THE PRACTICE OF ABIDING
How can we fulfill the Lord’s word to abide in Him that He may abide in us? Christians today are prone to pay attention to outward formalities, rituals, and ordinances. They neglect this crucial, spiritual matter of abiding in Christ and letting Him abide in us. Because the Lord’s word here is mysterious and abstract, it is easy to pass it by.
If we had not been grafted into Christ and had Him worked into us, we would still be fallen persons. John 15, however, indicates that we are organically one with Christ the way a vine and its branches are one. We no longer need to live as fallen persons. We may abide in Christ, and have Him abide in us!
John 3:6 mentions two spirits: “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We have a spirit within, which can be born of the Spirit. The two spirits must be brought together by spiritual birth. Thus, 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” To abide in the Lord, then, is to be one spirit with Him.
In our daily practice, however, we disregard this matter. Suppose I encounter a brother whom I have not seen for some time. I begin to converse with him. How is he getting along? How is his family? What has he been doing? We easily talk on and on, but the whole time I am altogether in myself; none of my conversation is in the Lord. Though there is nothing outwardly sinful in what we say, I have left the Lord aside and acted in myself. Nonetheless, I have no sense that I am off. I do not condemn myself.
If I talked to a brother in a mean way, however, my conscience would trouble me. If I lied to him, or told him what a poor character he had, or said that I could not stand being with him, then I would have to go to the Lord and confess. I would also have to go back to the brother, apologize, and ask his forgiveness.
In the latter case we feel condemned, but in the former case we have no realization that we need forgiveness for acting in ourselves. How many of our waking hours do we spend being one spirit with the Lord? Does our conscience bother us when we are apart from Him, acting and speaking in ourselves? We may read the Bible yet be apart from the Lord. The time when we pray is when we are most likely to be one spirit with the Lord. Of course, we must pray properly till we are in our spirit; then our time in prayer is spent with Him. The rest of the day, however, we spend mostly in ourselves and by ourselves.
A number of times I have been talking with someone, when suddenly I was reminded in my spirit that I was conversing according to myself, not by the spirit. I would stop talking and pray inwardly, “Lord, forgive me. I am not with You. I am not living by You. Instead of abiding in You and letting You abide in me, I leave You aside. I am acting by myself.” It is not that what I was saying or doing was wrong in itself; my words and my conduct seemed blameless. My right words and my right actions were in myself, however, not in the Lord.
We are Christians, yet our Christian life is not by Christ. We are Christians, yet we live by ourselves. We are Christians, yet we do not live in our spirit by Christ. Because this crucial matter of abiding was lost, John’s mending ministry came in to restore. He mended this tear by reminding us that we are no longer by ourselves. Now Christ is within us, and we are in Him. He and we are one organism. We are His branches, grafted into Him. He lives in us, and we must live in Him.
(The Mending Ministry of John, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)