It is only into the thirst of an empty soul that the streams of living waters flow. Ever thirsting is the secret of never thirsting. – Andrew Murray
When someone knows they’re dying soon, you listen carefully to whatever they say. Last words matter.
So it was when Jesus convened His last supper with the disciples. He knew His earthly ministry was ending, so He took advantage of His last meal with the Twelve to talk about what mattered most to Him.
One thing that clearly mattered was the way He wanted them to relate to Him after He’d physically left them. He began that topic with the illustration of Himself as the vine, His followers as branches, and His Father as the gardener (John 15:1-11.) Then a simple, profound commandment follows: “Abide in me. As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, no more can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:5)
That’s interesting. Before going into a lengthy explanation of what life was going to like for them once He’d departed (John 16 and John 17) He lays a groundwork for discipleship living by saying, in essence, ‘First things first. Abide in me or you can’t bear fruit.’ Abiding was also needful, He said, for answered prayer (John 15:7) and to glorify God through genuine fruit bearing. (John 15:8) So the commandment to abide in Christ is a pre-requisite for following Him.
“Abide” according to Strong’s concordance, means among other things to remain with/within. I’m instructed, then, to remain in Him; a fairly subjective concept that’s not easily defined. But following what I call the ABC’s of abiding can help.
A – Awareness
Abiding is largely a state of mind, an awareness that God is present and accessible to me, inside me and around me, and always wanting to be close. “The light of the body is the eye,” Jesus said (Matthew 6:22), meaning that we are hugely affected by what we focus on. When I love God with my mind, I stay aware of His nearness and love, and develop the habit of thinking of Him, His nature, and His gracious history with me. So much, then, starts with the discipline of the mind.
B – Bonding
In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus is being entertained in Mary and Martha’s home. Mary chooses primarily to sit at His feet during the visit, while Martha stresses incessantly about being a good hostess, so Jesus reminds her that while it’s well and good to be busy for Him, the better things, which Mary had chosen, was to bond with Him, sitting at His feet in teachable communion. To abide is to bond, prayerfully asking Him to give me more love for Him, and to draw me closer daily.
C – Conformity
John said that if anyone says he abides in Christ, he should then walk as He walked. (I John 2:6) That means if I am abiding in Christ, I’ll be striving to conform to His nature and ways. I’ll resist whatever takes me out of His will, and I’ll be investing in acts of love, respect, and promotion of truth. So much of our effectiveness as disciples is determined by what we resist, and what we invest in.
We can commit daily to this closeness, and when we do we bear genuine fruit, honor God, and best of all, stay close to Him. Jeremiah nailed it on that point, a point we ca all take to heart:
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the might man glory in his might;
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches.
But let him who glories glory in this – that he understands and knows Me.