Apples of Gold

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If ye abide in me

‘If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’

 John Chapter 15 Verse 7

‘My soul is at home in Christ.’

That is the reply I would give today if someone asked me to give the briefest of testimonies.

I have written before on other verses in this chapter but hopefully today I’ll be able to put some fresh thoughts to what I see in this particular verse. The last couple of weeks have been a real spiritual and physical struggle for me for various reasons.

I have often said that when we are physically weakened through illness or perhaps lack of sleep and rest, then we do not have the same defensive ability in spiritual matters. Our strength to put up our shields against the wiles of the evil one is just not there and he therefore attacks with even more venom than usual.

Much has been said over the years regarding the Christian’s warfare and while I agree with much of what has been written and spoken I do have my own thoughts on the subject.

I am not convinced that our warfare consists only of fighting Satan, witnessing to an unbelieving world, doing good works that are seldom appreciated or spending hours on end on our knees in prayer.

I am fully persuaded that the Christian warfare is the fight to abide in Christ.

You see if I do not abide in Christ then the struggles mentioned in the paragraph above will be done in my own strength.

There is a sense in which all true believers abide in Christ and Christ in us, but I also believe that there is a deeper meaning to these words. I can easily take the words at face value and accept them as true but for me it is better to live them. There is a huge difference between yearning for a closer walk with God and actually enjoying the fellowship of His glorious company throughout each day.

Those who know me well know that it is my desire in life to encourage my brothers and sisters in the Lord as we journey on through this vale of tears together. Each night as I lay my head upon my pillow I reflect on what has happened in my life, both the good and the bad.  If good has come from anything I may have said or done to someone then I praise the Lord for using me, whereas I do my best to rectify the many mistakes that I make.

No matter how strongly I desire to encourage others there are days when it is simply not possible. There are many days that I need encouraging and uplifting in my soul. I thank God for those who have encouraged me when I needed it the most whether through email or letter or by telephone. Unfortunately there are more critics than encouragers these days.

There are the days in my spiritual experience when I do not have the comfort of His abiding presence. I do not ‘feel’ that I am abiding in Him. (My friend, do not let any Theologian tell you that feelings do not matter. They do but they must not get in the way of our faith.) It is at this point that my spiritual warfare takes on an urgency. I hate these times and I cannot wait until I am safely abiding in Him once again. I have strayed from home and I do not like the territory that I am treading.

So what sort of things go through my mind when I am in this condition?

Well to be honest – not pleasant things.

I wake in the morning and dread the though of having to face the forthcoming day. I am aware of nothing but failure and weakness. I cannot say that I doubt that I am a Christian, as I cannot however I see myself as the worst Christian on the planet. Worthless, hopeless and I don’t see what use I can be to God. Surely no other Christian feels like this?

What a conundrum? Wanting to live by being an encouragement to others when I cannot even encourage myself! My mind becomes clogged with negative thoughts and it would be all too easy to slip into a spiritual depression but thankfully so far at least I have been kept from that.

I cannot pray, I read words on the pages of my Bible but I am unable to grasp the true meaning behind these words. I fail to communicate with those I should be communicating with, all my energy is sapped through doubts and fears, leaving me constantly exhausted. Sin is not forgiven, it is not cleansed and I feel totally unclean. The power of the blood eludes me and sin lies at my door.

It seems that no matter how fervent my desire may be to live for Christ each day, I find that to will is present with me but how to perform? It is then that my warfare begins in earnest, seeking with all my heart to get back home again. Seeking to abide in Christ. Wanting the experimental reality of Christ within me the hope of glory.

It is a real and often painful struggle. Willing my mind to concentrate and needing to get back to basics. I know that I must take my soul to the foot of the cross but it is almost as if my spiritual vision is blurred and I cannot quite focus on the essentials. I must persevere.

The dark night may last a long, long time and weeping may endure but joy cometh in the morning. The dawn is wonderful! Cloudy skies become clear and I am able to lay hold on Christ and His finished work. Once more I needed to die with Him on the cross. Once more I had to be resurrected with Him unto life and once again His blood is all powerful in cleansing me from all my sins and shortcomings.

My soul is at home in Christ.

Never again to I want to experience the separation, the loneliness, the pain of defeat or the stench of indwelling sin. No I want to abide in Him. Covered by His blood, accepted as righteous before a thrice Holy God, able to come with boldness unto His throne of grace that I may have the confidence to ask that it may be given unto me.

It is vital to have the Word of God abiding in us. The difference between our religion and others is that our God speaks to us. But how are we to hear what He is saying if we do not saturate our minds with His Word? Our Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to His creation in a manner than all can comprehend.

The more that we know and understand of the Scriptures the greater the communion and union between us. We have to understand God and His ways and we must therefore learn as much as we can about what He has revealed to us through His Word.

I know that many denominations ridicule the fact that we sing exclusive Psalmody in our worship but if ever there was a case for the defence then surely it is the fact that we are continually learning and singing God’s Word.

There is a wealth of nourishment in the 150 chapters of the Psalms that would keep a soul healthy for many a day and we have had the privilege of learning these words since we were knee high to grasshoppers.

With it being part of our worship and singing six verses of four Psalms in most services it is little wonder that we learn the words of the Psalms almost without effort.

I enjoy singing hymns, my favourites being Samuel Rutherford’s - Immanuel’s Land and Robert Murray McCheyne’s – Jehovah Tsidkenu. I also like ‘Just as I am’ and ‘What a friend we have in Jesus.’

The difference for me between a Psalm and a hymn is this – I would not trust the welfare of my soul to the words of a hymn, but I would to the words in the book of Psalms.

Some of my Romanian friends go one better in their worship as they have paraphrased parts of the Epistles of Paul.

‘Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ It seems at first reading that this is access to a blank chequebook and in many ways it is. There are however conditions laid down by our Lord in order that what we ask for will be given.

First of all we must abide in Him. Next, His words must abide in us.

Why is this so important?

Well for one thing it is vital for us to have confidence in our God and that He will be faithful to His Word and answer our prayers. The more that we know of His Word the more we know what we can and what we cannot pray for. He will not give anything that is contrary to His Word.

God is true to His Word. If He says that He will do something then it will be done have no doubt at all about that. He answers our petitions His own way and in His own time. He may keep us waiting many a long day and night for an answer but it will come. (My watch seems to run slow when I’m waiting on an answer!)

He may also answer our prayers in ways and in a manner in which we least expect. There have been times in my experience when He has answered my prayers in spectacular fashion while at other times I am left totally baffled and confused.

My life is fickle and my moods change as often as the weather but thankfully I believe in a God who does not change. I may not always be aware of abiding in Christ, but I cannot deny Christ abiding in me. This is my strength and my song and I can say that my Beloved is mine and I am His.

The branch must always be attached firmly and securely to the stem for it is through the stem that all the nutrients for sustaining life come. The duty of the branch is to bear fruit. Let us therefore abide in Christ the True Vine and may we bear much fruit to His honour and glory.