As I’ve sought to understand the deeper things of God – the mysteries that He reveals even as their depth becomes more endless – I am beginning to get a glimpse of one of the vast differences between my thinking and His. One is seeing the degree to which a “merit/demerit” system is embedded in the way I approach almost everything, including what seems like my entire history as a child of God!
I hear it all around me too.
In understanding God and His many characteristics, I’ve heard, “We need to maintain a healthy balance of loving God and fearing Him.”
In our relationship with Jesus, we might wonder if we’re “doing” enough. Did we have a long enough quiet time? Do we pray in solitude enough? Did I balance my time seeking Jesus with my time on social media? Is my mind focused enough in worship? Since I went to church, have I earned a merit to balance out a demerit? Do I give enough in light of what I spend on myself?
In marriage, we might think or even grumble, “I do all this for him and what does he do for me?” Or, “I did this, shouldn’t he at least do that?”
What God is showing me is His ways and the fullness of who He is and our life in Him are all in all the time! There’s not some spiritual “balance” we’re supposed to achieve with Him, in our actions, with our husbands or with others. It’s us being all His and Him being all ours all the time, and therefore we are all in all the time. But the awe of His mysterious ways includes the fact that He in us achieves what He desires in us so long as we remain surrendered to Him.
Because the truth is, just as we cannot do enough to earn salvation, we cannot do enough to please God and become more one with Him. It is already done in what Jesus did on the cross for us.
When by grace through faith in Jesus Christ we are saved by God, God is pleased with us because we are in Christ and He is in us and He is pleased with Christ. We are entirely one with Jesus, never to be separated! We cannot do more or do enough. When that has been my goal, my demerits always outweigh my merits as I attempt to evaluate my goodness or contribution to God! I have found it to be exhausting and disappointing!
So, at the end of my “good enough” rope, done with the whole merit/demerit thing, I picked up Andrew Murray’s book Abide in Christ. Something about the word abide seemed so significant in my spirit.
As I attempt to wrap my heart around this concept that really can’t be fully grasped or lived out only in the intellectual realm, God is magnifying this system of justifying my own ways in light of the craving in my soul to really know Jesus and what it means to be wholly surrendered to Him!
To abide is not an action, it is a becoming and remaining. Yet abide in me suggests action. A choice to remain. I have this peaceful corner in my office where I go every morning and curl up with my dog JJ, my cup of coffee and whatever I am studying in God’s word. I journal to the Lord, pray and write about what God is asking, showing and teaching me. If I could remain there all day, I really would. But life doesn’t allow for that, right? Does that mean when I leave, am I don’t abiding?
No! Yet this is exactly the “merit” I equate with abiding – time in prayer, time in the word, time at Bible study, time at church, time serving, etc. These things are ways we abide, but they aren’t the abiding.
Maybe this will help. The Lord used the example of marriage to help me understand this divine concept of abiding in Christ.
When we marry, we become husband and wife.
But from the beginning of the creation, God “made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9).
In the same way, as the church is the bride of Christ, we become one, and Paul writes:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35 and 38-39).
Stay with me, here.
As husband and wife, we are always husband and wife. We might be in different places at different times, but we’re still husband and wife. We’re still one. We might allow busy-ness to rob us of time together and intimacy, but we are still husband and wife. We may have conflict and misunderstandings that make us feel distant and disconnected, but we are still husband and wife. We may disappoint each other, disagree and fight, but we are still husband and wife.
You get the point, right?
HOWEVER, when we intentionally nurture our relationship and together we make seeking God, spending time and serving one another of utmost priority, we’re still married, but now our marriage is rich and rewarding! We are going to know the fullness of marriage as God intends it to be, right?
It is the same thing with abiding in Christ!
We are always in Him and He is always in us. When we are saved we are eternally united as one! But we can pursue other things and find ourselves distant and disconnected, not experiencing the fullness of intimacy with Him.
HOWEVER, if we intentionally nurture our relationship with Him, spending time seeking Him in prayer and studying His word, serving Him, rearranging commitments and declining others to make sure we always have time to make Jesus a priority, we are going to know the fullness of abiding in Christ!
For some reason this just makes so much sense to me!
I hope it does to you, and I hope any of us who know the disappointment and exhaustion of maintaining a merit/demerit relationship with Jesus will give it up to simply abide.
For Jesus says:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).
He goes on to say, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Sweet Jesus, may our joy be full as we remain in You!
I’m having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth! Will you join me for as much encouragement as you can handle, kind of like good coffee?