Do Stuff That Matters
This post is a follow-up to last week’s post. Be sure to read that one first!
In my last post, we explored who we are in Christ, and as people created in the image of God. I didn’t go as in-depth as I wanted to, because those topics could be discussed and thought about and written about again and again. Plus, I wanted to leave some room for people to explore those truths on their own, which I’m in the ongoing process of doing myself.
If you haven’t read that post, please go read it, as this is mean to be a follow-up. Those truths are foundational, I think, to understanding who we are and our purpose in life. That being said, humans were created with a mission. We discussed on how that idea of work and mission has been skewed, and turned into the place we try to find our worth. But instead, those things are to flow from our identity in Christ.
We can do stuff that matters. But our worth doesn’t come from doing stuff that matters. Doing stuff that matters comes from knowing the one who matters most, and finding worth in Him.
How to do stuff that actually matters
In John chapter 15, Jesus is giving his last discourse to His disciples over dinner. It’s a somber time, and a lot is about to happen that will change the world forever within the next couple of hours. He spends a good amount of time, the first ten verses of chapter 15, reminding the disciples of what to do.
“Abide in me and I in you.” 
Dwell on Jesus’ words. Dwell in His presence. Let Him dwell in you. Be united with Christ.
He later says that you have to be abiding in Him, because apart from Him you can do nothing. 
And I don’t think that’s a “you won’t be capable of feeding yourself” nothing. No I think it’s worse than that. It’s more of a “Nothing you’ll work for matters” nothing.
If you aren’t intimately connected to Christ, if you aren’t abiding in His words and His presence, then nothing you do will matter. You and your deeds will wither and dry up. They’ll be tossed aside, into the fire (along with you, if you aren’t abiding. Ouch). 
All the community service. All of the work. All of the studying. All of the ministries you were a part of at Church. All of the projects. All of it amounts to nothing.
But, if you abide in Him, He says you will bear much fruit 
You will be like a ripe branch, constantly producing good fruit. The things you accomplish will be full of meaning. They will matter. And this is because everything you do, you will do in line with Christ’s will and Christ’s heart.
You can’t bear that fruit alone.You have to be attached to the vine, the source of life, the nutrients-giver, AKA Jesus. 
God is putting the world back together. He’s recreating it all. And everything we do and say is either in line with that, or it’s just contributing to the muck.
So our concern shouldn’t be how much we can do, or what we should do, so much as it is who we are, and who we are doing it all for.
So if you aren’t abiding, then nothing you do matters. But if you are abiding, then everything you do matters.
All the projects. All the school assignments. All of the ministries. All your daily interactions. All the relationships. All the giving. Everything matters because everything is being done in Christ. Everything is for God’s glory. You’re working as for the Lord [^Colossians 3:23]
Are you building your kingdom or His?
Are you constantly worrying about your next paycheck, your retirement, graduation, your classes, and where your next meal will come from?
Or are you seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness?
He promised that if you seek that first, then everything else you need will be provided. 
If we truly identify ourselves with Christ, if we are in Christ, then the overflow from participating in that relationship with God will be those fruits that Jesus is telling His disciples about.
If you love God, you’ll obey Him. You’ll listen to Him.
You’ll find pleasure in doing the things He asks of us, and being the people He created us to be.
Obedience for better or for worse…
So often, I think Christians and non-Christians alike think of obedience to God as this way of paying your dues to the big man in the sky.
It’s like putting your time in so you can make sure your seat is saved in heaven.
But eternal life is knowing God and Jesus, who He sent, like Jesus says in John 17:3.
Participating in that ‘divine relationship’ with Jesus and God is our purpose, and our eternity. That’s not just saved for when we die, or when Jesus comes back, that starts now.
But we get the idea that we can genuinely love God and continually be terrible at following Him. So long as every once in a while, we try really hard to be our best, to let God know we still care about getting into heaven, it’s all good right?
“God, I know I’ve been sinning a lot lately. But I’m going to try and not to for a long while, so don’t give up my seat. I still care about my salvation.”
And that’s how we treat the idea of obedience, and doing things for God. It’s like an obligation we fulfill to secure our eternal future, or demonstrate that we still have faith.
But the way of Jesus’ obedience is in perfect relationship to His father. He’s always praying. He takes a lot of alone time to be with God, and takes great pleasure in obeying God.
In the high priestly prayer in John 17, even when He is so afraid of what God’s will is for His future (dying on the cross), He asks for God’s will, instead of His own.
Jesus knows that the will of the father is the best thing for Him and Us.
He loves His father deeply. He is thankful for the bread, the birds, the sea, His disciples, and all the good gifts God has given Him. He’s grateful for God’s faithfulness. He’s so incredibly grateful and willing to do the will of His Father because He knows how good God is.
He is God, and He is the embodiment of that goodness. His life is the testament of that goodness.
Genuine love and the formulas we use instead.
And so, for us, as adopted sons and daughters, our obedience is to stem from love. Later on in John 15, Jesus says “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”
Ouch. There’s really no getting around that.
The truth is, this has always been God’s heart. He wants you to so deeply love Him.
He wants your love for Him to reflect His unrelenting love for you.
Jesus elsewhere says that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and body.
Moses says the same thing in Deuteronomy 6.
Obedience is to stem from your deep love for God. And Jesus is pretty blunt. If you’re not obeying, that’s reflective of your love for God.
It’s not some formula to become a better Christian, or have God love you more, or become more obedient. We’re always trying to formulate Christian spirituality. But our faith is centered on a personal being. You can’t formulate God.
Trying to formulate God is trying to tell God who to be. It’s like trying to be God’s god. That’s scary.
There’s no 12 steps to obedience, or 5 sure-fire ways to do more for Jesus, or have a stronger faith. We’re interacting with a real, living God, as a real, messy, broken human. Nothing is as clean-cut as we want it to be.
But it’s so much more beautiful that way. Truly living like Jesus, living obediently, is the outworking of a deep, resounding love. It’s raw emotion transforming into action, devotion becoming practice.
That’s why this deep devotion, this remaining, this abiding in Jesus is where we bear fruit.
We’re being led and guided by the God of the universe, the one who is capable of coordinating the stars, and galaxies. The one who can calm storms with a word. The one who orchestrates creation, and fronts the grand re-creation, the redemption of the world.
He’s given you every good thing in your life. Every gift. Every talent. Every moment of joy, and moment of growth. Every good relationship. Every comfort. He allows for your every breath.
And He sought you, on that cross. He sought to forgive you, and make you new. He seeks to renew you, and have you rightly in relationship with Him.
That is true love. To lay down one’s life for one’s friends 
If you abide in Jesus, and if you genuinely trust Him. If you truly, out of the depths of your heart, have a love brewing for God, you will naturally obey. It won’t be like swallowing cough syrup. It will be what you want to do.
You will be kind and merciful because you want to.
You will give and give because you want to.
You will lead a pure life because you want to.
You will help the orphan, and widow, and homeless because you want to.
Because you will find yourself intimately connected to Jesus, dwelling in His presence, soaking up His love and His goodness. Your heart will overflow with the astounding joy and loveliness and beauty of God.
You will long for His return.
And you will build His kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.
You will do amazing things, because Jesus will be doing amazing things with you.
So I urge you to dig into your heart. What areas are you and I withholding from God? Where does our disobedience stem from? Because behind that, there is something we aren’t trusting God with. There’s something stopping us from loving God as we ought to.
I’ve found that bringing those things into the light is incredibly healing. I hope you’ll join me, and step into the light. I hope you find yourself more in love with Jesus than ever before, and utterly astounded by His goodness.
I hope you lead a life of thankfulness, and loveliness in Christ.
I hope you obey, because you want to obey, because you so deeply love the God who first loved you.
- John 15:1-8 ↩
- Verse 5 ↩
- Verse 7 ↩
- Verse 2, 5, and pretty much the whole passage. ↩
- Verse 2. ↩
- Matthew 6:33. The trick here is to understand that what we truly need, and what we think we need (AKA, what we really want) are sometimes completely different things. ↩
- John 15:13 ↩