Abiding?!??!??? What in the world is that?

In Jesus, Ken Page

Possibly the least understood concept to us modern day Christians is the concept of abiding in Christ. I will never forget a conversation I was having with a sister in Christ when I brought up the subject of abiding. As I continued to press her on the issue, this "committed" Christian of thirty years, finally concluded that abiding was just too abstract of an idea to understand! After decades of my own vagueness, I think I am finally getting it.

Jesus used this word "abiding" to describe the very heart of what it meant to live the Christian life. Amazingly, many of us have almost no clue of what He meant! How can this be? I believe there are a couple of reasons for our confusion.

One reason abiding is so tough for us to understand is that we have built a system of Christian living that is diametrically opposed to abiding, and thus, abiding makes no sense. Our idea of the committed Christian life is to look in the Bible for ways to be "holy and blameless" and then try to do them. Even though we may not admit it, we view sanctification as our responsibility and the thing we do in order to continue to be in good standing with the Lord. We Evangelicals seem to have no trouble believing that our salvation is solely the work of God, but try to convince us that our sanctification is by God and world war three breaks out. The Apostle Paul had no such dichotomy-

"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (Col. 2:6)


"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'"(1 Cor. 1:30,31)

This self-help religious system many of us live under is what Paul referred to as "self-made religion" (Colossians 2). He said this "religion" has the appearance of wisdom. It is a way of attempting to eliminate sin by human effort and to own righteousness for ourselves. Paul writes that it is based on keeping rules, regulations and laws in order to become holy. It is a mentality that believes that exercising my will power to deny myself of what I want will result in purity. This system of trying to behave the Biblical way and denying the desires of the selfish heart is precisely the "self-made" sanctification method of many Evangelicals.

A second reason we do not understand abiding is that our humanness does not want to. The heart of abiding is dependence. Dependence is the mortal enemy of self (our flesh). Our flesh screams out against dependence. We like the idea of improving ourselves "for" God. We are drawn to ways that increase our strength, wisdom and abilities "for" Him. This is why we can not relate to Paul when he says, "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:10) We long for love, acceptance, value and identity; but we want it the old fashioned way- we want to earn it and deserve it.

You can not understand the concept of abiding (let alone live in it) until you are willing to recognize that living the Christian life is not about you getting better or working harder. As Christ said, "you must deny yourself". You living the Christian life, in fact, is impossible. You must be convinced that only Jesus within you can live the Christian life.

Abiding has a couple of aspects. It is knowing that you are united with Christ. The old you has been crucified with Christ. You are a brand new creature. You are a son. The new you has been given an inheritance. You now have the riches of Christ. You are holy and blameless. You are seated in the heavenlies with Him. Abiding is about trusting and resting in the truth that Jesus is your "rightness" and loves you immensely -not just yesterday, but TODAY!

The second aspect of abiding has to do with this new you being expressed through you and experienced by you. You are holy and loved; and Jesus wants this holiness and love to be shown through you. Jesus wants you to have the daily experience of love, joy and pure living. Abiding in Christ is about HIM living in you and bringing this fruit to maturity. He not only gives you a new identity but He also empowers you to experience this identity. This is what Paul was expressing when he wrote that He wants to present every man complete in Christ. He wants them to know and experience Jesus as their new life.

Abiding is actually quite simple. It is allowing the resources of Someone else to be yours. It is living a life dependent on a Source other than you. It is believing that your identity does not come from your behavior but from Christ who is in you. It is believing the fact that Jesus has already done and continues to do all that needs to be done. Abiding is a recognition that what gives you the ability to live is the life of Someone else- Jesus.


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