Monday, January 29, 2007

Abiding, Lessons from the Apostle John

In Abide with Me, the writer asks God to be with him in all life’s circumstances and situations. But abiding goes two ways! As Christians, we are called to abide with Christ, and the Apostle John has a lot to say about what it means to abide with Christ, and how we will look if we are abiding with, and in Christ. In addition to what John penned, he recorded much of what Jesus had to say about abiding.

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
John 14:16-17

Jesus promises His followers that when He leaves, they will get another helper – the Holy Spirit. And that we know Him because He abides in us! Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit, whom we have from God, abides in us:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? I Cor 6:19

John 15 gives us a beautiful picture of abiding – something that we can actually see in our minds, because we have seen vines and branches, and we can make the association.

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:1-11

Look at the wonderful things we are promised if we are abiding in Him:
We will bear much fruit
We can ask what we wish and it will be done for us

Also look at what is required: IF you keep my commandments, [THEN] you will abide in My love.

John echoes this requirement in his writing in I John 3:24:

The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

Earlier in the book (2:6), John reminds us of what it looks like to be a Christ follower – a daunting requirement and one that demands daily, hourly and even more frequent “checks” to see if we are actually walking the talk:

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

The same manner as He walked! That’s a bit overwhelming. But it’s not impossible.

Since God is making me into the image of His own son through His refining work in my life, I will someday walk in the same manner as He walked. Until then, I work to attain that perfection and (try to) do as John instructs so that love can be perfected in me.

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
I John 4:12-17

No one has seen God at any time – but when we love one another, God abides in us. As Christians, we have the responsibility to love one another so that others will see God in us. In addition to loving each other, we are called to be light and to be different from the world. This takes many forms and can be accomplished many ways – but unfortunately, we find ourselves too

busy/preoccupied/selfish/scared/shy/comfortable/sinful (insert your reason here)

to show love to people who need it most, or to remove ourselves from situations that are too worldly. I don’t mean for this to become a soapbox, because I have plenty of growing to do on this topic as well. However, reading and studying I John has been a real wake up call for me. I am especially convicted by his many “if/then” statements.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet [then] walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 1:6

If anyone loves the world, [then] the love of the Father is not in him. 2:15

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, [then] you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 2:24

If you know that He is righteous, [then] you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 2:29

When I studied I John, I was struck by the frankness of his reason for writing, and his desire for his readers to be living a genuine, Christ-like life. In chapter 2, he makes it very clear:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. 2:1

I challenge you to read I John, and prayerfully consider how you can abide more closely with Jesus.

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