What does it mean to abide in Christ? I sometimes imagine a cozy cottage in the mountains. I’m sitting by a fireplace in one of those comfortable chairs, feet propped on an ottoman, cup of coffee close at hand. I have my bible and journal out and linger in prayer and reflection.
There is a problem with this picture, though. Abide means to continue, remain, dwell. Think about that—dwell. To dwell is to live in a place. Where do you dwell? I may wish it was always autumn and I was in a cabin with a mountain view. But that just isn’t my reality. Where I live it is flat and usually pretty hot. And my house? I do have a comfortable chair but often the view includes a messy room. Not exactly the cozy picture I had imagined.
But isn’t that what it is to abide in Christ? To dwell in Him where I am right now—imperfect person, imperfect circumstances, imperfect life? I live messy. But what if I live messy in Him?
Abiding in Christ Just as We Are
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
“Whoever abides in me…”
How do we abide in Christ? We tend to come up with the standard answers: spend time in His word, obey Him, pray, and fellowship with other believers. And those are all good and true. But for years I think I’ve been missing a key element to abiding. What really brings all those things together is trust.
So I can choose to live messy, bonded to Him with the glue of trust. Trust that this imperfect person is covered by His grace and mercy. Trust that God is working these imperfect circumstances for His glory and my good—that I may become more like Him, a reflection of who He is. And trust that this imperfect life is a redeemed life. Because it really isn’t about me and my mess. It is about Him and how he brings beauty from ashes. It is about God and the fact that He is sovereign and good and the God over all creation.
“…and I In him…”
Oh, I’m so thankful for this second phrase. He continues, remains, dwells in me. I am not left alone to power through this on my own.
You see, this passage on abiding is nestled in a time of sweet fellowship between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus is preparing them for the fact that He is about to leave them physically. He is about to die on the cross. And although He will rise again three days later, He won’t be with them in the same way He has been—literally walking though life with them, teaching them, encouraging them, and training them.
The disciples had found the Messiah, but the kingdom they had been waiting for wasn’t going to look like they had expected it to. They didn’t know it, but each of them was about to enter a time of denial, sorrow, grief, and pain.
But the Father had a plan. He has a plan.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with your forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17 ESV)
The spirit dwells with us and is in us.
Let that powerful truth sink in. We are called to abide in Him, but God enables us through the Holy Spirit who abides in us. We are called to obey Him, but God enables us through the Holy Spirit who abides in us. We are supposed to live fruitful lives, but God enables us through the Holy Spirit who abides in us.
We are equipped to do all that God has called us to do because the Sprit abides in us.
“…he it is who bears much fruit…”
I’ve always liked the word tension to describe this process. I have to choose to abide in Him, yet he abides in me. I make choices to abide, but it is the Holy Spirit who ultimately produces the fruit.
And what is that fruit anyway?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
It is the fruit of the Spirit, not of me. Let’s face it, that fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—doesn’t come naturally. We may have moments when love seems easy. But what about when we rub up against someone who has hurt us? We think we are patient with our children as they sit around us, reading aloud together. But what about when they are purposefully trying to annoy one another? We may have areas in our lives that we think “I’ve got this self-control thing down.” But then we open our mouths and say the wrong things. Again.
We become painfully aware of our imperfections.
“…for apart from me you can do nothing.”
I can’t love the one who hurt me.
I can’t gently discipline my children when they misbehave.
I can’t respect my husband.
I can’t teach my children day after day.
I can’t do the work He has called me to do.
I can’t serve in my church.
I can’t be the friend I need to be.
I can’t even keep my mouth shut when I should.
But He can.
Oh the freedom and peace when we don’t have to be enough, when we don’t have to be perfect because He is. And when we really get this we are transformed by the truth of the Word.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2
There Is Hope
There is hope for us all. We can choose to abide, to trust Him. We can choose to thank Him for the Holy Spirit who will produce the fruit, enabling us to reflect the very character of Christ. We can submit to Him in obedience because we know who He is. Our response isn’t out of striving to be perfect but surrendering ourselves to Him.
Sweet Mama, God wants you to abide in Him. He wants us to abide in Him.
Yes it will be imperfect, because we are imperfect. We will continue to live in imperfect circumstance, with imperfect lives. Praise to the Perfect One who enables us to live this messy life.
I want to give you a chance to meditate on the truth, of who you are in Christ. You can download a FREE 25 page devotional study and journal: Who I Am in Christ: A Scripture Writing and Prayer Journal.
Take care of your heart!
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.