In my last post, I shared how the Spirit had me paused in John 15. The key theme of this beautiful chapter is abiding and, as I highlighted last time, abiding in Christ is a work that God performs in His people, more than a work His people perform. Our part in the work of abiding is to rest in Him, believe in Him, and listen to Him. In fact, having ears to hear and a heart to respond to what the Spirit says throughout our day is a beautiful picture of what abiding is. From sunrise to sunset, our days can be lived connected to Christ through communion, and this is exactly what He calls us to in John 15. Jesus makes it abundantly clear in the opening verses of this chapter that abiding in Him is the key to everything in life. Jesus is emphatically calling us to not merely see abiding as an event we attend, but as a life we lead, because all that our life produces springs from the root of abiding in Him.
Abiding begins with tuning our ear to his voice and that voice is always found in His written word. 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. In fact, it's the very practice of slowly reading & repeating that led me to see something I had never seen before in John 15:7. It reads,
"If you abide in me AND my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
Did you catch that powerful little conjunction? Jesus said there are TWO parts to this life of abiding: 1) to abide in Him AND 2) for His words to abide in us.
Since seeing that little conjunction word "and", I have rolled this verse over and over in my mind. In meditating on it these past few weeks, I have come to a few conclusions. First, there are many believers who have said "Yes" to following Jesus and, in this sense, they are abiding in Him because of the salvation He brought them. But many of these sincere believers have not taken the NEXT step which is to learn to let His words abide in them. Most likely, they have not become "friends with the word of God" - they've not taken the time to truly meditate on the pages of the bible due to busyness, distractions with entertainment, feeling ignorant and unlearned...and the list goes on and on. Many believers long to know the Lord but have failed to fall in love with the Bible. But this is the very book that introduces us to Him! It's His love letter to us, revealing His nature, His passions, His desires - and there is no greater place to fall in love with Him than in these pages. Most believers can quote the latest worship song lyrics but there are far too few who can quote the scriptures those songs are based upon. So where should someone begin if they struggle with reading the word? I suggest finding one beautiful passage and reading it over and over - even if it's just one verse. Like I shared in my last post, if we learn to meditate on one little section, then it leaves us hungering for more. Just one encounter with a scripture and we are left fascinated! Don't fall into the pressure to read through an entire book of the Bible because you "are suppose to" (although that will be where you end up eventually through ongoing relationship with Him). Instead, just open that Great Book daily and meditate on that ONE truth until it becomes a part of you - until you find yourself thinking about it while cooking or driving; until you find yourself in conversation bringing it up with friends; in short, until it is ABIDING in you.
The second aspect of this verse that I've discovered hit me personally. For, you see, I love His written word. I love to spend time meditating on it, studying it, teaching it, talking with friends about it...so it's fair to say that the first category mentioned earlier doesn't apply to me. However, when I take a look at this passage again, I see something new:
"If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
Here's the revelation that hit me hard: it's possible for my life to be yielded to Him, but at the same time, there still be areas of my life where His word is not abiding. Now, before you say, "No, duh, Desiree," hear me out. I'm not merely talking about areas of weakness that we all know we have where His word needs to transform us. I'm certainly not talking about an area of sin that we casually glance over. I'm talking about those childhood wounds from our parents or peers that formed an unhealthy response in us; those patterns of insecurities that we shove down into silence. I'm talking about those doubts, and yes - even lies - that we don't even realize have set up residence in our heart because we've never invited His word into those places. You see, it's not always enough for us to say, "Jesus, take it all": most often, He wants to get specific. Picture it like this: I'm abiding In Jesus. I've nestled down into the comfy chair of His love for me. I sit next to the crackling fire of His acceptance and I begin to talk with Jesus who is seated right next to me. The room is filled with His presence and I am captivated by His goodness. THIS is what abiding in Him looks like. But, then - Jesus wants to do "THE NEXT PART" (remember that "And" anyone?) so He says to me, "Hey, Des - what's behind that closed door right there?" Nonchalantly I say, "Oh, that's nothing, Jesus." But Jesus says, "No, I'm pretty sure it's something. I want to go into that room." Trying to play it cool and at the same time, spiritual, I respond with, "Yeah...no...what's in there is under the Blood. It's all good." Jesus furrows his brow and thoughtfully plays with his beard, "I hear what you are saying, child, buuuuuut...I'd really like to open that door if you will let me." Shaking my head, I say, "No. This can't be the Lord. Must be my flesh or the devil messing up my quiet time. Jesus, let's just get back to abiding, Me and You...right here in your goodness."
Now, this may be a funny illustration, but how often have I been in this place with Him! Jesus will not force us to open up those doors of pain, regret, habits, or personality dysfunction. He will not come in like Rambo Jesus, guns blazing, and knock them down. Yes, Cory Asbury's famous song says, "There's no wall you won't kick down," but 99% of the time, that kick comes from our permission. Does that make US more powerful because WE gave permission?! Of course not. It simply means God usually leads us gently and allows us to partner with His word by our own choosing.
I'm finding areas in my own heart that require courage to open; sometimes, it requires humility to open them because it requires me to admit that that certain personality trait is actually a learned response born out of exhaustion and that certain independent streak is rooted in my parents divorce. But because I've learned that first part - how to ABIDE IN HIM - I'm finding that the second part isn't so difficult. You see, through abiding, I've learned He can be trusted with my heart. So, I'm giving Him permission to open up those doors and let His word abide there.
I think it's something He's calling all of us to do. So...are you ready to open that door?