How To Abide With Jesus
I grew up going to church, so I’ve heard the word abide many times in sermons or just church conversations. But honestly, I don’t ever remember listening to a sermon on what it means to abide. So when you grow up hearing a word, but it’s never really explained or defined, it becomes one of those church words. You’ve heard them before. Everyone talks about it. But no one is really doing it. Or maybe they just don’t know how. Well, at least that’s my experience. Perhaps it’s yours too.
What Does Jesus Say About Abiding
When you hear people talking about abiding, nine times out of ten, they refer to the verses in John 15. Below is an excerpt from verses 1-11:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
The main verse I have often heard quoted, which I memorized as a kid, is verse 5. It would seem that if we want to bear fruit and have a life full to the brim, we need to abide in Jesus. This is how we become a more loving, joyful, happy, non-anxious presence — by abiding in Jesus.
Hopefully, it doesn’t take much convincing that this is the invitation of Jesus for all of us. So if this is Jesus’ invitation, how do we do it?
What does it mean to abide?
Not to oversimplify it, but to abide in Jesus and for Him to abide in you means being in a relationship with Jesus. It means He goes wherever we go, and we let His words expand to fill every part of us.
It’s not a morning devotional or a bedtime prayer. I mean, it’s not not those things. But it’s also so much more.
Suppose you had a friend that you only spoke with infrequently. Would they be considered a close friend with whom you have a vulnerable life-giving relationship — someone who knows the details of your life?
This is the invitation of Jesus. So how do you do this?
There are many things you could do (or not do) to create the margin that invites God into your life. I hesitate to list things to do, as frequently, feeling we should do something more has the wrong effect. In addition, some become overwhelmed by a list. One may think, “What’s the point. I’ll never be able to do all that.” So, I will give the list as long as you don’t read it as something to bite off all at once. These are things to consider over time — as your relationship with Jesus matures.
Without further ado, below are a few things I have found to be helpful:
Reading scripture. Often called a quiet time. Don’t merely read the scripture habitually; allow it to penetrate your heart. This may include journaling to help you apply the scriptures to your life. In addition, smaller chunks of scripture focused on the Gospels could be very helpful. If we are to remain in Jesus’ words, it would be beneficial to know His words.
Worship. Including all of what worship is in our broadest understanding, but intentionally and specifically, singing our worship to God. Singing has a way of humbling hearts and returning our wonder toward God.
Prayer of Examen. There are a lot of great resources online for this. The basic idea of the Examen is to give yourself some time at the end of the day to 1) practice gratitude, 2) let God speak to you about your day — where you pressed into Him and where you pulled away — and 3) repent where necessary.
Sabbath. Another word we use a lot but don’t talk about in the church. Sabbath is a day dedicated to not working. Not merely a day off. It is a day you spend with God and friends. Do a devotional. Have a meal with friends or family. Take up a hobby (for example, I like woodworking and surfing). Go on a walk. Pray. Don’t do things quickly. Don’t balance your budget. Don’t clean out the garage — or anything really.
Fasting. There are many reasons to fast, but for the purpose of abiding, it starves your flesh. It pushes up all the parts of your life that need to be tamed by God’s Spirit. This is done through surrendering to God’s deep love for you, not willing it to be done by a force of your might or willpower.
Meditation/Contemplation. Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you think about God’s love. Your identity in Him. Think about the ways of Jesus. Center yourself in His deep love for you and let everything else fade.
Silence & Solitude. Dallas Willard once called hurry “the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.” How do you combat a life that is filled to the margins? You guessed it. Everything in our culture fights against this. So, start small. Give space at the end of your day without your phone or tv. When you drive, every once in a while, turn off your radio. Don’t multitask. Spend 5 minutes before your quiet time in silence.
Supplication/Intercession. Supplication is asking God for the things we want. Usually, this is what we think of when we talk about prayer, but as I have tried to say, it’s hardly all there is to prayer. However, supplication is a vital part of our relationship with God. Jesus instructs us to ask for “His kingdom to come to earth” and “our daily bread.” We get to be specific in those prayers. Intercession is when we ask for things at the insistent internal urging of the Holy Spirit for something specific. When you feel the burden of something, that is God drawing you to pray for it.
Being in community. At first, this might seem contrary to what we think of as abiding. Abiding seems to be personal. However, much of our relationship with Jesus is experienced in the community of believers. Hebrews reminds us how vital accountability, service, and encouragement are. (Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”)
This list is hardly exhaustive. There are many other things that could help you create space for God and connect with Him. Many people connect with God in nature. Take a walk, watch the sunset, stare off into the ocean. If you like coffee, read a book at a coffee shop. If you like art, create something. Whatever you do, include Jesus.
A Couple of Things to Think About
Finally, before you start thinking about what to do, it’s essential to remember that abiding is primarily about relationship with Jesus. The most important part of a relationship is just showing up. Think of an older married couple. They aren’t always talking. There isn’t always an activity. Sometimes it’s just about being in the same proximity that brings the joy of being together. If you just bring yourself, before you start thinking about everything you should do, the rest will work itself out. The Spirit will draw you into a deeper relationship. Then, if you decide you want to add something, it will not be a chore but a desire.
Finally Finally, much of what I’m suggesting is part of what’s called a rule of life. A rule of life has a rich tradition and goes back hundreds of years. It’s a way to live with balance between work, play, spirituality, and your emotions. It gives you a mechanism to ask the Spirit what do Isense God trying to do in my life and what practices of Jesus will help me get there. It’s a topic in itself, so I’ll cover it in another blog.
Trackback from your site.