Thrive Part 7

Abide in Christ

         Last week, we continued our series, Thrive, with more on the topic of prayer. One of the most important tie ins with prayer is our connection with the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, tied together with us in our daily lives. Living inside us, guiding us, convicting us, comforting us, counseling us, teaching us, advocating for us through Christ before the Father, identifying us as children of God, adopted into the family of God, co-heirs with Christ, priests and priestesses, princes and princesses, empowering us to know God’s will and to follow it, and producing all the facets of the Fruit of the Spirit within us. It seems like Holy Spirit has a lot of responsibilities in our daily lives. Yet we hardly make use of that connection; we barely scratch the surface of what is possible, and it’s not because God isn’t willing to enter our lives. It’s because we don’t want him interfering with our plans, desires, and ideas. We want to bend God’s will to our own. In order to justify doing that, we change the very essence of who Jesus was and why he was here. We change the Word of God to suit ourselves. And we end up following an imaginary Jesus who is absolutely powerless to help us overcome the trials and temptations of life. Any time we pick and choose from the scriptures what we want to believe and what we don’t; any time we insert our “the Bible says, but…” We leave the path and begin following a false Gospel.

         When we reach John chapter 14, Jesus and closest disciples are walking in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives right after the Last Supper. Jesus begins to teach his disciples about the advocate, the other comforter, that God will send to them in his place, because he tells them he is going to be with the Father. He has predicted his death and resurrection, and he is telling his disciples what it’s going to mean for them going forward to follow him when he is no longer right in front of him. Hear the words of Jesus as he is speaking with his disciples.

         John 14:15-17,22-26

‘“If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.

“Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. “I have spoken these things while staying with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.’

In our lives, as we try to follow Jesus and know him better, we submit ourselves to God in prayer. However, as we talked about last week; we hit obstacles in our prayer lives that inhibit our ability to find fellowship with God. In order to avoid blockades to prayer, it helps to know prayer’s purpose. Wonderfully, Jesus explains this to his disciples during this same conversation with them on the working of Holy Spirit in their lives, he says:

         John 15:7-10

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

This passage immediately follows Jesus as he describes our relationship with the Father and himself as the Vine and the Branches. How many of you can at least quote part of this from memory? I am not putting it on the screen, but I am sure this will sound very familiar. Jesus said,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. ‘

John 15:1-6

By a show of hands, how many of you have heard a message preached at some point in your lives about “bearing fruit”? Okay, how many of you have heard a message about bearing fruit is to make disciples? The more disciples you make the more fruit you are bearing? I know I have heard many of those messages preached in my life.

         However, Jesus is teaching about Holy Spirit’s work in our lives to glorify God. He is teaching about obedience to his commands. He is teaching about the third great commandment. To love one another as he has loved us. He is teaching about how our love and obedience will lead to his joy and our joy being complete. Jesus is teaching about the Fruit of the Spirit. Paul says, the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

In English, to remain means primarily to continue in the same state or in the same place. To abide means primarily to remain, continue, and stay; it also means to reside or dwell, to make one’s home. The Hebrew idea behind these words is to tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. It was also the place the Spirit of God lived or dwelled for the Hebrew people. Within the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies; the place where to enter unclean meant death. Jesus says to live in him and he will live in us through his Holy Spirit.

So, the phrase “abiding in Christ” pictures an intimate relationship, and not just a superficial acquaintance.oHo

To abide in Christ’s love, we follow his commands, which means knowing Scripture, “the word of Christ” (Colossians 3:16). Listen to this passage of Colossians 3:15-17,

‘Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’

As we increase in the knowledge of Jesus, we will also increase in love for him, which drives us to our knees in repentance. When you know Jesus and what he has done for you, it becomes progressively easier to turn from the ugliness of sin to the beauty of the Savior.

As we come to know and love Jesus, our prayers will be increasingly transformed. This will change how, why, and what we ask of him. We will love what he loves, hate what he hates, and desire what he desires. We will learn to submit to his timing in answering because we are learning to trust him more.

1 John 2:24-29

‘As for you, what you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. Now this is the promise that he himself made to us: eternal life. These things I have written to you about those who are trying to deceive you. Now as for you, the anointing that you received from him resides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, it is true and is not a lie. Just as it has taught you, you reside in him. And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back. If you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been fathered by him.’

As our Father, God delights to give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:5-13). Knowing we ask according to his will, we can have faith that he will answer us, even when his answer doesn’t align with our understanding or timetable. When doubt still comes, we reject it and turn to our forgiving and compassionate God who will bolster our faith. We come to God humbly in prayer through Jesus, who opened the way for us to do so by removing all blockades to communion with God when he defeated sin and death.

Yes, we will still struggle with the flesh and the world; therefore our requests may be tainted, and our ability to notice God’s answers may be clouded. So we cling to Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Jesus has changed those who love him, delighting us in himself. Even when we don’t know how to ask or receive, he sees what we truly want—to know him, love him, and bear fruit for him—and knows how and when to provide and answer.

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