What does it mean to abide in Christ?
Ask any believer about abiding and most will tell you that we are commanded to abide in Christ. They will probably quote John 15:4 from the King James version: “Abide in me, and I in you.” However, when believers are pressed to describe exactly what ‘abiding’ means, it becomes a little less clear.
To put into words exactly what this broad concept means is a little more difficult. The concept of abiding seems so simple, but it requires a life long process of abiding. It is not a simple action, or concept, but a lifestyle that you practice.
The word abide means: lasting a long time, enduring, unending, and unchanging, to remain forever. But that last word “remain” is probably the best word to describe abiding: to remain in Jesus. John 15:4 uses the word ‘remain’ in the NIV, instead of ‘abide’. In fact, this word ‘remain’ comes up eleven times in John 15:4-10.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
How does one do this: “remaining in Jesus”?
We connect, we commune, we continue.
Connect: Embracing a life-giving connection to Him in our salvation, where we are grafted into the vine and we become part of Jesus and He becomes part of us. We then start developing a lifelong LOVE relationship with God. John 15: 10 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” This relationship is continually growing into deeper and deeper intimacy with God. This simply means to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22: 37-39).
This growing relationship changes us, as we become more like Him in our love for Him. We start to change our behavior, our thoughts, our actions in response to this love for Him. Our love motivates our abiding and our love motivates a change in us in order to keep His commands.
Commune: As our relationship develops there is an exchange that happens between us and the Lord. As we get to know Him and experience His love, we respond in trust and reliance. This is why I believe abiding is a live-long process: simply because trusting and relying on God does not come naturally to any of us. John 15:5 “apart from me you can do nothing” aptly describes this trusting and relying. It is a recognition that everything we are and everything we need, comes from Him.
Trusting and relying of God (communing) requires that we adjust our thoughts and behavior at times, that we choose to believe what scripture says and not “rely on our own understanding” (Prov 3:5-6) AND make choices to trust and obey. Communing is a choice that once again translates into behavior.
We have to choose to obey OUT of a relationship with Him, as we know Him, which demonstrates and proves our trust and reliance on Him.
Continue: This part best describes the principle of “remain” to me. We have to choose to stay in Jesus and choose to grow in Him. This is a moment-by-moment; day-by-day; week-by-month-by-year decision to stay exactly where we are in relationship with Him, in order that we may mature as believers.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Col 2:6-7)
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” (Col 2:9-10)
In Eph 4:1, Paul calls us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received,” and encourages us to unity in the body of Christ, to…
“… equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12-13)
We are to grow and become rooted and established, becoming mature believers in the fullness of Christ. This means getting into the Word of God, relying on the Holy Spirit and growing, just like the branches of a vine would grow and produce fruit, IF it stays connected to the vine.
I hope that I have convinced you that abiding is not a simple thought, or concept, but is a life-long occupation and focus of our lives.
Lord Jesus, thank you that You died on the cross to make it possible for me to have a relationship with You. Help me to grow in my knowledge and understanding of Your love so that I may know this love more intimately. Help me to make You the focus of my trust, to rely on You in every aspect of my life. Help me to remain, to continually engage in relationship with You, to continually work at trusting You more effectively in my life and to continually work at getting to know You through the Word and as the Spirit guides me. Teach me to abide, to abide well.