I wonder, have you ever set a resolution or goal to become more loving, kinder, more compassionate, more caring and generous, or to be a more faithful follower of Christ? Can I be honest with you? I’ve never once set any of these as a goal for a new year. Of course, I want to be those things, but I’ve never written them down.
Jesus taught two important things. He understood faithfulness included living our beliefs in practical ways, like caring for the poor, the marginalized, the least and last. He sent his disciples to share the good news, to heal and teach and baptize. He also understood faithfulness arises from our relationship with him. During the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples, he told them, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4-5).
Last week, we talked about habits – those small actions repeated over time that result in remarkable, cumulative impact. We also talked about the power of adopting new habits over making resolutions we are unlikely to keep. In this passage, Jesus presents an opportunity for a new habit, in fact a new way of living. It’s not a grandiose goal or resolution. It’s a simple choice. On the one hand, he expects his disciples to produce fruit, to make a difference, to go and do and act. At the same time, though, he compared himself to a vine, and us, the branches. We cannot do anything apart from him. He is the source of our life and our ability to make a difference. He’s saying, this is how it works – you must remain in me. He’s saying stay a while, linger here, take your shoes off, rest in this holy place. And, when you do, my thoughts, dreams, and hopes become yours.
This metaphor comes to mind: remaining in the love of Christ is like a whisper to our souls. Every day I whisper in my daughter’s ear, “Guess what, I love you.” She whispers back, “I love you too.” This is Jesus’ whisper to us – “remain in me, and I will remain in you.” When we remain in Christ, our fruit includes the freedom to follow Jesus wherever he sends us, no matter who we are or what we have, or that we have nothing at all. It looks like love, freedom, hope, and habits that lead us deeper into the life of faith. Dallas Willard, the late Christian philosopher, wrote, “Jesus does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.”
In this new year, rather than getting charged up and pursuing new resolutions and goals, what if you made the simple choice to remain rooted in Christ in all that you do? The result could be better than any metric we set for ourselves; we just might become more loving, kinder, and compassionate, more caring and generous — in other words, more faithful followers of Christ.
Rev. Dr. Joshua Clough serves as Location Pastor for Resurrection Overland Park. Joshua also partners with our ShareChurch team as Director of the ShareChurch Academy to provide practical leadership resources to pastors and other leaders. Joshua completed his doctorate in Practical Theology and Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. He runs marathons, ultra-marathons, and because he grew up in Seattle, drinks a lot of coffee.
 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God.