Abiding in Christ?

How do you abide in someone you can’t see or touch or audibly listen to? When Jesus told his disciples to abide in him, was it merely for them or is it something we are called to emulate?

To the first question, Jesus most certainly expected his disciples to abide in him despite not being able to touch him and hear him and see him. After all, John 15 (where the speech comes from) is right before his crucifixion. Too often our faith is wedded to too much wooden-ness in understanding. We veer toward, “Yes, but…” Like Thomas who would not believe unless he put his hand in Jesus’ side, so also our faith is not expansive enough. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet believe–which leads to the second question.

Jesus prayed not only for his disciples in the Garden, but for all those who would hear the Good News from his disciples testimony. When he responded to Thomas that those who have not seen and yet believe are makarios (“blessed”), he had you and me in mind. What we see unfold in Scripture after the Resurrection is the kind of effulgent life he wants us to live…and abiding life.

So how do we abide?

I would suggest three ways.

Keeping His Word

Throughout John’s Gospel and his epistles, Jesus tells us that if we love him we will keep his commands. Like a father who loves his child, like an older brother looking out for his younger brother, Jesus tells us how to navigate God’s world. Do we trust him enough to actually follow his steps?

This explicit teaching is what is called the Revealed Will of God. While God is constantly working in his world for his own purposes, part of that working is his condescension to tell us how to understand his world. That is, unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East, Yahweh determined to tell his people how to live. His Law is gracious and kind to reveal his ways to us.

All the Law hangs on Jesus’ admonition to love God and people.

Throughout the New Testament we see what it looks like to abide in Christ when we hear the Apostles telling people to put others before their own whims and preferences. We see this worked out as the Spirit comes at Pentecost and the Church extends to the uttermost parts of the world.

Led By the Spirit

It is no accident that John 16’s (continued) discourse on the preferment of the Spirit’s coming follows on the heels of Jesus’ command to abide in him. While the Law is gracious and good, we botch it up with our self-seeking and short-sightedness. We need the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth.

As I shared in my sermon on Sunday, there are three witnesses: water, blood, and Spirit. The first two speak to the doctrinal clarity and objective reality of who Jesus is. The third is the subjective application of these truths into the life of the believer.

Unfortunately the Spirit is equated with emotionalism and awkward and outlandish activity by those claiming to be Spirit-led. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, indeed. While the Spirit blows where he will, and does things outside our meager understanding, this does not necessarily mean that his working in incomprehensible or outlandish or alien (more on this in the third point).

What are some ways we can be led by the Spirit?

Well, he inspired the text of Scripture and has clearly spoken there. Go there.

In Ephesians 5.18, we are told to be filled with the Spirit. How? The participles that follow this command tell us how: Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. The Spirit is guiding and directing God’s people. Go there.

It would be good to reflect on each of these four participles and consider how you might be filled with the Spirit in ever-increasing measure. Are you speaking God’s songs over people? Are you singing to soothe the angst in your own heart? Are you grateful? Are you putting others’ needs before your own–considering them more significant than yourself?

Being Attune to God’s Working

One of my charges as a pastor is to help us see God’s continual work in the world. It is easy to wax on about God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence but to deny his power and that this means right here right now. He is not all these characteristics merely in heaven. While you may say, “Obviously!” In fact, many of us affirm these aspects of God yet we live life as though he is not at work in the mundane stuff of life. We talk about him and his superintendent work int he world…but we fail to see his work in my making coffee or standing in line or talking to a stranger.

The shift in our lives happens when we see him always at work. Always. In the mundane. In the suffering and pain. In the exciting. That is God working and shaping you.

Every conversation. Every. Conversation. Is opportunity to hear God speak to you. For him to shape you. Every appointment is a “divine appointment.” He graciously guides our footsteps. The person in the checkout line needs to hear of God’s grace. Your co-worker needs to know that God loves him. The annoying neighbor needs to see God’s mercy. Your family needs to experience peace in your words and actions. These are all God’s ever-present work. His beckoning us to abide in his word and his world.

What I Left Out: John 1.43-51

Inevitably, much of my study for sermons is left out because the point of preaching is not mere information download, but a point of transformation. I hope to write consistently on those things I have to leave out for the sake of time and out of love for my hearers. Perhaps if you find you have more time to consider what is said on Sunday and to apply God’s Word to your life, these posts will aid in some way.

Here’s the message from Sunday:

“Known and Found”

God Knows. He Sees. He Cares.

This phrase was what God Ashley and me through a very dark time in our lives. We weren’t struggling maritally as much as we were left reeling from some very bad decisions people made for us. It was really easy to think we were drifting in darkness and needed to figure things out for ourselves.

 

Observe the Why.

We’re not given the reason why Jesus decided to go into Galilee. At least not explicitly. We see in the verse, though, he had intention to going into Galilee. He went to find Philip. The calling of Philip is not built up as much as the Andrew and Peter. And it’s definitely not built up as much as the calling of Nathanael. It’s almost as if Jesus makes a bee-line to Galilee just to say these two words to Philip. There is no deliberation or looking around. Philip just obeys.

 

The “Behold!” is for You

But then, he invites us in this text to see as he sees. V.48: Before Philip called you, while you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” I beheld you. And as the readers of this text, we are invited to see. Do you see it? V. 47: “Behold, an Israelite…” We are told to look at this true Israelite who is coming into the fold. We are told that “Behold! I am at work in the everyday.” When Jesus says, “Behold.” It is not merely exclamatory for his hearers but us the readers of the text.

A True Jacobite

It ought not get lost on us that Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” after wrestling with the angel of God. Such wrestling would characterize God’s people for the remainder of their sojourn in the Promised Land>Exile>Return>Spiritual Exile. And so it continues to characterize all those who are truly Abraham’s children–wrestling and being injured by God. It is the case for all true seekers that we must be wounded in order to be made whole.

And so when Jesus behold Nathanael and declares him a true Israelite, it is a call to all of us to be seekers and to seek God in the everyday stuff of life. The majority of our lives are lived in the plains and the plain of life. It is here in our sojourn that we must strain to see God’s mighty acts.

What about you? What stands out most to you in this passage and about our need to see God in the everyday stuff of life?