When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Abide
At the Last Supper Jesus knew He’d soon be leaving His disciples, and He wanted them to be ready.
He described to them what life would be like after He left. He warned of hard times, then stressed, over and over, the importance of abiding in Him. (John 15:1-8) He even went so far as to say that if they didn’t, they’d literally be unable to do anything:
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
This speaks pretty loudly to the American disciple of 2018. There’s lots of wrongdoing to resist, but above all, the priority for the Disciple is union with his or her Lord. That’s a fact of life and key to survival, not just a
This concept of abiding was so important that He warned if we don’t abide in Him, we’ll wither and die, becoming part of the surrounding drought rather than part of its solution. (John 15:6) Clearly, then, we’re expected to bear fruit regardless of the climate, depending on an unchanging, immune-to-the-conditions Vine.
We have a mandate to be fruitful in famine, so a few points about abiding should be considered.
“Abide” Means “Aware”
When Jesus said “The eye is the lamp of the body” (Matthew 6:22) He reminded us that what we focus on determines our inner health and outer effectiveness. In plain terms, what I set my thoughts on steers my course.
So to abide in Him I have to first love Him with my mind, deciding to stay aware of His presence within me and around me, and practicing that decision by moment to moment recognition.
Right there I’m sunk, unless my Shepherd does His part. Because my mind wanders like an over-caffeinated lamb, straying off into daydreams or distractions. So I begin the Abiding experience by admitting I can’t do it on my own.
But I have to, so I will if only You, Lord, will be God of my thoughts and prod me when they stray. Keep my unruly mind on track and enhance my ability to function with a sound mind rather than a noisy one.
Try that prayer on for size. I know you’ll get an answer.
“Abide” Means “Obey”
Paul said not to grieve the Person of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and John said walking in the light allows for our fellowship with Him. (I John 1:7) That tells me every decision to resist temptation or avoid carnal thinking is also a decision to enhance my communion with Christ and, thereby, my ability to abide in the Vine.
I’ve never believed we need to confess every sin lest we die with a transgression on our heads and risk our eternal standing. But we do need to confess sin as we become aware of it, however big or small it seems.
It’s appalling to see some believers denigrate that reality by making light of the need to confess, promoting the strange doctrine that grace makes confession of personal sin unnecessary. While it’s true that sin needn’t cancel out our salvation (thank God!) it surely does interrupt communion with God, grieving His Spirit and clouding our minds and emotions. Is that really something any of us would call insignificant?
Not if the command to abide means anything. Where there’s no watchfulness over un-confessed sin, there can hardly be real abiding, since communion with God tolerates no compromise. I can abide in Him or walk in darkness – still saved, perhaps, but not joined to what keeps the good
“Abide” Means “Stay Hungry”
“Draw me, and we will run after Thee” the Shulamite tells her Beloved. (Song of Solomon 1:4) Compare that to what Jesus said about staying hungry – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) – and you get the picture.
Staying hungry is both a reason to abide and its result. The closer I stay to Him, the more I want Him, closeness breeding desire; desire
When my study of scripture is a means to intimacy, and when my prayer life is less about what I want to get and more about Who I want to embrace, things change. I’m nestled in the Vine; I bear fruit. This stuff works, regardless.
“Abide” Gets Results
Abide in Him and three things will happen, just as He said they would.
First, you’ll be fruitful, because “He that abides in Me and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit.” (John 15:5)
Fruit of the Holy Spirit, the really good stuff Paul described in Galatians 5:22, will pop out in abundance, bringing your works and fruit in harmony with what you profess.
Second, you’ll glorify God, because “In this is My Father glorified, in that you bring forth much fruit.” (John 15:8)
When His people stay close to Him and their produce is genuine, God shows off. He’s glorified, His ability to create art out of any life on display, His people being Exhibit A.
Third, you’ll be a disciple in the truest since, because “So shall you be My disciples.” (John 15:8)
A disciple studies the Word, for sure, and is diligent about matters like church attendance and stewardship. But the tangible evidence of discipleship is the fruit of the person claiming to be one.
None of which depends on how well or sick my surroundings are, but rather what I chose to literally and eternally plug into. There’s an invitation we’d be fools to decline, and if I wonder whether or not I’m up for such consistent, day to day commitment, I’m reminded of some helpful thoughts Andrew Murray once penned when writing about Abiding in Christ:
“And if the thought will sometimes come: Surely this is too high for us; can it be really true? Only remember that the greatness of the privilege is justified by the greatness of the object He has in view.”