Children of God Abide in Christ

The following was originally posted July 11, 2009. I am presenting this here again as I believe that many believers are convinced that even though they are justified by grace alone through faith alone, as Sacred Scripture clearly teaches, they have become convinced that they must obey certain commands of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to be accounted worthy of that salvation. This notion is unbiblical. For instance, as I show in the post below, the command to abide in Christ is indeed an imperative, a command, but the ability to obey it is only available to those whose hearts have been regenerated by God. The regenerate are justified by God and have nothing to earn and could never deserve their salvation, however, as we grow more mature in Christ we take on more and more of his character as the Holy Spirit transforms us all by the grace of God (Romans 12:2). We obey our Lord because we are in him not to earn our salvation. – Mike Ratliff

Children of God Abide in Christ

4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”  (John 15:4-6 NASB)

I watched part of two videos last night that a friend posted on Facebook. Both videos were diatribes against orthodox Christianity by “preachers” telling their people presenting the Gospel the way Paul Washer does it is wrong and that anyone who holds to Reformation Theology is not a real Christian. I did not make it very far into either video before I “hung up” in disgust. Did either of the attackers use scripture to back up their claims? No, they used nothing but human “common sense” and philosophy. I suppose it never occurred to these people that God’s ways are not Man’s ways. However, after those little treats last night I began pondering how I should address this or even if I should. As I sat down to put this post together I became convinced that I should write about the number one marker that reveals the authenticity of Christians. That is that genuine believers in our Lord Jesus Christ abide in Him and do not fall away. 

Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. The word “abide” is translated from the Greek word μενη. It and its forms such as μεινατε and μενητε are used in the Bible to refer to the subject of the sentence remaining or staying in the emphasized condition it is in. The “Abide” in v4 is a command. It is in aorist tense, imperative mood, and active voice. This command tells us that we are to abide in Christ as He abides in us. Will Christ abide in an unbeliever? Will He abide in a professing Christian who is not regenerate? No! He abides only in His children and they, in turn, abide in Him. They remain. They do not fall away. Those who abide in Christ are analogous to branches abiding in the vine. Those who abide in the vine live and produce fruit while those who do not abide in it, but look like they actually do, do not fool the vinedresser. He gathers those who wither, because they are not abiding in the vine, and throws them into the fire to be burned.  Those who do not abide in Christ, that is, they fall away, are unbelievers. They do not have a personal faith in Christ.

28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.  (1 John 2:28-29 NASB)

Maintaining one’s personal relationship with Christ is both a mark of Christian authenticity and it also keeps genuine believers from straying into false doctrines or participating in conduct which would bring shame if they stood before the Saviour. There is a false view of Christ’s return that portrays Him coming in unconditional love and forgiveness to the world while the Bible clearly shows the opposite. He is returning in power, glory, and judgment. Notice in 1 John 2:29 above that the apostle is telling us plainly that genuine Christians practice righteousness as their Lord is righteous. Those who abide in Him will not be ashamed at His return.

1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 NASB)

There is absolutely no way for the world to know or understand the truth about genuine Christianity. There is a built in friction between genuine believers and everyone else, including false professing Christians. The love the Father has given to His children is αγαπην. This is His benevolent love, which is expressed by His doing what is best for those whom He loves not what they desire. Through this αγαπην He has given to Christians the incredible blessing of being called His children. This is their adoption as brothers and sisters to the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1). When the Lord does return, all those whom the Father has adopted into His family will be changed forever. They will be with Him and also see Him as He is, but incredibly they shall be morally without sin, intellectually without falsehood or error, physically without weakness or imperfections, and filled continually with the Holy Spirit.

When I was a small boy, my mother took me to church on Sunday evenings. My older sister was with her friends in another part of the building. It was just my mother and I. Every time I went to church during that period there was a man pushed to the front of the auditorium in a wheelchair. He had a twisted body. He could not even sit upright in the wheelchair. He could not control his hands. He looked to that small boy as someone about to die. I asked my mother about this. She told me that he may be twisted and such right now, but soon he would be with the Saviour and then he would not suffer anymore. His body would be perfect and He would have perfect fellowship with Jesus. It made me cry with joy. What a promise!

Notice in v3 what those who hope in these promises actually do. What is it? They purify themselves as Christ is pure. In v3 we see the key verse in 1 John 2:28-3:3. Those who are truly in Christ live accordingly. Knowing the Saviour personally like we do makes a huge difference in our behavior. God changing us accomplishes this. It is not done by our will power or puny abilities. He puts the desire in us that we should grow within to become like our Saviour in character. This is a marker of Christian genuineness. If a person professes to be a Christian, but they have no desire or drive to live a life of repentance and become in character like the Lord Jesus then they prove through this that they are not genuine.

Let me give you a personal example. In 2004 God caused me to go through spiritual boot camp. He changed me over several months of drawing me close to Him as He worked in my heart to clean me up and point me in the right direction. It was during this time that I could not stop sharing what God had done in me with all who I could get to listen. I put 1 John 3:1-3 at the bottom of all of my emails. Just like the Deacon body and the Pastor at the church I was in at that time who turned a cold shoulder to all I was trying to share with them, those who saw that passage in my emails drew away from me. To one who is walking in repentance and is full of the joy of the Lord, these verses are wonderful and gives to him or her a peace and joy that is indescribable, but to those who profess to be Christians, but who are all pointed to self and are guilty of being simply religious and spiritually dry or dead, it is condemning. However, I want to share that some of my family who reacted with coldness to those emails containing that passage have since been taken through the fires of tribulation and have found the same God who cleansed me working in their hearts. Now they see those three verses and rejoice like I do. I pray that you are at that point in your walk as well.

4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10 NASB)

This is very clear my brethren. Those whose lifestyle is marked by unrighteous behavior instead of active repentance prove they are disingenuous Christians. Those who are genuine walk in repentance. The grammar in these verses speaks of lifestyle. None of us are perfect, but those who are truly in Christ have lifestyles marked by repentance. I particularly like v9. Why is it that genuine Christians walk in repentance? It is because God’s seed abides in them and they have been born of God. They are new creations. They have been cleansed by the washing of regeneration. Whoever does not walk this way is not of God. Genuine Christians are in process. Christ’s very character is being grown and developed in them as they walk the narrow path of tribulation through this evil age. Genuine Christians love one another. That is seen when we gather for fellowship in our churches. It is seen when we forgive each other and walk together in peace and work shoulder to shoulder to stand against the evil that is attempting to tear us apart.

My brethren, examine yourselves. Ask God to show you the truth about yourself and your walk before Him. Repent of what He shows you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

11 thoughts on “Children of God Abide in Christ

  1. It is interesting to note that the ‘born of God’ sayings are in the passive construction which means God is the author of our birth and it leads nicely into the causal clauses that begin with ‘because.’ And Philippians lets us know that “he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” The book of I John is quite amazing in the original languages.

  2. Mike, this is so apposite to what we have been doing in our women’s group recently, and to things we have been seeing in our little fellowship…pondering our own authenticity as Christians, our abiding in Him, and our active repentance… We’ve been through 1 John, as we do every other year…Have also looked at our fruit-bearing…if it has been ‘much’ as He said ….
    It has been, as always, very humbling..but yet joy-filling….Because we see how He has been keeping us..not we, ourselves!
    How very lovely, and gracious is our Lord!

  3. Hi Mike,
    Thank you for more light. Also I thank My Father for the way He uses you. 
    The preaching of Paul Washer as seen/heard on youtube has also been instrumental in correcting my theology. I believe him to be a good, honest, straight-forward, Bible Preaching servant of God.
    Sunday night I watched the History Channel’s Bible presentation. Yep, there is a lot missing. BUT, I hope and pray that maybe this would peak the interest or desire of some to seek more. Just the fact that “The Bible” is getting some higher visibility would attract some to search out Its truth.
    Peter

  4. Mike,

    Thank you so much for this post. I went through a similar “boot camp experience” as you describe about a year ago. God “turned on the lights” for me in regards to His complete sovereignty and His grace and gospel as the means not only of our justification, but our sanctification as well. My husband and I left the church where multiple generations of my family have attended after being told we had to sign a “membership covenant” (containing tithe and attendance requirements, among other things). When we sat down to discuss our concerns about this contract with our pastor (who was also our neighbor and good friend), he gave as his motive wanting to help his congregation to mature and grow spiritually. We aren’t saved by our good works, he agreed, but we perform them out of obedience and gratitude for our salvation. The goal of the contract, then, was to help us to grow spiritually (i.e,. in performing good works) by “being held accountable” for our behavior.

    After hour upon hour of prayer and diligent search in the scriptures, we responded that, while his end goal was laudable, his methods belied a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of sanctification. As you so aptly note, “If a person professes to be a Christian, but they have no desire or drive to live a life of repentance and become in character like the Lord Jesus then they prove through this that they are not genuine.” The remedy then for a person lacking in good works is not a contract to hold him or her “accountable” to a standard of performance; it’s the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. A genuine Christian will still stumble, but his life is marked by repentance and ultimately bearing fruit in keeping with that repentance. So how do we help our brothers and sisters to mature in their faith? By encouraging them to repentance! It is this constant walk of humility and repentance that draws us closer to Jesus and results in our maturity.

    The irony of all this is that I spent most of my life to that point thinking exactly as he did — that Jesus was good enough to get me in the door but after that, I was on my own. That repentance was a one-time thing you did when you “got saved.” That I was responsible for “living up to” my calling in Christ. How absurd — and prideful! I had absolutely no understanding of my own sinful nature. I can’t tell you (although I suspect you might know) just how liberating it was to finally let all that go.

    This was such an enormous turning point for me that I am humbled and blessed again each time I am reminded of this truth anew, as I was today with your post. I do so long to be like him, and there is such joy and hope in knowing that one day — I will! I am so grateful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who understand what the true Christian life is, and I pray fervently for those who are still blind.

    [My apologies for the length of this comment!]

    Your sister,
    Windy

  5. Thanks for sharing that Windy. I am so filled with joy when I encounter other believers whom God has drawn into his light like he has you. So many believers are on that works treadmill and so are in bondage to a works theology that cannot give them any sense of joy or fulfillment in Christ because it points them to their own works not their faith in Christ and what he has done for them, his completed work on the Cross and the fact that God drew them to the Son regenerating them so that their faith was made alive so they would believe and be justified. When we get past having to work to please God to rejoicing in these truths instead it is an awesome place to be.

  6. Amen, Amen
    Windy said “A genuine Christian will still stumble, but his life is marked by repentance and ultimately bearing fruit in keeping with that repentance.”

    So very true. In fact just the other day I was thinking before I was saved, I didn’t care or even repent as a way of life. Sure sometimes I’d feel guilt and say I’m sorry to God or I would say I’m sorry because something scared me or I wanted something from God.
    After being saved, I repent quite often usually on a daily basis. I do not do this to earn salvation because I know I’m saved, but because I hate hurting Jesus. I hate just how ugly sin is and I can’t get rid of it in this stinking body. Lord KNOWS I can’t WAIT til we are rid of them and are given sinless glorified bodies. Anyways, I did notice a huge contrast from when I was saved and when I was not saved.

    Thanks!

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