A nebulous Christian term like “abide” needs to be sorted out. It’s the foundational key to a fruitful life. ◊
The word abide is used in the Bible 118 times. The apostle John uses it 40 times in his New Testament gospel. A standard definition of the word is “to accept or act in accordance with a rule, decision, or recommendation.” A Biblical application of this word, as in “abide in the Lord” or Jesus saying “Abide in Me,” is for us to obey or remain or continue to believe and trust in Him.
Seems relatively straightforward.
But then again, how do you do that? How does one go beyond paying Christian lip service to this concept and really abide?
Easier said than done.
Going Through the Motions?
I believe that all Christians go through a phase that I’ll call Idle Christianity. Not “Idol“ as in idolatrous Christianity, but “Idle“ as in standing still. One may be distracted with work, school, family, friends, even a ministry. Or one may be taken out with sinful habits or insidious submission to cultural pressures.
For whatever reason, one may have a faith that is not dead, just idling and not in gear.
This type of Christian life is simply going through the motions. There are words and actions, but no real fruit. There are good showings and appearances, but no real light and life.
The Christian Fix?
It might take years, or decades as in my own case, to recognize that something is really missing. At times of self-awareness and with good intentions one might venture into their own Christian Fix-It program with a set of rules and guidelines on what they think their Christianity should look like:
- I should go to church more
- I should sign up for a small group
- I should pray more
- I should read the Bible more
- I should be a better person
- I should serve more.
In our sincere moments of need we may come to Jesus and ask for His help and strength so we can live better lives and serve Him more effectively.
On this point, author and Christian minister, Ken Boa, says in his book Conformed to His Image, we try to draw from our own accounts rather than rely on His resources. Good Christian motions may sound good, but actually reveal a misguided strategy to live in our own strength, supplemented by a measure of divine assistance.1
Jesus is Not Meant to Be Our Helper
Boa calls us out in saying that it was never God’s intention to give us a hand in living the Christian life. In fact, God is not our life-Helper, per se. The Holy Spirit or God within us, as our promised Helper and Counselor, is our guide and testimony of God’s truth concerning sin, righteousness and judgment to the world:
And when He (Holy Spirit) comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment… When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth…. (John 16:7-15)
And God/Jesus rather, should be our very life. All in. Full humble submission.
Instead of making us stronger, if we walk and abide (obey, remain, trust) in Christ, God brings us to the point of weakness so that Christ can be strong in us.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9)
This kind of submissive and abiding spiritual devotion is the key to renewing and sustaining the faith and passion of our first love (Revelation 2:4). Unless we are diligent, Boa writes, the “flame of our initial love for Christ can quietly diminish, and even the embers can grow cold.”
The John 15 Model – 4 Keys to a Fruitful Life
When it comes to living a life as God intended, Jesus gives us the game plan in his Upper Room Discourse where he teaches His Disciples fundamental spiritual themes that they will later need when He is departed from them. In the well known “I am the Vine” passage (John 15:1-15), Jesus claims to be the vine and we believing Christians are the branches. The goal and mission of our life is simple: bear much fruit. In that we bring glory to God and prove to be His disciples.
There are 4 keys to achieve that outcome and have a God-defined successful life, no matter what:
- Abide in Jesus – A step of faith begins the connection. Clinging to that Vine is everything else. Jesus is our absolute lifeline. Take stock of your full commitment level. Are you ‘all in’? “Abide (remain) in me, as I also abide (remain) in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.” (v 4)
- Obey Jesus – Abiding involves obedience. Are you ‘in compliance’? Are you doing things that are out of sync with God’s ways? Make changes and watch what happens. “If you keep my commands, you will abide (remain) in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and abide (remain) in His love.” (v 10)
- Love Jesus – Abiding is loving God. While His love springs from obedience, we remain in His love through our love and obedience. Could you say you really love Jesus as an intimate friend? “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now abide (remain) in my love. (v 9) “…Love one another as I have loved you. (v 12) “You are my friends…” (v14)
- Know Jesus – Abiding is knowing Him. Know Jesus like a friend with full personal knowledge. It’s how He sees us. Do you really know Him? How? Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then read Acts. Then Paul’s letters. Then talk to Him in prayer. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends…” (v 15)
No, it’s not just about church attendance or small groups; it’s about obedience and worshiping God with others for encouragement and training in knowing Jesus. It’s not just about quiet times and Bible study; it’s about understanding God/Jesus and developing a private and loving relationship with Him. It’s not about being a good person or a good Christian servant; it’s about reflecting and being the love, grace, gentleness, strength, power, humility and mercy of Jesus Himself as a truly connected, abiding follower of Christ.
With that, one will bear good fruit in a life deemed successful in bringing glory to God.
Are you in a fruit-bearing relationship with God?
“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. – John 15:5
1. Conformed to His Image, Ken Boa, Zondervan, 2001, p. 190.
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