What does it mean to abide in Christ? Over the years, I’ve sat through countless sermons and Bible Studies on John 15:1-11, listening to pastors, teachers and friends fumble with frustration as they tried to articulate an answer to this question. Almost always, they concluded that the abiding happened as a result of “listening prayer” or some other type of mystical experience.
Entwined with that idea came the unspoken assumption that believers had to work hard to achieve this state of abiding. Admittedly, no one seemed to know exactly what the work entailed, but they nevertheless admonished people that abiding in Christ was a believer’s responsibility, and therefore required great diligence. Those sermons and teachings invariably left me feeling confused and defeated.
If I had simply read the passage, however, I might have seen the obvious. Abiding in Christ is nothing more complicated than knowing and obeying Scripture. Look with me at the second portion of this passage:
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ~~John 15:1-11 (ESV)
Sweet sisters in Christ, do you see from these five verses that Scripture is the key to abiding in Christ? His words don’t limit themselves to those recorded in the four gospels. Everything from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 (but nothing else) constitutes His Word.
According to the apostle Paul, letting the Word of Christ dwell in us (Colossians 3:16) and being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-20) mean the same thing. It follows, then, that abiding in Christ and being filled with His Spirit occurs when His Word saturates our lives. And that saturation comes about by reading the Bible, understanding it properly and applying it in our everyday lives.
We don’t need to complicate John 15. As a matter of fact, when we continue on in the chapter, we learn that Jesus immediately commanded His disciples to imitate His self-sacrificial love (John 15:12-17). He made abiding in Him very concrete. As we study further in God’s Word, we find other commandments, all of which point to believing in Him and loving each other. Again, Jesus said in John 15:10 that if we keep His commandments, we give evidence of abiding in Him. That doesn’t sound very mystical to me.