It is easy to begin things and yet so hard to finish. The newness of something and the eagerness to begin projects wanes after the new has worn off and the project begins to feel like it will never end. The determination to see things through and to persevere is a quality that few come by naturally. Sanctification often feels the same way as the new believer starts out with a willing heart only to discover rather quickly that the pleasures and quick fixes of this world are hard to stand against. However, some of the last words Jesus has with His disciples before He is taken away to be crucified and before He even prays for their sanctification, instructs them to remain in Him through the commands He has given to them.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so 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. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.
I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. John 15:1-11
The believer has already been made clean through the blood of Christ, but in order to bear fruit, one must remain attached to the vine. This abiding comes through time in God’s word and allowing His word to abide in us. When the follower of Christ stops looking for the quick victory and begins to embrace the fullness of Christ’s heart to conform us to His image, then we will be made complete. Said more pointedly by Erwin W. Lutzer in his book, How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit: Even when you feel like saying yes:
There is a saying of Goethe, the German poet, that talent is formed in solitude, but character in the storms of life. God wants to do something more beautiful in your life than simply give you victory over sin. He wants to replace that sin with the positive qualities of a fruitful life.
God strikes at the core of our motivations. He is not interested in merely applying a new coat of paint, imposing a new set of rules. He wants to rebuild our minds and give us new values. The most important part of us is that which nobody sees, except God. And He wants to begin His work there (Lutzer, 19, 21).
Even as the vineyard keeper takes us through the pruning/sanctification process, our joy can be made complete because His joy is in us. When we yield our prideful ways of fixing ourselves to God, the joy of sanctification floods our souls. The life of a believer is so much more than the assurance of eternity in heaven with the Father. It is a life spent allowing God into the most important part of our souls to transform us into His likeness and joy.
Oh Lord, help us to remain in You. Give us the desire to stay attached to the vine that gives nourishment, direction, correction, and encouragement for our growth so that our joy can be made complete.
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