The Abiding Life

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Knowing that Jesus did everything for us, as our representative is imperative to our daily Christian walk. This revelation gives us the confidence to rest and abide in Him which makes it possible for the fullness of His divine life to be manifested in us through the Holy Spirit.

It is impossible to live a fruitful Christian life as God has meant it to be without receiving the revelation of this truth. Although every born-again believer is in Christ, he/she may or may not abide in Him. The word “abide” means to “remain, dwell, to stay connected,” and “to be present to.” To abide in Christ is to be one with Him by faith. It is the conscious realization that we are joined in union with Christ, and that all of our life is from Him and because of Him through the Holy Spirit. The essence of this abiding life in Christ is that we live in Him by faith, and Christ lives in us.

Therefore just as a branch comes from the vine and lives by the vine’s life, we too were brought into being by God through Christ to live in constant union with Him in the dynamics of His divine life. God’s word tells us in Ephesians that “…. we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has ordained that we walk therein.”(2:10)

When we are abiding in Christ we share all that He is – His life, strength, and ability, and through Him we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We were created as branches to share in the life of Christ the true vine, and thus manifest the fruit of His divine life. This is the key to a fruitful Christian life – that is to abide in Christ realizing that our lives are lived in union with God who created us (the new creation) in Christ. Our failure to abide in Christ hinders us from experiencing the abundant life of God as He intended for us, and thus leaving us in a constant state of frustration and struggle to live the Christian life.

To echo the words of Jesus, “apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”

The word “nothing” simply means “not anything,” therefore we can say that everything that we are as Christians, as well as all that we can do is through this vital union that we have with Christ. Philippians 4:13 tells us that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). The Amplified Bible translates this verse this way; “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].” This means that we should not focus on, or limit certain activities and events in our lives as bearing fruit. The correct position is to realize that all of the Christian life is the fruit of the abiding life in Christ.

All Christians are born of the Spirit – born of God, and made partakers of His divine nature. Therefore we are His children, not just in name, but in truth by virtue of the new birth. God’s word tells us that we were “born again not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible by the word of God,” and thus made partakers of His divine nature. Just as a branch is begotten of the vine for the sole purpose of sharing and expressing its life and nature, we too were born of God to share in His divine life and express His love nature.

It is important that we understand the mystery of this relationship between the branch and the vine as being the same as our relationship with Christ, otherwise we will labor under the false notion that we are sufficient within ourselves – having life of our own (to produce fruit). When in reality, who we are in life and in expression is Christ living in us. For just as a branch abides in the vine and expresses the vine’s life, we abide in Christ, and thus the Holy Spirit expresses Christ in every part of our lives and activities. It is for this reason the apostle Paul could say; “for me to live is Christ.”

Before we were born-again we lived in the condition of death, thus having received our nature from Satan, through which he expressed and fulfilled his desires in us. The idea of us being free moral agents with the right to choose has been so ingrained into our minds that we take it for granted that it was through God sending His son that we have the privilege to choose the god that we will serve. We sometimes forget that we were born helpless slaves of Satan – “born in sin and shaped in iniquity.” Because of this presumption, we often think little of the fact that it was through Jesus’ incarnation, that God gave mankind the right to choose to be free from Satan’s dominion and to become His children.

God created man in the position of innocence and placed him in the Garden. It was there that man was deceived by the devil to disobey God’s command thus resulting in the fall of all mankind. For many years I had put a lot of emphasis on the fact that man disobeyed God’s commandment while over looking a very important point. The point was that the garden was the place of choice for man to choose to be what/who God created him to be.

Let me explain this more clearly. There is the fallacy that man (kind) was meant to be independent – to be free, to be in charge of his/her life, but that is not the case. An important thing to remember is that God is Love, and Love never imposes Himself on others. Therefore God placed mankind in the garden with the privilege to choose (by obeying) to receive His life (thereby He – God being everything to them), and thus they becoming the dependent beings that He intended them to be. God’s desire for man (kind) was that they eat of the tree of Life, which in essence was to receive the life of God, and in doing so, God would live and express His love nature and character in and through them.

Adam and Eve could freely eat of every tree in the garden except one, and that was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man stood as it were, neutral – in the state of innocence as an empty vessel at the fountain of choice with the need to be filled with the drink that would be his life, and thus determine his destiny. To obey God meant that man was choosing to receive of His (God’s) life and to be dependent on Him, and thus becoming who he was created to be -a vessel of righteousness – a dependent child of God. On the other hand for man to disobey God was to declare his independence from God under the illusion of becoming as God, which in essence meant to be self-sufficient.

The problem with the latter half of this scenario was that it was a “deception.” In fact God’s word calls it in Romans chapter one, “the lie,” and the real truth is that man was never created to be an independent creature; that is to say to be self-sufficient within himself. Man (kind) was created to be filled with the life and nature of God – to share God’s (love) life, and thus to be an expression of His life and character through the Holy Spirit. Instead of trusting God, man chose to believe the lie rather than the truth, and was filled with the life and nature of Satan.

The tragedy of the deception in Adam and Eve declaring their independence from God in the garden was that we all (mankind) became the slaves of Satan who himself forever lives under the same illusion and is the father (source) of it. As a result of their sin, all of mankind came under the dominion of Satan, and thus we expressed his life and character in our humanity. God’s word tells us: “[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done]” (I John 3:8 AMP).

This verse is not only speaking of the people who commit all sorts of vile and wicked crimes, but all the children of fallen man. Jesus said in John 8; “You are of your father, the devil, and it is your will to practice the lusts and gratify the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false” (St. John 8:44 AMP).

The truth is that humans were never in charge of their lives, never are in charge of their lives, and never will be in charge of their lives. Just as Jesus compared our relationship with Himself to that of a branch and a vine because we are one with Him, we must also recognize that we shared the same relationship with Satan because we were one with him. Branches are dependent parts of the vine through which the vine expresses its life.

Jesus said that we are branches, and branches have no life or nature of their own. All that the branch is and bears (good or bad) is because of the vine it abides in. Jesus said; “I am the true Vine,” this lets us know that there is also a false vine. The vine, which we abide in, determines the fruit, which we bear. Jesus also said that; “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16-20 KJV).

So we can see that the fruit (good or bad), is not determined by the branches, but rather by the tree in which the branches abide. Since Jesus said that we are His (the true vine) branches, then all the good (fruit) that is manifested in us is really from Jesus in whom we abide. This point brings us to two particular trees in the Garden of Eden; there was the tree of Life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Many Christians callously neglect the importance of the fact that the tree that Adam and Eve ate of was of the knowledge good as well as evil, and in doing so place themselves at a great disadvantage, and thus Satan takes the opportunity to his advantage. So we must always remember that as long as a person is separated from God (unsaved), he/she is a branch of Satan (the false vine) regardless of how much “good” they do, their righteousness in the sight of God is as filthy rags.

God is so gracious; He can see through the smoke screens of our empty lives and know just what we need. Many well meaning Christians think that they can get things from God based on what they for Him. They have no idea that no amount of work, good intentions, or money could earn one iota of grace from God. Every aspect of God in His dealing with us from the beginning to the end is according to His loving grace, which in essence means that He does everything.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read, “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself] (Amplified).

You may ask, “what about witnessing for the Lord? What about working for God? What about praising and worshipping God?” My friend, we cannot do anything for God apart from His grace at work within us. For you see, the source of all our frustrations is that we think that we can. So many Christians like this man think that they are sufficient within themselves to do what is necessary to live, to find true happiness, and/or to please God.

They unknowingly see themselves, as having life of their own, which in essence is as ridiculous as a branch having life without the vine. Just as Jesus told the young man to give to the poor and to follow Him – the source of all true riches, He is saying to you and I “Abide in me – for I am your life.” For all that we do in life is simply the fruit and the out-working of the Holy Spirit within us.

God is glorified when we bear fruit, but in order for us to be fruitful, we must continually remain united to Christ (the true vine) in whom we live. Just as the branch was brought out of the vine with the sole purpose of abiding in the vine and to express its life and nature, we too were brought forth from Christ the true vine to receive His life and to express His life and nature. We are one with Christ as the branch is one with the vine. That is the essence of Christianity – to live in union with Christ. We are His bride, flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone – His body.

It is important to understand that the branch has no life of its own – it never had any, and never will. It was created to be the dependent fruit bearing part of the vine. So there is no such thing as an independent branch that lives and bears fruit. This same thing is true concerning Christ and us.

The greatest problem in the church is that we have not understood this great truth in St. John 15. There are countless numbers of sincere believers who are living defeated lives because they have not seen themselves as abiding branches living in, and from Christ the true vine. They have failed to realize that the Christian life is living in union with Christ, and that He is the source and the sustainer of all that consists of life. It is only when we are abiding in the vine’s (Christ) abundant life that we (branches) are able through the Holy Spirit to express His life and character in every moment, and in every aspect of life.

This is not imitating or doing what Jesus would do (as some have supposed). However seemingly good and convincing the idea of doing what Jesus would do may appear, it is only an exercise in human effort, which in essence is an illusion of us being self-sufficient which ultimately leads to frustration and burn-out.

Suppose a branch from a grapevine could hang a bunch of grapes around itself and call the process bearing the fruit of the vine. Of course you would say that is ridiculous because the branch has no life of its own, and besides there is no way that it could bear grapes except it abide in the vine. Likewise, it is just as ridiculous for Christians to imitate Christ and call it Christian living.

The problem here is that the adversary still deceives many believers into thinking that they are independent, self-managed persons, instead of realizing that they live because of Christ (from Him) and not just for Him. We must therefore keep in mind that Jesus said; “apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”

Therefore when we read John 15, we must not make the mistake of taking this illustration of the relationship of the vine and the branches representing Christ and the church lightly. This is how the Christian’s life is made a glorious possibility. There is no other way that we can be fruitful except by abiding in Jesus’ life. So just as the branch abiding in the vine bears the fruit of the vine (not produce fruit), as we abide in Christ we live and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Just as the branch can not live and bear fruit apart from abiding in the vine because it has no life of its own, neither can we live and bear fruit except we abide in Christ because we have no life of our own.

Jesus said, “If you abide in me you shall bring forth much fruit.” What is the fruit of the abiding Christian life? The answer is simple; “it is the life of Christ being manifested in our humanity.” So let us look closer at the believer’s life in Christ as it is portrayed in relationship to the vine and its branches. When a branch abides in the vine, it receives life-giving sap and nourishment from it, which not only gives life to the branch, but also reproduces the vine’s life in the form of fruit.

Since the branch has no life of its own, it can produce nothing. So we can safely say that everything that comes from the abiding branch is the fruit of the vine. The same thing is true with us (Christians). We have no life of our own, and therefore we can produce nothing. The Christian is simply receiving the life of Christ which gives us life, and thus His life working in us by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives, is the fruit. The focus of the Christian life should not be on bearing fruit, but on Christ. The reason for this is that the fruit is the result of being in union with Him.

In the movie “The Field of Dreams,” the often-quoted phrase was “if you build it they will come.” It will do us all good to remember this phrase as well, “if you abide the fruit will come.” So in essence the real issue for the believer is not the fruit bearing, but whether or not we abide in Christ. Can you imaging a branch fussing and striving to bear fruit? Imagine it saying to the vine, “I want to please you.” Or listen to the branch as it bargains with the vine, “if you give me fruit I will live for you.”

Now hear the response of the vine to the branch; “Oh weak and weary beloved of mine, don’t make me any promises for you are not able to fulfill them. You are part of me – one with me, and it is according to my will and good pleasure that you are. Your life is my life, and it is my responsibility to provide all that you will ever need. Now stop worrying and fretting, and always remember that you are one with me. Remain connected to me so that you can live from me and continually receive of my life and strength. If you do that, then my life will be manifested in you and through you – that is what pleases me.”

This is God’s response to every tired, worn-out and weary Christian. I have often heard the frustration of many sincere believers who are trying to please God, and I also know the agony and despair of having the will to please God, but not being able to perform it. Just as Paul realized that the solution to his dilemma (see Romans 7) was not in his limited self, but in the unlimited love of Christ who dwelt within him who is the life and ability – the all and in all, so every believer must receive the same revelation.

Now to plainly answer the million-dollar question, “How do I abide in Christ?” Before I answer that question, let me first say that the abiding life does not depend upon anything that we can do. No amount of fasting and praying, confessing the scriptures, giving money, or studying the word will cause us to abide in Christ. In other words, “this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” The abiding life in essence is Christians living in vital union with Christ, and thus through the Holy Spirit God effectively works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. That is what makes it so simple.

First the Holy Spirit gives us revelation concerning our union with Christ. Upon our recognizing and accepting what God has revealed, the Holy Spirit Himself undertakes to make this abiding life a glorious experience in us. In this same manner every born-again believer is saved. To sum this up, when God gives revelation, recognition and acceptance follow.

It was for this reason that Paul prayed in Ephesians chapter 1; [For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones), And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:17-19A AMP).

Paul knew that after God had given the church at Ephesus revelation, that they would recognize (know and understand) the reality of what Christ had done for them. Then all that was left for them to do was accept it for God to work His grace in them.

Listen to the comforting words of Jesus; “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good-not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne” (Matthews 11:28-30 AMP).

God never intended for us to struggle to live the Christian life. This of course does not mean that our lives will be free of trouble, but quite the contrary. Jesus said; “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33 AMP). God has made us one with Christ, so since Jesus has overcome, we have overcome in Him.

Therefore in every temptation that we face in life, we don’t have to struggle in trying to overcome them because Jesus has overcome the whole world for us, which includes everything that could cause us to be defeated. The marvel of all of this is that He did it for us, and now He lives victorious in us. As the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see this truth, all that is necessary is that we accept it by faith, and He (God) makes it a reality in our experience.

These scriptures in Matthew and John are in essence pointing us to their fulfillment in our union Christ Jesus. Unless we have recognized our oneness with Christ, scriptures like these will have no reality to us, and thus we will continue struggling to live the Christian life. To abide in Christ means to be one with Him in vital union recognizing that Christ is our all, and in Him we live, move and have our being. Therefore in living from His life we experience rest, because He is bearing life’s burdens. On life’s journey trials and tribulations may come, but we stand courageous, confident and certain in the face of them because He (Jesus) has overcome them all for us, and He lives in us now.

Only through the Holy Spirit can we know the reality of our oneness with Christ, and it is through abiding in Him that we are able to bear fruit. For just as the grapes are the glory of the vine (not the branch), the fruit of the abiding Christian life is the glory of the Father (husbandman-farmer) who planted the true vine (Christ). God joined us (the branches) to Christ to receive of His life and through the Holy Spirit to bear fruit unto God (for he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit). Even though God is in every believer, He is glorified in us to the degree that we are receptive to Him.

To be in vital union with Jesus means to be united with Him in all that He is – His love, strength, joy, and peace etc.. This means that all that he gives us is not independent of or apart from Himself. To have Jesus living in us is to have His will, and desires living in us. It is when we know this that we can ask anything of the Father in prayer with the confidence that He hears and answers us because we are asking according to His word that is abiding in us. Because we are united to Christ, His desires are the desires of our hearts, therefore our asking what we will, in reality is asking that His will be done.

It is worth noting that unless the branch is one with the vine it is not a true branch. By this I mean that unless it abides in the vine, expressing its (the vine’s) life it is not fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. The same is true in regard to Christians, we can not be true branches (Christians) unless we are abiding in and expressing the life of the true vine (Christ). Our one-ness with Christ is not something that is meant only to be read about in the bible, and discussed in our Sunday school classes, but it is such a reality that Jesus said, “apart from [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”

So how do I abide in Christ? Dear Christian it is so simple because “to abide means to remain,” and the moment that you were born again, the Holy Spirit placed us into Christ. So since you are in Christ, therefore remain there – “know that you are there.” I Corinthians 6:17 tells us that; “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” This means that we don’t have to try to get into, and stay in Christ, God has made us one with Him the moment we accepted Him into our hearts. We are one with Him, “praise God!” I need only to recognize and accept it because it is so to the glory of God.

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