Who is Jesus speaking to here? His disciples. Jesus is saying to them, on His final night with them before His arrest, that apart from abiding (meaning living in or dwelling) in Him they will be able to do nothing. To illustrate this he uses the metaphor of a branch and a vine. A branch, Jesus says, apart from a vine is lifeless, fruitless. What happens to a branch when it's disconnected from the vine? It withers and dies. So Jesus is saying to His disciples that just as a branch cannot live and bear fruit apart from the vine, neither can you apart from me.
So how does Scripture say that we abide in Jesus? Well, we abide in Jesus through abiding in His love (John 15:9), keeping His commandments (15:10), loving one another (1 John 4:12), and by abiding in His word. Jesus says, in John 8:31,“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” We see in Scripture that there are various ways that we abide in Jesus. But a way that is very important for having our branch intimately joined to His vine is by abiding in His word. I would love for 2016 to be a year in which we abide in God's Word together.
There's few better ways for us to grow as Christians than by feeding on the words of Scripture. And I'd like to challenge us in 2016 to do just that. I'm asking that we as a community read the New Testament twice in this new year. If we read 2 chapters a day, 5 days a week, then we will read the New Testament twice together in one year's time. I will send out a bi-weekly reading list of chapters for that two weeks. Each week's reading will be for 5 days, giving us two days a week to make up reading that we might have missed. I will also send out questions for us to focus on that might help facilitate a deeper engagement with our readings, and some prayer guidance that can help prepare our hearts before engaging with the words of Scripture.
This reading program is to be seen as a start. I would like us to be grounded in this new year in the gospel story of Christ that the New Testament so powerfully gives us. If this is as much as you read in Scripture in 2016 then great. Please feel free though to read as much of the Old Testament and New Testament as you'd like. But I would like us to at least be following the weekly reading plan and to finish the New Testament twice in 2016 together. I'm also hoping that you will find friends and family at our church to encourage, support, and share insights with as you go through the readings.
So, friends, will you take on this adventure in God's Word with me in 2016? Our beginning date will be Monday, January 11. It is my prayer that the reading plans are light enough that everyone in our church can participate and experience the spiritual growth that comes through abiding in God's Word. I'm looking forward to taking this journey with you and seeing all the fruit and life that our branches will produce by abiding in the Vine.