I’m not what most people would call a rebel. I follow the rules, prefer order and schedules, and generally like to color inside the lines. Yet somehow all of this changes when I sit in the driver’s seat of my car. For whatever reason, I cannot bring myself to simply drive in accordance with those numbers printed on the large square signs! Be it a 35 or 70 mph zone, I find myself consistently- and intentionally- disobeying the law. Ahhh, a rebel revealed.
A rebel by nature.
Genesis 3 explains our fallen condition, how we are now by nature rebels against a holy God with a desire to rule ourselves. In the event we should ever minimize the depth of our depravity, Scripture is replete with clear depictions of our fallen human nature. Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all like sheep have gone stray; we have turned- every one- to his own way.” Rebels we are. Rebels who a part from Christ are enemies of God and children of wrath with a hostile mind (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:3, Colossians 1:21).
Perhaps two of the best words in all of human language. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5). Praise God for this most beautiful salvation: rebellious sinners saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, all for the glory of God alone.
Although I am a sinner saved by grace who now delights in God rather than sin, I and all believers will continue to wrestle with the flesh- our fallen human nature- for the remainder of our time on earth. The Apostle Paul wrote of this struggle in Romans chapter 7, reminding us that this ongoing battle is present because we are in Christ. If his Spirit were not within us there would be no battle! We would simply continue in our flesh, living unconvicted of our sin.
But what a battle it is. Our innermost desire is to please Christ, yet we are tempted by the desires of our flesh. As a new creation we love the Gospel and God’s word but struggle at times with a rebellious heart. What then can be done? Thankfully, the disciple whom Jesus loved recorded the words of our Savior, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Because Jesus knew. He knew the condition of our wayward hearts, the weaknesses of our flesh. This is why he calls us to abide in him.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).
In the above verse the Greek word ‘meno,’ (translated ‘abide’) means to remain or to stay. Furthermore, meno means “to be in a state that begins and continues, yet may not end or stop” (www.stepbible.org). Jesus makes it clear that we are to remain continuously in him.
How then do we abide in him?
The truth is that in order to abide in Christ we must abide in his word. Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” John later wrote in his second epistle, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son (2 John 1:9). To know Christ is to know his word; for it is in his word that he has revealed himself as the Word incarnate, the truth, and the only way by which we come to the Father.
Peter knew the power of Jesus’ words. Although he was often stubborn and hard-headed, he got it. He knew who Jesus was. When the disciples were asked by Jesus if they also wanted to leave him (as many others had) Peter exclaimed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). This is one of my favorite statements from Peter in all of Scripture. Indeed, the words of Jesus bring life and have the power to tame our rebellious hearts and lead us to true freedom. For if we abide, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:32).
However, true abiding comes not only through knowing and believing the word, but through obedience to it. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” John emphasized this as well when he wrote, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6).
And how did Jesus walk? He walked in perfect obedience to his Father; for it was this obedience that lead him to the cross. While perfection is impossible in our flesh, the Holy Spirit continues the work of sanctification in our hearts. For as we are transformed through the reading and the application of the word we will grow in our desire to live a life of obedience to the will of God. We will become not only hears of the word, but doers as well. We will live a life in submission to God’s will rather than to our flesh.
As followers of Christ we must pursue God’s word with intentionality and zeal, resolving like the Apostle Paul to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). For the more we read, the more we will know Christ. And the more we know him and are obedient to his words, the more our hearts will be continuously changed; for our desires will align with his and we will be made more like him, bearing fruit and growing in holiness as we resist and flee temptation. Indeed, our rebellious tendencies will crumble and we will find true joy and freedom as we abide in our Savior.