The further I go in life, and following the way of Jesus in particular, the more it all seems both more simple and more complex. There’s much to be said for how all-encompassing a life of following Christ is, but today I want to focus on the simple side.
It becomes increasingly clear to me why Jesus said, “If a person remains in me and I in them they will bear much fruit.” Another way to translate the word “remain” in this passage is “abide.” I love the word abide. It has connotations of togetherness, interaction, and commitment. To some extent the entire Christian life begins in this idea of abiding in Christ. The passage I referenced (John 15) goes on to say if we don’t abide in Christ we’ll wither up and die. It doesn’t say we’ll get by living a morally pure and spiritually adequate life so we can accept an ethereal eternal reward–it says we will die. Of course we all die physically, but I think Jesus is saying, “Look, the only chance you have of really living for me and finding the eternal life I have for you is to stay as close to me as you can. In fact, abide in me.”
I’ve found this to be true in my life. As I abide in Christ through the Scriptures, prayer, and time with the body of Christ, I am called deeper and deeper into a life of sacrifice for the sake of other. A life of radical counter-culturalism based in love for God and others. And as I go even a couple days without abiding in Christ I am drawn back to what I want and what the advertisers want for me. If I don’t abide in Christ my hope of advancing deeper into the life Jesus calls me to begins to die.
I wonder if this is why we have so many who claim to be Christians yet don’t seem to be moving toward the sacrificial life Jesus calls all His followers to. Maybe people are so busy abiding in church events, Christian books, materialism, selfishness, moral platitudes, and comfort that they forget to abide in Christ–and they start to wither. Maybe some of them have already died. But we believe in a God who died and rose again. So for anyone who has failed to abide in Christ and as a result has died to the life He has for them, they can be resurrected to that life if they will abide in Him. I know it’s true because it’s happened to me.