Jesus says that if we want to grow in our spiritual life, we have to abide, or remain, in him. With so much competing for our attention and affections, how do we do it?
The good news is God has shown us how. Here are a few, and while it’ll take time and space to use them, they are incredibly accessible to everyone.
If you want to stay connected to Jesus, stay connected to the Bible, which is his very Word to us. Just being around Jesus and around His Word helps us abide and stay connected to Him.
We have unparalleled access to the Bible and lots of translations and lots of resources to help understand it.
But you just have to make the simple choice to dig into it.
You need to read it. You need to study it. You need to memorize it. You need to hear it proclaimed. You need to dig into this book.
Psalm 1 tells us that the one who does that becomes fruitful.
Prayer: That sounds pretty simple, but if you’re like me, you know that prayer is actually really hard. I try to pray all the time, and sometimes I’m good at it and sometimes I stink at it. My brain is so distracted sometimes.
But there is a plethora of tools out there to help us pray.
I can choose to enter silence and solitude and create space to pray. I used to do this as a regular habit. I would take days of solitude and I’d try to pray all day. And you know what? The first four hours were a lost cause, but the last two were unbelievably rich.
When I’m particularly distracted, it’s good for me to get on my knees, because it’s kind of hard to forget what I’m doing when I’m on my knees.
Another thing that helps is journaling your prayers. Or you can pray scripture. Or you can pray other people’s prayers. I have a devotional book of historic prayers, and I’m using those each night. It is so helpful because it shows me new ways to pray from thousands of years past.
Be in Community
To be close to Jesus, be in church. I was so impressed with our confirmation students. Each and every one of them wrote their statements of faith, and many of them talked about how being engaged in church is vital to them. It wasn’t just a habit: They need to be here if they want to stay connected to Jesus.
A North African bishop from the third century, St. Cyprian, said this: “No one can have God as Father who does not have the church as Mother. There is no salvation apart from the Church.” We are so individualistic. We often think “it’s just me and God.” So we bristle at this idea that I need the Church to abide in Christ. But it’s actually 100 percent consistent with scripture. It’s 100 percent consistent with Church history. If you want to connect to God, God is here when we are gathered. So when you choose not to be part of Church, you’re choosing not to abide in Christ.
It’s hard to love each other if you don’t show up with each other, but not just being a “pew potato.”
As Protestants, we tend to blow past the sacraments, but in baptism, you get ingrafted, you get tied to the Vine, or Jesus, who calls Himself the True Vine. If you’ve never been baptized, get baptized. When you get baptized and when you see a baptism, you’re having your own tie renewed.
You want to be part of a baptism when we have a baptism because it reminds you of your own connection to Jesus.
And then there’s communion. When you, when you take communion you’re being nourished in your connection to the Lord. I’m really glad that we have figured out a way for people who can’t be at church to celebrate communion at home, but as the name itself implies, it’s so much better for you and for your brothers and sisters to commune with God and each other to do it together in person.
God is at work in our world. So if you want to be with God, then be with Him in the work that he is doing in the world. It’s the Great Commission: Go and make disciples. And when Jesus gives that commission He says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” A lot of commentators have said as if Jesus is saying, “I am most with you when you are about going and making disciples.”
When you engage in mission and service, you will feel more connected to Jesus. Ask anybody who has done a mission trip, and almost all of them come back saying, “I felt like I was more connected to Jesus than ever.”
Jesus wants you to grow. He has given you these straightforward ways to do it. You have to make a choice, though. They won’t be easy; they require some sacrifice. But the fruit of those choices will be well worth it.