Foundational Truth #4

Abiding In Christ

by David A. DePra

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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 abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  (John 15:4-5)


What does it mean, “to abide in Christ?”  This is an important question, because if you read passages like the one above from John 15, it is clear that doing so is the means by which we live the Christian life. 


The Greek word translated, “abide,” means, “to live in; to remain; to remain as one; to be held or kept.”  The intended meaning in scripture becomes all the more clear once we realize that a believer is, “joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him.”  (I Cor. 6:17)  That spiritual union – which is a resurrection life union with Jesus Christ – is the union in which we must abide by faith.  We are to live IN and OUT FROM Jesus Christ as our life. 


By Faith


We must abide in Christ BY FAITH.  But what does it mean to abide in Christ – live in and out from Christ – by FAITH?   Well, in plain language, it means to live AS IF the Truth IS the Truth.  It means to live with the certainty that what Jesus Christ has promised IS true.  Do you believe that Christ is IN YOU?  Well, then that ought to result in a walk by faith. 


That might seem like an oversimplification.  But so many of us walk through life waiting for God to DO something to prove to us that what He says is true is, in fact, true.  We wait for God to act upon us – to sort of make us FEEL like something is true.  We turn inward and try to muster up something out of ourselves as proof that Christ is within.  Or worse, we want signs and wonders – as proof that God is faithful.  We may not actually put these attitudes into words, but this is how many of us try to walk with God.


If you have walked with Christ for very long, you are going to discover something:  God is not going to continually prove Himself to you.  He may do this a little in the beginning to get us moving – but it won’t be long until God stops.  God wants us to believe Him – not because there is something about ourselves that proves He is faithful – but He wants us to believe Him because HE IS FAITHFUL DESPITE US, and because Christ has already done everything there is to do for us to abide in Him. 


This leaves only one thing WE must do:  BELIEVE.  God will NOT believe for us.   He will not act upon us and cause us to believe.  Rather, He will reveal to us the Truth.  If we will open ourselves to God for whatever it takes, we will come to both recognize the Truth AS the Truth, and we will be able to believe.


For example, in the above passage, as well as in many other places, we are told that Jesus Christ is in us – that we are joined to Him in spirit.  That is basic.  Do we believe this?  But what if we cannot sense Him?  What if we have no experience of this as Truth?  What if we do not understand HOW this can be?  The answer is that we must bypass all of those misgivings and begin at the starting point of FAITH – begin by believing what God has said. 


Unless we begin with faith in Christ, the Person, we are not going to get far in understanding the Truth of God.  Hebrews states, “By faith we understand.”  (Heb. 11:3)  It also says that , “without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe….”  (Heb. 11:6)  God is simply telling us that we need not get bogged down by all of our ignorance, fear, inexperience – not even by our failures.  Because of Christ we can step around all of those issues and ABIDE IN HIM BY FAITH.


Obviously, to abide in Christ by faith will result in a walk by faith – from out of the same Christ in Whom we are abiding.  But we cannot walk unless we are abiding by faith.  And we certainly cannot lead Christ into what we want.  Thus, to abide by faith carries a genuine surrender to Christ as our life.


God has not made this hard.  He has taken the initiative to reveal Truth.  Our responsibility is to believe it – and if that is a problem – then ask God to do whatever it takes to bring us to where we can.  That too is basic faith.


Christ, Our Life


For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, [who is] our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.  (Col. 3:3-4)


Notice:   In ourselves, we are DEAD.  We are dead spiritually, and have NOTHING within ourselves that we can call upon to spring forth life.  BUT – Paul says – Christ is our LIFE.  Plug this into John 15 – we are to live in and out from Christ AS OUR LIFE.


Now, the question is this:  Do we believe that we are joined to the Lord and one spirit with Him?  For if we are joined to Him, we are joined to LIFE HIMSELF – that is why Christ is our life.  Do we believe that?  It is God’s Word.  Does Paul say we need to FEEL like it is true?  Or that we need to understand the height and depth of it?  No.  We are to BELIEVE it is true because God said it is true.  And then, once we believe, then we must LIVE like it is true.   How?  By moving ahead in our lives AS IF it is true!


What if we sin?  What if we have bad habits?  What if we have doubts?  Well, if we allow what we perceive as our faults to stop us from abiding in Christ then we are in UNBELIEF.  We are standing aloof from Christ because of something about ourselves – when, in fact, Christ died so that NOTHING about ourselves can possibly stand between ourselves and God.  We MUST put ourselves aside – yes, with all of our horrible sins and personality problems – and abide in CHRIST ANYWAYS.  Why is that possible?  Again – because the basis is HIM, and all that He has done, and all that HE IS – and we are no part of the authority for abiding in Him.  Is this not GRACE?  Yes.  It is exactly that.


All of this is basic gospel Truth – that in Christ the believer is fully redeemed, accepted, forgiven, and made a new creation.  But it is ALL a gift – God has freely given us all things in Christ.  (Rom. 8:32)  And we are called upon to simply BELIEVE – and then to live like we believe.  It all begins with FAITH – with moving forward by FAITH in Him.  That is the basis for ABIDING.  Without that, there can be no fruit to His glory.  With that, a believer can grow to manifest spiritual fruit – which is Christ in us, being seen through us.


The Vine and the Branches


The picture that Jesus gives of Himself as the Vine, and believers as the branches, is one of those pictures which contains a vast revelation of Truth.   The Vine is the source of life.  The branches are not given a separate life – no – the branches share the life of the Vine.  Thus, Christ is LIFE HIMSELF.  We are joined to Him in spirit -- that means we are not given our own life.  No.   Believers are not given a THING called eternal life, or given a separate or similar life as that of Christ.  Rather, we share HIS LIFE – that is communion.  We are ONE in spirit with Him.  Now, the fact that we are joined to Christ – that alone makes Him the source of our life.  But we must REMAIN IN, and live in and out from Him – for that life to have its impact.  Otherwise it is a stagnant, passive life that becomes bottled up.


Now, someone is liable to ask as to what it means to, “remain in,” or, “abide in,” Christ.  As noted earlier, it means that the entire Christian life must emerge from the fact that CHRIST IS OUR LIFE – the Christian life must be the outcome of abiding IN HIM by faith.  To put is another way, Christ does not give us a THING called, “eternal life.”  Rather, He IS our life – which means that there is no part of us, and not part of our lives, that is to be outside of Jesus Christ as our life.


There were some NT churches that, despite being saved, were not, “remaining in Christ” – in the sense of living from OUT OF HIM.  It is entirely possible to be saved and secure, and yet to be walking in unbelief, ignorance, or to be indifferent, or even deceived.  Read Paul’s epistles.  Salvation is not questioned – but some of those churches were not walking in Christ – they were actually living ALOOF from Him.  Why?  Because they were living out from their own natural mind, and out from their own delusion of self-righteousness.  They were NOT abiding in Christ.  Jesus is telling us that there is no part of our existence that ought to be severed or independent from Himself.  For if we abide in Christ and live out from Him by faith, then our works and our attitude will also be OF HIM and OF the Truth.  This takes time to learn.  But it is the essence of oneness with God through Christ.


What this means from a practical standpoint is that as we walk through each day, and each situation, we are to draw upon Jesus Christ as our life.  We must learn to do this – and along side of that we must learn how to refuse to live out from our natural man.  I’m not speaking about our physical body.  Rather, I’m talking about the source of our life – is it US or is it Christ?  What drives us?  Are we seeking our own interests or the interests of Jesus Christ?


Obviously, living in and out from Christ will require that we are growing in an inward realization of Jesus.  We need to learn Christ – grow to know Him in an inward way.   This is not merely a matter of knowing facts -- it is not merely theology.  It is a moral and spiritual knowledge.  As God reveals Christ in us, we embrace Him, and let ourselves go.  We lose ourselves to Him.  This is all part of the same process whereby I decrease that He might increase.


One of the best examples given by Jesus of living out from Him as LIFE is what He said about prayer:


If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  (John 15:7)


Does this sound like the believer has been given the authority to decide ANYTHING?  Do we have the right to ask, “what we will,” and expect that God is going to give us, “what we will?”  That is actually preached today, and it is error.  Note the qualifier:  IF you abide in Me, and MY WORDS abide in you...”  Thus, if we are abiding in Christ as our life, then His words – His will and His Truth and His desire – shall abide in us.  And then from OUT of His words that abide in us we will ASK – we will ask what we will – but our will shall have become one with HIS will.  Simply put, the believer can only ask for what Jesus would ask – only that is according to the will of God.  That is what it means to, “pray in Jesus’ name” – to ask what HE would ask.  Thus, as we abide IN Christ, what should flow into us, and then out through us, is HIS LIFE – the believer should grow to become an extension of Christ.


Extensions of Christ


Believers are to be, “extensions,” of Christ.  Isn’t that really what a branch is to the Vine?  Yes.  This is just another way of saying that believers are members of Christ; members of His body.  The branch, which is part of the Vine, is an extension of that Vine.  The branch lives by, and exists by, the LIFE of the Vine.  No branch has it’s own life.  No believer is to live out from themselves.  We are to be extensions of Jesus Christ – living from out of Him and walking from out of Him.


Indeed, even the fruit of a branch is not OF the branch.  The fruit belongs to the Vine, and is the product of the life of the Vine that flows into the branches.  That is why Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing – for without Him and His life being the source of what we do there is NO life in it at all.


Now, the relationship of the branches to the Vine, and the walk that results, and the fruit that is produced, is a progressive experience and unfolding.  It doesn’t just happen – it isn’t the result of something God does TO the believer.  Rather, it is the result of Christ IN the believer.  We must come lose ourselves to Him.  We have to come into an inward realization of Jesus Christ.  We have to come to manifest Him.


It is vital to see the Truth that believers are not given THINGS because of Christ – believers are not even given a THING called, “life,” because of Christ.  No.  Believers are given CHRIST HIMSELF – Christ IS our life.  We are one with Him IN HIS LIFE.  This is a basic reality – and all that we call, “the Christian life,” is out from this Truth – all out from Christ Himself. 


This is the Truth of the Vine and the branches that Christ reveals in John 15.  It is the same Truth as that which Paul spoke – that believers are, “all one in Christ;” that we are, “members of Christ;” that believers have been, “baptized into Christ;” “planted into Christ.” Believers have been made ONE IN SPIRIT with Christ and that we are supposed to live in and out from Him as our life BY FAITH.

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