"Abide in me, and I in you."
What does this mean? What does the word abide mean anyway?
I don't know about you, but when I hear the word abide, the idea that comes to my mind first is "to have one's abode; dwell; reside." This definition is probably what confused me in my previous reading of John 15-- I had a hard time imagining and understanding what "having one's abode" in Christ would look like.
However, that is not the definition for this term in John 15. Instead, it means "to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): - abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry" (Strong's Concordance, G3306). One article breaks it down like this:
to wait for
to endure without yielding
to bear patiently
to accept without objection
to remain stable or fixed in a state
to continue in a place
It also holds in it the concept of putting oneself under someone's jurisdiction, protection, and provision.
How do we abide in Christ? How do we continue in Him, stay in Him? Jesus makes this clear to us that if we keep His commandments, we will abide in His love, just as He keeps His Father's commandments and abides in His love (John 15:10). We abide in Him by keeping His commandments, the most important of which is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength. As we obey His Word, we will continue in Him and bear the fruit of being in Him-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
My older sister and I have been staying at our friends the N's house this week during VBS at church, while our mom and younger sister are visiting relatives out of state, and I have been enjoying morning devotions after breakfast every day. Mr. N has been going through this passage about abiding in Christ, and it has been very enlightening and thought-provoking. I have been considering the question, "Am I abiding in Christ?" Do I keep my commandments? Is His love evident in my life? Is the fruit of the Spirit manifesting itself in my actions, attitudes, and words? And I am finding how often I fall short, and how much I need Christ to live this out through me.
It can be frustrating sometimes if we consider these things as a matter of works, however. We need to keep in mind-- I need to keep in mind-- that I cannot keep His commandments, love, or bear His fruit on my own. He says, "Whoever abides in me and I in Him, He it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." Nothing. Abiding in Christ is not something we do; it is a position we are in, in Christ, through Christ, because of Christ, and as we stay in Christ, connected to Him, being in Him, His fruit will grow in us. "In Christ" is the key phrase, and it is in Him that we are to abide.
We cannot expect to bear fruit if we are not abiding, staying, dwelling in Him. A verse from Hosea stood out to me yesterday as I read it, and convicted me. The Lord is speaking through the prophet Hosea and says, "What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away." Is our love like the morning cloud? Is our love like the dew that rests in droplets on the grass and the flowers until the sun comes out, and then evaporates into the air? I was convicted when I considered that I am often like that-- I read God's word in the morning, I agree with it, I say I love Him, and then I start my day and I forget. God does not want fair-weather friends, nor does He good-morning friends. He wants abiding friends, that keep His commandments. He wants our hearts to be so close-knit to Him, and with Him at all times, fellowshipping with Him and reflecting Him and pouring out His love to the world. He wants us to continue, to stay, to abide in Him.
These thoughts may seem jumbled up and not particularly organized or informed. Abiding in Christ is still something I am learning, and desiring both to understand better and to live out. I don't expect that this post gave you much, if any, new information, but I hope that it has helped to stir your mind regarding the great importance of being in Christ. If you are not abiding in Him, if your love is like the morning cloud or the dew, or if you find you have no love for Him at all, turn to Him and seek His face. Dig into His Word, quiet your heart before Him, walk as He walks. To those of you who are seeking to abide in Him continually, to abide in His love and do His commandments, let us encourage each other. Let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus, and let us stir up one another other to love and good works.