“What does it mean to abide in Christ?” I have learned a lot of things from a lot of teachers, from elementary school to graduate school, but I have never had an invitation from any of them to abide with them. No doubt I would have learned a lot more if I had but, of course, that would be so very impractical. But, throughout scripture we find the call to abide, or, to remain in relationship and in fellowship with God. To make it all happen, God has come to us in the person of Jesus. Let’s look at what he says about it.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7
The Greek word for “abide” is not an unusual or special word. It simply means, “to remain”. Jesus describes this in John 15 when he says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
“However strong the branch becomes, however far away it reaches round the home, out of sight of the vine, all its beauty and all its fruitfulness ever depend upon that one point of contact where it grows out of the vine. So be it with us too.”
― Andrew Murray, Holy in Christ
While the word for “abide” is simple, the invitation and the urging of Jesus to remain in this fellowship with him is life changing, day after day. Our relationship with the Savior cannot be ended (John 10:27-29), but the quality of our daily fellowship is a product of our daily walk with him.
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,… Colossians 2:6
Look back at John 15:7. There is something else to learn here. Jesus tells of a crucial factor of abiding… that of his words abiding in us. Jesus uses an unusual Greek word here for his “words”. I hesitate to talk about this different word, because many religious groups have exploited this word, and have misinterpreted it. They have turned it into a cultic and almost magic but mythical concept. (If you don’t know about the misuse, you are better off. Suffice it to say, that I do not hold to that idea.) While the common word for “word”, Logos, and this different word, Rhema, are often used interchangeably, there is a truth to be found in Jesus’ use of the word. Logos can mean a person’s words, but it can also mean wider concepts, philosophies, systematic teachings, and more. Rhema, simply, is the word that means one’s own personal words, spoken or written in time. One of the most tender moments of a friendship comes when we say to the friend, “I remember when you said to me…” We are often referring to some words we shared, words that we now cherish, words which continue to change our lives. I believe this is the sound and meaning that Jesus brings to John 15:7. It was the same sound and meaning found in Psalm 119:11.
“Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”
Abiding is about remaining in active fellowship, communicating genuinely with Jesus, and taking in his words, letting them change us. This is a walking and praying life, in fellowship with Jesus. John talked about it later when he wrote to the early church.
“As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. …….Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” I John 2:24, 28
We often hear the question, “What would Jesus Do?” The truth found in this concept of abiding is that the answer is, “Ask Him.” We learn what he would do from studying his Word, and we learn what he would do from communicating with him, praying, walking in fellowship, and growing in his grace.
The purpose is His, He will carry it out; the fruit is His, He will bring it forth; the abiding is His, He will maintain it.”
― Andrew Murray, The True Vine
[See John 8:31; John 15; I John 2:6; I John 4:13; Colossians 1:27; 2:6; 3:16]