Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What It Means to "Abide in Christ"

(A vine, in my back yard)

(I’m reading Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ with some friends. I’ll be posting my comments, and any of theirs, here.)

Murray, in his fourth chapter, prays "Let me study the wondrous union between Jesus and His people, until it becomes to me the guide into full communion with my beloved Lord."

That's a current prayer of mine, too. And, I am doing this. I am now engaged in personal, experiential, biblical-theological study of Jesus' John 14-17 invitation to dwell "in him."

What is it, to "abide" in Christ? Murray says it is:

  • nothing but the acceptance of my position (i.e., I'm a branch, Jesus is the True Vine)
  • the consent to be kept there, and
  • the surrender of faith to the strong Vine to hold me, the feeble branch

Brandon Robinson has written, as he is reading through Murray's book:

All You Who Have Come to Him, Brandon Robinson

To abide, means to draw sustenance from.

If by coming to Jesus a person knows the invitation to abide in Him, and yet does not know this level of relationship, then the person is asking Jesus to be someone He is not. The person shrinks the vine of the Spirit to a convenient form and requires it to decorate some empty corner of his livelihood. In this event, the branch has come to the vine and twisted it into a trinket among other souvenirs that interest his psychology. And he’s presumed to know something of living in truth. He is, after all, familiar with the vine. He relishes its words, and delights in its presence, and glories in keeping this light of truth in a polished jar, on a shelf. And as much as he pretends to be the gardener of such a vine, to prune it to his likeness, he withers for lack of sustenance. To such a dried up person as this it is his lot to be disturbed by real growth, and hopefully to discover by a most unfamiliar mercy he can actually survive, even abide, as a branch. Imagine his surprise when he realizes he likes bearing fruit, instead of gobbling it up to sustain himself.


To abide, means to labor out of shared desire

When I agree to come under another person’s will, I accept the yoke of his or her control. When I cooperate with the requests of that control, I attend to bearing the burden of obedience. Although the language of the yoke and burden come from agriculture, any modern hospital witnesses this exchange routinely. A doctor directs a patient to take a medication three times a day with two glasses of water. And three times a day, the patient makes sure he has water to drink.

Of course, the exchange may not happen so coherently. The medication may be forgotten in the car, for a week. The patient may think he is well. Maybe the meds aren’t necessary and the doctor is exploiting the patient for financial gain. Even as a needy person depends on a facility as capable as a hospital, a separation between the direction and the cooperation—the yoke and the burden—results in a state of unrest.

Thus, being well-organized, capable, may not encourage the true sharing of an undertaking. Though people agree to work together, the exchange of control and cooperation may not extend from shared desire. Such harmony, however, such common ground of common heart does not begin with sharing the work of will and obedience.

It begins with sharing yourself under the control of a greater harmony. In this wholeness and humility, you can offer your will as a direction, and simply share it with another, easing it, not requiring him to bear it alone. And since the work of co-laboring extends from a friendship of togetherness, you can take up part of the cooperation, and lighten the burden of obedience. And as you and your friend from common desire bear the yoke and burden which you undertake, your friend will know a great rest.

And if it is Jesus, saying come to Me, rest in My sustenance, and take My yoke, and learn to bear My burden, then to us it is rest for the soul.