How close do you feel to God? Do you feel distant? Maybe you participate in your church’s worship, and you feel closer, but the rest of the week is so darn busy you can go for days without giving God a thought. The result feels like a growing distance between you and God. As we conclude our discussion of Ezekiel 15 & 16 in this post and the next, we have already seen how desperately God wants to be connected with us.
In the previous post we talked about the importance of atonement, and how atonement makes it possible for us to have a connection with God. As we think about how God’s atonement leads to the transformation of our lives, I remembered something Jesus once taught. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus was thinking about Ezekiel 15 when Jesus taught about the vine and the branches in John 15. Read verses John 15:1-8.
See the parallel between Ezekiel 15, which we studied here and here this week, and John 15? Wood from the vine that is no longer bearing fruit gets pruned. In verse 6 we see the closest parallel to the point that God is making in Ezekiel 15. Jesus says in John 15:6 that those branches which no longer bear fruit are not only cut off, but they wither and die and are good for nothing except to be burned. This is the very point God made in Ezekiel 15. In Ezekiel’s day, the people of Jerusalem were not bearing fruit; they were like grape wood that is not making grapes, and therefore they are only good for kindling.
The principle in both passages is that God desires to be connected to his people so that his life-giving power will flow from himself to his people, and they will flourish and bear fruit. This is the same principle in Ezekiel 16, which we studied here and here. The queen becomes, out of her free will, disconnected from her king, and her life is the opposite of flourishing.
God wants to be connected to his people so that his people can experience his power, flourish and bear fruit. What, then, will it look like for us to be people who are connected to God?
The first way we often answer that question is worship services. Our hearts desire is that our church family gathers to worship and connect with God together. That is important and inspiring. But we need to think about connection with God beyond the 1-2 hours we participate in gathered worship. We also seek to be people who connect with God throughout the rest of the week.
Jesus in John 15:4 describes connecting with God as remaining or abiding. Another word we could use is “Stay.” Stay with God. Stay connected to God. How do we stay connected to God throughout the hours and days of our busy lives?
Maybe Jesus means that we need to believe in him. No doubt, especially in the Gospel of John, we read Jesus calling us to believe in him. That is important. But belief does not guarantee connection with God. James the brother of Jesus writes in chapter 2 of his letter than even the demons believe, and of course they are not connected to or staying with God. So belief must move to action. We do something about our belief. In John 15, I highly doubt that Jesus is talking about belief when he says, “Remain in me.” What do we do to stay connected to God, to remain in him?
We’ll talk about some practical ideas in the next post.