Remaining and Abiding in Christ (Part 1)

Bob Roane Loving and Trusting God

Jesus said: Remain (abide, dwell, continue) in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing…. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. (John 15:4-10)

Let’s Depend on Christ to Help Us

People joke about men’s unwillingness to ask for help, but is it really true? Psychologists Addis and Mahalik cited numerous studies over the past 30 years that confirm the stereotype. Men don’t seek medical help as frequently and ask fewer health questions than women, even though men are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. The same holds true with psychological services. Many depressed men reported that they are averse to seeking help, even informally from friends, and say they would never seek professional counseling. Addis and Mahalik warn that the average man’s resistance to seeking help has negative consequences. Men in the United States die, on average, seven years younger than women and have higher rates of 15 leading causes of death.1

Whatever these studies show, Scripture says that all of us need the help of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) all through this life and into the world to come. The Psalmist humbly confessed, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”2 That’s how we must be.

J.C. Ryle says: Abiding in Christ means to keep up a habit of constant communion with Him, always leaning on Him, resting on Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, and using Him as our Fountain of life and strength. It means keeping up fellowship with Jesus as our chief Companion and best Friend. It means having God’s words remain in us, keeping His sayings and precepts continually before our minds, and making them the guide of our actions and rule of our daily conduct and behavior.3

Since the Bible truth of remaining and abiding in Christ is sometimes misunderstood, let’s dig a little deeper. I draw on the work of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson.4

Let’s Remember That God the Father Is the Divine Gardener Who Gives Life

In John chapters 14-17, Jesus teaches that God has taken the initiative and graciously grafted His believers into Christ and united us to Jesus. Our salvation is all of God’s grace in the beginning, middle, and end. Christ says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”5 The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to call us back to God. The Spirit convinces us that we are sinful and miserable apart from the Lord. The Spirit opens our hearts and minds to know Christ. The Holy Spirit also persuades us and makes us able to receive Jesus, who is freely offered in the Bible. God gives us the repentance (turning from sin) and faith (turning to the Lord) that we exercise in coming to Him at first, and continuing in fellowship with Him for the rest of our lives.

J. I. Packer said that we can sum up all New Testament religion as knowing God as our Holy Father. If we really understand Christianity, we will make a big deal about being God’s adopted children and having Him as our Father. That will shape our thinking, worship, prayers, and our whole life. Everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, is summed up in knowing God as our Heavenly Father.6

Pastor Thomas Watson adds that adoption is a greater privilege than Adam had in paradise! God has made Jesus’ followers His children by adoption, nearer to Himself than the angels. Angels are friends of Christ while believers are His family members. Jesus calls us His little brothers and sisters and the children God has given Him.7 Are these truths precious to us?

Let’s Commit to Trusting and Obeying Christ

Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands….Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them….If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love….Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.8

In 1993 in an NCAA cross-country race in California, Mike Delcavo and 127 top runners were battling for the championship over the six-mile course. About halfway into the race, most runners missed a turn and Delcavo was somewhere in the middle of the pack. He yelled out, “You’re going the wrong way,” but they didn’t listen. Only 4 people followed Mike when he turned in the right direction. He decided not to follow the crowd and to go the correct way.9

Thank God, Jesus is our Champion who never leads us astray. We were hopelessly lost in our sin, but God the Father sent His Son to rescue us from the dominion of darkness.10 Christ came to earth as a man and faced all our human trials and troubles. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He won complete victory over guilt, the grave, and Satan. And Jesus’ triumph guarantees His followers victory in our daily walk with God.11

Christ both began and finished this race of faith that we are in. So let’s study how He did it. Let’s allow God’s word to fill our minds, change our hearts, and direct our steps. As Jesus’ Scriptures dwell in us and the Spirit fills us, we will pray in ways consistent with God’s revealed will. Simple obedience to Jesus is the fruit and evidence of our grateful love for Him. We will never succeed on our own. We must rely on the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance. Then we can walk and run with God by faith, more and more advancing in the conquest Christ our Champion has won for us.12

I will praise my dear Redeemer, His triumphant power I’ll tell,
How the victory He gives us Over sin and death and hell.13

To be continued

Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 Michael E. Addis and James R. Mahalik, “Men, Masculinity and the Context of Seeking Help,” American Psychologist (January, 2003).     2 Psalm 121:2.     3 Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume 4, p. 104.    4 In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life.     5 John 6:44.     6 Adapted from Knowing God.     7 Heb 2:12-13.     8 John 14:15-24; 15:10.     9 Sports Illustrated, December 27, 1993.     10 Col 1:13.     11 1 Peter 1:3-9.     12 These thoughts draw on Hebrews 12:1-3, David Egner, Sinclair Ferguson, and Eugene Peterson.     13 From a hymn by Philip Bliss.