What does it mean to abide in Christ?
– The key command of this passage is to abide in Christ (vs. 4). “Abide in me… As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.” If you don’t want to taken away and cast into the fire, you’ve got to remain in Christ, to stay connected to him… but what does that mean?
– Abiding in Christ is specifically abiding in the love that Christ has for us (vs. 9). Jesus gives us the command to abide in him, but then he clarifies what he means in verse 9. As the Father has loved Christ, so has he loved us; and the command is to abide in His love for us. Notice, this is not a command to give love to Christ, but to receive his love for us. Abiding is mainly a receptive action. So abiding in Christ is not primarily our doing something for Jesus Christ, but rather it is our action of resting in the love that Christ has for us. It is a receiving of his love for us.
– What is the love Christ has for us? We see Christ’s love most clearly in the gospel; Jesus Christ points to his laying down his life for sinners/friends (vs. 13). To abide in Christ is to live a life of continuous dependence on what Christ has done for us in the Gospel.
– This helps us make sense of vs. 4. We see that abiding in Christ is a mutual relationship. “Abide in Me and I in you.” When we abide in Christ by trusting in him, he also comes and dwells in us and loves us and reciprocates that relationship to us. Christianity is a real two way relationship, initiated by God. God first loved us in sending his Son, and this results in a real relationship in which we abide in the love of Christ and Christ abides in our love for him.
What are the challenges of abiding in the love of Christ?
1) Habitual sin – We all struggle with sin and when we are sinning, the last thing we care about is Christ and the cross. When we are driven by sin, although we know in our brains that Christ suffered and died for sinners so that we would be holy, our hearts could give a flip about that and we would much rather enjoy our sin. Sin makes us forget Christ.
2) Guilt – And then to make it worse, after we have sinned, Satan will use guilt to fill us with doubt about whether God will forgive us for the thousandth time. How often do we struggle with guilt, and instead of turning to God right away for forgiveness in Christ, we think, “I better beat myself up for a few days and clean up my act and not sin and then God will hear my prayer”? That is a lie. That kind of thinking is not abiding in the love of Christ, but depending on yourself.
3) Apathy – There are just seasons of your life when you are just dry and apathetic towards God. During these seasons, sin is not a big deal and so the gospel is not a big deal. It’s just hard to get excited about the truths of the Bible ‘cause you don’t feel the reality of spiritual truths and eternity. During these seasons of our lives, it is hard to abide in Christ.
4) Blessing – Even during times of blessings, it also can be a challenge to abide in Christ. When everything is going well, our flesh can become proud and think that all these things are accomplished by our own obedience and wisdom, which will keep us from having a heart that recognizes that all we have is from Christ.
There are many, many more… pride, persecution, suffering, doubt, distractions, busy-ness… the list can go on and on. The bottom line is that we as humans in our flesh are wired to be independent, instead of dependent and abiding in Christ. This is why for even those who are abiding in Christ, there must be a constant pruning (vs. 2) in order that we might bear more fruit. Abiding in Christ is a battle we must fight everyday.