bond with Christ form more deeply and more permanently. Help us, Lord, we are weak.
Revive us, Lord, We repent for seeking life in so many wrong areas. We want to seek life in Jesus Christ, the true vine. Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life. And one day we will stand before Heavenly Father with confidence because we walked in the way that Jesus walked, in perfect obedience, perfect righteousness and perfected in love. And on that day, because we walked in this life exactly the way Jesus walked, on that day, when we see you, Heavenly Father face to face, we can have ultimate confidence.
Father, teach us. We want to stop just talking the talk. We want to start walking the walk. In this season, I pray that you would reorient our lives and our perspectives and our thoughts so that we can believe that we can walk the way that Jesus walked. In total victory, in total obedience, in total righteousness, perfected in love. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen