For a number of days, I have found myself meditating on John 15 through 17. These rich chapters of the bible are an endless supply of revelation, not only because of the words recorded there, but because of the timing in which Jesus was saying them. Here we find Jesus giving his very last discourse before heading to the cross. These chapters are the climax of everything He had been teaching to his disciples: all his lessons on love, obedience, and surrender to the Father are summed up here - a bold statement, I know, but I'll prove it soon. One could even say John 15 through 17 are like his last will and testament - his dying desire and passionate plea recorded for us to follow. How can one not stop and meditate again and again on such a passage?
The key theme of this treasured section is abiding and that simple word sets the stage for everything. And I truly mean EVERYTHING. Remember that bold statement I made earlier about this being a summation of all of his teachings? Well, everything in our lives, everything in the Kingdom, comes from abiding in Christ: all joy, all power, all obedience, all love, all surrender, all healing, all breakthrough come from us abiding in Him, because without him we "can do nothing" (John 15:5). Most believers know we need to abide in Christ, but because we don't understand what it really means, we never fully enter into it and a cycle of trying and failing to abide repeats over and over in our lives. We don't realize that in "trying to abide", we are actually giving ourselves a perfect example of how NOT to abide.
Andrew Murray, in speaking to believers in his book aptly named, Abide in Christ, said ‘your great work is to listen and hear and believe what He promises.’ What's our work/part to play? To Listen. Hear. Believe. Abiding, then, begins with tuning my ear to his voice and that voice is always found in His written word. To listen to his word and not see it as a chapter to get through but as a conversation to enjoy, I do a few things: I quiet my inner distractions, close my eyes occasionally, and ponder the simple phrases found there. In short, I listen. Therapists have a technique called "active listening" that is used to help people really listen to another. In this technique, the listener repeats outloud what was said to them. This helps listening become an active thing we participate in during a conversation, not a passive, unengaging experience. This same idea is found in abiding prayer. When I slowly read his word and then repeat to myself what He is speaking, it causes my heart to listen at a deeper level. I often get out my journal and write down thoughts about that verse, meditations that the Spirit has stirred in me. I take my time and enjoy the moment. It's slower. It's measured. It won't get me through a "Read Through Your Bible in a Year" Devotional to be sure. But abiding isn't about accomplishing goals - it's about resting in His finished work.
So, what is His finished work? It's this - all of our striving to be restored to God in holiness, all of our efforts to keep His laws and to follow His ways are now accomplished for us in the work Jesus did at the cross. He made the way for us to be holy, for us to be restored to God. HE finished it for us. It's already done. Now our part is to rest in that work. Picture it like this: you and I were fruitlessly exhausting ourselves in an effort to build a home without tools, without nails, without anything of substance to accomplish that work. Then in desperation we turned and found Christ had already built a glorious, sprawling mansion for us to walk right into and claim as our own. Now, we can enter in and busy ourselves with dusting everything we see, vacuuming nonstop, and rearranging furniture day and night just to get God to like what we've done with the place OR we can sit down in the chair Jesus has already arranged for us, kick off our shoes, and have a conversation with God in the Family Room. Will it need dusting now and then? Of course. But Jesus will show us what needs to be tended to as long as we are resting with Him.
To truly believe God’s finished work, I believe one’s belief must be founded on the revelation of His love for us. After all, it's because God loved the world that He gave His son as a ransom for us (John 3:16; Matt. 20:28). If one does not dive into the depths of God’s love, they will never understand the security in which they have been positioned in this glorious mansion of his finished work. We must realize, however, that love is not an attribute of God but the very essence of His nature. All of who God is,is wrapped up in love. If God has truly given us Himself, than He has truly given us Love in its fullness and the fullest expression of the Father’s love is displayed in the Son. This is why Jesus urges us to abide in Him for if we abide in Him....we abide in the Father's love. But once again, the promise of this scripture is made alive in us when we rest in it, not work hard at it. Our greatest work is to learn to rest! Hebrews 4:11 says if you are going to strive for anything, strive to enter that rest! Jesus said, "As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you; abide in my love…even as I…abide in his love (John 15:9)." We must purposefully meditate on Jesus’ relation to the Father as an example of what our own heart's can follow. This is the invitation!
The understanding of this great love causes us to fall in total surrender onto the grace God has given us. This grace, enjoyed through true abiding, helps us rejoice even in our weakness. When we realize that it is our weakness that gives us our claim and access to the strength of God, we realize that in Christ we are made more than conquerors! When we can admit our weakness, we are then in a position to admit His strength. When we take up His life and lay down our own, we will find Life in its fullest. Grace, love, and power will flow through us, not simply as an act, but as a Person – the person of Christ, who is all in all.
Abiding in Christ is a work that God performs in His people, not a work His people perform. We simply must trust in His love and His grace to keep us abiding. All we are called to do is rest in Him, believe in Him, and place our trust in Him to do all and be all that He has promised us He will be. Abiding in Christ is my greatest treasure; it is my highest calling. It is a truth that is so simple and yet so profound. The journey into His rest is one that I desire to embark upon all the days of my life. Jesus calls to us all to come to Him and find our rest (Matt 11:28) but oh the wonder, that the same Christ who invites us to come, invites us to stay.