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Abiding In Christ


By David A. DePra

Abide in me, and I in you.  (John 15:4)


The core of Christianity is, “Christ in you.”  (Col. 1:27)  So, what makes a person a Christian – and we are talking about one who is born from above – is that Christ dwells in them by the means of the spirit of God.


At salvation, we are, “joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him.”  (I Cor. 6:17)  This is HOW Christ dwells in the believer – we are united with Him in spirit. 


This fact brings clarity to the above verse, John 15:4.  If I am born from above then Christ DOES abide in me – I am joined to Him in spirit.  But in John 15:4 I am told I must, “abide in Christ.”  This speaks to the necessity of living out from Christ BY FAITH along the lines of our practical lives.


Notice that this is done BY FAITH.  First, I have to know that Christ dwells in me.  Then I must believe that I can rest myself upon Him, draw from Him, and surrender to Him.  Why?  Because He said so.  I can count on Him, not because of anything about myself, but because He said so -- and He is always faithful. 


To abide in Christ by faith will mean that I can put myself aside and surrender to Christ by faith for ALL.  I draw from Him for all life and resource.


It is nonsense to think I can draw from Christ for ALL if I continue to draw from myself.  I cannot.  I have to present myself to God for whatever, “pruning,” it takes of my natural man to make it possible for me to experience Christ as my light and life.  This is simply another way of saying that I must unconditionally surrender and abandon myself to Christ – and open myself to the work of the Cross.


Faith, Not Feelings


Now, how does, “abiding in Christ,” look and feel?  Well, it is never a matter of how it, “looks”, or, “feels.”  It is a matter of believing that He is there to abide in; a matter of believing that we can put ourselves aside and know that He is faithful no matter what.


This is important to realize, because it would seem that most of us have difficulty resting in HIS faithfulness – we usually want to FEEL or to have some sort of sense that, “it is working.”  No.  When we operate that way we are at the mercy of our emotions, psyche, and feelings – all of which are as unreliable as can be.  Jesus Christ is not experienced through emotions and feelings.  Rather, we must bypass all of those things – which are of natural man – and rely upon HIM.  As we do, there will be a growing realization of Him.  Again, the source of this will not be emotional, or of us – it will transcend us and come to more and more govern us.


When believers put faith in Christ – abide in Christ – we tend to expect that, “something will happen” – something that we can see or feel.  Natural thinking tends in that direction.  But what will really happen is LIFE.  What will really happen is that slowly but surely we will be brought into an inward realization of Jesus Christ.  Note – we will come to realize Jesus Christ, rather than ourselves.


Probably the biggest hindrance to abiding in Christ by faith is our continual occupation with SELF.  To the extent that we keep our attention upon ourselves in order to, “prove Christ is really there,” or monitor ourselves to prove Truth – we will not move on in Christ.  The evidence of Christ IS Christ – in other words, Christ is OTHER THAN OURSELVES.  In each believer there is a division between Christ and ourselves – between spirit and soul – and it takes a work of the Cross to bring us to see and experience the difference.  It is then that the freedom to actually abide in Christ becomes more and more real as to experience.


“Christ in us,” does NOT result in making MYSELF the center of my universe.  It does NOT result in a life of, “Yet not Christ, but I” – but rather – “yet not I, but Christ.”  Such a life is foreign to the natural life and natural mind.  But it is the Truth and the only goal that God has for the believer.


God has given all that He has to give in His Son – and has given nothing outside of Christ.  Failure to recognize this is why we get frustrated over what seems to be the inaction or indifference of God.  No.  “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid IN HIM.”  (Col. 2:3)  It is only as we abide in Christ and experience Him that the full purpose of God for the believer is unfolded.


NOT Under Law, But Under Grace


Abiding in Christ will result in what Paul stated in Galatians 2:20 – “the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God.”  This is, “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” and NOT, “the law of sin and death.”


The law of God is a written expression of God’s living righteousness.  But because humanity has a corrupt nature, our nature is contrary to God’s law.  Thus, the law is holy, just, and good – but when humanity is faced with God’s law, we are exposed as unholy, unjust, and bad.  In this we see that the problem with humanity is not found in what we DO.  It is found in what we are.  The Adam race is LAWLESS.  The law of God continually points that out.  The law exposes the fact that in ourselves we are without hope.  We are corrupt.  In short, you cannot fix a LAWLESS creature by putting them under law.


Personally speaking, if I try to live according to law, I will live under the continual revelation of myself as corrupt – for that is what the law brings to light.  It won’t matter what we DO – for what we ARE will be brought out by the law.  There will be no escape.  As Paul continually teaches, the purpose of the law is to shut every mouth and show the entire human race as being guilty before God.  Note that the law does not MAKE us guilty.  No.  Rather, the law simply reveals the true condition of the Adam race as corrupt and LAWLESS.  In other words, the law reveals that we are already guilty.  So again – try to live before God on the basis of law and you will live in a continual state of guilt.


What we see in this is that the law of God – if we do not put faith in Christ – will entrap us within ourselves.  We will live in the prison of our own nature – ever striving to be good but always being shown to be corrupt.  In a sense, the law of God will correspond – in a negative sense – to our fallen nature.  In every dimension of our fallen nature, the law will expose failure and condemnation.  Not only will this be the case as to the written law of God, but it will be the case within ourselves – our conscience will convict us of our failings.  Without faith in Christ we will have NO recourse.


Of course, it is possible to be so deceived that we actually think that the law is showing us to be righteous – because we think we obey it.  But people that hold to this position must continually lie to themselves to maintain the illusion.  Sadly, some do it to the end of their lives.  But God has given His spirit to break down and demolish such notions – if we would only open ourselves to Him for the Truth.


Self-righteousness be subtle.  Believers can have within themselves a standard of conduct and righteousness that is not necessarily written down – but which operates in their mind and conscience.  It is possible to live UNDER this law – and the condemnation it creates.  And really, that is the only option without faith in Christ.


There have always been systems of law in the Christian church.  Most of the time these systems are not called, “law.”  But ANY standard for living that is established as a means of drawing near to God, or as the means of finding true life, is LAW.  That standard could be outward conduct or inward conduct and condition.  But it is nevertheless LAW.  It is about OUR righteousness, or lack thereof.  It will produce more and more death.


The only solution to this impossible situation is Jesus Christ.  But not only what Jesus was DONE – but the solution is Who Jesus IS – right now.  Of course, what Jesus has done is carried within His Person.  But we have to abide IN, live IN, and experience the Living Christ who right now dwells in believers.


Jesus Christ did not come to bring us a better system of law.  He did not come to give us some power to obey God’s law.  Rather, He came to make it possible for what we are in Adam to DIE IN HIM – so that we could then be raised as a new creation in Christ Jesus.  And yet the new creation in Christ Jesus is not merely a creature that has some power to obey the law of God.  No.  The new creation is not under the law – but rather, “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”  In Christ we are raised up out of all systems of law unto LIFE.  By faith we abide in the Person of Jesus Christ – He is other than ourselves – and as we abide in Him there will come a freedom to live for God.


The Christian life is not a walk according to law.  It is a walk according to Christ.  This will not violate the law of God – for life in Christ is holy.  But we won’t be living according to a system.  We will be living with a Person. 


It is possible for any of us to walk according to law and live under the law – but to be deceived into thinking that what we are doing IS life in Christ.  But if we are open to God – open to Him even within our deception – God will bring a complete collapse to our false position.  The law will do what it is intended to do – expose our sin and unbelief – and we will see that Jesus Christ alone is the only answer.  He is the only answer for salvation, yes, but He is the only answer for LIFE.


Abiding in Christ has to do with practical, day to day Christian living.  Read John 15.  Abiding in the Person of Christ is the very LIFE of the believer.  He is the source for all the believer needs.   And to once again refer to Galatians 2:20:


I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  (Gal. 2:20)


The Life of The Vine


The Truth Jesus gave of Himself as the Vine, and His people as the branches, (John 15) is a great picture of what it means to abide in Christ.  The Vine is the source of ALL for the branches.  Jesus, Who is the only TRUE VINE, continually stated this Truth:  I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Light, the true Bread, the Good Shepherd, the Door, the Resurrection – and of course, The true Vine.  The book of Revelation gathers this up and calls Jesus, “The Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End.”  Paul wrote that God has given us ALL things freely in Christ.  (Rom. 8:32)  But these designations of Jesus are not merely, “name tags,” that He wears.  Rather, Jesus is ALL that these realities mean TO us and IN us.  Or, to put it another way, Jesus is OUR LIFE, and therefore, He is ALL.  There is nothing outside of HIM; nothing outside of HIS LIFE.


In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  (John 1:4)


And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  (I John 5:11)


I am the resurrection, and the life.  (John 11:25)


So, the branches are alive ONLY through the life of the Vine.  Note that the Vine does not give the branches a life to hold within themselves.  No.  The life of the branches is dependent upon abiding to the Vine.  Thus, it is so in Christ.  You and I are not given a, “thing,” or a, “power,” to hold within ourselves or to use – we are not given the things of God BECAUSE OF Christ.  No.  We are given Christ Himself.  We are joined to Him; baptized into Him.  ALL that is given is OF HIM – and we live out from Him if we abide in Him by faith.


What is true regarding the LIFE of the Vine is true regarding the FRUIT of the Vine – for the fruit is the product OF that life.  Thus, the fruit that the branches bear are not OF the branches – the fruit is also of the VINE – the fruit is the result of the life of the Vine flowing into and through the branches to maturity.


We can say the same thing about everything that is of God in the Christian experience – because everything that is of God is OUT FROM Christ who is THE LIFE.  There is nothing of God that is outside of Christ. 


Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed OVER; behold, all things are become new.  And all things [are] OUT FROM God.  (II Cor. 5:17-18)


Again -- God has freely given us ALL that He has to give IN CHRIST.  (Rom. 8:32)  There is NOTHING outside of the Person of Christ that God will ever have to give to humanity.  In contrast, there is NOTHING in natural man that God has included in the new creation in this age.  Natural man is PASSED OVER as it pertains to the new creation.  God has set all that is in natural man aside under the Cross – and for the believer, “all things are OUT FROM GOD.”


There is simply no way to overstate this great Truth:  Christ is all FOR the believer; Christ is all IN the believer.  It is when we stray from this foundational reality that deception creeps in.  Read Colossians, chapter 2.  That chapter not only clearly states that all is given in Christ – Christ is all – but contains four warnings if we look to other things, experiences, and sources – and when believers do this they ALWAYS think what they are doing is OF GOD!


Note:  If Christ commanded us to ABIDE IN HIM, then it follows that it is possible – even as believers – to fail to abide in Him.  In that case, Christ still abides in us.  But we will be like the Galatians where Christ was of NO effect in them.  In other words, to the extent that we do abide in Christ by faith, His life will be operative in us.  But to the extent that we do not, then His life will not be operative in us, indeed, there will be a withering – unless we turn back to Him.


The Fruit of The Vine


As Jesus said in John 15, the branches can do nothing of themselves.  The branches cannot live out from themselves – because independent of the Vine the branches have no life in themselves.  Likewise, the branches cannot bear fruit out of themselves.  They have no life in themselves by which to produce fruit.  But it is nevertheless the will of God that the branches DO bear fruit.  Jesus told us HOW:  Jesus said that the branches needed to do ONE thing to bear fruit:  Abide in Him by faith. 


Can we see how this is the basis for so much?  Sure.  It is the Christian life expressed in picture form.  What we are talking about is foundational.  Christ is our life.  We have to life out from Him by faith.  That covers all.


Now we must be sure about one thing:  The Vine does not give the branches, “power to bear fruit.”  Neither does the Vine give the branches, “power to obey God.”  No.  The Vine gives HIMSELF to the branches – it is our union with Christ that imparts to us Christ Himself; resurrection life.  Christ IS the power of God.  He is THE LIFE; our life.  Thus, as noted, the branches bear only the fruit OF the Vine.  The fruit is of HIS LIFE -- in and through the branches.  The branches simply manifest the life of the Vine through the fruit that is produced. 


Now, of course, parallel to the experience of abiding in Christ must occur a PRUNING – a cutting off of that which would hinder life in Christ.  This is the work of the Cross.  The power of natural man must be broken for there to be much progress in the bearing the fruit of Jesus Christ.


Another way to say this is that if we are to live out from Christ as our life then we cannot be living out from ourselves.  Therefore, in John 15, when Jesus talks about, “pruning,” He is referring to a work of God – it is the work of the Cross – which will crucify our self-ownership and give us the opportunity to truly abide in Christ.


It is possible to live out from our religious selves, but if we do, then the fruit that is produced will be the fruit of religious flesh.  It might look good for a time.  But in the end it is of a false vine.  “That which is born of the flesh IS FLESH.”


FRUIT is the end of a life process – it is what the life produces.  If the life in question is NATURAL or of the flesh, even religious flesh, the fruit produced will be of that SAME nature.  But if the life in question is resurrection life in Christ, then the fruit produced will manifest His life. 


Thus, what is important to see at this point is that the FRUIT which a branch bears is not of the life of the branch.  No.  The fruit is of the life of The Vine – the life of The Vine flows through the branch and bears on the branch the fruit of The Vine.   


So, when we talk about, “being conformed to His image,” and, “Christian character,” we are really talking about the FRUIT of the life of Christ being worked out through humanity.  Humanity manifests Christ – bears His fruit – but the fruit is NOT out from our natural man.  We are the source of NOTHING and can DO nothing.  Rather, the fruit is out from Christ as the source.  He becomes our source only by faith.


For example, have we recognized that SANCTIFICATION is Jesus Christ seen in and through His people?  Have we recognized that, “the fruit of the spirit,” is likewise Jesus Christ seen in and through His people?  The two are the same.  What?  Do we think there is the fruit of The Vine, Jesus Christ, but then OTHER fruit of the spirit?  That is silly.  Jesus Christ dwells in believer BY THE MEANS of the spirit of God.  The fruit is Jesus Christ.


Regarding Jesus Christ as our sanctification, Paul stated this directly.  He wrote:


But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.  (I Cor. 1:30-31)


It should be no surprise that sanctification is Jesus Christ manifested in His people – for again – He is THE LIFE.  But many of us have been taught that sanctification is limited to, “holy living.”  Or that sanctification happens when God, “acts upon us,” to make us, “to look like Jesus.”  No.  Sanctification is Jesus Christ seen in believers – holy living will emerge. 


We see this Truth reflected all through the Bible.  For example, take the term, “Holy Spirit.”  That term means, “the spirit that sets aside for God.”  Or, better said, “the spirit through which one belongs to God.”  But HOW does the spirit make a person to belong to God?  Well, Paul said, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”  (I Cor. 6:17)  Thus, we belong to God because Christ is in us by the means of the Holy spirit.


This is why the most often used term in the NT for a believer is, “saint.”  The term, “saint,” “sanctification,” “sanctify,” and, “holy,” all are of the same root word.  A, “saint,” is, “a sanctified one,” that is, “a person who belongs to God.”  So when we speak of sanctification we are not talking about US becoming LIKE Jesus.  Rather, we are talking about US being crucified out of the way so that Jesus Christ Himself might be seen.  And if He is seen, then that is FRUIT unto God’s glory.  He is our sanctification.  


The Light of Men


In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  (John 1:4)


Jesus said, “I AM the Truth.”   He also said, “I AM the Life.”  In John 17, He prayed to the Father, “This IS life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.”  (John 17:3)  Gather this up and it is simple:  Jesus Christ the sum total of LIFE and LIGHT in a living Person – a living Person who dwells within believers.  If we are indwelt with Christ, then not only are we alive IN HIM, but we have the capacity to KNOW HIM.  As Jesus prayed in John 17:3 – life eternal carries KNOWING God and His Son.  The two are experienced as we experience the PERSON.


But note:  Because the light is in His life, we cannot begin to SEE; to experience LIGHT -- until we experience Him as our LIFE.  Jesus said as much.  He said, “Unless you are born from above you cannot SEE….”  Only if we abide in Him for His life – meaning abide in Him for all that He is – can we then progressively grow in a knowing of Him.


If we were to put this down in a formula, it would be:  Our death=His life=the light of His life.  Thus, this brings us back to the necessity of the work of the Cross.  It is only as I surrender myself – completely abandon myself as the source of anything and give myself to Christ – it is only as such a DEATH takes place under the personal Cross – that the Christ within the believer finds a greater release.  Only then is it possible for the life that is in Him to be more fully experienced.  But likewise, it is only then that we grow to KNOW HIM.  The LIGHT is in HIS LIFE.  You cannot separate the two – both are dimensions of Christ.


Abiding in Christ will result in an experiencing of Him as our life, and also our light – or to put it another way – if we abide in Christ by faith we will slowly come into an inner realization of Him.  Christ will be formed in us.  Sure.  If we abide in the Vine and His life becomes ours then what else could possibly happen?


You and I could be saved for years and yet we may have little personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Oh, we may have many facts and doctrines.  But are we crucified people?  Have we been broken?  Is it settled that we are no longer our own?  Have we been set free from religious self-righteousness, self-importance – even in the things of God – and have we come to the utter and complete end of trying to salvage something out of ourselves?  Well, that is going to be necessary if we expect to live out from HIS LIFE.  And only if we are living out from His life will the light that brings us into an inward realization of Jesus Christ come into our experience.


Here we see that to, “abide in Christ,” is not passive.  No.  Again, to, “abide in Christ,” means to LIVE OUT FROM HIM.  It means that we need to allow God to bring us to where we, as branches, are EXTENSIONS of Christ – as much as is possible.  It means that we live as those who BELONG to Christ. 


As noted earlier, to, “abide in Christ,” is impossible unless I am no longer abiding in myself.  I have to learn what it means to live out from Christ as my source for all – rather than continue to look to myself as the source of anything.  I have to learn that this is the basis for a walk of faith.  I walk while abiding by faith in Christ – I am governed by the LIGHT and LIFE found in HIM.


Christ Manifested


God does not give us His LIFE or LIGHT to have and to hold within ourselves as independent entities.  No.  We are JOINED to Christ in spirit.  In other words, Christ will forever be the ONLY source of life and light.  Thus, we must by faith abide in Christ – meaning to live out from Him.  The things of God will NEVER belong to us.  Rather, we belong to Christ.  We are recipients solely by His grace.


A bulb of a lamp will not light up unless the lamp is turned on.  Only then will the fact that the lamp is plugged in have any effect.  That is a limited analogy, but the point is that, yes, we are IN Christ – “plugged into Christ” – but being in Christ will be of no living effect for us if we are not abiding in Him – the lamp must be turned on.  This is what Paul said to the Galatians:  “Christ is of no effect to you who would be justified by law-keeping.”  Christ was in them, but because they were not living out from Him by faith, but rather, living out of themselves through law-keeping, He may as well have NOT been in them.  Instead of standing by grace they had fallen from grace – through their own unbelief.  The cause was that they had replaced faith in Christ with faith in themselves.


It cannot be overemphasized, and so it is repeated here:  You and I will never abide in Christ by faith – we will actually be blind to the experience of it – unless we are brought to the end of everything we are in ourselves.  We have to be brought to repentance and a realization of our utter corruption.  But this is not so that we might live in misery.  No.  It is because it is the TRUTH to see ourselves in that light.  And then we will realize Christ – and begin to understand by experience what it means to abide in Him by faith.  So our prayer ought to be to ask God to do whatever it takes to bring us to this place.


There can be no fruit of the spirit otherwise.  There will be only the religious fruit of the flesh – as it were, “plastic” fruit that might like real; look pretty.  But it will not be alive because the only fruit that is alive is HIS fruit – of HIS Person.


The fruit of Christ is the ONLY fruit that is alive.  Now, ask:  How much effort does a branch exert in order to bear the fruit of the vine?  None.  You don’t see branches struggling and straining to bear fruit.  All that the branch does is abide in the vine.  THE LIFE takes care of the rest.  Thus, abide in Christ by faith.  The fruit will come. 


But if this isn’t passive -- then how does it operate from a practical standpoint?  Well, first of all, it is entirely possible to try to make all of this happen by the efforts of religious flesh.  People have always constructed patterns, laws, and principles -- that they define as, “abiding in Christ” -- and have managed to mold religious flesh according to their expectations -- and then have called this, “Christian character.”  There are lots of folks around who have been trained, brainwashed, and molded into a certain religious frame.  They walk and live in a false position; a system, rather than Christ.  It would seem that each church, denomination, cult, or group has a particular, “cookie cutter,” result.  The people act the same, but worse, many THINK the same.  And it may look good – all the while NONE of it is of Christ.


There are those who teach that you come to bear the image of Christ – bear fruit -- by your good works.  Some even say that good works themselves are the fruit that Jesus wants us to bear.  But if you read John 15 and the rest of scripture on this matter it is clear that all of that is backwards. Good works cannot produce living fruit.  No.  HIS LIFE alone can produce good works.  The essential is Christ – Christ in us and we abiding in and out from Him by faith. 


All of us have lived in and out from ourselves – we have lived from out of the, “Adam vine of natural man.”  It is what we are born into through natural birth.  It is all we know.  And so many professing Christians have taken the, “Adam vine of natural man,” and tried to, “hang fruit,” on it.  But it is artificial fruit.  There is no life in it because it is not the product of HIS LIFE.  It is the product of the artificial life and is of dead religion.


Not a bit of reality in Christ is possible unless we have been broken of our life.  All that is of God must BEGIN at the END of ourselves.  God must reduce us down to less than zero.  We have to see and be completely convinced that without Christ we can do nothing.  This has to be a Truth that has been experienced and settled – not just a principle with which we give assent.  Only if we have been broken and severed from our old life – by the Cross – can we begin to abide in Christ by faith.  We won’t know what that means otherwise.


This cannot be over emphasized.  Unless God deals with us and brings the work of the Cross – and brings us to the end of ourselves – to the end of living out from ourselves – we will probably try to express what we read in the Bible on the basis of religious flesh.  The key therefore is to give ourselves to Christ. 


Then if we have been brought by God to the place where we are living from out of Christ by faith, then we will also be growing to know Him – for His light is in His life.  And then, as we are faced with life we will be governed by a growing knowledge of Himself.  His life will govern us.  That will result in obeying God.


Freedom from Sin


Most of us try to get free from sin by fighting sin.  We fight sin by trying to make ourselves STOP sinning.  We fight sin by trying to make ourselves obey God.  In fact, many of us have been told that God will give us the strength to accomplish this.  But there is a problem:  None of this works.


If you and I could stop sinning then Christ died in vain – because we always had the ability to do for ourselves what Christ did for us.  No.  We have to come to absolutely understand this fact:  None of us have within ourselves the resource necessary to deliver ourselves FROM ourselves.  But even more we must understand that God does NOT give us the resource necessary to deliver ourselves FROM ourselves.  Yet it is commonly taught that God DOES exactly that – many teach that God gives us strength and power.  Some teach that God acts upon our humanity and elevates it to the point where we can overcome.  This is often called, “the work or power of the Holy Spirit.”


This is error.  God never makes any of us strong or powerful.  He never gives us some power or strength to overcome.  Rather, what He wants to do is make us realize our utter and complete weakness within ourselves – and if we will realize this – then we can put our faith in the One God does give us:  Jesus Christ.


Now, just to repeat that, because it is almost as a hidden Truth today:  God does not give us strength, power, or anything of Himself, to hold within ourselves – He gives us nothing to use to overcome sin or do His will.  NO.  Rather, He gives us His Son.  He says, “Abide in My Son for LIFE.”  Christ IS resurrection life – and resurrection life has already overcome all that is contrary to God in humanity.


This tells us that our direct goal should never be to focus on our sin and FIGHT IT.  Rather, our goal ought to be to abide in Christ.  For then we will be abiding in the One who is the very personification of victory over sin. 


To put it another way, instead of trying to purge sin out of our lives, we need to relinquish to Christ our entire selves – relinquish the life in which all acts of sin find their root.  Try to fight sin without relinquishing the ground in which it is planted and you will lose.  In fact, you will be walking in unbelief and ignorance.


From a practical standpoint, we are never called upon to win a victory.  Rather, we are called to abide in the One who is the finished victory.  This means that instead of allowing sin to come between us and Christ, we need to abide in Christ despite our sin – and if we do – we will find that victory is IN HIM. 

How silly it is to allow sin to come between us and the One who is our answer to sin.  How silly to try to win a victory – thinking that THEN we can abide in Christ.  That is unbelief.  Rather, we abide in Christ and THEN can experience His victory.  Despite the fact that this is foundational Truth -- and the ONLY path of Truth -- so many of us are blind to it.


With regards to any pattern of sin, there comes a time when we can turn FROM the sin TO Christ.  It is then that we need, by faith, to turn to Christ.  God will open our eyes to this reality – He will cut through all of the confusion and power of the flesh and show us this possibility.  But of what value is it to merely try to turn FROM sin – but not turn TO Christ.  That would be like walking circles within the same prison cell.  No.  The only way OUT of sin is to turn TO Christ – believing He wants us free, and believing that He has already done all that is possible for freedom.  And as mentioned – the first sin from which we must turn is that of self-ownership.


Formed Together With Christ


And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.   For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.   Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.  (Rom. 8:28-30)


“To be conformed to the image of His Son,” does not mean to be made, “to look like Jesus.”  No.  We are not meant to become miniature versions of Christ.  God does not, “act upon us,” by His spirit, or, “do things to us,” by His power, in order to make us into Xerox copies of His Son.  Rather, Christianity is, “Christ in us.”  Thus, “to be conformed,” to Christ is the result of Christ WITHIN.  It is not the result of some other power coming upon us from WITHOUT.  It is the power of Christ’s life within the believer that begins to work in the believer – all that is of God is OUT FROM CHRIST.  Thus, the impact is first, WITHIN, and then, OUTWARD.  In effect, the purpose of God is to manifest the Christ who dwells in the believer IN and THROUGH that believer.


The Greek of the above verse bears this out.  “To be conformed to the image of Christ,” means to be “formed together” with Jesus.  The Greek word, “summorphos,” actually means, “to be formed WITH.”  The prefix, “sum,” denotes WITH, and the word MORPHOS means to form.  Gather this up and you can see that wants to form the believer together with His Son resulting in the manifestation of Christ through those who are IN Christ.


There is another way to state this Truth:  It is God’s purpose to make each believer COMPATIBLE with Jesus Christ.  But this does not mean Christ adds some value to the relationship but that we add some value.  No.  Being made COMPATIBLE with Jesus Christ means that He brings ALL the value – all of the life, light, and Truth to our spiritual union with Him – and we must be have our flesh and natural man crucified so that we can receive Him and live in what He brings solely by, “grace through faith.”


This is vital to see.  The Truth is that Jesus Christ in us is ALL and we are nothing – and being made compatible with Him; being formed together with Him – means that we must be brought to the place where we are able to live in that Truth.  We have to live in His grace – we have to live in Him as our Lord.  We have to live by faith – a complete reliance and dependence upon Him.  That is the only way to be compatible with Christ; it is the only way to live in the Truth.


So if you want to know how to be, “conformed to His image,” that is it:  We have to abide solely in Christ – rest in Him and live in Him -- by faith.  Or, to put it another way, we have to give ourselves completely to Him for His purpose.  Only then can Christ be manifested through us.  Only then can we bear HIS fruit.


Not Self-Improvement


Christians have been wrongly taught that WE are supposed to, “build character” – Godly character.  But so often what this is made to mean is that we are supposed to develop better personality traits.  It is taught that God wants to take our natural man and fix it, repair it, and form it according to what a Christian is supposed to be.  The emphasis is almost always upon what we are in our natural man.  Laws, principles, and ministry are often presented as tools on how to make this happen.


The irony is that what we often try to build up with supposed Godly character – that is the very thing God wants to tear down.  We are trying to make of ourselves a religious representation of what it means, “to look like Jesus.”  But it is usually all of the flesh – religious flesh and self-occupation.  Often we want to be like Jesus so that we might feel good about ourselves, or feel right with God, or look good to others.  This is a plague in the church these days – self-occupation is an obsession.  These motives are subtle.  We might even say that our faith is in God to help us achieve this.  But faith in God for what is not of God is not real faith in God.  Rather, it is deception.


For those of us who have tried this nonsense – and perhaps tried it for many years – the result has been one of despair and defeat.  There comes despair and defeat because what we believed MUST work does not work.  Where is God?  Worse, because the initial goal of self-improvement is itself error, we get the opposite – a sense that there certainly must be something terribly wrong with us.


Many Christians have bought into the notion that there are only TWO alternatives regarding our view of SELF as believers:  A high view and a low view.  So obviously, we shoot for the high view – surely that must be the will of God!  God would never want us to live in misery over ourselves!  And feeling good about ourselves, well, that feels good!  It could not be bad, could it? 


We are blind.  It is just that simple.  Most of us have NO CLUE whatsoever as to any possibility that could exist OUTSIDE of those two views of self.  But that is exactly the answer.  God does want us to have a high view of self, or a low view of self – BOTH of these are an occupation with SELF.  In fact, they are the SAME view – for even a low view of self is nothing more than a striving for a high view.  It’s just that it is a frustrated view.  Gather all of this up and it creates a life that is spent circling around ourselves – and getting no where in Jesus Christ.


The Truth is, rather than an occupation with self that is on the high side or the low side, God wants to deliver us from self altogether.  He wants to lift us completely out of this deception and give us an inward realization of Jesus Christ.  Then, instead of circling around ourselves, we will be occupied with Him.  That is freedom.  That is true deliverance.  And if we want to walk with Christ, it is the ONLY LIFE God has to offer.


An Expression of Christ


A branch that is producing the fruit of the Vine is manifesting that Vine – the branches of any tree or vine is an extension or expression of that tree or vine.  So it is with Christ and His Body.  The purpose of God for the Body of Christ is that the Body of Christ be an expression of Christ; an extension of Christ.  This is the reason that the branches are to bear the fruit of the one True Vine.  You will note that the fruit is not unto OUR glory or purpose.  No.  It is unto Christ’s glory and purpose.  This purpose is to begin here, in this age, and then extend into the eternal ages.


So, what we see on this matter of fruit is this:  Fruit is not the things we do for God.  It is not, “getting souls saved.”  It is not personality development or the building up of our natural man.  It is not us following certain principles in order to supposedly, “build character.”  It is not the believer coming to, “look like Jesus.”  Rather, fruit is LIFE – it is the life of Christ – Christ Himself -- being manifested through His people. 

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