Christianity, in simplest terms, is a personal relationship between a flawed, finite human being and a holy, eternal God. It is made possible through the greatest kind of Love, manifested in the name and body of Jesus Christ.
This Love redeems us from our pit and tears down the dividing wall of our sin, so that we can enter directly into fellowship with the one true God.
This Love delivers us from the valley of death into the promised land of eternal and abundant life.
This Love bridges our brokenness to God's wholeness, exchanges our despair for His heavenly hope, and connects us to the kingdom of God through Jesus who took on our sin, paid our debts and credited His righteousness to us.
Once in Christ, our past, present and future failures have been forgiven and forgotten (Psalm 51:7, 103:12). This is the most radical form of love that was or is to come.
If you are a follower of Christ, there was a moment in time when you believed this good news and answered the Lord’s call to come (Matthew 11:28). When you responded yes, the Spirit of God came into your heart and you became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
With that simple yet most profound decision, you became a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit - Christ in you. You began a lifelong journey that is promised to bring you into completion, into the perfect person God created you to be (Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 10:14).
But your relationship with God cannot operate on autopilot. By His design, it requires your participation.
"Abide in Me, and I in you," Jesus said. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides to the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).
He calls us to come to Him so that we can abide in Him.
"Both the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' Let anyone who hears, say, 'Come!' Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).
While completely sufficient and in need of nothing, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit seek to be known by you. Isn't that incredible?
God has designed us for this ceaseless abiding, where we can intimately experience Him through work and play, grief and gladness, the mundane and the majestic.
We were created for the purpose of knowing, enjoying and reflecting Him, which can only be accomplished by abiding in Him.
Abiding is not cruise control but relinquishing control and following, in faith, where He leads. It is journeying together, with Jesus at the helm and you choosing Him over the whims of the world, each and every day.
Salvation in Christ, therefore, is everything yet just the beginning. We aren't invited just to come once for conversion. We are urged to abide -- to carry on a continual conversation with the Creator of the cosmos as He walks alongside us and lives within us. This is perhaps the sweetest gift of salvation.
His invitation to come to Him is also an invitation to stay with Him.
Union without communion
Yet, here is the shocking truth. You can be saved but not surrendered. You can have said yes to the Lord for eternity but say no to Him for today. You can have the eternal union without a daily communion, but you will be robbing yourself of riches and blessings beyond compare.
This is not abiding. It is disobedience, disconnection and a lack of deference to the Person who created you, died for you, knows and cares for you in the deepest of ways.
Living detached from the Lord is dangerous and detrimental to you and others. Surely we could all give testimony to the times we’ve done things our own way and seen the disaster that ensues. We can do nothing apart from Him.
When a man and woman say "I do" on their wedding day, they have a choice every day after to keep their vows, invest in one another and deepen their commitment through time and trust and tender attention. Or they can choose to be (unhappily) married but not vulnerable emotionally, physically or spiritually.
Likewise, the Lord will not settle for a lack of intimacy with His beloved. But where some marriages grow cold or end in divorce due to neglect, infidelity, lack of love or trust, the Lord will never leave us or forsake us once we are in a relationship with Him (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Thanks be to God!
What does it mean to abide?
Abide in Greek, one of the original languages of Scripture, is to menos.
To menos means to stay, remain, wait, be kept, follow, dwell, not depart, continue to be present, maintain unbroken fellowship.
Menos in Spanish means less: Less of me, more of You, Lord Jesus (John 3:30).
This is what Jesus offers when He says, "abide in Me." It is an offering of Himself -- full access to a loving, engaged Savior who leads, keeps, renews, and never lets go.
The Message offers a poignant translation:
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with Me” (John 15:4).
The blessings Jesus gives of peace, provision, protection, joy and revelation are most fully received and realized as we abide in Him.
If we’re honest, we don’t always feel connected to God.
We can sleep walk through our routines, often unaware of our part in this most divine union. We can compartmentalize our faith, reserving it for certain areas of our life. We can become discouraged by our struggle with sin, because our new self is not yet perfect, and forget that we are walking on the road called renewal (Colossians 3:10).
When we let our feelings singularly direct our relationship with Jesus, we submit to our fickle nature over a Spirit-filled faith. This is why Jesus tells us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, because it takes our whole being to abide in Him (Mark 12:30).
But God is patient (2 Peter 3:9)!
As we become more at home in Him - our refuge and shelter, our strong fortress and ever-present dwelling place - we will begin to open up every part of ourselves to Him. Invite Him into every situation, the darkest corners of your heart that beg to be washed in His Light.
"Remain in Me, and I in you …" (John 15:5).
Abiding is a daily choosing that directs our spiritual growth and permeates our relationships, decisions and lifestyle.
Our union with Jesus depends completely on Him. But our communion with Jesus is affected by our willingness (or unwillingness) to listen, learn and receive His love and instruction.
But God is gracious (Ephesians 2:8-9)!
Abiding in Jesus is part of what makes Christianity a relationship and not a religion.
Abiding is what makes it possible for us to produce the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
This fruit cannot be produced of ourselves.
Abiding in Jesus is what enables us to war against our flesh as we walk in the power of God's Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5).
If we confess Jesus as our Savior, hang a cross around our neck and then go back to our old way of living, feeding off the ways of the world instead of the Way of the Word, we are no better off in this life than when we were spiritually dead. We will end up ravenous and depleted. We may have eternity but we will not have the abundant life Jesus came to give.
Abide in Jesus.
Once saved, His invitation to come and to keep coming will never be withdrawn. He offers the ultimate courtship, inviting and welcoming us into His courts of glory every day. He is ever present, never changing, never leaving, always passionately pursuing us.
We are the prodigals, the ones who pull away, give the silent treatment, forget, doubt, betray, and reject.
But God is faithful (I Corinthians 1:9)!
Why do we sometimes skirt around being obedient and pin it on the sovereignty of God, as if the Holy Spirit who sealed us and sanctifies us would shove us into submission? Our free will is a product of His love. We can reciprocate that love as we abide in Him, only because He first loved us (I John 4:19) (Romans 5:8).
Maybe we don’t realize that this God who created us is wild about every detail of our life, every worry and joy, every trial and temptation regardless of how it came to be. He earnestly wants our thoughts and feelings. Nothing is too small or too dirty.
This transparency with Him is the breeding ground for miracles.
Like a Parent to a child, He desires to spend time with us, teach us and grow us into mature believers who look like Him and can fully enjoy His inheritance.
Like a Husband to a wife, He wants us to have and hold Him, from this day forward, for our better or worse, in our sickness and health, during our richer or poorer, until our death into His perfect eternity. He will never break His vows to us.
Abide in Jesus.
He is looking for lovers, not duty-bound legalists. Jesus doesn’t just want to be your God from a distance, He wants to be your Lord, ever near and present, the King and Keeper of your heart.
What keeps us from abiding?
Life gets messy and we’re often met with circumstances that cause us to question how to fit Jesus in. We can grow calloused or numb.
Is He really enough? Does He even care? How does Scripture apply to this situation? Do my prayers make a difference? Where is God in all of this? If He is for me, then how can this be happening?
Sometimes we just don't feel like abiding, whether due to a dry season that all Christians will have at some point as they are stretched into the maturity of believing in spite of their feelings, or because of unconfessed sin, or a chronic or circumstantial depression, or an array of other reasons.
We are a rebellious, forgetful and fragile lot.
So what do we do when what we know in our heads doesn’t translate to what we feel in our hearts, which almost always drives our actions? And what if we are forgetting to even consider God in any of these equations? Maybe it’s just been so long since we’ve tried to make a connection; our abiding feels feeble and ineffective.
Like a baby in her mother’s womb, so we remain in Him in order to live and grow and thrive.
Once saved, we are secure in Christ and cannot be snatched from His hand (John 10:28-29). We rest in the hope of His Word, even when we don't feel like it. We drink Him in through scripture and swallow His promises that sustain and stretch and steady us.
God's grace will not leave us unchanged.
We rejoice in the truth that our salvation depends on God, not on us. The Holy Spirit is always at work on our behalf. We reject the lies of the Enemy, who lives to oppress, confuse, shame and discourage us (John 10:10).
Abide in Jesus, friend.
Does abiding allude you at times? You are not alone.
Maybe you know just enough about faith for it to be frustrating but not formative. You keep slamming into the rituals of religion and self-help. This faith seems to bind you up more than set you free. This devotion feels like a duty, not a delight.
Or maybe you know a lot about faith but that knowledge hasn’t pierced your heart. Knowing and understanding are as different as hearing and listening. You know about Him but you don’t really know Him.
Maybe you’ve stalled out and feel like you’ve disappointed your Hero and just can’t go back to Him, banged up and busted, again. Surely you’ve used up all your turns.
Maybe you feel like His grace really isn’t enough for you or for that thing you’ve done. You’ve finally stumbled across that one sin, or a lifetime of them, that even the Son of God can’t save. You think you're too just far gone.
Maybe you don't feel anything. The connection seems nonexistent, and it terrifies you.
May I suggest in any of the above scenarios that you are attempting to carry things beyond your capacity? And this doing is a lonely and impossible task.
"This is what the Lord says: ‘In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and I will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!'" (Isaiah 49:8-9).
God will answer you. Help you. Keep you. Restore you. Reassign you. Unleash you and set you free. You aren’t expected or equipped to do it on your own.
Before His death on the cross, Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” because He had fulfilled everything in Scripture that we could not. He conquered death and sin and the separation that came with it and took on everything that we never could.
This is the free gift of grace, not anything that can be earned. Our testimony will be a hope to others that He can indeed redeem all things. All things, no matter our age or past or circumstance!
Let the cross of Calvary intersect with your heart, your head, your rebellion and your religion. Don't try to battle what the cross has already defeated.
The Rescuer has come!
But how do I abide in Jesus?
Respond … to His presence. It is only through His power that we can even muster the will to abide. Ask Him to help you desire this intimacy with Him. When you call on Him, He will answer you and when you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you (Jeremiah 33:3, Isaiah 65:24, Psalm 91:15, James 4:8).
Repent … of anything in your life that displeases God. There is nothing you can think or say or have done that He doesn’t already know (Psalm 139:4). Let that give you confidence to come, over and over, to a Father who knows all and never tires of keeping you.
Read … His Word. Feed yourself daily with this Bread of heaven and ask His Holy Spirit to translate it to you. Meditate on Scripture that gives life and wisdom and cuts through the deepest of scars, that indeed binds us to Him (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is food for our souls!
Receive ... His promises. There are more than 3,000 promises throughout Scripture, and God has never broken one. They have all been fulfilled through Jesus. His promises are not just for the disciples. They are for us, His chosen and beloved people (2 Cor. 1:20).
Retire … striving, be still and humbly listen as you talk with Him through bold, honest prayer. In other words, let go and let God be God (Psalm 46:10, Hebrews 4:16).
Rest … in His sovereignty, His unchanging nature and His endless courtship that covers us with an avalanche of love. The Psalms are a great place to convince your heart that the God of the universe is in control and cares about you (Psalm 8:1, Daniel 4:3).
Remember … His countless gifts, fueling your faith in the recalling. If Jesus did nothing more for us than what He’s already done on the cross, it would be more than we deserve. Let your past victories in Christ assure you of the ones that are to come, because God is good and He is faithful to provide (Deuteronomy 5:15, Matthew 16:9, 28:20).
Reach ... for His people. The Church isn’t a scary place of religious zealots who have it all together. It is a body of broken souls who know their need for healing and are seeking the only One who holds the cure. You cannot fully experience Christ without His Bride, the Church (Acts 11:26,16:5, 20:28, I Corinthians 1:10, 4:12, Ephesians 3:9-11).
Let the True Vine wrap around every area of your life, holding and restoring and enabling you to fulfill His plan and purpose for you: to bloom and fill the world with the sweet fruit of salvation.
Abide in Jesus, friend. Menos.