I am not a Bible scholar. Ok, there. I got that off my chest. I grew up memorizing a weekly Bible verse, I went to church camp, I competed in Bible Bowls, I could sing the books of the Bible frontwards and backwards…and I’m still not a Bible scholar. But since I have made an honest, committed effort (with God’s guidance and help) to remain in the Word through daily Bible study, I have gained so much! Before I go any further, I understand that everything is relative. The things I am starting to glean from the Word are not earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination. But, they are small things that I believe God wants me to learn – on my own – as I study each day. All of that was a set-up to share a new understanding I gained while reading in the gospel of John this week. John 12:31 says “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Growing up in youth group we sang a song with this verse (I don’t think I ever knew exactly where it was located in the Bible). But when we sang the song I understood it to mean when Christ was lifted up to Heaven to be with God – men (people) would follow Him. As I read it now – and really think about it, the meaning has changed. Jesus, when speaking of being lifted up, is not talking about his ascension to be with God, but rather he is talking about being lifted up on the cross. As a form of execution, being crucified on the cross was an excruciating form of torture meant to bring great shame to the criminal. But that does not hold true for Jesus. When he was lifted up (on the cross) it was to bring glory to God by fulfilling his wondrous plan of salvation for humanity. It was not to draw shame and ridicule and guilt. It was to draw ALL to him. Because while NONE of us are worthy, ALL of us were included in this plan to cleanse us. He was lifted up and sacrificed in order to complete God’s plan and to draw all to Him to receive the beautiful, undeserved gift of salvation.
Today is my first day of summer break. Going to bed last night was so nice. I wasn’t worrying about lesson plans, or meetings, or tests. I was only worried about what I would be doing with my first day off. However, my alarm was still set or the same time as always…4:20am. Why? Everyday that Brian and I have been married, we have made it part of our daily routine to start our day with God. We spend time drinking coffee, reading our daily devotional, and then jumping into the Word. This is a non-negotiable for us. Now, please know that I am not tooting my own horn, or patting us on the backs. I’m really just trying to share how this time in the Word has completely changed my heart, my mind. my relationship. and my life. It is not enough to rely on the hour a week in church to be your time studying or learning. Our walk with God requires that we spend time with Him in His word every day. Jesus says in John 8:31 “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.” Jesus’ teachings are so plentiful and numerous and there is so much to be learned from the many parables He taught. But we must “remain” in the Word. The word remain shows up over and over in the Bible, especially in the book of John. In chapter 15 Jesus uses the image of a vine and the branches. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” So not only do we spend time or “stay” in the word, but we are to “remain” in Jesus! And the most amazing and reassuring promise, if we dwell, or abide, or stay in Him…He will dwell, abide, and stay in us. It’s such a comforting thought to know that Jesus will dwell in us. We can dwell in Him in many ways. Prayer, study, reading His word, surrounding ourselves with people who are like-minded and who will build us up and encourage us. And our lives will show that He is in us. “Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). For me, I know that as I spend time with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, He is in me and I am in Him…and the peace that comes from that time, is well worth the sacrifice of a little sleep.