by Mike Ratliff
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 had a Facebook “discussion” today with a fellow who claimed to have the same “theology” that I profess, but had posted an article defending the theology of Roger E. Olsen, a self-proclaimed defender of Arminianism. In his post he linked to this article. The longer the “discussion” went the more virulently this fellow defended Olsen, all those who claimed to be Christians, but were considered by me and most of you as “Liberal Christians,” and he also went on to include in there all “Open Theists.” He also threw out there how “helpful” it was for Christians to read the books by those we may not agree with to see how broad Christianity really was. 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. This falling away includes not pursuing after heretics and their false doctrines.
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 that, the Deacon body and the Pastor at the church I was in at that time turned a cold shoulder to all I was trying to share with them. Most people 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!