John 15:4
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

There is a war raging inside me.

I aggressively demand my independence, proclaiming my self-sufficiency.
I also secretly feel fearfully vulnerable and powerless, in need of protection.

We are designed in God’s image to be powerful and fruitful, making an eternal impact in the world. But we behave like little kids that have an over-inflated view of our abilities. Think about that little kid that is learning to dress himself. The day finally comes where he demands “I CAN DO IT MYSELF” as he sorts through his dresser, picks out an eclectic assortment that closely resembles an exploded circus clown, and puts on his clothes…backwards. As parents, we would just smile, laugh, and (sometimes) help him correct his mistake.

We treat our fruitfulness in much the same way. I believe (and therefore behave) like I am able to live and love by my own strength. I claim to be dependent on Jesus, but when it comes to street-level behavior I am actually living like “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!”

But Jesus never designed us to “do it ourselves.” Yes, we are given the fruit (Galatians 5) of self-control, but it’s fruit “of the Spirit,” which means that it is only activated when it is connected to the fuel-line of The Spirit. It means that our sufficiency is predicated upon our dependency; our ability is animated by his power.

So in real-life terms, what does that mean? What does it mean to “abide” in Jesus?

The good news is that scripture over and over reveals a two-sided abiding:
we in him; him him in us.

To abide in Him means to find our hope, love, life, power, fulfillment, satisfaction, peace and truth in Him. It means to declare our deep vulnerability and inability, followed by our personal dependency on nothing and no one but Him alone. And the only way we can even get to this place is because His Spirit first abides within us, giving us the heart to simultaneously admit our insufficiency while claiming and resting in his sufficiency. And this is the great irony. When we finally admit our inability, we are organically and powerfully propelled outward in miraculous fruitfulness…his fruitfulness. We become unstoppable agents of change, but begin to realize that it is all from Him, and He gets all the glory.

Today, in what are you abiding?

And what is abiding in you?

Where do you find your strength, your ability, your sufficiency?

What if the absolute vulnerability of God himself in the person of Jesus on the cross, the greatest irony of all time, could be transformed into the greatest strength as the resurrected King sends His Spirit to be inside of us so that, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead could be active and alive IN us and even THROUGH us. What if we are more powerful than we ever imagined, but that this power can only be activated when we admit our self-powerlessness? What would happen if we believed that, by His Abiding Spirit, we are men and women that are being used to bring about His Kingdom through loving him in worship and others in missions?

Carry Me

Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

As a kid going to Six Flags over Texas was absolute paradise. We would get there early and, when the gates finally opened, it was like the running of the bulls in Spain. We would all squeeze through the turnstiles and sprint in every direction, aiming to be first in line on whatever our favorite ride was (looping roller coasters was my thing). Coincidentally, this is all of life. We all have our favorite things towards which we run like bulls; beliefs, people, accomplishments, experiences, emotions…those things that will bring us happiness (like a looping coaster, but hopefully with less nausea).

This is the “wide way” that Jesus talks about. It is a crowded, easy way because we put ourselves and our desires first; over others and over God. We run headlong with our own customized spiritual beliefs that suit our preferences. Sometimes these spiritual preferences come in the form of a combo-pack of religions (for instance, I’ve known many “Buddhist-Christians”). Jesus is in the mix, but I don’t really “need” him, he’s just a great side-dish. Sometimes these preferences come in a tweaked form of Christianity which is based on a strict moral code in an effort to please God, but which actually deceives us into thinking that, because I (seemingly) adhere to this code, I don’t really “need” Jesus (at least as much as those other folks).

You see, each of us bull-runners are doing things in our own way, by our own means with ourselves in mind (even if we say it’s “for God”, it’s really for what we will get from God, and focused around ourselves and our behavior rather than around the finished work of Jesus, which brings joy and freedom).

Jesus doesn’t leave us on this wide path that only leads to a deeper and deeper prideful isolation. He invites us to the narrow gate (which is him) and the narrow path (which is also him). He invites us away from the tyranny of self obsession and into the freedom of being adopted children of God. The only catch is that we have to declare our desperation. We have to realize that it isn’t “all about me” and that I am need to be picked up and carried on the path, which is only wide enough for one set of footprints…His.

There is a band called Secret Sisters that wrote a song about daddies and how they carry us. Here’s one of the lines:

If I keep on hiding, how will I be known?
I keep telling myself that I’m better alone
When my father will carry me

We all march down the wide path, thinking we are “better alone.” But we need our Heavenly Daddy to pick us up off the wide path and put us on his back, the way he put The Cross on his back, and carry us home.