Joy fills my heart
Peace rules and reigns there.
Nothing but love overflows
And your will clearly shown
(When I’m) Alone in the presence of you
– Cece Winans, Alone In His Presence
Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. John 15:3-5
When we buy a bunch of grapes, we understand that we have received all the grapes that will ever come from those branches. Because the branches have been cut off from the vine, they will no longer be able to produce fruit. The branches have been cut off from the source of its grape producing power. And that is exactly what Jesus stated would happen to us if we do not remain in him. Our ability to produce spiritual fruit in our lives (such as peace, patience, joy, love, gentleness, kindness and self-control) is cut off when we are not connected to the vine. But how do we stay connected? Developing this habit is one part art and one part science as well as private devotion and public worship.
First the science …
There is no substitute for spending time with God alone. Devotion includes prayer, meditation, Scripture reading and personal reflection. Jesus himself gave us the example to follow in private devotion. The Scriptures record that “… He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16).
Jesus also taught his disciples the value of practicing a devotional life in private when he said:
But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 5:6)
The importance of reading and meditating on the Scriptures- Old and New Testaments of the Bible- cannot be overstated. In the beginning, it was Adam and Eve’s failure to recall and apply God’s word that led to the corruption of the world of the story (See Genesis 3). In contrast, Jesus demonstrated the power of applying God’s word when he was being tempted by Satan.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” Luke 4:-3-4
Jesus knew the word because he studied it, committed it to memory and was ready when the moment came to apply it. He was prepared because he had practiced private devotion. Are you ready?
While it is true, that private devotion is necessary to stay connected to God, it’s not sufficient by itself. In addition to it, we need public worship. God has made us as social beings with an immense need for interdependence. Have you ever noticed that our appreciation of movie, or concert is increased as a result of being around others? Would the concert be as amazing if you were the only one in the arena? No person is an island. We need each other. The Scriptures also reveal this is true spiritually as well.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
The entire context of the Old and New Testaments revealed that worship of God happens in a community setting. Regular participation in worship services, small groups, and peer spiritual mentoring spaces are all part of the process that God uses to help us remain in him.
Finally, the Art …
The Art of Gospel Centered Devotion involves knowing yourself and how to encourage good habits. It’s important to choose the best time to have a daily devotional time (morning, afternoon or evening). Also, develop the use various methods of worship like singing, taking a walk, memorizing Scripture, and other habits (for more read the Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster). Lastly, it’s important to go where you won’t be distracted. Set yourself up well for success by avoiding environments that won’t make it difficult to concentrate (such as while laying your bed early in the morning). Of course there are circumstances that cannot be avoided but the art of gospel-centered devotion is about creating the habit of unhurried, undistracted time to spend with God in private devotion, and consistent time of public worship as well.
- What does it mean to remain in Jesus like a branch remains connected to a vine?
- What does it look like in my life when I don’t maintain private devotion and public worship?
- What is my next step to maintaining private devotion and public worship?
- Who can help me maintain Habit #1- Gospel Centered Devotion? Text or call them now and invite their support in this journey.