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The Key: Abide in Christ
By David A. DePra
Christianity is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) There are a number of other ways to state this same Truth. For example, “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (I Cor. 6:17) That is a Christian; one in whom Christ dwells. Christ dwells in us in that He has joined us to Himself and we are one spirit with Him.
Another expression of Christianity is, “Christ, who is our life.” (Col. 3:4) This means more than just the fact that we are to live for Christ. It means that Christ is actually our life – indeed, we might say that Christ is our MEANS of being alive. And lastly, “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” A Christian is one who has forsaken their old natural life and become new in Christ. All of these verses define the SAME thing: Reality in Christ. They describe or define Christianity at the core: Resurrection union with Christ.
There is, of course, much that results from being joined to the Lord, namely, the Christian life. God’s purpose in us only BEGINS when we are joined to His Son. From that union, God wants to FORM Christ in us. (Gal. 4:19) This means He wants us to come to inwardly know and realize Jesus Christ. As an ongoing outcome, we are to be formed together with Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). In a nutshell, this means that Christ is to be seen by us, in us, and through us. This is not religion. This is not us made to look like Christ. No. It is Christ being seen through those who are in Him. And the end result is that the Body of Christ is to be living evidence or witnesses of Jesus Christ – used of Him throughout the eternal ages to manifest His glory.
Have we realized that we are joined to Jesus Christ? That our oneness with Him is supposed to have an incredible impact upon us? That this is not about religion, but about having been born from above as a new creation? This is why Jesus Christ died – to restore us back to God through union with Himself.
God has a plan and a purpose for His people that includes our personal lives, but one that goes far beyond our personal lives and beyond even this age. He wants us to become living expressions of the Christ to Whom we are joined. He wants people through whom Jesus Christ can be Lord of all. This is ultimately about the glory of God extending into the eternal ages.
Now, all of this begins with Christ in us -- and the will of God for each individual. But none of it is supposed to be in theory only. It is not supposed to be merely something we believe is true, but we are to actually experience Christ.
How does THAT happen? What is the key to being in this incredible plan and purpose of God? Just this: We must abide in Christ. Perhaps that sounds too simple. But do we realize what it means to abide in Christ? It means, first, to forsake our own life, our own agenda, and our own purposes – but then to LIVE IN (abide) and FROM OUT OF Christ for all that we are and for all that we need. In short, in means to function by faith in the reality that we are joined to the Lord and that He is our very LIFE.
Abiding in Christ
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If we are saved, we are joined to the Lord. We are one with Him in spirit. But this does not automatically mean we ABIDE in Him – that is, live in and from out of Him. For that to happen we must not only believe and see the Truth on this matter, but we must forsake all that is contrary to it. In short, you must lose your natural life – you must forsake the natural man as your life, as your means, and as the basis for life in Christ. If you do, then you will find Christ as your life and be able to live from out of Him.
You cannot abide in Christ and continue living on the basis of your own natural life. We do try, of course, through ignorance. But as we continue to try to live from out of our natural man we will meet Jesus Christ crucified. There will be death to all that is natural as we go on with Christ. But His life will be released and we will more and more know what it means to be raised with Him as a new creation.
Again, to abide in Christ means to draw upon Him for life – and consequently, to draw from Him all that you need, and for all that you are. You no longer draw upon the natural. You draw upon Christ. Of course, you do not draw from Christ for YOUR purposes. Christ is in us unto God’s purposes.
We Need to SEE
Too often we try to get rid of problems or try to add blessings to ourselves -- or maybe we try to get God to do this for us. But God tells us to do neither. He says, “Abide in Christ.” In other words, instead of trying to overcome or purge sin, we need to by faith abide in the One who has already won all victory over sin. Instead of trying to earn or merit some blessing from God, we need to abide by faith in the One in Whom are all the blessings of God. If we abide in Christ, all that Christ is will come into our experience. If we don’t abide in Him, we cannot even get started.
Another big mistake we make is to think that merely BECAUSE of what Christ has done that God will make us look like Jesus. Or that merely BECAUSE of what Christ has done God will deliver us from sin, or bring blessing into our lives. We think that Christ has given God some legal basis for blessing us. Thus, we imagine that God will ACT UPON US, or do things to us, to bring us into His purpose. No. Jesus Christ IS – get that -- JESUS IS – He IS the victory, the blessing, and our LIFE. His very Person and presence IS those things. So again, we need not ask God for THINGS. Or that God would do a THING to us. Rather, we must abide in the Christ who is already ONE WITH US. We must forsake our natural man as the source for anything, and abide in Christ by faith. If we do, all that He is will be there -- and eventually will conform us together with Himself.
If you read the epistles of Paul, you will find that Paul’s continual admonition is that we might SEE and KNOW and BELIEVE – that we might realize, yes, what Christ has already finished, but more than that, that we might realize Christ Himself – who He is and what being one with Him means.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:17-20)
Can we see that there is NOTHING here that we need to do, earn, merit, or finish? That everything Paul is saying is predicated on the fact that ALL is in place in the very Person of His Son – in the Christ with Whom we are joined? Paul wants us to SEE this. He wants us, having seen it, to abide by faith IN CHRIST.
That is the key. We must, as it were, take possession of what God has given us by His grace in Christ. We must do this solely on the basis of grace – to the complete disregard of our failures and unworthiness. We must not let anything about US hold us back. For any failures we have cannot be resolved UNTIL we abide in Christ for the solution. Do you have sin in your life? Have you emotional problems? Spiritual issues that seem to make it difficult to believe and trust God? Forsake yourself. Leave yourself ALONE. Rather, turn and abide in Christ. Do this anyways. You aren’t going to find victory any other way. HE is the Way.
Have you doubts as to what God is doing with you? Do you wonder if you are on the right track? Has fear gripped you? Forsake yourself and how you feel. Leave yourself ALONE. Instead, turn and abide in Christ ANYWAYS. His grace is not offered to you based on anything about you. It is not offered based on whether you have things figured out. Rather, it is based solely on Himself. Abide in Christ regardless of yourself. Victory can come no other way.
We are to abide in Christ for ALL because He is ALL. We are to do this right now – He is the great I AM – right now. And if we are saved, we are joined to Him. We are joined – solely by the grace of God – to the One whose very presence in us is the source of all LIFE.
Christ, The Power of God
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (I Cor. 1:24)
Christians constantly ask God to give them power – as if power is a THING or a FORCE that God gives us so that we can do His will. We want power to overcome sins, and power to do good works, and power to work miracles. But despite all of the people today who pretend they have power, and the claims of miracles, and the big business this can create, there is very little power in the Body of Christ.
Power is not a THING that God hands out. Power is a Person – His very life is the greatest power possible – resurrection life with power over the last enemy, death. Thus, we don’t need power to do this or to stop doing that. We need to ABIDE IN CHRIST. He and He alone is THE power of God. And the fact is, God isn’t going to give out much power otherwise.
I want to use a rather mechanical illustration. Suppose you were trying to mow your lawn with an electric powered lawn mower. But it was not plugged in. Of what use would it be for you to stand there wishing you had power? Would it help to lay hands on the lawn mower? To ask someone to give you power? Would all the efforts in the world get that lawn mower going? You might try to push it without electricity, which would evidence about as much power as the church does today as it struggles under it ‘s own efforts to create the power of God. No. The only solution possible is to plug the mower into the electricity. Then you will have power. Such is the solution for the Christian life: You have to be plugged into the power – you have to abide in Christ.
Now, I’m not talking about power to do miracles. I’m really talking about LIFE – being empowered to walk with God in Christ. There is simply no way to do this unless you abide in Christ, who is the power of God. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do NOTHING.” He meant, “Without Me you cannot live. I Am your life. I am the Vine. You are the branches.”
Here we see a great principle: Jesus Christ is the source of all for the believer. He is our life; He is THE life. But again – don’t limit this to Christ as being the source for THINGS that we need. NO. Things are secondary. Foremost we need LIFE – and His Person in us is the LIFE. Thus, we need more than THINGS from Christ. We need CHRIST HIMSELF.
The good news is: We are already joined to Him. God has already given us Christ – and consequently, all things are freely given to us IN CHRIST. HE IS OUR LIFE. Thus, we need only ABIDE in Him. Victory is found by living FROM OUT OF HIM. Power and strength are found, not by asking God to give them to us as things, but by abiding in Christ and drawing from out of Him all that He is.
It is one thing to be joined to the Lord. But it is another to ABIDE in Him – which means to turn to Him and depend, and rely, and draw upon Him for all. This is what Jesus is saying that we absolutely must do as His branches.
Now, I do realize that if I turn and by faith abide in Christ that nothing may seem to happen. Things might even seem to get worse. But abide in Him anyways. Walk around your Jericho as long as you must, because in the end this is the Truth. God may need to purge you of all of your self-effort and reliance upon yourself before the walls fall down.
But the Truth is what God has already told us: Jesus Christ has ALREADY won every victory. He ALREADY has all power and authority. He ALREADY has – indeed, He ALREADY IS – the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE that we need for every situation we could encounter in this life. And – this same Christ has joined us to Himself. Thus, rather than ask God for power, Jesus already says to us, “Abide in ME.”
You see, we spend lots of time trying to win victory over sin, when the whole time we need to abide in the One who IS the finished victory. We seek THINGS from God, ability from God, and answers from God – unwittingly we seek these as items separate from Christ -- and the entire time God is telling us that all that we need is already in Christ. Much defeat in the Christian life is the result of being blind to the One to whom we have been joined. Christ is the Vine and we are the branches. The branches need not ask the Vine for power. The branches need to ABIDE in the Vine.
The Impact of Being In Christ
When we are joined to the Lord we are born from above. At that point, what is born is a new creation in Christ Jesus. The new creation in Christ Jesus is the union of Jesus Christ through His Spirit with our human spirit. That is the new man in Christ. Every thing within that union is eternal and of Christ. But all that is outside of that union – our natural man and flesh – remains exactly that. Thus, each believer has TWO natures and TWO dynamics – and they are in conflict with each other – the flesh wars against the spirit, etc.
This is the separation of soul from spirit: The resurrection union of my human spirit with that of Jesus Christ vs. what remains the natural man. It is vital to understand that this is how you are constituted once you receive Christ. Otherwise, you will get the two confused.
Before we see the Truth, we will automatically live from out of our old nature. We might even try to do this religiously. We will either try to accomplish God’s will through our own efforts, or we will try to get God to help us through appealing to Him on the basis of our natural man. But none of this will work because it is contrary to the Truth. It may take us years, but God is going to have to allow us to fail – we have to learn this Truth by experience – an experience that God wants to use to bring us to a full renunciation of our old man in Adam. God wants to show us the Truth about the old man so that we might renounce our old nature and forsake it as the basis for anything in Christ. Only then will we pass over the Jordan and be more able to abide in Christ by faith.
Again, our need to learn Christ is why it often seems that nothing happens because we abide in Christ. Well, something may be happening -- God may be bringing our natural man to his rightful place in the Cross. Not what we usually expect, but absolutely necessary.
We must see the Truth by experience. Nothing else will set us free. We have to be brought to the end of our natural man as the basis for Christian living. IF we are brought there we will more easily abide solely in Christ. Indeed, once we are joined to the Lord and are one spirit with Him, there is a great LAW that is at work unto that end – not a LAW in the sense of a rule to follow, but a spiritual LAW that automatically works, sort of like gravity works in the physical world. It is really the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus – it is the NATURE OF THINGS pertaining to the new creation in Christ. That law is this: Christ must increase. I must decrease. If Christ is in you, then the law of His life will be DEATH to the natural man. But it will be LIFE unto all that is of God.
Another way to understand this law is to realize that it is the dynamic of His death and resurrection. Romans 6 reveals that if I am joined to the Lord that I am engrafted or planted into both His death and resurrection. Thus, if I am joined to Him, then HIS death and HIS resurrection will work in me – death to my natural man, but life to the new man in Christ. This is not maybe. It is what happens if we are joined to the Lord – although we must yield to Him.
Now, this is vital to understand – because it means that to abide in Christ for all life will mean I must forsake my life – indeed, if we begin to abide in Christ for our life it will mean death to my natural man. I still have to yield – but you cannot have it both ways. I cannot abide in Christ for life – all the while living from out of the natural. No. The moment I try to abide in Christ there is this law – my natural life is negated. The work of the Cross comes to bear upon me. I will find it evermore so that to be joined to the Lord – to actually abide in Him – will automatically carry with it the fact that I have been planted into His death.
We see this all through the OT types. Every time man approaches God he must come by blood. This is God telling us that natural man has no place in Christ. There must be a losing of our natural life by taking our place in His death – by taking up our Cross – so that we can find His life.
Have we realized that all that is of this earth – all that is earthly by nature – is under a curse because of the sin of Adam? The earthly cannot have any place in the new creation in Christ. Try to live from out of your natural man and, at best, you will get nowhere with God – or you will be deceived thinking you are! Either way, it is under the curse of death. Only by abiding in Christ as our life – and everything is included in life – is there fellowship with God. All else is cursed, deception, and a lie. This is a matter of spiritual life and death.
Jesus said we must lose our lives in order to find true life – in Him. His statement was based on the Truth. What we call LIFE, our life – is death. It is the earthly; under the curse of death. This is the nature of things – it is the way things are. Only if we forsake this – and we must come to forsake our life actively and practically, and deliberately – will we be able to truly abide in Him by faith. We cannot have TWO lives. Christ is to be our life.
So many of us think of these Truths as a negative. We think that to lose our lives is going to deprive us. Well, it is only because we start with our lives in hand, without knowing much else, that it does seem scary to be told we must lose all. It is scary if we don’t know Jesus Christ. But we are being told the TRUTH. And we are being offered life solely by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
You cannot live from out of Christ as your life by abiding as a branch in the Adam life. You cannot. Through the new birth you have been severed through death from that Adam life and engrafted into Christ. Now, turn and abide in Him – in utter dependence for all. This alone is the Truth.
God says that we must lose our entire selves to Christ and abide in Him for all. Then we don’t merely get a thing called power, or some enablement as a thing – we get Christ as our life – we are one with HIM. The outcome is victory. Victory is never given as a thing apart from Christ. Victory is IN HIM – and to experience it we must abide in Him.
Trusted With Blessing
God has an eternal inheritance for His people – that is not under dispute. We have the down payment right now within – Christ in us through the means of the Spirit of God. We are given – freely by His grace – Jesus Christ to dwell in us. But we are also given all things freely IN Christ Jesus. And as we have seen, we must simply turn and LIVE FROM OUT of Christ by faith.
Now, perhaps you have tried to do this and it has not worked, so to speak. If it has not, the chances are that you are simply encountering the law of Christ that I have mentioned. You perhaps thought blessings were there for the taking. But as you tried to abide in Christ, you found death. When that happens, it can certainly try your faith. Why does living from out of what is free have to be so hard?
It is not hard. We are hard. The point is, when you seem to hit a brick wall in these matters, it is not a sign that grace is not grace, or that God is not faithful. Rather, it is a sign that everything is exactly as God said. God MUST deal with your unbelief, hardness, and self-will. He MUST deal with your heart so as to make it single to Himself. He must. Otherwise, you will never come into His purpose. It may, in fact, be your undoing.
How many of us realize that much of what God is doing is intended to make us able to live in His great inheritance? God wants to make us able to live with Him forever. He wants people who can live in His blessing without any harm to their full dependence upon Christ. He wants people whose interests are HIS, and who can, “be trusted,” to be faithful to Him. I hope we see this. Thus, there must come a change in US.
What must this change be? Does God want to make us strong? No. He wants to expose us as weak. He wants to expose the Truth about what we are in ourselves so that once and for all we will forsake this dead creature we are in Adam and lose it all to Christ crucified. Then we will dependent fully on Him. We will abide in Him for life – and rejoice in doing so.
If we are saved, God has already given us all things freely in His Son. But as we turn to abide in Him, the Christ who is being formed in us will form us together with Himself. God is making us able – through our weakness and our faith in Him – to live in blessing. This is not negative. It is the greatest possible relationship with could have with God. It is really the ONLY TRUE relationship there is – He is God and we are not.
If we seek to abide in Christ and encounter in ourselves what seems to b a brick wall – the key is to continue to seek to abide in Christ. Ask God to do whatever it takes to get you there. The amazing thing is that you are already there – what God needs to do is reduce you down to where you don’t believe the brick wall, and your eyes can be opened to Christ.
The veil to the Holy of Holies has been forever rent. Nothing and no one can sew it back up. Often, however, we think it is sewn back up – usually by our sins, or by our fears. No. God will bring us to the place where we see that by grace only can be abide in Christ – and that God Himself desires this for us. The victory is already won; the veil is rent. We need eyes of faith to see this Truth.
Begin Now to Abide
If all that God has given us in Christ is, in fact, given solely by grace, then our abiding in Him is NOT based on anything about ourselves. It is based upon HIM. This eliminates ALL reasons for not taking possession of what God has freely given NOW. There are no, “if, ands, or buts…”
The only thing God has ever required of any of us is that we believe Him. At some point that faith will translate into action – in this case, not so much the action of doing works, but the action of abiding in Christ. We can do that. And we must. Abiding won’t just happen – or Jesus wouldn’t say, “Abide in Me.” No. We have to deliberately forsake ourselves in favor of living in Christ for all things – unto His glory.
Jesus said, “I AM…..” He was talking about who HE IS TO US – as He dwells in us – right now. The words, “I AM,” do not refer to the past or future – those words refer to the present – and we are always in the present. In short, Christ is the great I AM right now IN US and FOR US. We don’t have to wait to abide in Him – we don’t have to wait until we are good enough or know enough. It isn’t about whether WE are this or that. It is about HIM – right now.
Go back to your OT story of Israel. God had given them the Promised Land before any of them were born. It was a done deal. It was possible for them to have entered into the Promised Land immediately after being delivered from Egypt. It was only an eleven days journey from Egypt to Promised Land. There were no conditions attached – God simply said, “I have given you this land. Enter into this land by faith and take possession of what I have given you.” But they would not. Why? The Bible says, “They could not enter because of unbelief.” They began to consider what they saw and what they thought – and put aside what God had said. What could have taken eleven days ended up taking forty years.
Were those forty years in the wilderness a punishment? No. They were a judgment – a redemptive judgment. The forty years in the wilderness was the time it took for Israel to be reduced to nothing so that God could be everything. Israel did not need forty years to become righteous enough to enter the land. Rather, they needed forty years to be shown they would never be righteous enough. They needed to be shown that it was never on the basis of anything about themselves that they could enter. Indeed, when they came back to the land in the book of Joshua, it was the SAME land, with the SAME tribes, with the SAME giants, being led there by the SAME God. But they were not the SAME Israel. The unbelieving generation had died out. Now there was faith in God.
Note that God made no change to those things over which Israel stumbled through unbelief. No. All of those things were still there. But He said to them exactly what He had said forty years earlier: Enter into the land that I have given you – by faith. Enter in ANYWAYS – despite the presence of all of these contradictions. Enter in abiding in ME. For if you do, no enemy will be able to stand before you, any more than an enemy can stand before Me. Thus, we don’t overcome in order to abide in Christ. We overcome BECAUSE we abide. Faith in Christ results in victory through Him.
As it was with Israel, so it is with us. Our unbelieving, “generation.” is the natural man – even if it is a natural faith based upon ourselves, or upon our natural perception. God has to put us through a wilderness so that the deception of that is exposed. Then we will be able to enter and take possession solely on the basis of Jesus Christ. Can we see that this is a work of grace? That this is God’s mercy and love to bring us into His purpose?
Jesus Christ is our Promised Land. God has given Him to us freely. We are joined to Him. Now God says ABIDE IN HIM – take all I have given you in Christ. Enter in, right now. God will not remove our failures nor any obstacle to our faith ahead of time. He says to abide in Christ ANYWAYS – any solution or victory must come OUT of abiding in Christ. Live in Christ and live from out of Christ by faith – “for the just shall live from out of faith.” (Rom. 1:16)
It is just that simple. The question is not whether we are able. God has already told us we are NOT -- and never will be. The question is whether we will believe – whether we will take what God has given and move forward solely on the basis of Jesus Christ. God wants to shut out natural man, but to take us on into HIS purposes. The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus will be at work – to keep us in the Truth and out of ourselves – to keep us in God’s will. But God says we need not wait – abide in Christ – for He says, “I AM.”
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