The Sweet Sufficiency of Jesus

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You know, the further I travel along this Christ-following journey, the more I’m persuaded there’s just one overwhelming priority for the Bride of Christ in this late hour.

There is no shortage of prophetic voices proclaiming numerous messages in the name of Christ: messages about the end times, spiritual warfare, cities and nations, world events, the economy, and other things that seek to occupy our minds and thoughts. But unless those prophetic messages have been received and wrestled with in the furnace of God’s consuming love they do little more than add more noise into the confusing chaos of the world around us.

Like many other Christ followers who watch and pray, I am aware of the signs of the times, the clash of the Kingdom of God with earthly kingdoms currently taking place. Beyond that watchfulness, though, there is an even deeper conviction that the Spirit is calling the Bride into one great and final commission – to be the bearers of Christ’s perfect love even as we walk among the bleeding ruins of this fallen humanity.

But how do we manifest to the world what we so often fail to manifest even to our fellow believers?

In His last hours with His disciples, Jesus steered the conversation to tell them He was about to leave them, and yet not leave them.

‘He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.’

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ (Jn. 14:19-22)

The question being asked by one of the disciples back then was obvious. Lord, how will this work? It’s still obvious. Lord, how does this work?

Earlier Jesus had given them the commandment to love one another in the exact same way He had loved them (Jn. 13:34). His commandment has not changed.  But then, as now, His followers struggled to love as He loves.

Like those first Christ followers, we are pre-disposed to legalism. Legalism is in our fallen nature as water is in the ocean. Our tendency to legalism is the fruit of the wrong tree. So when we read the word ‘commandment’ we immediately assume this is something we ourselves must fulfil if we are to please God.

Jesus knew about this.

He kept the conversation going. ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.’ ( Jn. 15:4-5)

To paraphrase: This is how you do it, my friends. You abide in Me, because unless you do so, you can neither love one another nor do anything else for Me.

It’s a rather foreign concept to us, this ‘abiding’. This is a world where love affairs are carried on via Facebook, business deals can be sealed or lost on mobile phones, and our idea of how to conduct a relationship might be shaped by reality TV shows. In such a context ‘abide in Me’ sounds like something belonging to a long forgotten time when knights rode white horses and maidens played harpsichords.

Though we may understand ‘abiding’ in the more modern terms of ‘remain with’ or ‘live with’, the concept actually being conveyed here is somewhat deeper than just dwelling with someone. It means to ‘continue to be present’.   Not only does Jesus tell us we need to ‘continue to be present’ with Him, He commits Himself to ‘continue to be present’ with each one of us.

This is a two way deal. It is not simply about us, as branches, drawing from Christ, but about Christ, as the vine, the life source, connecting to us in such a way that His life force flows continually to us. This is something He has covenanted with us to do.

So Jesus was telling them: Forget about the way you’ve done things before. This is a new kind of commandment. You simply draw from Me and I will enable you to do that which I require of you.

The disciples had a bit of identity confusion going on. I’ve suffered unnecessarily from the same identity confusion and I’d lay odds you probably have also. So Jesus spelled it out very plainly for them: He is the vine, we are the branches. Legalism deceives us into believing the opposite.

This is how legalism works: if I do this, this and this, and continue doing it, then I will bring forth fruit and I will please God. This faulty belief makes us the vine, not the branch.

This is how the New Covenant works: I am not the Vine, I am merely the branch, who can do nothing unless I am continually present in the Vine. The Vine has undertaken to provide all I need to bear fruit pleasing to God. He doesn’t ask me to be the Vine, He simply requires me to rest in the knowledge that He is the Vine and He is sufficient to make me fruitful.

Jesus shifted their focus from legalism to grace. He turned the order around. This loving one another in the same manner as He had loved them could only be manifested as they ‘continued to be present’ with Him, and He with them. And as we know, this new journey He was initiating for them would be a lifelong one.

So it is with us.

The truth is, if we haven’t already discovered it, we are utterly incapable of loving one another as Jesus loves us. So our usual solution is to try, and try harder, and fail, and beat ourselves up over it, and try harder again. Trust me, I am someone who has spent a good portion of my life perfecting the art of failing to love others as Jesus loves me.

Jesus knows about this too.

He is asking us, above all other ministry, above whatever other spiritual or secular responsibilities we may carry, to love as He loves – first with one another, then outflowing to the world around us.

As much as I want it to be otherwise, I confess I cannot love you as Christ loves you. But if I am sincere about following Him, there is something I can do about this conundrum. I can seek to abide, to be ‘continually present with Him’ and allow Him to be ‘continually present’ with me. But even that pursuit I can easily turn into law.   Everything that I read in the Bible, if I am not reading or hearing from a place of rest and revelation, I will read through the lens of law, for this is my default.

Jesus knows that apart from His being ‘continually present with us’ we are hard wired to law. This is why the Holy Spirit was sent to us – to make us gracekeepers instead of lawkeepers.

In His conversation with His disciples on that fateful night, Jesus answered the question hanging in the air. He revealed the way it works. It works because the commandment is fulfilled out of the abiding, not because the abiding is fulfilled out of the commandment. Please go back and read that last sentence again. Put simply, if we are to love as He desires us to love, we must first abide as He desires us to abide.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus reversed the order. We will finally love as He loves when we ‘get it’ that He is our sufficiency. In. All. Things.

Love is our mission. Abiding is our modus operendi. The Spirit is our agency. Jesus is our sufficiency. We can do nothing else and we can do nothing otherwise.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.



Categories: Life in Christ, The Bride of Christ, Words of Grace and Truth

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24 replies

  1. Hi there Cheryl, this post shares such a revelation of freedom for the church, to know that we don’t have to try and love others out of our own love but that Christ’s perfect love can love others through us, and we are only called to abide in Him. What He can do by us simply being branches, is amazing and His perfect design. Thank you for allowing me to share a link to my own blog post on the same topic which I hope only helps to solidify what you have said. This is a great word of freedom for the Bride! For those who are interested, the post can be found here at http://donnaleebatty.com/2015/07/31/i-cannot-love-you/ or http://www.drawingfromthewell.org. Thank you Cheryl. 🙂

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  2. Reblogged this on Lillie-Put and commented:
    A must read for all who seek Christ in these days!

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  3. Excellent post Cheryl.

    A power tool, however effective, will eventually stop functioning unless it sits on a charger for a time. Quietly resting on the source of its power, the tool appears to be useless. However, once fully charged, the tool can once again serve its intended purpose, as it is now filled with the power it obtained while resting on the charger.

    When we turn inward away from ourselves, unto Christ Who indwells us as God’s living Rest, we come away from such refreshing encounters with something that is of Him; His highest life, enabling us to live unto God. Of ourselves we will accomplish nothing of any eternal value apart from abiding in the One Who abides in us. Intimate communion with Christ, resulting in vital union with His Spirit, enables us to enter into God’s rest. Rest in His finished work.

    Thank you again Sister

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “Everything that I read in the Bible, if I am not reading or hearing from a place of rest and revelation, I will read through the lens of law, for this is my default.”

    Oh, Cheryl, what a timely word! I have a daughter who is in a very legalistic “cult”. She just had her second child and my husband and I can’t see the grandbabies unless we only have 90 days to live… I struggle in my heart with anger and hurt but the Lord is giving me grace to pray that they will know Jesus and the love He has for them; to be ready for that day…(also my daughter and her family)

    “Not only does Jesus tell us we need to ‘continue to be present’ with Him, He commits Himself to ‘continue to be present’ with each one of us.”

    Learning to be present,

    Pamela Matthews

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  5. Oh this is good! The church needs to hear this in these hours! May I reblog this Chery?

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  6. Thanks again for your writings Cheryl. I wrote this piece and after reading the following piece this morning:

    I believe you are so spot on with the idea of hero worship and with the “Hall of Faith” and the notion that you cannot find anyone in the Old Testament whose heralded works were not of God as shown by the plethora of things they did of themselves.

    One of the great things I had to overcome from my religious upbringing was the idea that the Apostles were not just men. I feel this notion, that they are more than men who are learning just like us, comes from the falling of the Holy Spirit on them in the Book of Acts.

    This event is oft treated as one that makes everything that they do perfect, and makes them a walking “New Testament Bible” (which of course did not exist in their lives nor did any writer of any book, or dare I say epistle, ever dream such a thing would ever exist). The fact is that this event had to happen to cover up these imperfect men and make them capable of what the Holy Spirit would do.

    I believe the book of Acts is the story of primarily two people, Peter and Paul. Both of these men are treated as gods by religion, but in Acts, both are struggling mightily to find any sense of the peace that Jesus left for them.

    The bulk of the book is about Paul, and the amount of events is rich, but I equate it to one thing inside Paul. Paul is a man called to Rome, to preach, but he is a man set on returning to Jerusalem to make amends. The Spirit constantly calls Paul away from his venture to Jerusalem, this voice is louder and louder until he is arrested, and only by the captivity of God, forced to go to Rome.

    I believe Paul heard the great dissertation given by Stephan, a man whose murder he was an accomplice to. His desire, his pride, and his vanity was set in going back to his old pals, his mentor Gamaliel, and the nation he loved (much as an American drowns himself in patriotism). Well Paul does get back to Jerusalem, several time, for several reasons, his last trip he finally had his moment to give that speech.

    Paul’s speech barely gets started, but he has no Stephan moment, but his trail to Rome is now going to stink when he could have ridden their first class. But it must stink, so that he understands that God loves him and that His plan is always the plan of peace. A close on this in a bit.

    Peter is much the same, always wanting to lead, always wanting fame, always wanting to show righteousness, but being anything but that. But despite all his failures, the Holy Spirit falls on Peter in Acts. However it is not to make Peter “perfect,” but rather to start the ministry of Jesus to all the world. Peter heals, Peter gives a dissertation of God to those who are supposed to be of the academy of God. Oh, but Peter is still Peter.

    I feel the following is one of the most misunderstood excerpts in the entire Bible, the Acts 5 events of Ananias and Sapphira. These two folks decide to do what is being done by others, sell their property and give the proceeds to “the church.” However, like I would have done, they held some back, in case this whole thing does not pan out. But rather than just say that, they claim that what they are giving is the full amount (in other words they are acting like “all-in” Christians).

    It is interesting to note that Ananias never says anything, they guy is just instantly accused! It seems Peter has heard about this plan, or knew how much the land was worth (by man or the Holy Spirit—who knows). Peter decrees new laws about lying to the Holy Spirit and when something is yours and then not yours. Wow! In any event, Peter lays judgment down and then next thing to go down is Annanias!

    It is interesting to note that the name Ananias means “The Lord (YHVH) is Gracious.” Well, it appears that Peter just killed God’s Grace, and the fruit of it is stated right there for us all, “and great fear came over all who heard of it.” Well Peter is just getting warmed up. The wife of God’s Grace shows up, her name is Sapphira (lapis lazuli), the Old Testament symbol of heaven, of sky, of deity, of the bright blue gem on the breast plate of our High Priest. Yup, Peter condemns and the gates to heaven are closed.

    The results of Peter’s work are stark, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.” What happend to Jesus’ saying “fear not?” Peter has left the building!

    Immediately after this Peter’s road seems to change, he is imprisoned, and then freed. But much like in the Gospel of John, Peter seems to head to the sea, and he hangs out with a dude there. My goodness, the dude has a name like Peter’s old one (Simon) and he is a tanner (a worker of the flesh). There, by the sea (almost always the sign of the Gentiles or of the heathen) Peter learns in a dream with God.

    I could write pages on this story, but in summary, Peter first pride-fully declares that nothing unclean has ever entered his mouth (plenty has come out though). Then after the message from God about all being clean, and after Cornelius is baptized in the Holy Spirit (and thus Jesus), Peter does what? He declares that they all need to be baptized with water, his baptism, a meaningless event after your are Baptized in the Holy Spirit (if you do not believe me then check out what John the Baptist says).

    This scripture is life saving to me, because it shows me that I am all messed up but so is and was Peter. My salvation is not in my perfection but in that of Jesus. It makes me yearn for him because I see how badly I need him. It frees me from fear because all things are in His hands, I can do nothing without Him.

    Peter recounts the story several times and there is much for the reader to catch there but I will finish with this. Another creation name shows up in Acts 15, the “Jerusalem Council.” The fight here is over circumcision. It is important because Circumcision is not birthed with Moses, no, but much further back, to the very start of the Hebrews, with their father Abraham. To take down Abraham is to abolish all the flesh they have left.

    Now Peter stands up, after a good tanning at the hands of the Lord. Peter’s final words in Acts are these, “why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” That very thing he killed in Chapter 5, the Grace of the Lord, he reestablishes in Acts 15.

    We do not hear from Peter again, for the story of Peter is done. Not a story about a church run by men, or a purported upside down crucifixion, but the work of a Church run by God. Peter is that finished work. (note that James cannot help himself but attempt to establish some laws, some way to control the church via legalism—I often hear James words taught and seldom Peters).

    The rest of the book will be about our brother Paul. What a trip he has ahead, but the book ends with what? With Paul being hung upside down, or mutilated, or creating a church hierarchy, or some super human event? No, Paul, after talking to Jesus on that sinking boat, again in the sea, is now where he was always supposed to be, in Rome. And Acts ends with this, “And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”

    Aww, he is attached to the Vine, and it feels so good. Many think that the book of Hebrews is not from Paul due to writing style (more like Luke’s) and because he does not do what he always did in his letters, address them with who he is.

    I believe that Jesus, who so loves Paul, let Paul write that dissertation to his beloved nation and brothers (the Hebrews), the one he wanted to give, the one he wanted to do more than Stephan with. And did he ever, is there any document that shows the entirety of the Hebrew people is in Jesus Christ? And what did Paul do, he left his name out of it, he had finally learned that announcing all he is not is of no use. Perhaps he even had Luke pen the piece intentionally. In any event, the glory was to Jesus and the finished work was Paul.

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    • Thankyou for sharing some interesting thoughts Rob. Much food for thought here, though I can’t say I agree with all your interpretations of scripture. I tend to think of the Book of Acts as the Acts of the Holy Spirit more than anything else, even though the book is called the Acts of the Apostles. As for the episode with Ananias and Sapphira, I’d disagree with you that Peter himself was responsible for either of their deaths. And Jesus did teach to fear God, which is the kind of fear I believe came about as a result. And did you know that Priscilla is also a contender as the writer of Hebrews? Now that would set the cat among the pigeons wouldn’t it! Thanks so much for sharing!
      CM

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  7. Again, my spirit is fed from reading here. Thank you, Cheryl!

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  8. Great post!
    This can’t be preached enough because it’s simply not preached enough! We witness so many who act out of their default nature to please God, but the truth is, they do this for the cause of self preservation; wanting their cake and eat it, too. No love can ever come from a Christian who abides first in their own interests. They can only imitate one who is good until it steps on the toes of their autonomy. Then, as you stated, it becomes clear who’s playing the part of the vine.

    There are many, though, who want to own this simple secret you’ve revealed here, yet we know how difficult it is to bear our own cross. Which is why the church is called to encourage one another, being patient in love as we work out our own salvation in the fellowship of His sufferings.
    You’ve certainly shared the desires of His heart in me, Cheryl.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful and timely word – thanks Cheryl. I’m going to reblog at Another Red Letter Day if you don’t mind.

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  10. Brilliant in its simplicity and clarity. Personally helpful. May I forward to others?

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  11. I am highly blessed by your Article. It’s a kind of a reminder calling us back to the most important and needed ingredient of Christianity – Abiding in the Christ.

    Sometimes things always get out of control for me simply because I swallow a lie that I am the Vine and not the Branch. As a result, I TRY to do that which ONLY the Vine (Christ) can do, like loving people. I love how you put it Cheryl, that we are called to be Gracekeepers and not Lawkeepers.

    May God help us to learn the secret of Abiding in Him so that we might be bold to say with Apostle Paul that “…in Him I live, in Him I move, in Him I have my being”. Agape to you dearest sister in CHRIST.

    Hosea Fwangmun
    Jos – Nigeria

    Liked by 1 person

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