Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Abiding in The Vine in 2009

Ever have trouble with certain passages of scripture? Passages that maybe you wish God hadn’t put in the Bible? There are passages that can be very difficult to understand.

Case in point. “Anyone born of God does not sin.” (1 John 3: 9) When I became a Christian, the Holy Spirit entered my existence and began convicting me of sin. He showed me again and again, day after day; just how much was in my life that shouldn't be there. I was only saved about 6 months when I ran across this one. My world came crashing down. I was really bothered with this one!

I must not be truly saved! It must not have taken! Why, because I was still dealing with sin and this said ‘anyone born of God does not sin’ period! Or so I thought. Was John saying, OK, folks, I have my doubts about a few of you; some of you might not be saved. I'm pretty sure a few of you are really lost. In fact, here's how we can tell who are the phonies among you are: those of you who still sin, you're not saved?

I went to see a pastor about it, and he explained to me that the Greek verb was in the present tense and indicated "on-going" sin, and he showed me how other translations rendered the verse differently: "No one born of God practices sin (NASV)." "No one born of God will continue to sin (NIV)."

Oh, I thought, he's not talking about one sin. He's talking about on-going, continuous sin. Guess what? It didn't make me feel better. I still qualified for John's exclusion. I "continued to sin." I had been living the Christian life for six months, and I was still sinning every day. I thought, If no one born of God continues to sin, that rules me out. I must not be saved. I became convinced that my conversion didn't work. It didn't take!

I now understand when he says, "No one born of God continues to sin"—that's not a threat; it's a promise. He's not trying to make his readers doubt their salvation; he's trying to give them hope. He's saying: You belong to God, we've already established that. And since you have been born of God, you won't continue to sin. You can be free of its grip. “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins.” (v. 5)

John tells us in verse 6: "No one who abides in him sins." When you're abiding in Jesus—the word abide means to remain or reside—you cannot practice sin. When you're abiding in Jesus, or as John also calls it, walking in the light as he is in the light, the Holy Spirit convicts your heart of every thought and action that comes between you and God. You cannot continue in that thought or action. Your new nature—the life of God that is in you—will rise up against it.

There's a difference between being saved and abiding in Jesus. You received salvation when you invited Jesus Christ to come into your life and forgive you of your sin. It's a one-time event; it's an act of God that you receive by faith. But that's not where the God part of our lives ends. It's where it begins. Those who have been saved are called to abide in Jesus.

What does this mean and how do you do it? Here's what it means to abide in Jesus: It means acknowledging His presence in everything you do, and yielding to His leadership at every turn. Brother Lawrence called it practicing the presence of God. Bill Bright called it ‘spiritual breathing.’ It's receiving God's presence in your life each day, each moment of the day. John says "no one born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him" because the seed that God has placed in your life will continue to grow, continue to mature, continue to blossom, until the image of Jesus Christ is fully developed in your life.

Abiding in Christ means that God has to be inside of us and we have to be inside of Him!

We are God's people. He has put His life in us so that we can experience power over sin and can be changed into the image of Christ.

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