The Difference Between For and With

October 17, 2014

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. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.”—John 15:4-5 (CEB)

These words from Jesus have always been tricky. They sound pleasant. They look good on flowery greeting cards of encouragement and idyllic framed art with a sunset-lit mountain and majestic eagles. They aren’t—however—super easy to live into.

Thus it is for much of the American expression of Christianity that we opt to do things for God as opposed to viewing ministry, and life for that matter, as an invitation to be with Him.

It’s no wonder than that we run ourselves (yours truly included) ragged while wondering if we somehow have overlooked the fruit that Jesus spoke of—or as more often the case projecting the illusion of fruit upon barren branches.

Last night on our bicycle ministry, God worked through our friend Drew to illustrate the truth of Jesus’ words in stunning fashion.

It was a year ago that we met Drew on the stoop of a porch that our group frequently rode to. We would stop by, grill out, talk about life, read Scripture and pray. One thing that was apparent, Drew was an incredibly intelligent and articulate man with humor and joy. Yet, there was a hesitancy in him to commit to following Jesus. As is the case with many of us, there were simply areas in Drew’s life that he wasn’t willing to turn over to Jesus.

Last night, that all changed.

We gathered around the same spot as we had for years. We fired up our grill, threw some hot dogs on, and just began hanging out and dialoguing with our friends. Nothing out of the ordinary, but then Drew came over.

As we were talking about work and different opportunities in life, he mentioned that he was flying out of town for work and would appreciate a prayer for his travels. I told that I would love to pray for him, and asked if there was anything else I could pray for. He hesitated before saying that he wished to become clean. “I want to be a better man,” he said. I replied with some badly pieced together quote from C.S. Lewis, “Jesus doesn’t want to make you a better man Drew,” I continued “He wants to make you a new man.”

We began to talk through the passages of Jesus inviting us to turn from the destructive paths we find ourselves on, and instead follow Him. “Nah, I’m just not ready for that sort of commitment…it’s just too scary,” he said.

I told him I understood where he was coming from and obliged to pray for his travels. Shortly after, I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit for me to shut up and allow Him to speak to Drew’s heart. So I said, “Drew, I’m just gonna be silent and let Jesus speak to your heart.” A minute passed and Drew burst into tears. He began saying “I’m sorry Jesus! Come save me!” Over and over he repeated “Help me Jesus, Help me!” Myself and two friends simply kept hands of love and support on his shoulders and prayed as he had one of the most raw and honest conversations with God that I’ve ever had the privilege to hear. He ended his prayer and we hugged. Throughout the rest of the night, I watched as he made his way from person to person to tell them of the new life through Jesus that he just received. He struggled to find words to capture the life-changing experience of the Holy Spirit that he just encountered.

In looking back on last night, I am amazed by God and His faithfulness to His people and His word. I simply remained in Christ and created the space for Him to do His thing. I have often approached serving Him as an act of lacing up my boots to go to work for Him. But I’ve learned that it simply is not the case. He desires for us to be with Him. Will there be work? Absolutely. But rather than being something we begrudgingly do out of duty, I’ve come to view ministry more like a “take your child to work day” with Jesus. 

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