> Abide in Obedience
“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
(1 John 2:3-6 ESV)
The statement is clear: we abide in him by walking like him. This is an overall lifestyle of Jesus-ness. Although we are not perfectly sinless as he was, we should still have a desire to love him and others and do as he has said. Unfortunately, these commands go against everything our human nature tells us to do. Don’t love others, at least, don’t love them all the way. Be like Christ sometimes, then do what you want the other times. These are the lies that permeate our thinking if we are not abiding in him. As sinful humans, we have become experts at tricking others and ourselves to believe that we are in fact doing what we need to do to be “good.” Many times we say we know him, but completely deny him by our actions. John gives us a litmus test for faith: we know we are in him if we walk in the same way he walked. Of course, we can not do it on our own. It’s impossible! Even so, that’s what every other world religion says one ought to do; try harder and do it on your own. How and why is a walk with Christ different? If we say we can’t do it on our own, how can we do it then? John tells us in this next passage.
> Abide in the Spirit
“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”
(1 John 3:24-4:3 ESV)
So far we have established two things. First, to abide in him is to love him and follow his commands, looking and acting like Christ in our everyday lives. And second, we can’t possibly do that on our own. This power comes solely from the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that enables us to look and become more like Christ. Of course, we must choose to cooperate with the Spirit, and we grieve him when we don’t do so (Eph. 4.30). This doesn’t mean he goes away, it just means he continues to press into us until we accomplish the task that he has set out for us to do. John also gives us a warning, not everything claiming to be spiritual and godly is from God. Just because someone said you should do something because the Spirit said so doesn’t necessarily make it so. Just because an idea is new, doesn’t make it true. We are to test the things we see and hear and receive. This is not a license to be an open skeptic and cynic about everything we come across, rather it is a call to be wise and discerning. God’s word gives us the foundation for knowing what is of God and what is not. A good place to go when you come across new ideas and spiritual teachings is God’s word. Counsel from godly believers is also key in discerning spiritual matters. If you have trusted in Christ, you have the Spirit of God and John tells us this is proof that we belong to him. God the Holy Spirit guides the lives and choices of believers and allows us to be like Christ. Without it, you are hopelessly lost, trying your best to wade through the murky waters of spiritual and religious emptiness that this world has to offer. Since we have the Spirit as believers, what is the final marker that we are abiding in him?
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
(1 John 4:15-16 ESV)
We have touched on this briefly, but we must round the base with this final point. Only a confession in Christ as the Son of God is a true confession of Christian faith and love is the subsequent marker of abiding in Christ. Not just superficial love, in the way that we might love vanilla ice cream. It is sacrificial love towards one another like Christ has shown to us. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4.10). We did nothing to deserve his love (in fact we deserve the complete opposite) and in being shown that love, we are to reflect that love upon others. How far does this love go? I dare say it goes farther than we are sometimes willing to extend it. Are you willing to love one another when the other person has deeply hurt us emotionally? Are you willing to love one another even though you might know someone’s past failures and mistakes? What about loving someone who is steeped in sin and doesn’t want to have anything to do with your attempts to show love? Real Christ-like love is extremely difficult to live out. There are sweet moments where love restores and brings people together, and there are times when our love is stomped on, picked up and thrown back into our faces. This is the kind of love we are to show to others no matter their reaction, history, personality or perceived differences. Are we loving one another this way? Are we loving others in our lives this way? If not, we need to evaluate our abiding status in Christ.