The Discipline of Remaining In Jesus (a remedy for our restless hearts)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the beautiful simplicity, and also the great difficulty, in living a gospel-centered life. On the one hand, the calling on our lives is very clear and quite uncomplicated — we are called to remain in Jesus and find life and contentment in Him. On the other hand, our restless hearts consistently wander away from His presence and drift away from our true identity in Him. This makes living consistently in His presence very difficult. It seems like many believers are stuck in a pattern of coming to Jesus to find rest for their souls and to be filled by Him, only to walk away from Him to try and do things in their own strength. It’s almost as if people treat Jesus like He’s a gas-filling station. We come to Him when we are empty and leave Him when we feel like we are full. Sadly, that is how many people relate to Jesus. This is even reflected in the verbiage that people use when talking about a weekend gathering at the church. They say that they come in empty, but leave full. But it seems like people are coming in on fumes most weeks. Is that God’s design for our lives? Isn’t there something more that He has for us? The answer is YES!!!

Consider the invitation of Jesus in Mathew chapter 11. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Notice how Jesus doesn’t say anything about departing from Him. He doesn’t tell us to come to Him to find rest and refreshment so that we can be sent back out to do things in our own strength. Quite the opposite, in fact. Jesus says that we come to Him and that we are yoked to Him. That should evoke the image of oxen being physically attached together so that they cannot go anywhere independently. The idea is that we would be yoked to Jesus, which means that we are with Him wherever we go. It also means that He is the One who is bearing the burden and the weight. Just as a stronger oxen will carry much of the load for a weaker one, so Jesus carries all of the load for us. This is God’s design for our lives — that we would experience rest in Jesus as He works things out in and through us.

And doesn’t that gel with the promise that Jesus made at the end of the Gospel of Matthew? Think about the last thing that Jesus communicated in the book of Matthew — “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The great promise that Jesus gives to His followers is His very presence. He never leaves us or forsakes us. And, if we have His presence, what else could we ever need from Him?

Doesn’t this also gel with the instructions that Jesus gave to His followers in John chapter 15? Jesus said, “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. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

I believe the calling on our lives is actually very simple. We come to Jesus by faith and we remain in Jesus by faith. Our primary desire is to be with God and we become less interested over time in being found outside of His presence. We become like Moses who, in Exodus chapter 33, said to God, “We will not go unless you go with us.” We must become increasingly disinterested in doing anything outside of the presence of God because we know that there is no life found outside of Him.

But the question that remains is, how do we do this? We would all likely agree that, while the calling on our lives is very simple, it’s impossible for us to do in our own strength. We must learn to embrace the cry of the father of the little boy who had an unclean spirit in Mark chapter 9. “And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24) What a wonderful expression of faith and dependence upon God for more faith!

James says that we don’t have things from God because we don’t ask. When was the last time you spent a large chunk of time pleading with the Lord to kill your flesh and humble you in His presence? When was the last time that you pleaded with God for more faith to remain in Jesus and keep your eyes focused only on Him? I know that these questions serve as an indictment on my prayer life.

Let’s take this opportunity to repent of any unbelief in our hearts. We do this in the spirit of Acts 3:19-20 which says, “repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19-20)

Praying for my heart and yours as we seek the Lord together like this. Oh, that God would do this throughout Heartland and impact an entire city because we are remaining in Jesus together!

Because of Christ,