Knowing is not the same as Experiencing! “Knowing” Christ is not mere head knowledge about the Bible and about Christian doctrine. Nor is it just having emotions. To know the Lord Jesus Christ certainly includes intelligent thinking and having feelings, but it is primarily a spiritual experience with the reality of the living God. This knowledge is supernatural (initiated and sustained by God through our trust in him) and it reaches from the heavens to the inner depths of persons, then flows out to other people and the environment. To know Christ today is to experience an interactive relationship with him in the Kingdom of God.
This concept of “Abiding in Christ” is one of the most important experiences we can have and learn life from. The word itself is a verb. Abiding is therefore an action and means to continue, remain, dwell, live, or to lodge. We can then say that to abide in Christ is to remain and continue in, to live and dwell in Christ.
John 15:1-8 J.B. Phillips New Testament
Jesus teaches union with himself
15 1-8 “I am the real vine, my Father is the vine-dresser. He removes any of my branches which are not bearing fruit and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit to increase its yield. Now, you have already been pruned by my words. You must go on growing in me and I will grow in you. For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it shares the life of the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you go on growing in me. I am the vine itself; you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all. The man who does not share my life is like a branch that is broken off and withers away. He becomes just like the dry sticks that men pick up and use for the firewood. But if you live your life in me, and my words live in your hearts, you can ask for whatever you like, and it will come true for you. This is how my Father will be glorified—in your becoming fruitful and being my disciples.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
When Jesus tells us to abide in Him, there’s a very good reason. So, let’s take a look at this section of Scripture. Let’s take a few moments, devote ourselves, to know why abiding is so critically important to living the Christian experience.
“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b NKJV)
• Here our abiding in Christ directly affects our work and responsibilities
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6 NKJV)
• Here our abiding in Christ, or lack thereof, directly affects our eternal life
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7 NKJV)
• Here our abiding in Christ directly affects our communication with God
“Whoever abides in Him does not sin.” (1 John 3:6a NKJV)
• Here our abiding in Christ directly affects our walk with God
A proper understanding of what it means to Abide in Christ is therefore critical.
We discover it was such an abiding relationship that Jesus had with the Father, which energized and defined His ministry. When he’s confronting the religious leaders who said He was blaspheming by calling Himself the Son of God, Jesus said,
“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38 NKJV)
When Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus said,
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10 NKJV)
Speaking of the coming resurrection of believers, Jesus talks about how vital this connection with His Father is.
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30 NKJV)
Jesus had an intimate abiding relationship with the Father, and we must then ask ourselves this important question; if this relationship was necessary for His ministry, then how important today such an intimate abiding relationship with Jesus is required if we are going to live fruitful, effective lives here on earth.
This is actually Jesus’ prayer for us.
“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21 NKJV)
Returning back to our text, Jesus says that just as a branch needs to be vitally connected to the vine, so believers need to be vitally connected to Him. Just as Jesus could do nothing outside the Father’s will, we can do nothing on our own. We need this vital connection, and then we can say like the Apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:10-13 NKJV)
Therefore, when we DO learn how to abide in Christ, He will provide life and strength so we can live productive and effective lives. But even more, we can experience intimate fellowship with God, experience belonging to His family.
Being welcomed members of God’s family, we have all the power and privileges that go along with it. Our only problem is while it’s all ours, we don’t know how to fully experience them, because we have not learned how to abide in Christ.
The more we actively share Christ’s life and let Him share ours, the more we’ll enjoy the full benefits of being branches attached to the vine, that is, members of His body and sharers of His grace and belonging to His Kingdom. We also tap into His utterly limitless protection, strength, guidance, and companionship.
This knowledge of the reality of God’s presence and action in our lives is the true foundation of life and faith. Biblical faith in God (our trust or confidence in him) as opposed to sight (physical circumstances and our feelings about them), not knowledge. By Faith We Experience, We Understand. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. (Hebrews 11:1-2 NKJV). Experiencing Christ =’s our Testimony.
Faith is based on previous experience and previous knowledge of reality and then extends outward echelons beyond that. We can know the reality of Christ — historically and reasonably, certainly, but also personally and spiritually.
“Now this is eternal life,” Jesus prayed, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
Are WE Experiencing Intimacy with Jesus?
We call this knowledge of God “Intimacy with Jesus.” It’s us having the kind of relationship with Jesus which he has with the Father — he shows us this divine life throughout the Gospels and provided our access to this through his cross and resurrection. Jesus’ word for this divine intimacy is abide. Recall that Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in the Father, and you will bear much fruit.” (My paraphrase; see John 15:1-17.)
Intimacy with Jesus is the source of everything that is good in our lives. The blessing of enjoying God’s love, the wisdom to live right and well, and the power to advance God’s kingdom all are based in our intimacy with Jesus. But how do we know if we’re truly intimate with Jesus? What does it mean to abide in Christ? There are a lot of different ideas about this floating around today!
The experience of knowing Christ today is somewhat unique to each person but it includes some interrelated aspects that anyone can experience. Once we’ve had a taste of intimacy with Jesus, we find it so wonderful we want to experience it all the time! We might even secretly wish that we could bottle it! Except, our experience of intimacy with Jesus is not under our control; it ebbs and flows — varying by personality, season of life, and the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.
It is ONLY but by the Grace of God that We A-B-I-D-E in Christ Together!
It’s only by God’s grace to us through Jesus Christ that we can know him personally and collectively. But grace does not mean being passive. Grace is opposed to earning, but not effort. It’s up to each of us to respond to God’s initiative and learn to, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
To grow in grace begins with being “born from above” (John 3:3). It’s only as we confess our sins and put our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, and we enter into the eternal kind of life with Jesus in the Kingdom of the Heavens. Abiding in Christ begins with the new birth.
The grace of God is meant to go beyond forgiving our sins, it also to heal our hurts, fill our emptiness, and give us strength for life and work. Ultimately, God’s grace is not just “underserved merit,” but it’s also God acting powerfully and kindly in our lives.
This is essential because we need God! But are we connected with our needs and emotions? If not, then we cannot very well connect to God. To know and experience God at work in our lives requires that we be emotionally honest and vulnerable with God and with people we trust in the body of Christ.
To understand abiding we need to remember our relationships with God, and with others, and with self are very much intertwined. God is a community and relationship with God is communal. The Greatest Commandment that Jesus gave us is a golden triangle of love (Mark 12:29-31). “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19) and a primary way which God shows his love for us is through our genuine “love one another” relationships in the Body of Christ.
A-B-I-D-E in Christ
Let’s highlight five essential and diverse aspects of abiding in an interactive relationship with Christ.
To A-B-I-D-E in Christ is:
Awe-Filled Wonder for God
Psalm 100 The Message
100 1-2 On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
4 Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser… 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.” (John 15:1, 5, ESV)
- This is the focus of knowing Christ today.
- Worshiping Jesus and his Father — it’s about God, not me! We worship God not just by singing songs of praise to him but by bringing our daily lives straight into his kingdom or government and doing that together.
- Appreciating God (e.g., the beauty of his creation, forgiveness for our sins, and the gift of eternal living with him).
- Being humbled in God’s presence — even in adoring silence, looking to him and waiting on him.
Becoming like Jesus
1 John 2:4-6 The Message
4-6 If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.
“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… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:10, 12, ESV)
- This is the bottom line of knowing Christ (this is observable by others).
- Becoming like Jesus is more than behavioral obedience, it means your character — who you are when you’re not performing on stage — is being transformed by God’s grace to be the kind of person who obeys Jesus’ teachings from your heart.
- We are to manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit, especially love for one another in the Body of Christ and love for our neighbors, but also (gasp) to show love even for our enemies (e.g., “Bless those that curse you.”)
In-formed by the Word
Romans 12:1-2 The Message
Place Your Life Before God
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, ESV)
- This is the reasonableness of knowing Christ today.
- To be in-formed by Scripture is more than head knowledge — it’s relying on God’s words through study, meditation, and prayer so that they live in you and draw you closer to Jesus.
- We’re to live in an ongoing conversational relationship with God, guided by the teachings of the Bible (like the Psalmist).
Devoted to God
Psalm 63:1-4 The Message
God—you’re my God!
I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
traveling across dry and weary deserts.
2-4 So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,
drinking in your strength and glory.
In your generous love I am really living at last!
My lips brim praises like fountains.
I bless you every time I take a breath;
My arms wave like banners of praise to you.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love… No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:9, 15)
- This is the heart of knowing Christ today.
- Devotion to God is not just an emotion or impulse that comes and goes, it’s the soul’s longing for more and more of God, to love him more and to experience him more.
- We cry out for God because we need his love to cover our sins, heal our hurts, and empower us to overcome our struggles.
- If your heart is for God then you’ll be affectionate with him, showing a special tenderness for the Lord which at special times may be felt as “the Jesus burn” like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus experienced.
Experiencing the Holy Spirit
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9 and 10, NIV)
Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28, 30, ESV)
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11, ESV)
- This is the blessing of knowing Christ today.
- To experience life with God is to enjoy the “easy yoke” and “light burden” that Jesus offers in your day-to-day life — the hope that is an anchor for the soul, the peace that passes understanding, the joy unspeakable and full of glory.
- “Experience” is not the same thing as emotions, though it normally includes our feelings. Experiencing involves all the functions of our person: thinking, awareness, observations of our environment, memory, emotions, willing/choosing, bodily sensations and activity, social connections, and soul.
- We can grow in our confidence and courage to Venture on God and then finding that indeed the hand of the Lord was at work, what you accomplished was more than you could’ve done on your own.
- Occasionally we may also experience supernatural manifestations like hearing God’s voice (usually as divinely inspired thoughts or impressions), feeling the “warmth of the Spirit” or tingling in your body, or having visions.
What does “abiding” in Christ look like? Praying about everything, feeding on and experiencing wondrous truth, His Word daily, and obediently following His lead throughout the week. It is our listening to and singing worship music that helps you to focus your whole being on praising and believing and trusting Him.
Every Christian I know wants to live an effective life for Jesus. The #1 key to our succeeding in this is striving, abiding in him. Abiding in Christ is foundational to centering our whole life around God. Tapping into Christ’s presence and His power is what will allow us to bear good fruit in this life. It is my true hope after today we’re more equipped and empowered to live out a life centered about God.
In the name of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, let us pray,
Dear Father, Who art in heaven, I raise to thank You that You are my heavenly Husbandman and that You tend my life with such care and concern. Cleanse me and prune me and take away anything that you discover in me that does not glorify Your holy name.
Thank You, Father, that I am a heavenly branch that is united to my heavenly Vine, the lovely Lord Jesus Christ. May His life flow through mine as sap flows through the branch that is engrafted into its parent stem. Fill me with His fullness so that I may live and move and grow and bear fruit as I abide more and more in Him. In Jesus’ name, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.