By Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson is a native of Pennsylvania, and is an ordained minister and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (2006) where he received his Theological Masters degree (Th.M). Keith pastors a church in the Villages, Florida, while his wife, Patti, serves on the Care for Pastors team. They have three grown children. When not serving, they escape to their favorite place on earth; the beach.

    The One Word That Will Define This New Year

    Wednesday, January 31, 2024

    Several years ago, my wife asked me to join her in selecting one significant, character-building, life-challenging word for the New Year. Just one? I don’t think I can pick just one. But I did it. Just to make her happy. Eventually, I came to like the idea. I must admit I love the clarity that simplicity offers. One word to chew on. One word to define, redefine, and apply again and again.

    My word for this year is a significant word. A crucial word for every Christian. It is among the most important of words for any Christian from the baby Christian to the seasoned believer, including the new attendee, the seasoned Pastor, and everyone in between. It applies to us all. The significance of this word is highlighted by Jesus’ timing. It was His last night before the Cross that He spoke it to His disciples in an intimate conversation. It is recorded for us in John chapter 15. The word is “Abide.”

    We all know that the final words of a dying man are significant. How much more are Jesus’ words carefully chosen and delivered at just the right time for full and lasting impact. Just so we don’t miss it, Jesus repeated the word ten times in eleven verses. Jesus, the master teacher knows that repetition is the mother of learning and memory too.

    As I think about it, Jesus’ first instruction to His disciples was “come to me”. After they had heard Him, He said, “Follow me” and “Believe in me.” In other words, trust me. Now as He was wrapping up His earthly ministry, He delivered another command, “abide in me”.

    It is not a complicated word. We know that it means, remain. So, in context, it means for us to remain with Jesus. Hang out with Jesus, walk with Him, talk with Him, let Him rub off on us. The better we know Him, the more we will love Him. The more we love Him the more we will obey Him. The Apostle Paul declares that we are ambassadors for Christ. We are His representatives spreading the aroma of Christ. The only way we can do that effectively is by knowing Him intimately. And we can’t know Him from a distance. We must abide with Him.

    There was a time when I thought, I’m a pastor, I study His Word, I teach His Word, I carry out God’s work–eight days a week. I abide all the time. But that was not true. The demands and busyness of ministry constantly compete for my time. In other words, if I am not intentional, my personal time with the Lord gets pushed aside. Pretty soon I’m so busy feeding others, that I am not feeding myself. It’s like I begin working FOR Jesus and not WITH Him. I don’t think I am the only one. It’s times like this that I feel dry. I am working hard, but there’s little satisfaction, little joy, and not much fruit. Have you been there? Didn’t Jesus say, “apart from Me you can do nothing”?

    How do we abide?

    As pastors, we carry a heavy burden; teaching, shepherding, counseling, caring and we do it 24/7. People who truly understand the burden ask me, how do you do it? The answer is simple: without Him, I can’t, and without Him, I don’t want to. So back to my word for the New Year – abide.

    How can we tell if we are abiding? Jesus gives the answer in John 15. In a word, “fruit”. Jesus mentions four levels of fruit; there’s no fruit, fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. I want to be in the “much fruit” category. Don’t you?

    So, this year I plan to keep the word abide in front of me, to remind me to walk with Jesus. When I am tempted to compromise or think too highly of myself or a myriad of other temptations and challenges, I want to have the confidence that I am so close that I can hear His whisper.

    So, how can we remind ourselves daily to abide? I mention one creative way. Some years ago, my daughter called me from college to ask my permission to get a tattoo. At that time, they were not as popular as they are now. My first thought was, no way! She was nineteen, in ten years she may have regrets. Reluctantly, I asked her what kind of tattoo and where she planned to wear it. Her answer blew me away. She said, “Daddy, I want a tattoo on my foot that reads “Meinate” (μείνητε) which is the Greek aorist command in John 15:4 for “abide”. She said “I want a constant reminder to walk with Jesus daily.”

    My answer was brief, “I love it”.

    You and I know what this country really needs is Jesus. Let’s you and I start a movement of abiders. Let’s commit together to abide and walk closer with Jesus this year. Who knows, Jesus may instigate a revival even through us. Will you join me?

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