Originally published Monday, 13 October 2014.
What did Jesus mean when He said, “Abide [remain, dwell] in Me”?
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.
It’s a legit question, and one I’d like us to consider today, beyond the superficial answers, beyond the routine response, what does it mean to remain in Christ?
A Few Typical Answers… And Why They’re Wrong
- It’s not saying a scripted prayer, since Jesus blasted the pharisees for not putting heart into their words.
- It’s not reading the Bible, since the disciples Jesus was talking to were illiterate and didn’t have their own personal copy of the Jewish scriptures.
- It’s not going to church every week, since Jesus addresses masses of people following Him telling them that they’re most likely flakes.
- It’s not doing good deeds, since Jesus says these bone-chilling words that He doesn’t know many of those who act on His behalf.
So if abiding in Christ doesn’t mean those things, what does it mean?
The Answer that Leads to More Questions
I’ve been asking myself that question for a few months, as this challenging season of mommyhood and career, writing and ministry, wifedom and relationship-building leaves me drained and lacking the will to get up before the crack of dawn. A failure which leads to heaps of guilt and a downward spiral of neglecting my close walk with Jesus.
To abide in Christ, then, is to stay in Him and keep our gaze on Him.
But how? Wouldn’t it just be easier if someone could walk by our side every day and point us toward the ways we can abide in Jesus?
The Teacher Who Shares All the Answers
The night before Jesus was betrayed, at the beginning of the end of His earthly life, He spoke these words of comfort to His disciples:
All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. [...] But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
~John 14:25-26, 16:7
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to teach us “all things,” including how to abide in Him in this fast-paced 21st century life that we find ourselves living. We have the best instructor in the Holy Spirit–we need only to join Him in this pursuit of abiding in Christ. He is an eager Teacher and longs to show us the deeper joys of being in Jesus.
(That assumes that we’re already in Christ. For more on what this means, see this post.)
And in this new existence, the Spirit of God moves freely in us, through us, around us, and all over. He leads, teaches, directs, and inspires. To abide in Christ is to be in sync with the Spirit of God, to join Him every day.
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
The Spirit cannot be contained or manipulated, so joining Him means surrendering my own preconceptions and embracing His active role in my life.
The Best Way to Learn from The Spirit
If I’m preoccupied with my agenda–my meal plan, my workday, my errands, my workout routine–and do not join the Spirit in what He’s doing, how can I say that I am abiding in Christ? If I read a few verses in the morning and forget what I’ve read within minutes of shutting The Book, how can I presume to live any differently from those who are not in Christ?
This doesn’t mean that we sit around and wait for the skies to open and words to tell us exactly what to do. No, we plan, we act, we move, but we do so asking the Spirit to lead us. We ask that as we’re going and doing, He would direct us who to speak with and how to act.
The first time we do this, we may not hear or feel much. But in time, with practice, we will be led by the Spirit as wind fills the sails of a ship. He will take us where He wants us. We will hear His voice and be filled with His presence.
And as we join the Spirit in His work, we learn to abide in Jesus.
I’m learning to wake up each morning with an eager expectation of what that day will hold because the Holy Spirit is at work. Will you join me?
Day 8 Challenge: Today, speak directly to The Spirit of God and ask Him to teach you how to abide in Christ. Then listen and watch as He answers, inviting you to join Him in His work.
Holy Spirit, whatever You are going to do today, I want to be a part of it. Move me. Fill me. Give me words and open my eyes to see people as You see them. I want to join You in Your work today.
This is the 8th post in the series, “Abiding in Christ–when reading the Bible isn’t an option.” Check out all the posts here.
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