Growing up as a teenaged, American youth in the late 1960s to early 1970s, I witnessed from a Middle America, Southern California perspective, the counterculture’s effect upon mainline, evangelical Christianity. Pianos and organs of traditional Christian music were introduced to guitars and drums of popular music. White shirts and ties gave way to leisure suits. Hal Lindsey’s “Late, Great Planet Earth” (1970) was preparing for the Rapture. The Charismatic Movement was promoting the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in both Protestant and Roman Catholic circles. Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel movement was making headway in emphasizing personal evangelism, planting local churches, and promoting Bible study. Fundamentalists were resisting the tides of change. The Crossroads Church of Christ (FL) — later the ICOC — was emphasizing the necessity of baptism to be saved, partly responding to an emphasis on Easy Believism Salvation. Anti-war (Vietnam), drugs, sex, and rebellion were responses not only to society’s morality, but the Professed Church’s failure. Not all change was bad; and, upon reflection, the Jesus People (sometimes called Jesus Freaks) seemed to best epitomize that period’s struggle to return to a more primitive Christianity. “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6 KJV).
In This World.
“In this world we are like Jesus” (1John 4:17 NIV). When God created Adam, He did not attempt to persuade him to do as he was told. He merely spoke, and Adam knew his Creator was talking to him and must be obeyed. When our first parents sinned, it was because they questioned God’s integrity of seeking their highest good, as they knew God required them to seek His highest good. Remember, seeking someone’s highest good is the very definition and essence of love. The Tempter’s ploy of their gaining the knowledge of “good and evil” was a lie, a ruse, a con, in the name of gaining higher esoteric knowledge and thus becoming “like God” (Genesis 3:5), for they already knew it was “good” to obey God and “evil” to disobey Him. They already were “like God” because they were created in holiness and were pronounced “very good” (1:31). With Abraham, God identified Himself, “I am the Almighty God,” then immediately required of him, “Walk before Me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1 NIV). And so, Scripture records Abraham became like God. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3 NIV). With Moses, God established Himself, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV), then He made covenant with Moses and Israel. When Moses returned with the Ten Commandments, “he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord” (Exodus 34:29 NIV). Thus, Moses, too, became like God.
Christian Means Like Christ.
Arriving in the First Century AD, the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch of Syria, because they had the reputation of being as the name implies — like Christ. The genius of Christianity is the simplicity of its life in Christ. As in a gold rush, early seekers strip the land clean of the large nuggets, but not so with God. The spiritual gold is much closer than you think; in fact, the “word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim” (Romans 10:8 NIV). To be sure, there will be hard sayings to turn away the truly unmotivated seekers, but it will not deter anyone who has set their heart and soul “to seek the LORD” (1Chronicles 22:19 NIV). Like a contemptuous reaction to overly familiar concepts, we have discounted the meaning of plain biblical truths, because 2,000 years of other people’s responses to the same message persuaded us that Christianity cannot be so plain. But, if Christianity is abiding by faith (John 15:4) in Christ to live the life of Christ, shouldn’t all who profess faith in Christ be doing it?
Abiding Is Remaining Faithful to Christ.
The concept of abiding in Christ is to remain in faithfulness. “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did“ (1John 2:6 NIV). If abiding, remaining, or continuing in Christ has any significance, then continuing to do what we first started, when we came to Christ must be the key. Faithfulness must be the result of our original faith in Christ. But, if we place the emphasis upon ourselves, then we neglect the significance of God working in our heart to trust Him. Living as Jesus did requires the work of the Holy Spirit in us to do as we should. Truly, Jesus is the “Pioneer and Perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). What He starts, He finishes. Jesus is the secret of our abiding in Him. We exasperate God, when we act like He must do everything. But, we obviously give ourselves too much credit, when we act as if we should be thanked for our right actions, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV).
We Abide in Christ Because We Love Him.
Make no mistake, we abide in Christ, not because we are unable to sin, but because we love Him. We continually choose to love Him. Yes, we ought to be like God because He is as He is, for example, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45 NIV). This is the requirement of the Law. But, the Gospel cords of love draw us to God. John 3:16 reveals God’s love in giving His One and Only Son to give eternal life to the world, if we would but believe Him. God took the initiative. “We love because He first loved us” (1John 4:19 NIV). Our love to God is demonstrated in our obedience to Him. “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them” (John 14:21 NIV). Jesus very pointedly declared His abiding presence with those who obey Him. “Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them” (14:23 NIV). How can we not become like One who abides with us and in us?
No One Who Abides in Christ Sins.
Abiding in Christ and sinning are direct opposites. If you abide in Christ, you are not sinning. If you are sinning, you are not abiding. You cannot have both at the same time. So, it is understandable that “no one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him” (1John 3:6 NIV). What bewilders the reader is the claim that continually sinning implies neither having “seen or known Him” (3:16 NIV). If we allow that Scripture comforts the believer, while walking in faith, then should it be thought strange, when it discourages anyone, who walks in sin? Think of it this way. Present tense walking in faith yields present tense knowing Him. Present tense walking in sin yields present tense not knowing Him. It makes sense from God’s point of view, but we have difficulty separating our “knowledge” of past experiences with Christ, when we have fallen into sin. Remember Peter’s experience with Jesus prophesying his upcoming denial of Christ? “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back [Greek, epistrephō, converted], strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 NIV). Amazing how an Omniscient Christ could treat Peter so tenderly before His betrayal, as to intercede for him! Peter could not foresee his upcoming thrice denial, perhaps because Jesus had already given him the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19 NIV). Contradiction? No. We are comforted from on high, when we abide in Christ, but we are just as divinely unsettled with heaven sent insecurity, when we walk in sin. Any wonder Paul identified his abiding relationship in Christ as, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21 NIV), quickly adding, “and to die is gain,” since physical death only translates the abiding one into His heavenly presence?
How Do We Get From Abiding in Christ to Sinning?
It must be possible for anyone to go from a state of holiness to sin by a choice of their will, or neither Lucifer nor Adam and Eve could ever have sinned. What then is the remedy? “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:1-2 NIV). From experience, sin is always possible, since we have the moral capacity to choose to walk in love or not. Temptation to cease from walking in love does occur while we are walking in love, for Christ was “tempted in every way, just as we are — yet He did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV). But, what was John’s approach to keep us from sinning? Confidence in Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sin is the bedrock for preventing and extinguishing all sin. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice [Greek, hilasmos] for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:1-2 NIV). Christ and sin are incompatible. Sin and Christ are mutually exclusive. Like a fire extinguisher extinguishes fire, Christ extinguishes sin. The mind may rebel at the word extinguish, but the Greek word hilasmos, translated as “atoning sacrifice” (2:2 NIV) and “propitiation” (2:2 KJV, NASB), represents the idea of appeasing God’s righteous anger against sin. Only the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross could extinguish God’s necessary judgment of the sinner. We do not play with matches while hugging a fire extinguisher anymore than we invite temptation while walking in love. For this reason, Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13). Abiding in Christ and love is our heritage as His Little Children, not falling into sin. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9 NIV).
Scriptural Evidence: Abiding In Christ Is Being Like Jesus.
- Abiding is living by faith in God. “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2Corinthians 5:7 NIV).
- Abiding is remaining true to the Lord. “When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23 NIV).
- Abiding is remaining true to the faith. “Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22 NIV).
- Abiding is living by faith in the Son of God. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
- Abiding is continuing in your faith. “If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant” (Colossians 1:23 NIV).
- Abiding is continuing to live your lives in Him. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him” (Colossians 2:6 NIV).
- Abiding is seeing that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. “24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what He promised us — eternal life. 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit — just as it has taught you, remain in Him. 28 And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming” (1John 2:24-28 NIV).
- Abiding is continuing in the teaching about Christ. “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2John 1:9 NIV).
- Abiding is keeping yourselves in God’s love. “20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21 NIV).
Promises Concerning Abiding.
- Spiritual light. “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46 KJV).
- The Holy Spirit. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16 KJV).
- Fruit. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me” (John 15:4 KJV).
- Answers to prayer. “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7 KJV).
- God’s love. “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:10 KJV).
Children Are Like Their Parents.
Our likeness to Jesus is part of our spiritual heredity. Since we are “saved” (Ephesians 2:8) through the “righteousness that is by faith” (Romans 10:6 NIV), it unpreventably must produce “good works” (Ephesians 2:10). And, why this relationship between faith and good works? Because, if we are part of the True Vine, which is Christ, if He is fruitful, so are we. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world” (1John 4:17 KJV). “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV). Faith must anticipate works. If good works do not result, then faith did not exist. “Faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26 NIV). Even the thief on the cross, who was never baptized, performed a work of faith, when he witnessed a good confession to Christ (Luke 23:42) that “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9 NIV). Though faith must precede works, it can never be separated from good works. For this reason, you are to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12 NIV). The real detestableness of works is any deeds we perform apart from abiding in Christ are self-righteous, legalistic “works of the law” (Romans 9:32; Galatians 2:16; 3:2,5,10 NIV). God’s wisdom and genius is to provide both necessity and circumstance for us to become one with Him. “That they may be one as We are one” (John 17:22 NIV).
God Is As We Should Be, And We Should Be As God Is.
Jesus taught us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NIV). He is perfect, so should we. He gives completely of His infinite, as we should of our finite. Think of it. Anything God has commanded us to be or do, must describe what He is or does. For instance, our unique set apartness from the world and sin, where we rest in His presence, is our holiness. “Be holy, because I am holy” (1Peter 1:16 NIV). We know we should walk in love, “because God is love” (1John 4:8 NIV). If there was anything inherently impossible about our life in Christ, it must be our misconstruing what He said. We should be faithful, because the “one who calls you is faithful” (1Thessalonians 5:24 NIV). Apart from Jesus being the One and Only Son of God (John 3:16), who “became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14 NIV), He was and did whatever He said we should be and do. Examples are His Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). Jesus consciously depended upon God, was “poor in Spirit” (5:3), as should we. Jesus does “mourn” (5:4) for our sins, as should we. Likewise, we should be “meek” (5:5) for Jesus was “gentle and humble” (11:29 NIV). We can continue the list in the Beatitudes, and it would only underscore that we should be like Jesus. And, the most critical point is: We are as He is, when we abide by faith in Him. “In this world we are like Jesus” (1John 4:17 NIV).
Our likeness to Jesus is due to our abiding relationship with Him, which is only our giving back to God the love He bestowed upon us through Christ. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 NIV). We are constantly adjusting our relationship to God as our circumstances change and our understanding of Christ increases. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2Peter 3:18 NIV). And, by God’s grace, we pray our likeness to Jesus grows as our abiding with Him continues throughout time and eternity! Amen and amen.