How do I Stay Connected to Jesus?
What it means a new beginning with Jesus? It is when we choose to begin a new life with Christ. Jesus gives us eternal life, takes away judgment, and enable us to cross from death to life. Because we have been forgiven from our sins, we can begin a real relationship with God; we begin to experience God's, steadfast love. At that moment that we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, as Paul said in Galatians 2:20, "and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me." It is Christ who begins to live in us, in our hearts, and walks with us this journey we call life. So, then what? What happens at that precise moment that we have said yes to Jesus? That moment where we opened our heart and let Jesus in.
This last Sunday I preach about "How do I Stay Connected to Jesus?” from John 15:1-11. That says the following:
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
The vine is the life support of the branches; it provides water and nutrients. As long as the branches are connected to the vine, they will bear fruit. Without the vine, there will be no fruit. This means that all the branches are dependent on that vine. Occasionally, the gardener must prune the branches. This process is essential because it maintains the branches' health, strengthens them, and encourages the branches to produce more fruit.
Now that we have a clear image of what is a vine, let's now discuss the illustration that Jesus taught to his disciples. Jesus says that he is the vine. God is the gardener who is responsible for caring for the vine. This description shows how close is the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Since the purpose is to produce fruits, he focuses his attention on the branches that represent us, his disciples.
To take care of the vine, the gardener who is God must prune the branches. “Pruning is the most important operation for maintaining the fruitfulness of the vine.” This process helps to maintain healthy the vine and the branches; it strengthens and encourages them to produce more fruit. If a branch is entirely fruitless, the gardener removes it so other weak branches that were around can be strengthened.
Jesus says in verse 4, "Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” In this verse, it is the first time in the whole section that the word "abide" appears for the first time, and through the verse four until verse ten it appears, not one, not two, not three, but eleven times!!! The word "abide" means to remain, to stay. So, what is Jesus telling the disciples, telling us?
Throughout these verses, Jesus is insisting on the importance of remaining in him; in other words, to stay connected to Jesus. As branches, we need to stay connected to the vine. Jesus is telling us that we cannot bear fruit if we are not connected to him. We depend on Jesus; we are helpless apart from him.
So, how can I stay connected to Jesus? The answer is simple, spiritual practices. Spiritual practices are the actions and activities that we include in our daily lives to cultivate and experience spiritual development. In other words, we do all the things that we need to do to grow our faith, as a disciple, as followers of Christ. Many spiritual practices had been for years, and others are new. These are: studying and reading the bible, fasting (the person gives up something to depend on God's intervention), individual and communal prayer, worship, Christian fellowship, participating in the Holy Communion, serving the community, advocating for justice, sharing our faith with others, journaling. Today, many younger people are adding to their spiritual practices the following: hearing Christian podcasts, following Christian bloggers, even watching other sermons from other pastors around the world.
Having a regular spiritual practice applied in our lives helps us to stay connected to Jesus, to be closer and closer to the vine. As Renae Aberdeen from Indiana says, “As long as we are connected to Jesus, we will be provided with the nourishment, support, and love that we need to live as true followers of Christ." You don't have to do them all, but it is vital that we applied them to our lives.
As a result of our spiritual practices, as a result of staying connected to Jesus, we will bear fruits, our faith will grow. Ask yourself, am I connected to the vine? Am I connected to Jesus? Am I a healthy branch that produces fruits? Or am I one that has become damaged and is weakening those branches around me?
Many things can keep us away from the vine, from Jesus, the busy life. We have our days full of things to do that we don’t find time for God. We schedule everything else in our calendars, but we forget to have time with God, to have those spiritual practices. We say, "I will pray today." But for some reason, you couldn't, and you say to yourself, "I can do it tomorrow." The next day goes by, the next one also, and when we least expected, we never did what we wanted to do in the first place. We even don’t recognize the importance of spiritual practices in our lives.
Jesus says, “abide in me, as I abide in you,” “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." "abide in my love."
I want to invite you to reflect on how well you are connected to Jesus. I encourage you to consider all those spiritual practices that have been mentioned and be inspired. I encourage you to begin a commitment not with me, but with God and with yourself.
Psalm 92:12-14 “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,”
It doesn’t matter in what stage of our spiritual life we are if we are, intentionally connected to Jesus we will always stay fresh, we will flourish, we will bear fruits, because we are planted in the house of the Lord, amen!