Do the Next Thing

By David A. DePra

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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.  (John 15:4-5)


If we examine the picture Jesus is giving in this passage we see the Truth of the believer’s spiritual union with Christ.  Just as the Vine and branches are as one – share the life of the Vine – so it is in Christ.  “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”  (I Cor. 6:17) 


This is the core of Christianity:  Christ in us, or if you prefer, the believer in Christ.  We are baptized into Christ and forever at one with Him in spirit.


Now, that is a reality -- the believer is one with Christ.  But that is only the BASIS of what Jesus is talking about in this passage about the Vine and the branches.  He is saying, “I am the Vine and you are the branches.  Now – live in Me and out from Me as your life.”


That is the meaning behind the word ABIDE.  We are to abide in Christ by faith – “to live in and out from Christ by faith.”  Of course, this is equal to Christ living in and through us.  If we are one with Christ there must follow LIVING.


Now ask:  If Christ is in us does that really MEAN anything?  If Paul was telling the Truth when He said that we are seated in Christ in the heavenlies, does that MEAN anything?  Or are these things just doctrines and theological concepts that we are to hold and teach?


If we read the Bible we are reading, yes, much teaching and doctrine.  But how are these great truths LIVED?  How does Jesus Christ live through us? What does it mean to ABIDE in Him?


Obviously, Jesus Christ does not live through us by by-passing us. No.  He lives THROUGH us.  But the question is, how does this work? 


A big key here is to realize that the Christian walk is one of faith.  We are to abide – to live in – Christ by FAITH according to the TRUTH.  Contrast that over and against trying to walk in Christ in fear and unbelief.


It is a fact that a Christian person could do exactly the same things in faith as they could in unbelief.  Now, I’m not talking about immorality or obvious sin.  But I am saying that the same everyday life can be lived by faith as it can be lived in unbelief.


And so when we talk about how to live and abide in Christ we must realize that the issue is not what we DO.  It is faith vs. unbelief.  Try to do all the good works in the world and if you are doing them in unbelief, they are not good works in the eyes of God.  Real faith results in good works that are from out of the faith of Christ.


So, back to the question:  What does it really mean to abide in Christ; for Christ to live through us.  One option would be for us to sit and wait for God, “to move upon us,” and make something happen.  But that is not how Christ lives through His people.  Christ doesn’t, “take people over,” and sort of, “possess,” them.  He won’t necessarily hit you or I with some huge spiritual impression and miraculously lead us around.  Or, as I noted, Jesus cannot live through you by by-passing you.  Thus, you never find passivity described as the Christian life in scripture.  It is one thing, “to wait upon God,” BY FAITH.  But it is another to wait and be passive in fear or unbelief.


Even when a believer is not doing much – even when it doesn’t seem as if there is much of a purpose going on – if a person is abiding by faith in Christ, it is not PASSIVE.  Rather, it is an inward, active faith that is presently not doing much in an outward fashion.  And that is absolutely possible within the will of God.


Another option for abiding in Christ would be for us to take the initiative, do what we think is best, and assume that God is with us.  The trouble is, we would likely do this according to our own religious minds – and even according to our self-interest.  So that cannot be the answer.  It would be unbelief.


So we see that an active inward faith with no outward action is possible in the will of God.  But an inward unbelief with much outward action is possible outside of the will of God.


The answer is that we CANNOT live from out of Christ as our life, and CANNOT live as those seated with Christ unless doing so begins with one thing:  A brokenness -- and then from out of that brokenness, a growing inward realization and knowledge of Him.  Then faith can be our motivation.


Of course, unless we are broken of our own will we can be deceived into thinking that we know Him.  We can be deceived by our own religiosity.  Self-interest will govern in an unbroken person.


Those who are broken by the work of the Cross will be growing to discern the will of God.  They will grow to have the mind of Christ.  There will be a growing faith that is able to live from out of Him.


So, we come to this answer:  Life in Christ is not a matter of the believer sitting and waiting for Him to act upon us to move us, or make something happen.  No.  Rather, life in Christ is a matter of the believer – in faith and governed by the knowing of Him – DOING THE NEXT THING.  Get that:  In Christ we are to do the next thing.  Whatever that is.


I’m sure this does not seem exciting.  For, “the next thing,” might be nothing more than going to work.   But living in Christ has to include that – it has to begin there. 


Many of us have the mistaken notion that to reign and rule with Christ as those seated in Him in the heavenlies means to work miracles, have great ministries, or a big church.  We may think we should be able to wave our hand and solve all of our own problems.  But no.  In fact, we very often will have to learn to walk with Christ – reign and rule with Christ – over the drudgery of everyday life.


Are we able to reign and rule with Christ – live from out of Him to His glory – when life is boring, seems to be without purpose, or has little in the way of excitement?  If not, then we cannot reign and rule with Him.  Anyone can claim to reign and rule with Christ when doing so seems to accomplish great things for God.  But we need to realize that to reign and rule with Christ in boredom is every bit as purposeful and eternally important as anything.  Why?  Because we are learning Christ.  That is eternal.


Reign and rule with Christ right where you are – over boredom if necessary – and live from out of Christ NOW.


Someone might suggest that unless we SEE big things happening that there is no proof that living in Christ is real.  DO THE NEXT THING in faith and you will see – not necessarily any outward results that you would call miraculous – but you will begin to see Jesus Christ and His purpose in an inward way.  You will, more and more, know what, “the next thing,” is.  And you will experience a greater freedom.


We must grasp this.  We have to live and walk in faith one step at a time.  Do the next thing – by faith – and God will open up the thing after that.  He probably won’t open up much more.  But more importantly, do the next thing and you will grow to SEE JESUS more and more.  We cannot grow as a branch – bear fruit -- unless we are abiding in the Vine NOW.


Of course, as we seek, “to do the next thing,” as one who is in Christ, we will be continually opposed by our own natural mind, our own interests, our own feelings, and our many moods.  But if we continue to seek to live from Christ by faith, we will – despite our many failures – discover that Christ in us is able to push through all of that which is of the flesh.  We will be able, “to do the next thing,” no matter what that may be in the will of God.


Christian people have been brainwashed into thinking that unless they can see God move with their natural senses that He isn’t working.  We want to do things for God and see results.  But this is not the norm in the Christian life, but the exception.  Abide in Christ by faith now, and do the next thing.  “Whatever you do, do all to the glory if God.”  (I Cor. 10:31)

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