How to Abide in Christ
How to Abide in Christ
This post is in response to our Monthly Open as requested by John R.
How many times have you wanted to spend quality time with God, and yet it escapes you? Do you worry that you’re not getting enough private time with Him? Are you concerned about your relationship with Christ? Do you ever wonder what the real secret is to maintaining a rich and satisfying walk with the LORD?
That is what this post is about, and I’m here to tell you that (1) you’re not alone, and (2) the answer is actually right under all our noses. You can have a close intimate walk with God despite a busy schedule, harrowing demands, unruly obligations put upon you, and the mundane responsibilities of daily life.
The million-dollar question is: How?
Our Greatest Example
We all desire a closer walk with the LORD. And if that is you, I’m here to tell you that the secret to this life with God has much more to do with your internal state of being than your external world. There is no magic formula, prayer, or ritual that you need to practice. Truly, that secret is found in knowing how to abide in Christ.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full,” (John 15:1-11, KJV).
For years I had the same questions many of you have about abiding in Christ: how that happens and what it looks like. Is it really as simple as the LORD says?
If you are the average adult or student — you live a very busy life. As much as you may plan, there are always going to be surprises and demands you were not expecting. Every day is different, and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete your tasks. And we all can relate to that, which is why the average person is sleep deprived.
I will tell you that if I begin my day with the LORD, I quickly find that I can get caught up in His Word and His presence — and never want to come out. I could go on and on with Him for hours. As lovely as this may be, practicing that as a lifestyle is not a luxury many of us have. Therefore, those times are an exception rather than the rule. My point in saying this is that Christ did not have that kind of life either. When I look at His earthly life — He was busy. He was very pressed by the daily demands put upon Him of His disciples, the religious leaders, and the throngs who followed Him. To grab time alone we find Him awaking early to go off alone to pray with His Father in solitude.
The point of saying this is not to say that you have to wake up early to have quality time with God. If that is your takeaway here, you’ll have gravely missed my point. My point is this:
Even the Son of God struggled to find quality time alone with His Father.
This quandary is not new. He understands the demands of your day and how things can press you beyond measure. He understands when others “throng you” and how people can surprise you with obligations and requests for which you simply haven’t planned. I think it’s fair to say that when this happens, we all try to accommodate as best we can while maintaining healthy boundaries for ourselves and our families.
Jesus Christ was one person at the time of His earthly ministry. He had to meet the immediate and pressing needs of multitudes very quickly, which required an unceasing flow of creative miracles on a daily basis. Although He trained His disciples and sent them out two by two; their faith was often limited. And on several occasions we witness Christ’s frustration with them, especially in the account of the epileptic child. So we need to understand, there was a lot of work that had to be done. Not only was He responsible for teaching and training His disciples, but He was also responsible for fulfilling the will of His Father on earth as it was in Heaven — all in three years time. After His resurrection, the Body of Christ multiplied exponentially. With that said, He left us with the instruction of abiding in Him, because apart from Him we can do nothing. Let us understand, that principle is not exclusive to us. Christ was just as dependent upon His Father as we are. He did nothing and spoke nothing except what the Father revealed. He had to abide in Him. And He did it beautifully in the midst of an extraordinarily busy and demanding life. How? Was it that one morning prayer tucked away alone in darkness and solitude?
Well… actually, no. It’s much more than that. So, let’s take a closer look at what abiding is truly like.
Living in the World — But Not of It
If you live life based upon an extrinsic point of view, the demands surrounding you will easily overwhelm your life. You will feel controlled, and you will be manipulated.
God does not intend that your life be lived by that standard. We escape that by living from within. God calls us to live from within by walking in His Spirit. That means we remain in constant communion with Him. We are ever listening, ever praying, and constantly seeking His face. We are always aware of the LORD, hosting His presence, and honoring Him in all of our ways. Like Christ who sought His Father, we seek Him for:
And that is not all. Our goal is to perform His perfect will on earth as it is in heaven. We cannot do that if we have no idea what He’s doing, or why. We are cooperative agents. We are His ambassadors. He has entrusted us with the knowledge of His will, His word, and the power of His Spirit. But if we see life through an extrinsic and temporal lens instead of an eternal and intrinsic one, we will falter and be frustrated.
As we abide in Him and we begin to tune our hearts and conscience toward Him, we begin to change. Our hearts and minds become tender, moldable, and we grow increasingly like Christ. Our temperaments, our tastes, our fleshly appetites, our will, our desires, and our ambitions all begin to change. We are transformed into His image from glory to glory. When we are truly abiding in Him, life can indeed be very busy, and demands can be constantly present — and yet you will hear Him instructing you at every turn very intimately in what to do, how to do it, when, and with whom. And He will also often reveal His purpose, plans, and the future outcome of your obedience. God wants us to cooperate with Him. We can only do that when we’re living from our inner man instead of our flesh or the world around us.
God never intended the world around you to dictate your day. He intended that we rule and subdue the earth. He intends that we be fully present in the world — and not of it. He intends that we be able to walk in this world according to HIs will, as operatives of His Spirit, according to His kingdom principles, effecting His will upon the earth as it is in heaven. That can only be accomplished by abiding in Him. And if we think abiding in Christ is spending thirty minutes every day reading a devotion or praying our prayer list, we will have sorely missed it. We are going to live dissatisfying and frustrated Christian lives.
When we abide in Him, Christ says we can ask whatever we will of Him, and He will do it for us. How is that possible? Because our petitions of Him are being framed appropriately. They are within His perfect will instead of our own external interests and fleshly desires.
Abiding in Christ means we walk in His Spirit, assuming a position of total dependency.
We are fruitful when our lives are spent in communion with Him. That should be happening throughout the day, all day long — in many ways, on many levels, and with different people (not merely alone).
I love the times when Christ took the time to address His Father in public. I especially love the times when His Father would answer Him back — for all those around Him to hear. How amazing to witness something so intimate.
We can have and enjoy the same intimacy Christ had with His Father.
I think many of us limit our time of communion with God. And we do so without even realizing it. We are taught and accustomed to having a daily prayer routine, a time of meditation, a quiet time, a devotion, or scripture reading, etc. All of that is fine. All of that is good. But that is not truly what communion is about; nor is it where it starts or ends. Many believers practice these daily rituals, and yet still struggle with spiritual dryness and emptiness. They are not living lives that exemplify or demonstrate Christ’s fruit, His presence, or His power. Why? Because communion happens only in the heart and spirit, where Christ abides in us by His Spirit.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned,” (John 15:6, KJV).
The withering Christian is often one who has been taught all these rituals, and if they miss one, they can feel a deep pang and weight of grief, guilt, and even defeat. That does not come from God. That comes from a religious spirit that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. These teachings are proof of a grave misunderstanding within the Church among many believers who struggle to live meaningful, rich, abundant, and fulfilling Christian lives. Their withering state grieves the heart of our heavenly Father who has prepared a rich table before us.
Abiding in Christ means we are constantly mindful of Him, entertaining His presence, and welcoming His Spirit — regardless of what we’re doing, where we are, or who we’re with. Abiding in Christ is to be actively participating in the things of God throughout your day. You are constantly seeking His face, His wisdom, His knowledge, counsel, and perfect will. When you do that — watch! Your life will begin to change drastically! You will find yourself being redirected by Him. You’ll find your thoughts aligning with His will. And you’ll find your heart beating with the passions and pursuits of Jesus Christ.
As we watch and follow Christ throughout the gospel accounts, He was constantly on the move; constantly pressed; and constantly making room for those who beckoned Him. These were not scheduled events or people. The timeline of His day was exhausting. These individuals and circumstances were very opportune, and He had to handle them on a moment’s notice. He had many challenges! Our lives are much the same way. There are many things that are not planned that we have to know how to handle on a moment’s notice. That requires the LORD’s instant wisdom and guidance. Otherwise, we can feel as if our day has been hijacked. It can leave us stressed and exhausted — none of which is His will. But if we can learn to abide in Him, the stresses of daily life can be seen through a different lens and handled by heaven. God is not surprised by anything. That eternal guidance and perspective changes your priorities, how you handle things, how you respond to people, and ultimately alters your lifestyle for the better.
You are not always going to get the intimate private time with God you need or desire.
Grab that time when you can, but understand that for most of us, life does not afford that on a consistent basis. It didn’t happen for Christ, and it’s probably not going to happen for you either, unless (like He did) you make extravagant sacrifices for it. Intimate time with God is going to be patterned after the Holy of Holies, which happens deep within the sanctuary of your heart, instead of a private room or retreat. You are very literally His temple where His Spirit dwells. Communion with God is not always going to be spent in your favorite chair, on your knees, or in bed. It’s not going to necessarily be manifested by concentrated time in His Word or prayer. It’s going to be manifested by intimate oneness with His presence throughout your busy day.
He promises: For those who walk in Him, abiding in the Vine, they will bear much fruit. They will not wither or be cast forth as a branch.
And here is the beautiful promise, which I just love:
Abide in me, and I in you,” (John 15:4a, KJV).
What a beautiful reciprocation! He is not asking that we be the only ones who abide. He promises that He will also abide in us! That is when oneness truly occurs, and when the joy and love of our Father is manifest in us fully.
This lifestyle of abiding in Christ is not about fulfilling a regimen of concentrated time with Him alone, although those times are wonderful and needed. True abiding is realized when you can live your busy life, day in and day out, completely focused on Christ with the intent of performing His perfect will. God has called us to be in the world; not of it. He’s called us to perform His will on earth as it is in heaven. He’s called us to bring His kingdom forth as we live according to His kingdom principles.
Do not grow worried if you haven’t met your spiritual goals. Begin to live your life with the purpose and intent of abiding in Him, and watch what He does! He will begin abiding in you as well. And when that happens — your life will change drastically! You will not wither, hunger, or thirst. The fruit of your life will prove worthy of Him as a disciple.
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: BarbaraALane | Pixabay