Abide in Me
On that touching occasion when the Lord was alone with His disciples and imparting to them His last instructions, again and again He presses the deep necessity, as well as the blessedness, of abiding in Him. Thus: “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, thus neither [can] ye unless ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye [are] the branches. He that abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing … If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall come to pass to you” (John 15: 4, 5, 7). Again, John, who heard these farewell words from the lips of the Lord, passes them on to believers in his first epistle: “He that says he abides in him ought, even as he walked, himself also [so] to walk … And now, children, abide in him, that if he be manifested we may have boldness, and not be put to shame from before him at his coming … Whoever abides in him, does not sin” (1 John 2: 6, 28; 3: 6).
So what does abiding in Christ mean? What are we to understand by the words “Abide in me”? Do they not imply a walk of such nearness to Christ that the soul delights in all His loveliness and moral excellencies, and thus finds in Him its object and perfect pattern? Again, does not abiding in Christ suppose a heart in communion with Him, and that delights to confide in Him and learn of Him? Above all, does not abiding in Christ imply a life lived under the influence of His presence, a presence realised by faith? If a saintly and Christ–like man of God visited one of our homes, his presence would surely have a restraining influence upon everyone in the house. We would probably be more careful than usual as regards our words and ways. Now if this is the effect of the presence of a man of like passions as ourselves, what would be the effect of the realised presence of Christ Himself? None can deny that there have been many regrettable scenes among the Lord’s people, when envy and strife have prevailed, and believers have thoughtlessly, or even maliciously, wounded one another with bitter and offensive language. We may try to excuse our strong words, but we would be better asking ourselves the question, “What would have happened if the Lord had silently, but visibly, walked into our midst?” Should we not have had to confess that under the influence of His presence many a bitter and offensive word would never have been uttered? How good it would be if we could always remember that though the Lord is not visible to sight, He hears, He sees, and He knows: “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Ps. 94: 9). To walk then, in the consciousness that He listens to our words, that He sees our every act and that He reads our thoughts, is to walk under the blessed influence of His presence and to thus abide in Him.
Furthermore, these Scriptures that exhort us to abide in Christ also tell us of the blessed results this brings. First, we learn that by abiding in Christ we shall bring forth fruit. The importance of this is pressed upon us by being stated both negatively and positively. We are told that unless we abide in Christ we cannot bring forth fruit: “the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine” (John 15: 4). Then we are told that if we abide in Christ, and He in us, we shall bring forth “much fruit” (v5). From another Scripture we learn that the fruit of the Spirit is, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self–control” (Galatians 5: 22, 23). What are these lovely qualities but a description of the beautiful character of Christ? Thus the fruit of which the Lord speaks is the reproduction by the Spirit of His own character in the lives of believers. The fruit here is not service or the exercise of gift however important they are in their place. Of necessity all are not gifted in the same way, but it is open to all, young and old alike, to express something of the loveliness of Christ in their lives. Any little setting forth of the graces of Christ goes up as fruit to the Father, and goes out as testimony to the world. This, then, is the great object for which we are left in this dark world—to shine as lights by exhibiting something of the beautiful character of Christ. This will only be possible as we abide in Christ. We shall never exhibit the character of Christ by trying to be like Christ. If, however, we seek His company, and come under His influence, we shall be transformed into His image from glory to glory (see 2 Cor. 3: 18).
Secondly, the Lord’s words plainly tell us that if we abide in Christ then our prayers will have an answer: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall come to pass to you” (John 15: 7). Thus if we are under the blessed influence of His presence, with His words abiding in our hearts, then our thoughts will be formed by His thoughts and our prayers will be in accord with His mind. We should then have an answer to our prayers.
Thirdly, the Apostle John tells us in his Epistle that abiding in Him will result in us leading Christ–like lives: “He that says he abides in him ought, even as he walked, himself also [so] to walk” (1 John 2: 6). How did Christ walk? We read, “For the Christ also did not please himself'” (Rom. 15: 3). Speaking of the Father, the Lord Himself could say, “I do always the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8: 29). The outstanding marks of the Lord’s pathway here were the entire absence of self–will in doing the Father’s will, and the serving of others in love. For us, it is only possible to tread even a measure of such a path of perfection by abiding in Christ. Paul reminds us how we “ought to walk and please God” (1 Thess. 4: 1), and also to “walk in love, even as the Christ loved us” (Eph. 5: 2). How good, then, like Mary of old to sit at His feet and come under the influence of One who set aside all thoughts of self in order to serve others in love. We may know the doctrines of Christianity and we may rightly hold the great essential truths of our faith, but, as another has said, ‘no amount of knowledge however correct, no amount of intelligence, however exact, will ever put upon your soul the impress of the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ’. Every man is formed by the company that he keeps—the character of those in whose company we walk is the character we shall reflect. Thus we must walk with Christ, if we are to be like Christ and walk as He walked.
Fourthly, the Apostle John further tells us that if we are abiding in Christ, then our walk will not lead us to be ashamed before Him at His coming: “And now, children, abide in him, that if he be manifested we may have boldness, and not be put to shame from before him at his coming” (1 John 2: 28). Often there is much in our ways, speech, and manners that meets the standards of the world, or even of the people of God—things which we may judge very lightly when viewed by such human measures. If, however, we were to judge ourselves and our words in the light of the coming glory of the appearing of Christ, we would find much that we would have to condemn as far short of the standard of glory. Only as we are under the influence of His presence (and so walk in self–judgment) shall we be preserved from all that which would cause shame in the day of display.
Fifthly, we are reminded by the Apostle John, that “Whoever abides in him, does not sin” (1 John 3: 6, my emphasis). From a preceding verse we learn what the Spirit of God means by sin: “sin is lawlessness” (v4). The essence of sin is doing one’s own will without reference to God. The world around is increasingly marked by lawlessness—each doing that which is right in his own eyes. The result of this is that in spite of civilization, education, and legislation, the world system is breaking up, and society is disintegrating. Wherever the spirit of lawlessness prevails, then disintegration will follow. As believers we need constantly reminding of the danger of being affected by the spirit of the world around. Thus through lack of watchfulness on the part of Christians the same principle of lawlessness that is breaking up the world system has wrought division and scattering among the people of God. In a school, if each pupil was allowed to do his own will, then the school would rapidly break up. If each member of a family followed his own will, then the family would be wrecked. It is no different in the school or family of God: if each individual of a company of believers pursues his own will, then disruption inevitably follows. The spirit of lawlessness (in whatever sphere it shows itself) will lead to disintegration and the greater the sincerity of those who pursue their own will, the more harm they will cause. There is no greater cause of disruption among the people of God than the determined self-will of a sincere man! How then are we to escape the evil principle of lawlessness, or self-will? Only by abiding in Christ, for the Apostle says, “Whoever abides in Him, does not sin”. Only as we are held under the influence of the One who could say, “I am come down from heaven, not that I should do my will, but the will of him that has sent me” (John 6: 38), shall we escape the self–will that is the very essence of sin.
These then, are the blessed results, as brought before us in the Scriptures, of abiding in Christ. Our lives would bear fruit by expressing something of the lovely character of Christ. Our prayers, being according to His mind, would have an answer. Our path would show forth something of the beauty of His walk. Our ways would be consistent with the coming glory of Christ. Our walk would be preserved from the lawlessness of the flesh that is the root cause of the ruin of man and the sorrows of the world.
How vital then, to heed the Lord's word, “Abide in me ... for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15: 4, 5. We may be gifted and have knowledge, zeal, and experience, but without Christ we can do nothing. Gift, knowledge, zeal and experience are not power. All these things will not enable us to overcome the flesh, to refuse the world, or escape the snares of the Devil. We may have all these things yet without Christ we will stumble at the smallest trial and fall into the greatest evil. Let us seek then to abide in Christ and not take a single step or dare go forward one day without Him.