21 Sep 2000

Abiding

Submitted by theshovel
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I saw this picture of an old run-down house, which wouldn't have been too unusual, except for the fact that it was in the heart of an American city in the shadow of modern skyscrapers. The same house on a lonely country road would have made sense, but wedged between multi-storied buildings forced a totally different meaning upon it.

Our whole concept of what the Bible refers to as faith has undergone a similar transition as religious civilization has grown up around it and has likewise altered its meaning. The same thing has happened to the phrase "Abiding in Christ". I am convinced that Jesus' words (John 15) originally came across to his disciples as a mind-boggling sneak-preview into the miraculous, but have evolved under the growing shadow of religion into a difficult maintenance program Christians need to develop.

Here's what I'm saying: the way we've come to use abiding today is mostly RELATIVE. In other words, when we talk about abiding we get introspective and focus upon this faith-thing we are doing (or are SUPPOSED to be doing). But this shift in focus from Christ to ourselves is something that has been forced upon the words of Jesus.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying there's something wrong with the word abiding. I have even heard a rare few use it in the context of the miraculous, but the truth of ABIDING is more often understood without using the word abide.

While many settle for a less specific phrase like "A moment by moment walk of faith", I think the following definition I found accurately captures the basic assumptions of contemporary Christianity. I say assumptions because while I think most agree with the basic ideas in this definition very few are able to put it into words. Here it is:

what Jesus meant was really very simple ... to abide in Christ is to renounce any independent life of our own, to give up trying to think our thoughts, or form our resolutions, or cultivate our feelings, and simply and constantly look to Christ to think His thoughts in us, to form His purposes in us, to feel His emotions and affections in us.

Now, I gotta admit, there's a lot about this definition that sounds pretty good. At the same time it's simple meaning forces a few questions. I mean, what if I thought I was renouncing ALL independent life only to discover later that there was MORE to renounce? Does that mean that I wasn't abiding the whole time I thought I was? So, how do I know I'm STILL not holding some independent thought yet to be revealed which will suggest that I'm not abiding at the present time? And then, to top it off, could I even contemplate my own level of abiding without considering my own independent life?

I could keep going, but I think you've dealt with similar questions of your own that have left you thinking that whatever abiding is you're supposed to be doing it, and yet you're not really sure if you are ... most of the time. Tell me, if you heard a preacher say, "Abiding is perhaps the most serious failure among Christians!", wouldn't you be nodding your head in agreement along with everybody else? Yeah, I've been there.

Unfortunately, I just assumed that Abiding was one of those confusing Deeper-Life teachings that required years of serious study. It turns out that the answer was right under my nose the whole time. I had been looking for the door INTO the room I was ALREADY in! No wonder it was such a frustrating search. Are you ready for some good news?

First, let's take the mystery out of the language. There was no hidden or deep meaning in the word abide (or its Greek counterpart, meno). It was used in various ways in the New Testament writings, but there is a common thought behind all of them. It had to do with the WHEREABOUTS of someone or something. In other words, where something or someone dwelled, lived, existed, or stayed.

The deep reality found in the abiding spoken of by Jesus had to do with the fact that it refers to the connection between God and man: JESUS Himself. Long before the Word became flesh it was known that "the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands (Acts 7:48 - a different Greek word, by the way)", but God DID come to dwell with us, for the Father was abiding in Jesus. And Jesus told His disciples that He would abide in them through the Spirit He was sending. Jesus and His Father would make their abode - Their HOME, the place where They would live - in these men.

Do you realize the significance of those upper room discussions? Jesus was revealing a brand new reality that was in the process of happening at that very moment. In a few short hours they would see Him hanging on a cross to die, from which He would rise from the dead, then to return to His Father, and then He would send His Spirit. If you read through John you will notice a change half way through chapter 12 where Jesus declared,

The hour HAS COME for the Son of Man to be glorifiedJohn 12:23

We have learned to read that whole section as if it was telling us what we need to be doing in order to develop the relationship He spoke of. No wonder we have misread it so badly, for Jesus was describing the relationship that He was bringing to pass!

In John 15, Jesus likens Himself to a vine and His disciples to the branches. They didn't need a background lesson on grapevines, for most of them had probably worked in a vineyard sometime in their life. I wonder how many of them, as children, tried to grow a vine from one of the discarded branches only to have it die time after time? Here in South Florida, you can stick all kinds of plant cuttings in the ground and they will grow. But you can't do that with grapevines. If the branch isn't attached to - existing in - the vine it will die because the life that produces the fruit comes from the vine.

Jesus was NOT telling His disciples to do something called abide, He was declaring the dynamics of a totally new relationship!

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch CANNOT bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me John 15:4

They would HAVE to have their life in Him and He would HAVE to have His life in them in order for this new thing to work. This abiding relationship is what Jesus was in the process of creating ALL BY HIMSELF. Why do we still think that WE are the ones who are responsible to make this relationship happen?

I will continue this in the next Shoveletter. Your input and your questions will help me address some things I may otherwise not cover. Thanx. :)

Until next time .....
scoopfully yours,
the shovel (aka Jim)

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Comments

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch CANNOT bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me John 15:4 This reminds me of what the religous mind THINKS this really is. It only sees something “doable” or at east it pushes us to “try” to do it. It was read to us as if we could choose our way into abiding, as if we could also choose NOT to abide. Even the “grace” teachings out there now talk about going in and out of this abiding. All the while, it was just a matter of reading it as if in context. The abiding was something He declared was coming, not for us to break out our bibles some day and try to DO the”teachings” of Jesus. No, no, He was proclaiming the works of God to come, and soon! This is what I am getting out of your old Shoveletter. I love it, and amen for this. Adam
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These comments were all transferred over from the original website


Posted: September 22, 2000 by Natalie

«They would HAVE to have their life in Him and He would HAVE to have His life in them in order for this new thing to work. This "abiding" relationship is what Jesus was in the process of creating ALL BY HIMSELF. Why do we still think that WE are the ones who are responsible to make this relationship happen?»

That makes perfect sense Jim. Again, it takes all the "doing" out of the equation. He abides even when I do not recognize it. Wow. Thanks. love,


Posted: September 22, 2000 by Jack

Yes, Yes, Yes, Jim, he has caused us to abide. This completely goes along with my feelings of how we "live and move and have our being". It is something that he brought about, something he saw to, and in turn something that can have an impact like nothing else in our life. Knowing "it is finished" gives us a confidence that we can go forward with no fear of messing up, and frees us to let go of any delusions that this has to do with what we do, but with what was done.

By the way, from several of your letters, I am getting the idea that there is a "whole heap'o stuff under that nose of yours" well, mine too!

Glad to hear your ears they are a workin'


Posted: September 22, 2000 by Bruce

Mr. Shovel, Again...you have out done yourself! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful...post. :)


Posted: September 22, 2000 by Neil

Love your stuff, man--All of it!!! Keep it comin'. Thanks ... and keep up the good work.

You are THE MAN! Even tho I can't afford to buy anything right now, I appreciate the info and the fact that your stuff is freeeeeee! I do a lot of writing myself and can appreciate the fact of what you are doing. You have made me think and dig like few others. I'm reminded of a brother back in the late sixties, a "hippie" guy who had been found of Christ. Man-oh-man was he intense--and real! Since I had to leave that area and move half way across the country, I lost track of him (even forgot his name), but he sure did have an impact on me. Almost as much as my dear wife of 33 years who went to be united with her Saviour in in '97. Like she would say it, "Jesus is as real to me as my next breath--even more real. Someday my breath will stop, but I'll go on with Him forever." One of these days I'll tell you about her. She was a oner, that's for sure.

Yours in Christ,


Posted: September 22, 2000 by Paul

A wonderful word-picture. Thank you.


Posted: Jan-07-06 by Paulo

What your saying is completely consistent with much of Pauls writings. Paul said that God gives us both faith and grace. We don't even make the choice of ourselves. And of course Jesus said a few times about how no one could come to him without the Father bringing him.
There seems to be a general difficulty in grasping this life that is given from God to us. Jesus made it pretty simple when he said whoever comes to me and believes in me will have life. Coming and believing are pretty simple things. And yet we still need God to get us into the position to come and believe! God does it all! It's pretty awesome stuff.

I just watched a Dvd of Louis Giglio talking about the other side of grace, which was works of course. It was funny watching him say grace was free and yet....well, the works had to come and if they didn't....well...something was wrong. I could see him struggling. It came down to him saying that if we truly have received grace, works should manifest. If they aren't, we might be concerned about our salvation and whether we've really accepted Jesus. It was a good talk for giving you a sense of the holiness of God and a pep talk for caring to serve Him and I valued it for that. But it seems we are always going to this place in the church of agonizing over whether we're doing what we should be doing.

I think there are valid points as we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, as Paul said, and the new creation in us, His Spirit, is doing its work to burn through the old man, but I also think we pile on a neurotic kind of angst that only suffocates the work of the Spirit that is naturally occurring.

Why do we still think that WE are the ones who are responsible to make this relationship happen?-jim Simply put , THE WORDING. It’s lots of these scriptures not only pulled out randomly from context[which is some, if not allot of the problem] but, also they either are made to look like they are something we ‘do’ by translating it that way or else they just do not translate all that well at times?[into the English meanings perhaps] You add that to the fact that it all makes sense to the natural mind and we have tons of people reading this stuff as if it WERE that way, and you have a recipe for what has taken place.[pressure to go against what our inner man is telling us about God and ourselves] I think a huge part of it all though IS the fact that the unbelieving have gotten a hold of these writings and done much damage with it all. Who knows? Maybe we would have had WAY less ‘christians’ than we do today had these read TO OUR CULTURE something more like what they actually mean/meant to them originally. It is just a thought. It is very interesting though that God still powerfully works in the midst of this odd set up. Geez it is a far cry from the Bible being Gods ‘infallible word’ as the fleshly mind has tried to force it be. In my own experience I didn’t WANT it to read the way it did. I was not a willing participant. I just went along with the fleshly stuff because I honestly did not know what God was doing with the set up?[i was insecure-by design] Inside though, I was VERY grieved by the scriptures saying kind of what they ‘seem’ to say. Now that I think about it, I wonder if the bondage doesn’t start brick by brick and eventually ends up getting us all confused because of the mix of human wisdom and reality when it all comes crashing down on us? For lot’s of the human stuff makes sense probably because we are getting fed the human wisdom in our gatherings so that we also see it in the Bible as well, especially with the wording being tough in most places for us. It’s just not common lingo. Let’s face it, it’s not the Anointing that causes all this confusion. It is wordily reasoning that is behind most of it all. The lack of confidence is huge, it represents the state we who are in Christ often end up for many years when stuck under fleshly rule. It takes a miracle of God to move us out of it. It takes that sincere heart, that true life that is not willing to put up the BS of the flesh to escape the tyranny of flesh and law so it seems.

after more thought, i think there is something to just approaching the Bible with the an expectation that it will not be specifying something miraculous but, rather earthy.

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there is no advice in this world – even if it comes from a Bible verse or a preacher’s sermon – that can produce God’s work within you. Oh, it might make you appear more spiritually productive, but the working of God doesn’t come from the practical side of the grave … but from the living side that has risen past it. When I tell you that Christ is your life, I’m telling you about the one and only present-tense reality that causes you to live as one who is truly alive in this world. source