“Now if everyone agrees to abide by these rules, we should get along just fine this year.” I smiled at the class, at the same time making sure they understood my expectations for their behavior. As one former student said, “I don’t know why some kids have a problem with Mrs. V. She tells us what she expects and she follows through.” Indeed, I made it clear I would not tolerate, abide blatant misbehavior.
This kind of “abiding” is not often expressed these days. Yet the meaning is clear: Don’t do it! I won’t put up with it! Compliance is expected.
There is another abiding that is less clear and is rarely used in today’s world. Even some versions of the Bible don’t use the word “abide” these days. Many translations use the word “remain” instead. But that doesn’t cover the full meaning of this kind of abiding.
To truly grasp the richness of the word and how it’s used, especially in Scripture, I like the old fashioned meaning, what is considered the “archaic” definition of abide: to reside, live, dwell. This takes on a whole new spiritual level of our relationship with our God.
The old hymn “Abide with Me” captures one aspect of this desire to be close to our Lord Jesus. This is especially true in the line, “Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.” Don’t just visit with me for awhile, don’t let this bond, this connection be temporary. When we seek Him out in His word and in prayer, we do feel this ongoing abiding.
Even so, there are times we don’t feel His closeness, when we seem to be going it all alone without the life-giving infusion of His love and mercy. But Jesus is still there, abiding in us. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”
How can we guard against this on and off relationship with our Lord Jesus that we feel is lacking on our part? Face it. It’s a tall order. It can be overwhelming when we focus on ourselves and how we’re doing, how we’re measuring up. Or checking to be sure that we “walk in the same manner as He walked” at all times (1 John 2:6).
But this abiding is more than checking off the boxes. The wealthy young ruler found that out when he asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. It wasn’t the abiding by the Law that counted, even if he were truly able to do that perfectly. Rather, what mattered was his attitude of actually having Jesus dwell within him, that indwelling that motivated his actions. (Luke 18:18-23)
There is an internalizing of Jesus, asking Him to abide not just with us, but in us so that we feel all the blessings of His presence in our lives. Isn’t this what we truly want when we seek to live for Him? If we’re just trying to live up to a role model, then we haven’t captured what will carry us forward in the long term. When we ask Him only to abide with us, stay close to us, we miss out on the other joy, Jesus abiding in us.
This is the abiding spirit. This is what my favorite Gospel talks about: “You know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). To be sure we capture this concept, Jesus talks about vines and branches. He is the vine, we are the branches who can’t live without Him (John 15:5). Or in the case of an olive tree, we are the branches that have been grafted into Him and take our nourishment from Him and are supported by Him” (Rom. 11:17-18).
To complete this abiding relationship, Jesus reminds us that He was the one who came to us and loved us. And then He draws us in by saying, “Abide in My love” (John 15:9).
So how do I do that?
When I’m struggling with my end of this connection with my Lord Jesus, I turn to Paul Johnson’s hymn “Rest in His Love and Abide.” It starts out with God’s love touching me first. Oh, grace! Then it moves on to placing my trust in His Son Jesus and allowing the Spirit to fill me with joy. And when I walk by faith, seeing all He has done and continues to do for me, I gain the peace that allows my life to “overflow and abound with hope.” Then I feel His power filling me up as I tackle the challenges of life. And once again, trusting my Lord Jesus will provide everything I need in order to walk with Him and in Him, I “simply rest in His love and abide.”
I taught a 0-2 year old Sunday morning class for many years. When I asked them where Jesus lived, they clasped their little hands to their chests. And those who could talk would proclaim, “My heart!”
Sometimes we make this spiritual relationship too hard, too complicated. We shouldn’t. If we simply trust, like a child, having the faith of a child, that simple gift from God, we can have the confidence to claim, “Yes, I know my Lord Jesus abides in me, and I abide in Him.”
And because of that knowledge, that confidence, we know He is leading with us and in us!