Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Abiding Advantage: Elements of God's Best

I’m embarrassed to admit I wasted more than a decade in my walk with Christ. 

During that time, I wasn’t trying to be like Christ, nor was I allowing Christ to reveal Himself in me. I continued to exist as I always had. For the first dozen years of so, it was as if I’d accepted the gift of Christ but never unwrapped the package. I kept the Lord neatly confined, as if I could contain Him on a bookshelf in my bedroom. 

As I attended church, eventually the Lord became a tool I’d take out and use when I felt despair or trouble. Over a longer time period, Jesus opened my eyes for my true need for Him. Not just during the times when I was falling apart, but also in the monotonous moments. Not only when I couldn’t resist temptation, but as I mothered my children, cared for my husband, and served my employer. 

The Lord helped me realize that I needed to lean on Him as I honored my parents and struggled in relationships. He was available for me in every situation and in each moment - not only in the profoundly painful, but in the jubilant joys as well.

Little by little, I began to abide in Christ and my life began to change for the better. 

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

Jesus likened Himself to a vine and His followers as branches. 

He teaches in John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (HCSB)

The Greek word translated “abide” means “to remain.”  

It references one’s position (staying, tarrying with), 

time (to endure, to last), and 

a state or condition (to become like).  

Consider those three phases of the definition.  Abiding is a physical position - next to Christ.  With Him to the point that we allow Him to supply all that we need. It’s a permanent, enduring position that causes us to become more like Him and allow His light to become evident through us. Of course the word picture in the Bible was perfectly chosen. He is the vine and we are the branches. 

When abiding in Christ, we spend time with Him and don’t withdraw. We continue and grow as disciples of Him. Through our investment of time with Jesus, in His Word, Biblical meditation, and prayer, we grow in our relationship with Him and continually live out His example and commands. 

Abiding is a spiritual journey that manifests through physical advantages:  

1) A growing relationship with Christ.   

It’s impossible to develop a relationship with anyone we don’t spend time with or have intentional interaction. If we never see our spouse, the tendency is to withdraw instead of connecting more deeply. When someone neglects spending time with us, the natural course of the friendship is to unravel.  

Conversely, when we share someone’s company, we learn about each other and become emotionally close. The same principle applies to a relationship with Christ. The more time we spend with Him in His Word and in prayer, the closer we’ll feel to Him, and the more intimately we’ll know Him. 

By knowing Christ, we’ll learn His character, and begin to spot His activity in even the small things.  Soon we’ll find that we see Him everywhere - in the magnificent and the miniature. We’ll recognize him in sunsets, songbirds, and the laughter of a child. We’ll begin to realize how He makes us laugh, bring us to tears, and thrills our hearts. We’ll reciprocate the feeling when He calls us friend and rejoice in these gifts!

2)  Fruit and Power of the Holy Spirit. 

When Jesus becomes Lord of our lives and we accept His gift of salvation, "His Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Literally, the Holy Spirit dwells within the children of God. His power works within us." 1  The Word teaches that the Holy Spirit acts as our Counselor and Teacher (John 14:26) and in many other capacities as outline throughout Scripture.  Galatians 5:21-22 illustrates the fruit of the Holy Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Spiritual gifts manifest in our lives according to 1 Corinthians 12. 

If you’re like me, perhaps you spent years of your Christian walk feeling the absence of such desirable fruit. You longed to receive His counsel and wisdom. When someone asked about your spiritual gifts, like me, you may have answered, “He didn’t give me any.” 

The Holy Spirit has no need to equip us for service and lavish Himself upon us when we’re not drawing from Christ as our lifeline. When our branch is separated from the vine of Christ, we miss out on the tremendous blessings and gifts that the Holy Spirit offers. Once we begin to abide in Christ, we experience His presence, fruit, and gifts, like never before. The power of the Holy Spirit begins to become obvious in our lives through a lifeline of connectedness to Jesus.

3)  A Steadfast, Personal Identity In Christ.  

Do you know who you are in Christ? Do you really know that you’re His, that He loves you, and that no weapon formed against you will prosper?  I admit, I still struggle in this area, but the more I abide in Him, the stronger I become. 

I shared my heart on this topic in a recent video.  Instead of restating it, I ask that you follow this link. I pray you’ll be blessed. (The video is short - about 4 minutes).

I love the way Sara Young describes this abiding advantage:  “Knowing (Jesus) intimately is like having a private wellspring of joy within you… so that your joy is independent of circumstances.” 2   

I couldn’t agree more.  Intimacy with Him brings a bounty of glorious blessings that reside within us.

An intimate relationship with Christ comes through abiding with Him and results in His blessings lavished upon us. We soon recognize Him as the provider of all of our strength, wisdom, gifts, fruit and so much more. 

Abiding in Christ is an element of God’s best that is ours to experience when we devote our lives to Him.  

Your Turn:

Can you recount a noticeable difference in your life that came when you began to abide in Christ?

What “Abiding Advantages” would you add to my list?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or connecting on Facebook or Twitter. 

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28


1 Cathy McIntosh, Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit (SW Publishing, 2012), 10
2 Sarah Young, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2004) 242

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