On a recent trip to England I took my group of high school students to Grasmere, in the Lakes District. Their reactions included comments like, “I want to stay here!” and “Do we have to leave?” They were moved by the beauty and serenity of the location, and, having found such a place of bliss and perfection, wanted to stay forever.
That is a small picture of what it means to abide in Christ. To abide is simply to stay – or, perhaps better, to dwell. There is a sense of longevity – of soaking in the surroundings. In the Lakes District you just want to find a tree and sit under it for several hours so you can begin to take in the beauty.
Of course, the Lakes District would eventually lose its charm, and either the slow pace or the oncoming winter would make my students start thinking about moving on.
This is not so with Christ. I talked of the bliss and perfection of Grasmere, but that bliss is fleeting, and the perfection is partial. True bliss and perfection are only found in Christ. And that bliss and perfection never lose their charm.
Abide in His Love
Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9). He wants us as believers to dwell, to stay, to abide in His love. He wants us to live our lives in it.
I once heard a pastor talk about believers walking around as if there’s a giant spotlight of love trained on us: wherever we are, His love goes with us and surrounds us. To abide, then, is to live every moment in that beam of light.
Jesus went on to say of this abiding, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
He wants us to abide because He wants joy for us. Abiding in the love of Jesus is what brings that true bliss I talked of earlier. This is true joy. And this is His desire for His disciples.
Abiding brings fruit
Jesus also had another motive in exhorting His disciples to abide. In that same message He said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15: 1-5).
Not only does abiding in Jesus give joy, but it also allows us to bear fruit. Abiding in Jesus enables us to do work for Him that brings Him glory and bears eternal significance.
Notice, too, that this passage talks not only of abiding in His love, but abiding in Him. He is our dwelling place, as the Psalms put it (Psalm 91:9). Or, to borrow more of the language of the Psalms, He is our strong tower, our refuge, our shelter (Psalm 61:3-4). Not only can we live our lives surrounded by His love, but we can live our lives in Him – in His presence.
Talk about bliss and perfection, not to mention security and peace and confidence and abundant life!
How do we abide in Christ?
The wonderful news is that abiding is not something we have to figure out. We don’t have to struggle through to find God so we can labor hard to enter into His presence and dwell there. The work, as always, has already been done. God made the way, through Jesus, for us to be united with Him in salvation.
The apostle Paul, in writing of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, says, “[God] raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly place” (Eph 1:20).
Then he goes on to write, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6).
God, in His grace, has already placed us in that position of being with Jesus.
And it is a totally secure position! In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul wrote this wonderful assurance: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).
Jesus has reconciled us to God, and we cannot be separated from His love.
Our job, then, is simply to rest in the finished work of Christ that puts us into this abiding relationship. As we wake, as we eat, as we worship and work and shop and play and fellowship and lie down again to sleep, let us be more and more aware of living in that “spotlight” of God’s love and presence.
Let us live our every moment abiding in Him.