Abiding In Christ
If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
The whole secret of prayer is found in these words of our Lord: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7) Here is prayer that has unbounded power: “Ask what you desire, and it will be done for you.”
There is a way then, of asking and receiving precisely what we ask. Christ gives two conditions for this all-availing prayer. The first condition is “If you abide in Me.” What does it mean to abide in Christ? Some explanations are so mystical or so profound that many children of God think they mean practically nothing at all. But what Jesus meant was really very simple.
He had been comparing Himself to a vine and His disciples to branches in the vine. Some branches continued in the vine in living so that the sap or life of the vine constantly flowed into the branches. They had no independent life of their own. Everything in them was simply the outcome of the life of the vine flowing into them. Their buds, leaves, blossoms, and fruit were not really theirs, but the buds, leaves, blossoms and fruit of the vine. Other branches were completely severed from the vine or the flow of sap or life was in some way hindered.
For us to abide in Christ is to bear the same relationship to Him that the first sort bear to the vine. That is to say, to abide in Christ is to renounce any independent lives of our own. We must give up trying to think our own thoughts, form our own resolutions, or cultivate our own feelings. We must simply and constantly look to Christ to think His thoughts in us, to form His purposes in us, to feel His emotions and affections in us. It is to renounce all life independent of Christ and to constantly look to Him for the inflow of His life into us and the outworking of His life through us. When we do this, our prayers will obtain what we seek from God.
This must necessarily be so, for our desires will not be our own but Christ’s. And our prayers will not in reality be our own prayers, but Christ praying in us. Such prayers will always be in harmony with God’s will, and the Father always hears Him. When our prayers fail, it is because they are indeed our prayers. We have conceived the desire and offered our own petitions, instead of looking to Christ to pray through us.
To abide in Christ, one must already be in Christ through acceptance of Christ as an atoning Savior from the guilt of sin. Christ must be acknowledged as a risen Savior from the power of sin and as Lord and Master over all the believer’s life. Once we are in Christ, all that we have to do to abide in Christ is simply renounce our self-life. We must utterly renounce any thought, purpose, desire, and affection of our own and continually look for Jesus Christ to form His thoughts, purposes, affections, and desires in us. Abiding in Christ is really a very simple matter, though it is a wonderful life of privilege and of power.
R. A. Torrey
We read of the life of Christ and how when He prayed amazing things took place. We read of the apostles, the prophets, and others such as Gideon or Joshua or Elijah who prayed with incredible results to their prayers. We wonder how could these have such a great responsive prayer life and ours seems so limited and almost non-existent. Here in these verses we are given understanding. When we “abide in Christ” we receive what we ask. It is not as an independent person coming to God with their own agenda or desires. It is a child of God who has fully surrendered their hearts and lives to the absolute control of Christ.
James, as he speaks of prayer, gives the reasons for unanswered prayer.
“You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires. Come now [and pay attention to this], you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and carry on our business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen in your life tomorrow. [What is secure in your life?] You are merely a vapor [like a puff of smoke or a wisp of steam from a cooking pot] that is visible for a little while and then vanishes [into thin air]. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and we will do this or that.”
Do you see the correlation between unanswered prayer and wrong motives or selfishness or an unrighteous agenda? Second do you see the difference between the one who plans their own life and the one who submits their plans to God for His approval?
Jesus was successful while on earth because He was fully surrendered to the Father. It would be a mistake to think that He did as He wished. One of the powerful stories in Acts is the healing of the lame man who sat at the gate Beautiful. It appears he had been lame from birth and most likely sat there on a daily basis. I’m sure the Lord must have passed him by on His way into the temple. We read of Christ healing other lame people and surely He had the power to do so, but why didn’t He use His power? Why did the lame man have to wait for Peter and John to pass by? We must hear Him say,
“I can do nothing on my own initiative or authority. Just as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just (fair, righteous, unbiased), because I do not seek My own will, but only the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)
But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now [He has never ceased working], and I too am working.” (John 5:17)
Do you see how Christ has taught us to abide in Him? Just as He did nothing in His own authority, neither can we. Just as He did not seek His own will, neither can we. Just as He sought the Father’s will and instruction, so should we. The idea of independent living apart from God for the Christian is not a biblical concept. Paul in Philippians expands this understanding of the submission of Christ to the Father.
“Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus [look to Him as your example in selfless humility], who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as One with Him, possessing the fullness of all the divine attributes—the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man]. After He was found in [terms of His] outward appearance as a man [for a divinely-appointed time], He humbled Himself [still further] by becoming obedient [to the Father] to the point of death, even death on a cross”. (Philippians 2:5-8)
This is the simplicity of abiding in Christ. It is nothing more complex than that of giving up our independence and allowing God to direct and control our lives. To be sure this is not an easy thing and so we try to make it a complicated thing by seeking exceptions or trying to insert human thought and ways into the equation. Once again Christ modeled for us how to conquer the desire to do what we wish and to surrender to the will of the Father. In the battle of His will and His submission as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane we hear His cry to be released from the coming suffering. None of us will ever be asked to give up so much but nonetheless whenever God asks us to surrender something to Him, it is just as painful and difficult. Notice how Christ was able to bring Himself to abiding in the Father.
“And after going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible [that is, consistent with Your will], let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words once more.” (Matthew 26:39,42,44)
Apparently after the first prayer there was still something of Himself not fully surrendered to the Father’s will for He prays again. In the first prayer, He says, “If it is possible let this cup pass from me.” In the second prayer He says, “If this cannot pass away unless I drink it.” And we read that He essentially prayed the same prayer the third time. Each of those petitions ended with the proclamation, “not as I will, but as You will.” This bringing ourselves into the fullness of abiding in Christ is not just a once in a life decision. This decision is daily and often multiple times daily for the self-life is always battling against the Christ-life, and only through prayer and humbling ourselves under the Lordship of Christ will the Christ-life prevail. Abiding in Christ, taking on His nature, being connected to His life flow as a branch is to the vine will bring amazing results in your life. As Jesus said to the disciples, “Of myself I can do nothing.” So plug in today to the life and power of Christ. Cease to live the independent life apart from Christ. Bring all your thoughts, plans, desires before Him. Ask Him to sort through them and decide which ones are in keeping with His will. Be willing to give up and discard all that which is not a reflection of Christ in you. And when you ask, you will receive for your desire will be His desire and His desire will be your desire. If we abide in Him, the automatic outflow will come from Him just as the fruit on the branches is the outflow from the vine.
Dr. John Thompson