“Abide in my love.”
I’m suspicious of Betty Crocker Christianity. You know–add a little of this to a little of that, wait ten minutes and watch the bread rise perfectly. Probably this is so because I’ve added the little to that and the bread was nothing but a big flop.
Recipes and formulas are poor substitutes when only relationship will do.
I’ve discovered that abiding with Jesus is a way of describing the kind of relationship that makes one spiritually alive. Like the kind of relationship you might have with a spouse or friend–in their presence you have an awareness–what Jonathan Edwards called ‘sense’–of a more alive you. When you are with them there is mutual attending to the other that makes both of you vibrant. When you are away from them something inside feels not quite awake.
Abiding in Jesus is to be fully awake in the awareness of God’s love.
This relationship takes attending to. Like all other relationships, it flourishes best when nurtured. It needs a quiet place and a treasured space or the world and all its din will overwhelm it. Oh, it will still be there, Jesus will still be there…always, but abiding requires an intentional way of dwelling where Jesus dwells.
I think it looks like this:
- Awareness to the presence of the God Who Is. Jesus tells his disciples to let his “words abide” in them. Why? Because he has told them what they need to know in order to worship God in spirit and truth. Do you know how easy it is to think you are attending to the the presence of ‘God,’ but that presence is just the childish drawings of the ‘God’ you wish he was? In the Scriptures we discover the God who really is. Jesus helps us to enter into the truth about Trinity–the mind of the Father displayed through the love of the Son as helped by the Spirit.
- Awareness changes our posture. The trying hard to get it right on my own gives up to a humble receiving from Jesus. Independence gets ugly in the face of God’s rich love–what we see wants to depend on a love so beautiful, so satisfying, so true. We can’t imagine life–not even a second–without it. Jesus says we are branches on the vine–branches bend or break. The posture of humility bends us toward Jesus where he holds us and gives us everything we need.
- Nurtured awareness and practiced posture keep us dwelling where Jesus dwells–in light, in truth, in love.
Out of the blue this last week I’ve faced some unexpected emotional challenges. I found myself feeling agitated, hurt, and angry. Normally, I would ruminate on these feelings. I’d let them own me. I know because it’s happened a thousand times.
But this time I did something different. Every time the feelings would ninja me, I’d ask, “Where would Jesus dwell in this moment?” Where did Jesus go when he was hurt? What did he do when others let him down? How did handle agitation? What must have Jesus been thinking on when he washed Judas’ feet? When he walked Golgotha? When he hung forsaken? John 15:8 tells us that in our abiding in Jesus we are to ask him whatever we wish and so I have begun to ask him where he would dwell in my life if he were living it?
As I’ve asked, he has answered. “Love,” he has said. Jesus dwells in the Father’s love. A love so high, so wide, so long, and so deep that we can get lost in it forever. It’s a love that keeps us from going where we shouldn’t and makes us brave to go where we otherwise wouldn’t. It’s hard to leave the presence of true love.
Can I tell you how sweet this has been for me? Even just last night I prayed again for him to remind me. I fell asleep asking. I woke up hearing “love so amazing, so divine.”
Abiding in Jesus is being wooed by God’s love to choose to be where Jesus is dwelling.
He dwells in forgiveness when offended.
He dwells in courage when fear overwhelms.
He dwells in peace when crisis confronts.
He dwells in patience when everything is taking too long.
He dwells in truth when lies run amuck.
He dwells in faithfulness when others give up.
He dwells in obedience when others run.
He stays put, remains, and stand firm until darkness becomes light, until hate succumbs to love, until death gives up to life!
He invites us to dwell there with him.
Abiding in Jesus is just us–the branch–bending closer to Jesus when the world would otherwise break us. We do this by remembering his words. We do it by asking him for help. We do it by leaning into the things his love would do. It’s not muscle or might. It’s relationship. It’s just being with him. Like any other friend with whom we spend time, we will become like him. Abiding in Jesus is dwelling and delighting together in the Father’s life of love–it’s the thing when only relationship will do.