Abiding in Christ is not optional for effective Christian leadership. If you want to do true spiritual good, you must walk in dependence. Francis Schaeffer said that the central problem of our age is:
the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.
If you are in ministry leadership, you have no doubt exhorted those you lead to abide in Christ. But do you know what it really means to abide in Christ? The answer may surprise you.
The biblical text where Jesus focuses on abiding in him is John 15. Here we learn three things about abiding in Christ. Each of them unfolds a deeper layer that eventually helps us get to the bottom of what it is to abide in Christ.
1. Abiding in Christ is Essential for Fruitfulness.
4 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. 5 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. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:4-9, ESV)
If you abide in Christ, you: (a) will bear much fruit, (b) can do something, (c) have confidence of answered prayer, (d) can glorify God. In other words, abiding in Christ is essential for fruitfulness.
2. Abiding in Christ is Obeying His Commandments.
Jesus then digs a layer deeper, helping us see what it is to abide in him:
10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11, ESV)
So…abiding is obeying. We withdraw from abiding in Christ when we choose disobedience. When we obey, by faith, we draw near to Christ and abide in him. Additionally, according to verse 11, this is a path of real joy.
3. Abiding in Christ is Obeying His Commandment to Love.
Here we get to the root of the issue. What is it to really — at the deepest level — abide in Christ?
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:12-17, ESV)
Do you follow the logic?
Abiding in Christ = Obeying His Commandments
His Commandment = Love One Another
Abiding in Christ = Love One Another
We often think of abiding in Christ as prayer or having a quiet time. Surely this is a good thing, part of obeying his commandments. But the root of abiding in Christ is loving one another with sacrificial love.
A few concluding thoughts for ministry leaders:
- You stay closest to Christ when you really love others.
- You can have a terrific quiet time but if you are using people to prop up your fragile ego or misplaced identity, rather than loving them, you are not really abiding in Christ.
- We must see people as the precious bride of Christ and love them as he does.
- Real fruitfulness happens in a ministry of love.
What other ways would you apply this lesson about abiding?