Remember his prayer in John 17: "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us." The form of obedience Jesus has given to us is abiding in him as he is abiding in the Father.
So many of us try our best to follow Christ’s example in all we do. And do you know the result? We just end up tired and frustrated. It’s been said so many times, but it’s true: The Christian life isn't difficult; it’s impossible. It’s been lived by only one person, Jesus Christ. If it’s lived by you, it will only be because Jesus Christ lives it through you.
We go to great lengths to get away from the principle that the Christian life means abiding in Christ in the same way Christ abides in the Father. We try harder and do more. We go to conferences. We read the Bible and pray a little more. We go to church every time the door is open. And then we think everything will be fine. It won't because that’s not the way God ordained for us to walk with him. He sent his Son to reconcile us to himself and to give us an example of how to turn salvation into sanctification.
If you want to be obedient to God, abide in Christ. Don't go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, don't do something religious like getting baptized in water shipped directly from the river Jordan, and don't wear another religious trinket or read another religious book. Listen, if you want to be obedient to God, get close to Jesus. That’s it. The Bible says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in [cleave to, trust, rely on, have faith in, lean on] Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29).
So many of us try our best to follow Christ’s example in all we do. And do you know the result? We just end up tired and frustrated.
Now if you’re like me, you want a system to abide in Christ. But systems are for computers and robots, not people. It’s not a system…it’s a relationship. The Greek word for abide means abide. And so to abide in Christ is simply to stay close to him through his Word and his presence. It means you have to give time to the effort. It means you have to exclude other things. It means you simply have to stay close to him.
Abiding in Christ is an act of faith.
Paul said, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him" (Colossians 2:6). How did you receive Christ? You did it by faith. You knew you were a sinner, someone told you about Jesus, and you rejoiced in the good news of his acceptance based on his vicarious death on the cross. We walk in him the same way we received him…by faith.
Let me suggest a prayer similar to the one you prayed when you became a Christian: "Father, you have told me that I am to abide in Christ. You made it a commandment and therefore I know it is your will that I abide in him. Grant me the grace to follow your will, and I accept in faith that I now abide in him." That prayer is an expression of faith and an acceptance of his will.
Abiding in Christ is an act of time.
We want everything yesterday. We want everything instantly…and hardly anything worth anything comes instantly. It took time for you to develop your really close friendships. A good marriage doesn't just happen after you say, "I do." A good marriage takes years to develop. The same is true for a relationship with Christ.
Abiding in Christ is an act of utilizing the means of grace he gave us.
You can't abide with someone without talking to him, listening to him, or being a friend to his friends. The same is true for Christ. Prayer, the Scriptures, and fellowship are essential tools for being with Christ.
Abiding in Christ is an act of just being with someone.
I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to think that reality is found in what I do, so my prayer life is more doing than anything else. I pray for a long list of people each morning, and when I finish praying for them and talk to Christ, I usually just blither before him. Sometimes I feel he’s saying to me, "Just be quiet. Just stop talking. Just be still for a change and let's be together." I’m slowly learning to do that, and the more I just silently meditate on his Person, love, and grace, the more I become like him.
Someone has said that hurry isn't from the devil; hurry is the devil. That's very true in my life. I need to stop doing things and start just being with the One who (much to my amazement) just wants to be with me. I believe Christ would like to speak to us in the silence, but we’re so busy talking and doing that we can never hear him.
Growth comes from abiding in Christ in the same way he abided in the Father. We don't abide in him by growing. That’s why so many of us are frustrated in our walk with Christ. A dog doesn't bark to become a dog; a dog barks because he is a dog. Just so, a Christian doesn't do good things in order to be a Christian. A Christian does good things because he or she is a Christian. Stay close to Christ and then you’ll be surprised at the growth. His gift to you for just being with him is that he makes you more and more like him. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) are not the things you do in order to abide in Christ's Spirit. They are the fruit that come from abiding in Christ's Spirit.
When Charles Kingsley was asked the secret of his productive life, he didn't write a book on how to be successful. He simply smiled and, referring to F. D. Maurice, said, "I had a friend."
That's the secret. Don’t let its simplicity fool you. Obedience has form and that form is Jesus Christ. When people see what he’s done in your life, simply smile and say, "I have a friend who loves me and will love me forever."