Three Keys to Abide in Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you.” (John 15:4)

Christianity is about far more than holding right beliefs or adopting right behaviors. At salvation, we enter into a union with God that changes our legal status. We have right standing with God now. We have a righteousness that comes by faith, and that faith justifies us (Philippians 3:7-9; Romans 3:21-26, 5:1).

But we have more. We also have communion with God. We have access to a life-giving, soul-thrilling, joy-producing communion with God through Christ (1 John 1:3; John 15:11). The Christian faith is about union and communion with Jesus.

Union with Christ without communion with Christ is joyless Christianity.


Union with Christ without communion with Christ is joyless Christianity.
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Our hearts should desire this intimate relationship. We should long for this fellowship with God. David reflects this posture when he prays, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). David earnestly seeks God. His soul thirsts for God. There is desperation. There is urgency. Oh, to have a heart that echoes his!

Do we seek God like this? Do we desire God in this manner? Is there any part of David’s cry that you recognize in your heart?

Jesus Invites You to Abide

In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples about this communion. He informs them that he has already made them clean (John 15:3), and has pronounced them clean during the upper room foot washing (John 13:10-11). This ceremony wasn’t pointing to Jesus’ hyper-aversion to dirty feet; it was a symbolic display of his incarnation, atoning sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension. This is why he declared them clean, with the exception of Judas (a clear indication dirty feet was not the idea).

Jesus says this hours before going to the cross to bear their sins and make them clean. So Jesus’ declaration in John 15:3 is a statement of legal status.

He follows this with the command “abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). To “abide” is a verb. It is active. Abiding in Christ is not a feeling or a belief, but something we do. It means to “remain” or “stay” and entails far more than the idea of continued belief in the Savior.

John 15:5 further illustrates this abiding relationship with a parallel relationship of a vine and a branch. We (the branches) are to be connected to him (the Vine) for our life and sustenance. Only in him can we bear fruit.

What the Saints Say

But how? What does it look like to abide in Christ daily? A few descriptions from other godly saints help us get a picture:

John Piper

John Piper says, “Hour-by-hour abiding in Jesus means hour-by-hour trusting him to meet all your needs and be all our treasure.[1]

J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle explains, “To abide in Christ means to keep up a habit of constant close communion with Him–to be always leaning on Him, resting on Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, and using Him as our Fountain of life and strength, as our chief Companion and best Friend. To have His words abiding in us, is to keep His sayings and precepts continually before our memories and minds, and to make them the guide of our actions and the rule of our daily conduct and behavior.”[2]

John Owen

John Owen exhorts, “Would a soul continually eye His everlasting tenderness and compassion, His thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, His present gracious acceptance, it could not bear an hour’s absence from Him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with Him one hour.”[3]

Three Keys to Abiding

Abiding has a continual, hour-by-hour nature to it, a constant looking to Jesus through the Scriptures. If we could avoid gospel-amnesia and remember his grace, we could barely stand an hour’s absence from him. These saints give incredible definitions to help us grasp abiding in Christ. Here’s mine:

To abide in Christ daily requires dependence upon the Holy Spirit in which we do three things:

  • Walk by faith
  • Spend focused time
  • Engage in intentional actions

We daily preach the gospel to ourselves (walk by faith); plan to abide throughout our days (focused time); and read Scripture, pray, live in community with others, and fight sin (intentional actions). We do this as we live dependent upon the Holy Spirit to bring us closer to Christ.

To be “in Christ” means to have a new legal standing and a new relational orientation. We do not solely want to be made right with God—we want to be with God. We are new creations in Christ, freed from sin and worldly pursuits to abide in him. And he gives us what we need to pursue this by giving us himself.

Are you eager to say with David, “Earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you?” May the Holy Spirit spark in us a want for more of Christ. May we yearn with holy urgency to know the depths and riches of the love of Christ, grasped through abiding.

[1] John Piper sermon “The New Commandment of Christ” http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-new-commandment-of-christ-love-one-another-as-i-have-loved-you [2] Ryle, John Charles. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. John, Volume 3. p.104 [3] Owen, John. The Works of John Owen, Volume 2. p.32

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