I spent years of my Christian life trying very hard to abide in Christ. This year, I learned the secret.
Let me be clear, I have nowhere near mastered the art of abiding, but I have learned the simple truth that makes it possible, and it is dramatically changing my life, allowing me to bear much fruit that I could never produce otherwise.
If your own efforts so far, including all your spiritual disciplines, have yet to fill you with the abundant life of Christ, then this article is for you. It all comes down to your understanding of “abide”.
God’s Word, the Meaning of “Abide” and its Hidden Implication
As usual, let’s start by taking a look at Christ’s words since it is here where the truth is found.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5, ESV)
The Greek word translated as “abide” is meno, which means literally to “remain”, “stay”, or “continue”. Notice that each of these words has the same implication: Whatever you are supposed to do, you are already doing it. Wherever you are supposed to be, you are already there.
For instance, you would only encourage someone to continue a race in which they were already running. When someone says they are going to remain at their job, it is given that they are speaking of a job they currently have, as opposed to finding a new one or getting back a job they lost. When a parent tells their child to stay in the car, we naturally assume that the child is already in the car. Or else the command would be to “get into” the car. Hopefully, you get the point.
So then why, when it comes to abiding in Christ, would we treat this word any differently? For most of my Christian life, I took the words of Jesus — to “abide in Christ” — to mean something like “get into Christ”. I took it to mean that there was something I needed to do to regain the intimacy I had lost through sin, prayerlessness, or some form of spiritual neglect.
The connotation of “abide” was, for me, something entirely the opposite of its true meaning. It should have caused me to recognize that I was already in him. Instead, it caused me to question what I needed to do to get back into him. It should have put me at rest. Instead, it caused me to work. It should have caused me to trust in Holy Spirit. Instead, it caused me to rely on my own efforts.
The Secret to Abiding in Christ is Faith
Perhaps as you read this, you are sitting in a chair. Now, imagine if God commanded you to abide in that chair. The only way for you to effectively and mindfully abide in that chair is first to realize that you are there and needn’t go anywhere else. You are already doing what you must continue to do, or else the word “abide” would not be relevant for the situation. But in the case that you think you are somehow out of the chair, and you consequently go on trying to do something to get in it, then you have, by definition, failed to abide.
The same goes with Christ. Whether or not we effectively abide in him hinges on one thing — belief that we are already in him. It is impossible to abide in Christ under the premise that we must do something to get there. Again, Christ’s instruction to remain or stay in him indicates that we are in him. He never commanded us to get into him by our own efforts (as if a mere human is capable of getting into God). Instead, he simply commanded us to stay where he has put us by the same means that we got there — faith.
Practical Application: How to Bear Fruit in your Daily Life
You may be wondering what exactly this looks like, practically speaking. What must I do?! is an understandable response. Well, I hope you’ve caught onto this by now, but spiritual disciplines are not the answer. No amount of Bible study, good works, or even long sessions of prayer (depending on how you do these things) can make you abide in Christ.
We need to be careful not to fall back into this mental trap of doing. God has done it. Now, you needn’t do anything besides believe. If you want spiritual fruit, there is only one thing you must exercise, and that is your faith.
This being the case, the more appropriate question is: How do I exercise my faith? How do I start to believe in a greater capacity?
I can attest that faith doesn’t always come easy, so here is where I might suggest you start.
Wherever you are at and whatever you doing (no matter the time of day) practice giving thanks for this wonderful reality. Look at Jesus, and say to him something like this:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Thank you for making us one. Thank you that I am in you and you in me through the Holy Spirit that we share. And thank you that I don’t need to do anything to abide in you. For I simply believe. I trust that by God’s grace, and through my faith, I will inevitably continue to grow and bear much fruit. Thank you that this rest and this peace is the will of God for me.”
Do not settle with saying the mere words. Instead, speak to God, and try to mean it. Even if you do not feel it, or cannot make sense of it, rejoice that it is so. For God says it is so! I find this to be one of the simplest and most practical ways of abiding in Christ and growing in faith. Give thanks for things that God’s word says are true but that you do not see.
Do not let anything deter you from this — not the fact that you sinned ten seconds ago, or that you haven’t set aside any time for prayer recently, or that you are too busy right now, or that you are surrounded by people and filled with anxiety, etc. There is nothing — I repeat, nothing — that can keep you from abiding in Christ except failure to believe that you are already in him. God’s word is true! Let no circumstance keep you from believing in and receiving this wonderful grace.
3 Helpful Verses to Believe and Abide in Christ
If you are a believer, according to the gospel, you are in him, and he is in you. If you’re not bearing good fruit, perhaps you have been stuck in the same works-based mindset that I was for years. Give thanks, and rest in his finished work! From this reality comes all the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, etc. If we want to grow in such things as these, we must first grow in faith. (This is a central theme in my book, No Longer I, which I encourage you to read for greater depth on this subject.)
With the goal of staying firmly grounded in the truth, there is nothing more important than knowing the word of God. Here are a few of my favorite truth statements in the New Testament that I have personally found to be very helpful for abiding in the true vine:
1. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:9, ESV)
2. But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Corinthians 6:17, ESV)
3. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3, ESV)
If you’re not bearing fruit, then you have probably not internalized these truths. Ask Holy Spirit for understanding and revelation. Then, believe the best you know how, despite what you see or feel. And before you know it, the life of Christ will begin to manifest in you. He is the true vine, and you are the true branches.
P.S. I welcome your questions if you’d like to leave a comment. My desire is for the Church to learn the gospel the way that it was originally taught. If you would, please share this post, and help this to become a reality. Now go (or stay), and abide in Christ!