March 9: Living By Christ’s Life Is to Love Others as Christ Loves You.

Jesus said “abide in me.” Paul said “to live is Christ.” These are essentially the same thing. We live from Christ’s indwelling life. How? By knowing, receiving, and trusting in the love of Christ- “abide in my love.”

It is this power of the indwelling love of Christ that allows us to obey the second command of Jesus in John’s gospel- “love one another, as I have loved you.” You may remember that in John’s theology, Jesus gave us two commandments. The first is to believe in Jesus, that’s faith. And the second is to love one another, that’s living by faith.

 

The Source of Life

John 15:9. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

The source of our love is Christ himself. Just as the source of his love was the Father.

John 15:10. 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. 

Again, this verse is not saying that we earn Christ’s love by commandment keeping. When we recall that Christ’s commandment is to believe in him and then love others, we see that we abide in Christ’s love by faith not works.

The Sign of Life

John 15:12-13. “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.

Here now is the second of Christ’s commands- love one another. The sign of Christ’s indwelling love is to love one another, even to the point of sacrifice, laying down your life for your friends.

So this is a summary of everything we have sen in this blog this year. To image God is self sacrifice. This is humanity. This is to be alive. This is impact and intimacy. This is desire fulfilled. It is glory. It is zoe. It is freedom.

And it is Christ. Notice his words again- “this is MY commandment.” This command flows from his own life- “as I have loved you.” The power for unconditional love is to be unconditionally loved. We cannot manufacture this love on our own. We can’t “try to love.” We must first be loved deeply and purely.

And don’t let the word “friends” fool you into thinking that I only have to love people that I like and that like me. Jesus is telling us to love others who don’t deserve it, the same way he loves us who don’t deserve it. Ask yourself this question: “Who did Jesus lay down his life for?” Answer: Everyone in the world. Therefore he is calling everyone, even his enemies, his friends. We see Jesus live this out when he calls Judas his friend:

Matthew 26:50. Jesus said to him [Judas], “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

Tomorrow we will look at some more signs of abiding in Christ. But for today ask yourself “who do I love?” “Am I first trusting in Christ’s love for me, so as to empower me to love others?”

 

March 8: To Abide In Christ Is to Abide In His Love.

Ok, so you’re abiding in Christ because of his indwelling life (Position) and you are supposed to continually abide in Christ by faith (Condition). But what does this actually mean? How do we abide in Christ? How do you dwell or live in a person? Well, one of  the most helpful verses for us to answer this is this one:

John 15:9. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 

To abide in Christ is to abide in his love. Jesus’ statement here is the most overwhelming, comforting, and satisfying word ever spoken. It echoes John 3:16- God loves us so much that he gave us his son. And now his son loves you and me with the same love that the Father loves Jesus.

Image result for i love you more gif

Who does God love more – Jesus or you?

What did you answer? If you answered Jesus or you, then you are wrong. The answer is, He loves you both equally. It’s the same love. The same love that opened the clouds at Jesus’ baptism, opens over you and declares “this is my son/daughter whom I love.”

If your mindset is, “I am working hard to obey God, so he must love me,” then you have it backwards. You have put condition before position. If you think, “God’s love is a never ending stream of life that exists no matter what I do,” then you are “living as Christ.”

Image result for forrest gump love gif gif

“To live is Christ,” means that we receive God’s love, just as Christ Jesus received the love of the Father, and that love empowered him to face anything and everything each and every day. It is this unconditional unending love that allows us to have true peace. By it we can relax.

Stop the train of self effort. Get off it. And jump on the love train. True, pure, real, authentic, hope filled, life empowering, image producing love. And it is this love that will empower Christ’s new command to us: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

More on that tomorrow.

 

March 7: Abiding With Christ Is Both Positional and Conditional.

“To live is Christ” is to “abide in Christ.” Because of our union with Christ we do abide in Christ and Christ abides in us. We live in him and he lives in us. This happens by the life giving Spirit of God.

It can be easy to see Jesus’ statement “abide in me” as something that we have to manage and maintain. “It is up to us to abide,” we think. Or, “Some days I am abiding and some days I am not.”

But we have to see abiding in Christ as both a positional truth (who we are) and a conditional (what we do or how we feel) truth.

 

The Source of Life

Image result for i am the vine

Jesus is the source of our life; he is vine, we are branch. Therefore our position is one of dependence. The branch depends on the vine, just as Jesus depended on the Father. The branch doesn’t maintain or manage life, it simply receives it. And this receiving life is not an “on again, off again” proposition. It is a one time “born again” experience, whereby we receive a new nature. So, if you are saved or born again, then you are abiding in Christ and Christ is abiding in you.

Do you remember John 14:23? Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Remember, “keeping Jesus’ word” is equal to having faith in him. When we place our trust in Christ, he comes with the Father to us and makes his home with us. That is a positional, unchanging truth. Or as John puts it in 1 John 4:15 – Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

So abiding is first about being before it can be about doing. We CAN abide in Christ because Christ abides in us. When we turn abiding into something that we have to figure out, we make the Christian life about knowing good and evil for ourselves rather than about faith in Christ’s life given to us as a free gift.

The Signs of Life

So abiding is a positional truth, but it is also a conditional truth. Now, our spiritual condition must always follow our spiritual position. What we do and how we feel, must follow the truth of who we are in Christ. In this way the Christian life is faith. If our condition determined our position then our religion would be one of works. But if our condition flows from our position then our religion is one of faith and dependence.

Because we abide in Christ and Christ in us positionally, we must then abide in Christ conditionally. This means that each and every day our faith is renewed as we trust in our abiding life with Christ. Abiding therefore, means that I appropriate Christ’s life in each and every situation that I face. I recall, and remember my abiding. In fact, that is why this blog exists- not to cause your positional abiding (only the Spirit can do that), but to help you in your conditional abiding day by day (which of course is also an act of the Spirit as he prayerfully uses this blog).

Here’s positional and conditional abiding in Colossians:

Colossians 1:27. Christ in you the hope of glory (POSITION)

Colossians 3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (CONDITION)

Here’s positional and conditional abiding in Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (POSITION)

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (CONDITION)

Here’s positional and conditional abiding in Ephesians 3:16-17:

[I am praying] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being (POSITION), 

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… (CONDITION)

As we move forward we will continue to explore these positional and conditional truths. “To live is Christ” means that we abide by having faith in our position, and we abide by faith as we allow our position in Christ to affect our condition day by day.

 

March 6: Because of the Indwelling Life of Christ, We Do Nothing Apart From Christ.

In John 15, Jesus gives us one of the best metaphors in scripture for the indwelling life of Christ, the vine and branch. “To live is Christ” means that he is the source of our life, like the vine provides life to the branch. We “abide in Christ” and he “abides in us.” This foreshadows our complete union with Christ, which will become the bedrock of the Apostle Paul’s Christology. Jesus hints at this union when he says “apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5. 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.

 

Fruitfulness is guaranteed by this union. If every Christian has the Spirit of Christ (and they do), then every Christian has the fruitfulness of the Spirit. We can and will do great things by the indwelling life of Christ. We will care for our children and our aging parents. We will love those who are marginalized. We will be faithful in ministry, and kind to neighbors. We will live in hope and die in that same hope. We will pray believing. We will grieve and yet find joy in Christ. We will love even when it makes no sense to love. We will tear down barriers in our churches. We will feel peace in the middle of the storms of life. We will share our hope with others. We will stop lying and stealing and rather we will encourage and build. We will forgive and offer grace over and over again.

Yes, we will do great things by the Spirit of Christ. But so we don’t get a big head, Jesus gives us a warning- “apart from me you can do nothing.” This does not mean that we do nothing physically without Jesus. It does mean that we must live in dependence upon Christ’s indwelling life, just as Jesus lived dependent upon the Father’s life. We can even hear Jesus saying, “apart from the Father, I can do nothing” (of course he did actually say these words). Anything we do apart from the freely given life and love of Christ will not bring glory to the Father.

But we must also set this warning beside the reality of the indwelling life of Christ. For the Christian, this warning becomes a promise. We actually don’t do anything apart from Christ, and our union with him by the Spirit. Our spirit is joined to his Spirit. Therefore it is literally impossible to do anything apart from him. When we do the amazing spiritual acts of faith that we listed above, it is because of that union (never our own mechanical growth). And even when we sin, we bring the Spirit of Christ along with us (1 Corinthians 6:16-17).

In John 15, Jesus, of course, has in view our fruitfulness, not our sin. But nonetheless, the radical reality of our union with Christ remains a truth that has implications for everything a Christian does throughout the day. We truly do not do anything apart from Jesus. And any grace filled, loving thing that we do from the Spirit of God, we do from our union with Christ. That is why Paul could say “to live is Christ.”

March 5: Abiding In Christ is Living By the Indwelling Christ’s Life.

In John 14 we’ve seen Jesus relate his union to and dependence upon the Father with our union and dependence upon the Son. In John 15, Jesus will use the metaphor of the vine and branches to explain how to live life. “To live is Christ” is what Jesus will describe as “abiding in Christ.”

John 15:1-5. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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.

“I am the true vine.” This is another of Jesus’ 7 “I Am” statements. He is declaring himself to be our source of life. He is our source of zoe. The result of this life, is what Jesus calls “fruit.” Think this through with me. If Jesus is the source of life, then the “fruit” of life must also be Jesus- his life, character, obedience, love, and holiness (more on this tomorrow). Image result for bear fruit odg

 

 

The branch (that’s you) must abide in the vine (that’s Jesus). “Abide” means to stay, remain, or dwell. The branch has to live attached to the vine in order to bear fruit. We have to constantly draw on the life of Jesus in order to live like Jesus. We cannot manufacture the life of Jesus within ourselves through our self efforts or good works. True change can only come organically, not mechanically. Or to say it another way- true change comes by faith in Christ’s saving life, not by behavior modification.

Image result for pavlov gif

Is most of your “spiritual growth” organic or mechanical? Is it through behavior change or through abiding in Christ (faith). For example, do you measure your spiritual growth only by behavioral markers, like “I read my Bible everyday.” This is mechanical growth, not organic.

brick GIF
Mechanical Growth
plant growing GIF
Organic Growth

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual growth through abiding in Christ would sound more like, “I find that I have peace even in the middle of this hard situation.” This is growth that comes from abiding in Christ; the organic growth of faith. This is the growth of heart change. This is the growth of an empowered life. It is Christ’s peace at work in your heart and mind. And don’t misread what I am saying about reading the Bible. Bible reading is not a measure of spiritual growth. But it can definitely be the cause of true spiritual growth, if we read it in order to abide in Christ.

“To live is Christ” is to abide in Christ. To allow his life to be my life. His love my love. His power my power. His acceptance my acceptance. His dependency my dependency. His faith my faith.

March 4: The Indwelling Life of Christ Comes by Obedience to Christ’s Command- Believe.

We’ve been seeing from John 14 that Jesus is both equal to and yet dependent upon the Father. This is because he is both divine and human. In his humanity, Jesus lived from complete dependency upon the Father. Beyond this, we have seen in John 14, that Jesus will send the Spirit to manifest the his life to us, his disciples. Now, we too must live our lives dependent upon Christ, just as he lived dependent upon the Father.

Image result for christian memes faith

 

Before we move from John 14 to John 15, let’s look at one more connection that Jesus makes for us as it concerns living from his indwelling life by the Spirit: we receive the indwelling Spirit through obedience to Christ’s commands.

John 14:21. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 

Now, stay with me- this is NOT teaching salvation by works.

Image result for christian memes about faith

 

To understand this, we have to understand what John and Jesus mean when the word “commandments” is used or when he says “keep my word.”

Frederick Bruner, in his commentary on John, points out that the commands of Jesus are       “his twin invitations to believe him and to love one another- in short to want to be                  Christians in our hearts. These simple commands are not onerous conditions. Rather,            they are exciting privileges, that our Gift, the Holy Spirit, our True Friend, helps us to            take seriously as we accept them simply and undeservedly.”

Bruner is essentially pointing out that to keep Jesus’ commandment, and to keep his word, is to simply have faith. Look at how 1 John summarizes it:

1 John 3:23. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

So we are saved by faith. To have faith is to obey the commandment of Jesus. To live out that commandment by loving others is also faith- faith without works is dead.

Related image

Now re-read John 14:21. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. We love God because he first loved us. His love is demonstrated at the cross. “God so loved the world that he gave…” It is this love from God that compels us to faith- to “have Christ’s commandment,” to believe in him, and to love others. Our faith, or our desire to be loved by God and to love others, is the proof that we love Jesus as he first loved us. And God continues to manifest this love in us: And he who loves me will be loved by my Father. Romans 5 tells us that God pours his love into us by the Spirit. John 14:21 says it this way: and I will love him and manifest myself to him. How does Jesus manifest himself to us? By the love of the indwelling Spirit.

Image result for christian memes about love

The answer to “Good Judas'” question in verse 22 is the indwelling life of the Spirit. Look at verse 23 again. “We will come and make our home with him.” The Father and Son will indwell the disciple who has placed faith in Christ. How? By the Spirit. That is how the world will see and experience the love of God after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus – through the indwelling life of God [zoe] manifested in the life and love of those of us who claim “to live is Christ.”

John 13:35. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Bonus video- classic Michael W!

 

 

March 3: The Indwelling Life of Christ Produces Peace.

We left off yesterday in John 14. Jesus told his disciples that when he departs, the Spirit will come and bring with him the indwelling life of Christ. “He will be with you and IN you,” Jesus says. Then Jesus goes on to describe the result of the Spirit’s coming.

John 14:25-27. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Image result for holy spirit peace pinterest

The Source of Life

The source of our eternal life and therefore our eternal peace is Christ by the Spirit. We’ve been exploring this concept for several days now. In verse 26 above, we see that the Spirit will be sent by the Father. And we also see that the Spirit will minister to us the life and work of Jesus. Again, as we said yesterday, the Spirit is Christ-centered.

The Signs of Life

To receive Christ’s indwelling life, by the Spirit, is to receive his peace. “Peace” here is the Greek word eirene, and it is the Hebrew word shalom. This is no small thing. Shalom is more than just peace as the absence of conflict. It is whole life flourishing. Everything “going well” for you. It the Jewish “hello” and “goodbye.” The beginning and end. Jesus doesn’t supply peace by changing the disciples’ immediate circumstance. In fact, life is about to get much worse. He will supply peace by providing the source of all peace, God himself, in the form of his own life implanted by the Spirit. This is far from the peace that the world offers – a fleeting, temporary, shallow, and self seeking peace.

This peace results in a restful heart and freedom from fear (“let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be  afraid”). Imagine how hard this conversation is for both Jesus and the disciples. Remember he is about to be arrested, tried, and executed. The disciples are about to be scattered in fear. They will be the farthest from shalom that they have ever been.

But the absence of peace that night is what will bring everlasting internal peace. A peace that passes all of our understanding. It is a peace that will be accomplished by the cross, not just offered by good will. It is a peace that will be made possible by faith. Faith in Jesus’ commandments, but also faith in his work on the cross.

Image result for peace gif

Tomorrow we will look at one last thought from John 14. The connection between love, “commandment keeping,” and the indwelling life of Christ by the Spirit. But for today let me ask you about the your own personal shalom. Do you have peace? Does the indwelling life of Christ produce a daily peace in your life? Or, do you live from a troubled fearful heart? If so come back tomorrow (and for the rest of the year) as we continue to explore how to appropriate the peace of God, through the indwelling life of Christ.