Imagine being with Jesus and His disciples in their final days together. Jesus had told them He would not only be leaving, but dying at the hands of their enemies. As they gathered for what would be their last meal together, abiding was one life-sustaining topic Jesus covered to help them replicate all they had seen in His life and ministry.
In John 15, Jesus speaks of the vine and branches, likening His followers to branches that can only find sustenance in Himself, the Vine. He urged his friends to abide in Him.
“But how?” they may have thought, “How do we stay close when you are about to leave?”. It turns out that Jesus was already a step ahead, preceding even the disciples’ questions, because in the previous chapter of John He described how He would remain near:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. … you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. … Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:16-20 NIV).
In these promises of John 14, we see that the ‘how’ of abiding is answered in the Holy Spirit who was sent as the presence of God to be in us and with us. We can remain close to Christ because the Spirit is always close to us, inviting us into unbroken communion.
When we abide in Christ, we turn our attention toward the nearness of the Spirit and receive the equipping love and presence of Jesus. We remember that we are cherished, forgiven, and empowered; that God’s provision for us precedes even our awareness of it.
Spiritual disciplines provide a wonderful scaffolding for the life of faith, but even these are a signal of God at work. Andrew Murray writes, “…[in] every prayer or spiritual exercise intended to draw us nearer to Him, we remember gladly that even these things we are doing are simply the manifestation of what God is doing in us.”
Christ followers are not just called to do things for God, but to make our home in God. Bible teacher Cynthia Heald writes that abiding simply means “keeping your hand in His.” I love this picture because it relays a posture of surrender. Just as a branch must remain in the vine, our hands must remain in His, connected to the one place true life is found.