“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23).
Arrggh! … Hmmm! … Grape! … Arrggh! … Hmmm! … Grape!
That’s the sound of a grape vine trying to make grapes.
What? Grape vines don’t make grapes by trying, you say? Yes, of course, you’re right. Even if the grape vine tried its hardest, it would not be able to produce grapes. Grape vines make grapes by receiving soil, water, and nutrients—not by trying to make grapes.
We are like God’s plants. There’s nothing that we can do to nourish ourselves and make ourselves grow. We can’t grow spiritually by thinking or by worrying or by trying. The only way we can grow is by receiving the things God has provided for our growth, just like the grape vine grows by receiving sunshine, water, and nutrients.
Just as nature provides these things for plants, Jesus wants to give you and me everything we need to thrive in Him. The Bible calls Jesus “the Sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2), “the dew unto Israel” (Hosea 14:5), and “the bread of God” (John 6:33). Just as surely as we receive the gifts that Jesus wants to give us, we will grow to be like Him, noble men whose characters reflect His.
Jesus talked specifically about grapevines in John 15. He said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. … without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4, 5). It’s only by abiding in Jesus that we have any hope of growing spiritually. There is no part of our journey we can travel successfully without Jesus.
But how do we abide? To abide means to dwell, to live. The Bible tells us that “the just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38). So, to abide means to continue in the faith that we first exercised in order to come to Jesus. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Colossians 2:6).
To abide in Jesus is to continue being converted every moment of every day. We must keep giving Him everything—our heart, will, and service. Then, we must keep taking everything—Jesus’ presence, clean character, strength to resist temptation, and all the other blessings He promises.
This abiding must begin every morning before anything else. Ask God to direct you, to use you in His service, and to stay with you all day. As you do this, He will make you more like Him.
When we abide in Jesus every day, trusting Him to provide everything we need, we will experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). We won’t always feel some amazing emotion, but we won’t be stressed or worried because we are trusting in Jesus instead of relying on ourselves.
“Come unto me, … and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This rest isn’t laziness. In the very next verse Jesus combines His invitation to rest with an invitation to work: “Take my yoke upon you, … and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29). The person who has found the most rest in Jesus is the very same person who is the most earnest in working for Him.
Another facet of abiding in Jesus is thinking about Him—His purity, His power, His promises, His passionate love—instead of ourselves and all the ways we mess up. It’s by focusing on Jesus—on loving Him, copying Him, depending on Him—that we are made like Him.
When I focus on myself, I disconnect myself from Jesus, the source of strength and life. Because of this, Satan does everything he can possibly think of to tempt us to think about ourselves and not about Jesus. When he succeeds, we are prevented from abiding in Jesus.
Satan has many ways of distracting us. He’ll tempt us with sinful pleasures. He’ll bring about trouble and sorrow. He’ll point out the faults and inconsistencies of others. He’ll taunt us with our own weaknesses and failings.
Our answer to every one of these challenges must be to focus even more on Jesus. Give yourself to Jesus. Trust Him. Talk about Him. Think about Him. Forget about yourself and your worries. Claim God’s promise: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). When you do this, Jesus will make absolutely sure that you are victorious.
When Jesus became a man, He connected Himself to you so tightly that the only thing that can separate you from Him is your choice. Satan will do everything in his power to induce you to choose to separate from Jesus. That’s why it is so important that we pray that Jesus will help us not to choose another master, because we are always free to do this. But if we stay focused on Jesus, He will protect us. We are safe. By beholding Jesus, we “are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It was by looking to Jesus that the disciples, just as sinful as we are, were made like Him. By spending time with Jesus, John went from being selfish, bold, and rash to loving, mild, and thoughtful. And Jesus wants to do the very same thing for us when we spend time with Him. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20).
What a privilege we have! When we abide in Jesus, He will work in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Every day we will become more and more like Him!