Abide

I am blessed to attend a church whose pastor simultaneously uplifts and challenges me through consistently solid Biblical teaching, and this past Sunday was no exception. I was so encouraged by the message, entitled “Abide in My Love”, and I can’t help but start writing. :)

Pastor has been preaching from John, and this week was focused on this passage (Jesus speaking):
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
~ John 15:7-12
As Pastor has often emphasized, Christ’s invitation is more than a one-time stop to get our “tickets punched” for Heaven; rather, it is an invitation to walk with Him now and forever.
“To abide in Christ means to do life together in the presence of and in partnership with the triune God.”
Abiding is not a singular concept. It is connected to many aspects of our lives as Christians:

Our prayers. I admit that prayer has always been a difficult issue personally. I have been in situations where prayer was the only thing possible to do, and it seemed so trivial. I have been in other situations where I was one of many, many people praying for someone, and in the end it seemed God said no. I have heard so many different explanations, read so many different Bible verses that relate to the topic of prayer . . . and God’s response. Yet, according to verse 7, God promises to answer our prayers. As Pastor pointed out, though, it is important to realize that God’s answers are always consistent with His purpose, not necessarily our wants. Simple, right? :)

Our purpose. As followers of Christ, our purpose is to abide in Him, in order that we bear fruit and reflect Him (which is evidence that we have His life and are abiding in Him), and therefore bring glory to God. The more we abide in Christ, the more we will become so preoccupied with Him that we naturally reflect Him more!

Our priorities. Our priority is love . . . first, to love God, and second, to love people.
“If we love, we will abide, and if we abide, we will love.”
Sometimes it is challenging to meditate on Christ’s love. Sometimes I think it’s so overwhelming, it goes right over our heads! Just consider the beautiful words from one of my favorite verses of a hymn that Pastor read:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made.
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.
~ "The Love of God" (Frederick M. Lehman, 1917)
Our practices. God commands us to love one another . . . to value every person the way God does, as “fearfully and wonderfully made” in His image. At our college-age Bible study a few weeks ago, our “ice breaker” question was, “At your funeral, what do you want people to remember you for?” and my answer was, and is, compassion, partly because this was such an obvious part of Jesus’ character, but partly, too, because it is so unnatural for me. I struggle with loving people, there’s just no other way to put it. It’s not easy to forget one’s own comfort in order to put others first. Then again, as Pastor reminded us, “there is no love in selfishness”. Compassion is not something I can have through my own strength; yet, it requires intentionality and making choices that enable Christ to love others through me. It is another paradox: the more I abide in Christ, the more I will be obedient to His commands, and the more I obey, the more I will abide in Him and love both Him and people.
“Obedience is both the measure and the means of abiding in the love of Christ.”
Yes, there is more to following Christ than knowing where we’ll spend eternity. It is not simple, and it isn’t easy. But there is also so much more to "eternal life" than where we’ll spend eternity. Abiding in Christ is also connected to a promise from God to us! In verse 11, Jesus tells us that abiding in Him leads to our having His JOY. Joy is a byproduct of abiding in Christ.
“An essential part of what makes the gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ good news is that the God it reveals is infinitely joyful. No one would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God.”
~ John Piper, “God is the Gospel”
The full joy of Christ is unspeakable, yet at the same time should be unquenchably evident in our lives. It is a deep well that overflows in and through followers of Christ.

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