What does it mean to “abide?” When Jesus calls us to “abide” in Him, He is calling us to “remain, stay put, continue on, cling to.” He alone is the object to which we are to abide, and He alone is the Source of supplying our growth and the ability to bringing forth fruit. It must be clearly recognized, though our society fights it tooth and nail, that Jesus supplies the power, that Jesus brings the growth, and that all ability in bearing fruit is Jesus' ability. He is our nourishment and nothing else.
John 15 shows Jesus likening Himself to a Vine and designating His followers as branches (15:4). Jesus wants to do great things with us; God-things through us. This is only possible by abiding in Him, looking to Him for nourishment, direction, power, and fruit. “Self” has no place in abiding in Him. Abiding takes the place of “self” in every area, for when one abides in Christ, they are steadfast in their position as a creature in need of everything and submitting his or herself to the Creator who supplies everything. Abiding strips us of our pitiful sufficiency, which is really no sufficiency at all, being only a poor and broken substitute for the genuine article made freely available in Christ.
Our broken substitute my give off the appearance of genuine holiness and reliance upon the living God, but our ornate mausoleum will always reveal the dead bones of “self” and the sad remnants of the flesh. The only need in the Christian Life is the full acceptance of all that the believer already has and is in Christ. The key is dependency.
Abiding is based on the acceptance of the truths of living the Christ-Life as seen in God’s Word. This is what Bishop Handley Moule calls the “dethronement of self”because we have been confidently convinced that there is a better Answer, being a better Source of nourishment in every single area of our lives.
Every Christian knows that this is the answer to the deep longing that gnaws away at the soul. The intimacy that satisfies is our insatiable desire, and we acknowledge this repeatedly by the events and relationships that we choose to surround ourselves with. Being in Christ, this is only heightened to a previously unknown extreme, having understood something of the goodness of Jesus in forgiving sin and giving the one who believes eternal life. Great and glorious are these blessings and both are exceedingly abundant in their provision, such that we will not be able to understand them on this side of Heaven, and though having glorified bodies, we may still be found lacking in our comprehension when we are “with Him always.”
Because of our flesh, many of us need incentive. We need to be convinced that the decision to abide is worth making if we are going to make it. This should not be surprising. As we have brought up repeatedly, Jesus had to tell His disciples, those who were following Him closely, that if they loved Him, they would keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21).
If abiding is essential, what are the present benefits for the believer when they are abiding in Christ? According to John 15:1-11, they are:
· Bearing Fruit- (15:2, 4, 5)
· Effective Prayer- (15:7)
· The Father is Glorified- (15:8a)
· “Come into Being” a Disciple- (15:8b)
· The Joy of Jesus in us- (15:11a)
· Our Joy is Made Full- (15:11b)
There is nothing but gain to be had in abiding in Christ. All that is listed above is holy and pure, and right, both in the here and now and in eternity.
ATTITUDE & PERSPECTIVE
The Apostle Paul writes of this intimacy in a way that would be deemed as the delusional writings of a madman when he states, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my ownderived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Himand the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:8b-11, emphasis added).
Some may read this and conclude that Paul is speaking of justification and that his main thrust is what his life must look like in order to go to heaven when he dies. But this view places one’s works and behavior as an indispensable ingredient to eternal life, expelling entirely the notion that it is a free gift (John 3:16; Rom 5:15, 18). The context shows us that the righteousness in view is a practicalrighteousness and not the positionalrighteousness of justification.
In living his life, Paul understands that any “righteousness” of his own is not righteousness at all. He best deeds are sin without Christ at their center. All that he may have gained in this life is concluded to be trash before the Lord. Such things, if deemed important, could usurp his dependency in all that Christ is for him, thus becoming a god. Material goods, and immaterial values like “intuition,” are but daily distractions and barriers to the risen Christ living His glorious life through the apostle. This approach to life will always be unsatisfying, and Paul knows it. This is why he champions “faith” as the only path to practical righteousness.
Paul’s desire is to “know Him,” with “know” speaking to an experiential knowledge. Paul’s thoughts look to “the power of His resurrection,” not His death. Wuest notes this well, writing, “The tense causes us to translate, ‘to come to know by experience.’ Paul wants to come to know the Lord Jesus in that fullness of experimental knowledge which is only wrought by being like Him. He wants to know also in an experiential way the power of Christ’s resurrection. That is, he wants to experience the same power which raised Christ from the dead surging through his own being, overcoming sin in his life and producing the Christian graces.”Paul is speaking of the Life of Christ being lived through him.
Paul also speaks of the “fellowship of His sufferings,” which point to living in the trials of this life with the perfection of Christ’s Life always at the ready. This returns the believer to the nature of trials. Trials provide the opportunity to trust in the God of glory. Believing in Jesus resulting in the forgiveness of sin and a receiving of the gift of eternal life is the greatest need in all of existence, but for some reason it is there that we stop in our belief and handle the smaller, temporal situations of life with unbelief. In Romans, Paul rationalizes the absurdity of this approach, writing, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). The sufficiency of the greater promise of eternal life, ensured by the perfect shedding of His blood, exposes our unbelief when we conclude that our lesser worries are not covered by Him. Essentially, we are saying that He did not “save to the uttermost” (Heb 7:24-25, ESV).
Paul also speaks of his conforming to Jesus’ death as being the means to attaining “the resurrection from the dead.” Again, the “works-salvation” crowd will quickly pipe up to say that unless a person iswilling to conform to the death of Christ in their daily life, they will not attain this resurrection, thus showing themselves as being unsaved.This conclusion obviously violates the foundational principle that salvation is by “faith alone,” but also fails to give the proper attention to the word “resurrection” in v.11.
The word that is normally used for “resurrection” is anastasis, but the word that Paul uses here is bekanastasis, with ekmeaning “out of.” Dillow explains that ek“intensifies the noun; it is an ‘out-resurrection,’ a ‘full resurrection,’ a fuller experience of resurrection life. This is the prize/reward of the games that is awarded by the judge. It is his reward for faithful service.”Paul uses this word intentionally in reference to the eternal outcome of the one who abides in Christ. For them, there will be reward, a fullness of eternal life, and opportunities granted to rule and reign with Christ. The time of self-denial will be difficult in the present, but worth it in the end (Rom 8:18).
From Paul’s words in Philippians 3, we can see that our obedience in abiding in Christ gives us a fuller life in the future.
How does the Christian “abide” in Christ without wavering to the right or to the left? To put it plainly, the only way to abide is by applying the Word to our lives. This is often mistaken as a call to “do something,” but this is a works answer to a faith problem. To abide, the believer is to yield to the commands, precepts, and promises of the Word of God, believing them to be true in spite of their circumstances or environment. We simply need to “get out of theway” of Christ living His Life through us and submit to His leading as plainly stated in the Word of God.
There are three basic tenets that, when placed in the proper order, have guaranteed our desired end. Let’s look at each one briefly, focusing on the main points of each, and then provide a simple illustration, that will help in the application of these tenets.
FACTS- When we speak of “Facts,” we are speaking of truth. The question being asked is “What is real?” When we speak of ultimate truth, we are speaking of a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only what God has said is true, and that He “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:2a), showing that Christ is the pinnacle revelation of God speaking. Jesus Christ is everything that God wishes to say to the human race. As noted before, all of the Old Testament prepares us for Him, while the New Testament explains the fullness of Him.
All unbelief is a suppression of Truth, though the truth has been clearly revealed (Rom 1:18-20). The world system has been orchestrated by Satan to fool all people into believing that there is “more than one truth,” that “all roads lead to God,” that “it might be true for you but it is not true for me,” and in turn has de-personalized Truth from the Person of Jesus Christ. This deceitful philosophy has caused an epidemic of neglect in one’s personal responsibility to a Sovereign Creator.
When dealing with “Facts,” the question to answer is:
“What has God said?”
FAITH- “Faith,” as discussed previously, is a confident conviction that something is true. To believe is to be persuade of the certainty of a thing. The Bible gives us this definition in Hebrews 11:1- “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In quoting segments of Lane’s commentary on Hebrews, David Allen writes, “Faith is the objective grounds upon which subjective confidence may be based. Such faith springs from a personal encounter with God. This kind of faith enables one to venture into the future ‘supported only by the word of God.’”
While objective, faith is also passive, accepting that which is deemed “true” by the one believing. Seeing that this can result in either “belief” or “unbelief” (depending on the object in which one is believing), we can see the necessary connection between “Faith” and “Facts” as indispensable in moving the believer to “abide” in Christ. To believe in the wrong thing is to be found in unbelief, regardless of the level of sincerity. One’s belief is only as good as the object in which they are believing. Thus, when we are trusting in Christ’s Word in how we live our daily lives, our “Faith” is found to be exceedingly valuable because of the Object that it has rested upon.
Many have rejected the idea that “Faith” is objective, settling instead for a more palatable expression that confuses “Faith” with “Feelings.” This immediately gives way to the subjective, and in doing so, has rationalized the whims and desires of the sinful heart as standing fully justified in the eyes of the one wrongly-believing. Any consideration for what is really true about a matter has been abandoned because of the conviction that comes with it. In light of this, how one “Feels” becomes a safer answer, eliminating the idea that there is Anyone to answer to.
For instance, there are many people who do a poor job of raising their kids. They knew better (“Facts”). So, in order to escape the “Facts,” which demand a “Faith” response due to the irrefutable nature of those “Facts,” unbelief takes over and justifies itself with the idea of how they “Feel” that children ought to be raised. “Faith” is seemingly moved into the subjective, but it is the person’s “Feelings” that are leading the way. What an unworthy guide they are. In this way, negligence is rationalized as an acceptable approach to childrearing because the parent simply does not “Feel” like parenting today. The results of this approach are being seen today on our university campuses, jails and prisons, and within the workforce.
When dealing with “Faith,” the question to answer is:
“What do I believe about what God has said?”
“Feelings” have their place. Let’s not conclude that “Feelings” are wrong simply because they are “Feelings.” “Feelings” are only wrong when they are leading our decisions and direction. Our God is a God who feels (Gen 6:6), and emotions are a gift from God so that we are able to express ourselves. However, “Feelings” are not to be the captain of the ship; Truth is. When the “Facts” of Truth are understood, and when they are accepted by believing in them (“Faith”), our “Feelings” should follow and flow out from our “Faith” in the “Facts.” When our “Feelings” are in the lead, every action that follows is irrational and dangerous.
In speaking to a friend of mine who serves as a biblical counselor, he stated, “This generation is so deceived and indoctrinated with following their feelings or their ‘heart.’ It’s so anti-Christ,” and he is right. “Feelings,” serving in the place of our reason for why we are doing something, is an approach that is completely dismissive of the Person of Truth. Think about it: when was the last time that we pulled back from a situation and said with confidence, “If I wouldn’t have followed my feelings here, this would have never worked out to the glory of God.” Never. We have never said this in any situation because when our “Feelings” take the lead, our pride becomes the dominant factor, and all direction and every decision is contorted to satisfy our secret need to have control.
When “Feelings” are in the lead, we are abiding in the Self-Life. This makes it impossible to abide in Christ.
When dealing with our “Feelings,” the question to answer is:
“How should I feel now that I have believed in what God has said?”
Each of these three areas lends themselves to a simple illustration that helps us to think rightly about abiding in Christ.
First, God’s Word must lead the way. It is Truth. Jesus is Truth. And Truth declares the “Facts” of reality, whether known or unknown; natural or supernatural. “Facts” are the engine of the F-Train. “Facts” are always true, and Truth has power. Therefore, they always provide a foundation that is unshakable. If the engine is not up front, the train has no power leading it and it cannot move forward.
“Faith” is the middle car (the boxcar), attached firmly to the engine, allowing for the “Facts” to propel the train forward. The middle car simply relies on the power of the car in front of it to get it where it needs to go. If the box car were to be in the front of the train, the engine would be strained in trying to move the car forward and progress would be greatly hindered, if not stopped altogether.
“Feelings” are in the caboose. It is the final car in the series, bringing up the rear, and contributing nothing in propelling the train onward. This is because every “Feeling” is without a foundation by itself. It is simply attached to the boxcar, enjoying the ride, with confidence that the engine will bring the cars that follow it safely to the proper destination.
For now, it is enough to know that the Christian can only move forward in abiding in Christ if the “Facts” of God’s Word are leading the way, our “Faith” is firmly plugged into those “Facts,” eliminating the pockets of unbelief that suddenly appear. With the first two cars in place, our “Feelings” become the outcome of our “Faith” in the “Facts,” rather than the lead car which would ultimately lead us off the rails.
“Faith” and “Feelings” have no power to move forward with God, so when either one is thrust into place as the lead car, all forward motion is lost. The ramifications of getting these cars out of order will be discussed in the next lesson.
What is the key to clicking all of the cars into their rightful place?
THE KEY TO ABIDING
Our Christianity, and by this I am referring to how we live our lives as Christians in this present age, is largely of self. With the constant barrage of “customizable” options and the tailoring of our surroundings to make us comfortable and safe, we have all but uninvited Jesus to be our All in All in every situation. We have missed the Spirit’s leading that the obedient path is often the inconvenient path, and it is only deemed so because we view it with biased eyes. With our immediate futures being unknown, and our neglect to hurriedly hold Christ’s hand as He leads us to the next opportunity for growth and grace, we have dictated our ineffectiveness on the grounds of every reason but a biblical one.
And then we wonder why we are not effective.
We seem perplexed by the power that we read about in the Scriptures and the seemingly one-dimensional nature of our present-day Christian existence, and we ask, “Is this all there is?” Our short-sightedness has been brought on by our refusal to submit to God’s Word.
Dependency is the key to the Christians life. Apart from Him we can do nothing. If we wanted to use a more biblical word that usually scares Christians silly, we would say “submission.” Our lives, our worries, our fears, our families, our preferences, and our recreational time, are all lived out with self at the center, and a dependency on Christ is nowhere to be found. Submission ends such independence.
The self-life crowds out the New Life that Jesus wants to live through us. We have come to believe, or have always believed, that each of these areas is compartmentalized as their own area separate from the influence of Christ. It is only by receiving the implanted Word that we are able to see that there are greater horizons for each of these areas, such as we could never fathom because we have kept them separated from Truth, and this Truth is none other than the LordJesus Christ Himself. Can we really expect to direct our families in the right way when we are not even inviting Jesus to the table? Let’s be honest, we ultimately doubt His power. We ultimately doubt His ability. And we ultimately doubt His goodness. Pure dependency is the cure that our unbelief desperately needs, for He is truly all-powerful, fully able, and uncompromisingly good. Thankfully, Paul models dependency for us.
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul is writing of the vision of the third heaven that he was blessed to receive (2 Cor 12:2-4). With such revelation came the need to keep Paul humble, for otherwise, he would boast in himself, his knowledge, his status in relation to God, and his privileges. Though this grieved Paul, and though he sought for relief (2 Cor 12:8), he was brought to a grand conclusion, with Jesus telling Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” To this, Paul exhibited the lesson learned, writing “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor 12:9b, emphasis added). Our clamoring for self-sufficiency, the protection of our “personal time,” and our striving for safety and security is ultimately rooted in our unbelief, robbing the opportunity for Christ’s power to be seen all-sufficient for us.
Again, the key is dependency, and apart from depending on Him, we should not expect anything of God in our lives. We may strive to “conjure Christian appearances,” but such striving is fleshly and antagonistic to His sufficiency in all things. We must come to terms with the fact that He IS, that He is ABLE and that He is GOOD, desiring only the best for His children. We must believe Him!
H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 25.
Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 93.
Thomas R. Schreiner & Ardel B. Caneday, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2001), p. 111.
Joseph C. Dillow, “Degrees of Glory” in A Defense of Free Grace Theology: With Respect to Saving Faith, Perseverance, and Assurance, ed. Fred Chay(The Woodlands, TX.: Grace Theology Press, 2017), p. 365.
David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), p. 543.