We Must Abide

           This past Thursday Nancy and I were browsing in Good’s Furniture store. While there we found ourselves talking to one of the salesmen. We found out that he is from Galesburg, but spent three years in Texas. He enjoyed his time in Texas, but while there he came to realize that it was time to move back home. What happened was one of his young children told his wife that he was “fixin” to do something. His son was starting to talk like the locals. At that, his wife told her husband that it was time to go back to Galesburg. Texas was changing their son.

            I saw the same thing in my family. My cousins moved from Southern Illinois to Mississippi. The youngest quickly picked up a Mississippi accent. My older cousins were unaffected by the move, but not the youngest. The youngest was transformed by her environment while the older ones were not; they had already developed their individuality.

            Romans 12:2 warns us not to allow the world to transform us into its image, but to be transformed in such a way that we know and follow God’s will. To be transformed into someone who knows and follows God’s will is to become a disciple. But how does this transformation take place? Jesus tells us: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” (John 8:31) But what does it mean to “abide” in his word?

            The word abide has three aspects: location, time, and condition. When one abides in a certain location, they don’t depart from that location. When one remains in a certain location for a long time, that location tends to change that person … much like Texas changed the little boy and Mississippi changed my cousin. If we are to be changed by God’s word, we must deliberately and consistently place ourselves in our Bibles and expose ourselves to its teaching. Simply spending an hour or two in church on Sunday is not sufficient … we must abide. The root of “abide” is “bide.” To “bide our time” is to wait for something. When you add the “a” in front of “bide,” the word and its meaning transform to the continuous act of enduring or waiting.

            Jesus doesn’t call us to simply bide our time in his Word until we find something better to do. He wants us to plant ourselves in the Bible and continuously remain there over time. When we fulfill the first two aspects of “abide” by deliberately spending time in God’s Word, the final aspect of “condition” naturally follows.

            The condition that Jesus is seeking of His disciples is that we be in unity with Christ and His words. Jesus describes this state as a branch that remains connected to a vine. As long as the branch abides, the vine and the branch are unified and bear good fruit. However, apart from the vine the branch bears no fruit, withers, and is destroyed. (John 15:1-7) If a branch intentionally abides on the vine over time, it will bear fruit.

            The same is true in our lives. The longer we abide in God’s Word the more abundant and exceptional will be the fruit of our lives. But abiding doesn’t happen by accident. We must choose a time and a plan; then we must stick to the plan.