Conventional teaching tells us, as believers, that it is our job to serve Christ and fulfill our obligations to Him. Typically, the means to this end are taught to be practices called spiritual disciplines. These include Bible reading, prayer, giving, and serving (usually in the church setting). We are told that the more time and effort we invest in these things, the more mature we will be as Christians and the more God is pleased and glorified.
Also, these practices will supposedly put us in the position of abiding in Christ which Scripture puts great emphasis on. People who are faithful in these pursuits are seen as somehow more spiritual and godly than the rest. But are they necessarily?
Christ Himself put great emphasis and invested much teaching on abiding in Him. Assuming a person is genuinely born again, what does it mean to abide and how do we do it?
It’s clear from the word that God’s goal in our lives is to make us like His Son, one in heart with Himself. When we surrendered our hearts and lives to Him He gave His own Spirit to live within us, and whether we are aware of Him or not, there He remains. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are infinite and there is always more of Him to be known, more depth of relationship, more intimacy available to us. But He leaves it up to us to desire and seek more of Him.
We may read the Bible and pray more, feeling like we are drawing closer to Him. And, indeed, our walk will benefit. But we can also be in danger of substituting the means for the end. The goal is Christ. Himself. And He is already living in us by His Spirit.
He longs to commune with us, not just hear a list of things we think we should pray about. He longs for our hearts to be still, stop the noise, and hold Him in reverent awe waiting to hear what He might say to us. He waits for our surrender, not our effort.
He does not have a list of tasks we must perform in order to be worthy of His fellowship. He already shed His blood to achieve that. He waits for us to realize our complete helplessness and dependence on Him.
The life He died to give us is not found by raising the bar ever higher and putting in more and more effort. It is found as we humble our hearts, recognizing there is nothing we can do to earn His favor. He already did everything at the cross.
Trying to live for Him by applying our own disciplines and efforts can actually become a snare of pride. The more we devote ourselves to what we see as the hard work of following Christ, the more we may judge others by their works that we see. That was never His plan.
We will grow in direct proportion to our laying aside our own sufficiency and ego. The effort we must make is keeping the truth of the gospel, that Jesus is enough, the principle we live by.
We will read His word because we hear His voice of love in it. We will pray freely and easily because we long to be with the One we love. The time may be filled with words shared back and forth, or it may be just peace in His presence. As we practice recognizing His presence in any random moment, we will see that all of our days and lives can be lived in an awareness of His very real fellowship.
This becomes a life of abiding that will be full of the fruits of His Spirit, full of love for Him and for others, full of His life poured out, full of gentleness and grace. It will not be a life of our striving, comparing, envy, or pride.
He calls us to lay down our own lives, including our righteous efforts, and take up His yoke knowing He shares it with us. We are to learn from Him who is gentle and humble in heart. There we will find rest, the rest of abiding in that yoke with Him in the midst of our lives and days and moments.
John 15; Romans 8:29; Romans 8:9-17; Ephesians 4:20-24; Matthew 11:28-30