I recently spent some time meditating on John 15 verses 1-7. Not long after, I came across an excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s book In Christ Alone. Ferguson gives 4 tenants for what it really means to “abide” in Christ. I mingled his points with my own thoughts, and added some practical application.
Union with our Lord depends on His grace
Don’t overthink a relationship with God. By all means, think about it; it’s eternally important. Think it over, but don’t over think it. God is gracious and He gives life to those who seek Him. Ferguson says, “It is the Father who, as the divine Gardener, has grafted us into Christ.” So our being a branch has nothing to do with our branchy-ness, but everything to do with the divine Gardener giving life to dead, withering twigs.
How to Depend: Thank God
Don’t try to earn His favor. Don’t worry about if He’s pleased with you. If you’ve trusted in Christ, He’s infinitely pleased with you. He’s invited you into His family. He’s made you His child. Take some time today and just thank Him.
Union with Christ means being obedient to Him
We’re most united to something when we’re most aligned with it; in a word, when we’re obedient. It’s simple, really: union with someone is tough when you turn from them through disobedience.
And God has addressed us in His word. Thus, Ferguson suggests “our relationship to Christ is intimately connected to what we do with our Bibles!”
How to Obey: Memorize Scripture
There’s nothing more practical in the battle for obedience than having God’s word stored in your heart. It’s said by a handful of spiritual giants that no Spiritual Discipline is more important than Bible memorization; it fills the mind with the thoughts of God.
Five minutes a day is all you need. Here are some tips: Read the verse ten times. Cover it up. Then recite it ten times. Most people will have it memorized. Review it everyday. A verse recited once a day for 100 days is better than a verse recited 100 times in one day. Read, recite, review.
Rest your life on the love of Christ
Think about a young couple deeply in love with one another. They float through life in a smiley daze. Silly, yes, but I think there’s something to their constant reflection on one another. They gain a sense of rest in the contemplation of the other’s continued love.
The connection is in Ferguson’s words: “We must never allow ourselves to drift from daily contemplation of the cross.”
How to Rest: Preach the Gospel to Yourself
Preach it to your soul’s longings. Satisfy your heart with it when you cry out for other loves like approval and popularity or shrink in fear or anxiety.
Literally preach it to yourself… first thing in the morning. Look in the mirror and address the lies you believe and the desires you’re tempted to feed. This is where Scripture memory becomes deadly. Pierce the sword of Colossians 2:13-14 into your doubting heart.
Submit to the pruning knife of God
Embrace, even invite, God’s discipline. This paradox flies in the face of a culture of ease and comfort, but it’s profoundly transformative. Like any good father, God disciplines His children. And like any good vinedresser, God prunes His branches. Why? So they will produce more fruit.
This is – ironically – where I think we see the love of God most clearly. It was His willingness to sacrifice His Son that made us new. And it’s His willingness to prune that makes us like Jesus.
Ferguson concludes with God’s Fatherly love: “He cuts away all disloyalty and sometimes all that is unimportant, in order that we might remain in Christ all the more wholeheartedly.”
How to Submit: Read the Psalms
This bit of advice may seem detached and even impractical for some. But I think it’s the most helpful thing we can do to prepare for (or endure) the pruning knife of God. The Psalms contain every human emotion imaginable. They are full of people being pruned, even people angry with God. The Psalms give us the language to suffer well.
Depend. Obey. Rest. Submit.
Abide in Christ.