Are We Willing to Abide in the Word?
Discipleship Lesson #06
September 2, 2018
“Our Father, we come together now to study Your Word, to reflect upon it, to think through what You have revealed to us.
“Father, as God the Holy Spirit guides directs, and teaches us from Your Word, we pray that we might be responsive to that which is set forth.
“That as we continue to study the challenges of discipleship, that we might face these questions on our own:
“Where are we on the path to spiritual growth?
“Where are we as we are advancing, and
“How are we responding day to day to the challenges of following You?
“Father, we pray that as we study today, our focus will be on Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are continuing our study on discipleship; open your Bibles to John 1.
This morning we’re going to look at a new question. We’ve been looking at several questions as we’ve gone through this study. We started off talking about what discipleship meant, essentially, and it is really just a term for taking believers from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.
There are a number of places in the Gospels where our Lord addressed His disciples, the Twelve, and challenged them with different questions. He basically is asking them if they’re willing to be trained; are they willing to learn, to study, and apply the Word?
We looked at that as an outgrowth of the study in John 6, at the end of which the comment was made by John, the writer of the Gospel, that many of the disciples—not the Twelve, but many of the others who had been following Jesus—left Him because what He taught was hard.
We see that today. There are many people who claim to be followers of Jesus, they show up at church every Sunday, but they’re really not too focused on God’s plan for their life the rest of the week. They’re saved, they’re curious about some things, but they have no depth of commitment at any point.
The second question we looked at was the challenge, are we willing to be obedient, are we willing to submit to the authority of God, are we willing to take up our cross daily to deny ourselves?
The question we addressed last week: are we willing to count the cost? That doesn’t just mean the idea of counting the cost and saying, “Oh well, it’s going to be too much for me,” and bail out, but to recognize that there is a cost of following Jesus.
We need not to enter into it frivolously in terms of saying, “I want to grow as a believer,” but recognize that there will be many challenges along the way, and that we need to continue to focus, to grow, and to stand fast in our commitment to follow Him.
This morning we’re going to look at this next question, are we willing to abide in the Word?
In John 8:31 Jesus says that if we are a true disciples, we will abide in the Word. What does that mean?
To understand this, we need to understand that a disciple is a student. It can refer sometimes to those who are not believers, who were simply curious about Jesus, but they did not believe. It also referred to those who were curious and believed, but then they didn’t grow.
The path of spiritual growth is not one that just happens in a one-shot decision, but as we begin to grow, we learn more and more. On a regular basis, we do a little self-evaluation and decide how much further we’re willing to go in terms of our spiritual life.
The challenge is to grow as much as we can, as long as we can, till the Lord calls us home. Because that which is produced in us, the fruit of the Spirit, the knowledge of God’s Word, the understanding of who He is, builds a capacity for understanding God and eternity that we take with us when we go to Heaven.
It’s the only thing we take with us, and when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that’s the basis for our evaluation, the basis for rewards and future roles and responsibilities in the kingdom.
To be a disciple is really the challenge to grow spiritually. That’s what’s developed in the epistles, because as I pointed out, we don’t see the word “disciple” used again after the Book of Acts. It is never used, neither the verb nor the noun; but what we find in the epistles are synonyms, words about teaching and learning and applying the Word.
The essence of the command is to follow Jesus, which means to become an imitator of Christ, which is letting Christ’s character, the image of Christ, be developed in each one of us.
I want to look at the Gospel of John and trace a couple of themes as we go forward. We see in the opening of the Gospel of John that there is an 18-verse prologue. Matthew begins with the genealogy leading up to Joseph to show that Joseph was not and could not have been the father of the humanity of Jesus Christ.
Luke has a different genealogy going through Mary. Both point out some things about His lineage going back to King David. One goes back to Abraham: the Matthew genealogy. The Luke genealogy goes back to Adam and to God.
John doesn’t have a genealogy. John starts off in eternity past. He starts off talking about who Jesus was before the incarnation. And what he says about Jesus is profound!
I find myself, every time I read through this section of John, scratching My head sometimes and thinking, “I don’t think we even come close to probing the significance of a couple of the statements in the first four verses of the Gospel of John”. But they are significant for setting the stage for what John is describing about Jesus in the Gospel.
The primary theme of the Gospel is stated clearly in John 20:31 that “these are written …”
“These” refers to the eight signs or miracles that John pulls together as courtroom evidence to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised prophesied One from the Old Testament.
“… and that by believing in Him we may have life in His name.”
There he pulls together that keyword that He introduces in John 1:1–4, that life—real life, not just biological life, the Greek word BIOS, where we get our word biology—but the word ZOE, which has a much greater, much fuller significance.
Jesus in John 10:10 said, I didn’t come like a thief to steal and destroy, but “… I came to give life and to give it abundantly.”
I don’t think many of us come close in any way to experiencing that rich abundance of life that our Lord promised us here and now. This isn’t talking about just some abundant life that we’re going to get in eternity. It’s talking about the richness of life that we have now.
It’s not based on circumstances. It’s not based on what kind of a career you have. It’s not based on what your family life is like, it’s not based on what nation you’re in, it’s not based on any circumstances, because this promise is made to any and every believer, whether you are an impoverished peasant in Western China or whether you are a rich, wealthy professional living on 5th Ave. in New York.
It doesn’t matter; it’s true for everyone. That means that this abundant life is a life that is related to your relationship to God and what is going on in your soul and in my soul, as we face the circumstances of life. This concept of life is tied to who Jesus is.
John 1:1, I want to just read the first three verses for context.
“In the beginning …” and that is referring to the time of creation. It is referring to that at some point in the past—we believe in a young universe, probably something on the order of 6,000 years—at the time that God started the clock ticking with His creation.
At that point Jesus already existed.
“In the beginning was the Word …” The Hebrew verb that’s used there is expressed in the imperfect tense, which emphasizes continual existence, so that we could paraphrase it this way and say:
“At the time of the beginning, the LOGOS—the Word—was already in existence, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” That is a profound statement identifying the Word with God as full deity.
Now I don’t have time to go into any of this, this morning, or actually in two or three Sundays, but what’s interesting is—I first heard this from Arnold Fruchtenbaum about 10 or 12 years ago—that there was a Hebrew word in the Old Testament that’s often translated “the Word of the Lord, “ the Dabar.
In Aramaic that translates to Memra. Discussions in the Targums of the rabbis in the Inter-Testamental period developed the concept of the Memra as second divine Person, and they list a whole number of qualifications and characteristics of this Memra.
When I first heard Arnold teach this 10 years ago, I started digging around and I couldn’t find anything on Memra. Since then there have been several scholarly studies that have come out. Beyond that, I discovered that Alfred Edersheim, who wrote about a 4-inch thick book called The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, has quite a bit on the Memra.
In Arnold’s new four-volume set, Yeshua, The Life of the Messiah From a Messianic Jewish Perspective, has 80 pages discussing the significance of Memra in rabbinic theology.
For many, many years, centuries, Christians, pastors like myself, when they taught John 1:1, they talked about the LOGOS, a Greek word which is a Greek concept in Greek philosophy, as the background, that John is writing to Gentiles. He is interacting with the culture of the day.
But that would be incorrect. He’s interacting with rabbinical thought at the time, the Memra. So I’ll refer back to that, but in Memra theology that was developed in the Inter-Testamental period, they saw the Memra as fully divine.
That’s exactly what John is saying, “… the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
He has attributed the qualifications and characteristics of full deity, and that’s a clear statement of ex nihilo creation: that what he created had to have been out of nothing, because nothing was made that was not made by Him.
The statement I want to hone in on this morning, John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
Think about that. “In Him.” The “Him” is the eternal Second Person of the Trinity. In Him is life. What is life? Life is existence; it is being itself, a concept that has been the subject of tomes of discussions in philosophy down through the centuries.
Here we have a statement that in Him—that is this One who is fully divine—is the very essence of life itself. Now where in the world would you go to demonstrate that biblically?
You’d go back to the Old Testament. You’d go back to God’s revelation of the meaning of His name to Moses in Exodus 3:13, where God appears to Moses at the burning bush and commissions Him to go rescue and deliver and redeem the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
Moses says, “Well, if I go to them, who do I say is sending me?”
Abraham used the term Yahweh, after the sacrifice of Isaac when God gave a ram as a substitute for Isaac’s life. Abraham identified God as Yahweh Jireh, the LORD provides. So the name was known from the time of creation.
But God adds something new in terms of an explanation of its significance to Moses; He says that it means, “I AM WHO I AM.” That means that God is the self-existent One.
The name Yahweh comes from the Hebrew verb Haya, which means to be or to exist. So God is making a clear statement by His very name that He is the source of all existence. He is “being” itself. All “being” was created by the One who is “being” itself.
John 1:4, “In Him was life.” This is a statement that is profound and identifies the word “Jesus” with God the Father, that He is fully God.
Then it says more than that. It goes on and it says, “… and that life was the light of men.”
Light is that which illuminates. When we look at the New Testament, and even the Old Testament, we see that this metaphor of light is frequently applied to God, and it has two basic meanings.
The first is it indicates that God is pure. “He is light,” 1 John 1:5 says, “and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Darkness represents sin and evil, and especially in the Gospel of John, this is representative of a fallen world and a fallen culture.
It’s interesting to read through John 13:30 when Jesus observes the seder with the apostles. The seder begins at what time? It begins at sundown. So, after going through the description of what happens with the foot washing and everything else when He’s indicating the one who will betray Him, John makes a statement that is unnecessary.
The Passover’s at night, but he makes a point of saying, “and Judas went out into the night.” That’s a significant statement. The Son of Perdition is going into the realm of darkness, which is where he belongs. It’s another indication that Judas was, of course, not a believer and goes out into the darkness.
We have this reality that in Jesus we have light that is pure, it is sinless, and it is righteous.
The other way in which light is used in the Bible is to talk about revelation and illumination. This is a major theme in the Gospel of John that he develops as two sub-themes. He talks about Jesus as the life, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” in John 14:6.
Jesus is the light, and in John 8:12, He will say, “I am the light of the world.” Twice He makes that statement to the Jews in the temple in Jerusalem.
John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
We have to look at the context here. In John 1:1–4 Jesus is introduced as the LOGOS, the Word. What is the purpose of communication coming from God? It is revelation. So, the subtext here is that Jesus is the One who will reveal God to man.
John 1:9, “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” Jesus is the revealer of Who God is.
This is made even more explicit in John 1:18 where he says, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
It is the role of God the Son to reveal God the Father. It is the role of the LOGOS—the Word—to communicate to us and to tell us about who God is. We cannot learn about God without vocabulary, without language, without communication.
When we look at the Scripture, one of the very first things that we’re introduced to in Genesis 1 is the power of the Word, “And God said,” “And He created light.”
As you go through Genesis 1, you see this repetition; it is as God said, as He spoke. It is His Word that has transformative power and creative power. The LOGOS related to the Word is tied to life, and it is tied to revelation.
We will see as we go through the Gospel of John how these ideas are brought together to emphasize not only who Jesus is, but also the relationship that disciples are to have to Jesus.
We recognize that the first thing that we have to understand when we think about Jesus as the Light is that He is exposing us in terms of our sin. This is what John 1:9 emphasizes, “That (this) was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”
In John 3 we discover that men loved the darkness rather than the light. This is emphasizing in this opening chapter that man, humanity, needs life because we’re dead. We’re born dead; we’re born spiritually dead. We may have physical life, but this is a life that has no foundation, no grounding because it is spiritually disconnected from God, separated from God. That’s what we describe as spiritual death.
There may be those who question, “Well, how do we know that we are spiritually dead?” God told Adam in Genesis 2:17 that if you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in that day you will certainly die. Well, they didn’t die physically, but there was an impact. They died spiritually, they were separated from God, and eventually they would die physically.
Go to Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:11–12; they’re parallel passages. The emphasis is that we are born dead in our trespasses and sins. We are born spiritually dead already. We have physical life, but we are already dead, so we need a Savior, Who is life itself.
Then we see that this life is connected to light, that we must understand who we are and who God is. There must be a revelation of God. There must be a revelation of who He is and our desperate need for Him.
We see that into the darkness of our existence—and all humanity is trapped in this darkness, they are spiritually blind—that God must pierce it with light, but man rejects that.
All that we’re asked is to come to Jesus, Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
It’s simple. We can’t do anything because we’re spiritually dead and we’re trapped in darkness.
Moving forward a couple of years in Jesus’ ministry, actually about four months prior to the crucifixion, Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. They had an enormous menorah, and on the eighth day the high priest would climb up on that menorah and would light it.
Jesus stands there at the temple, and He makes this profound declaration, John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
What do you notice in that verse? First of all, you have a profound claim. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” This is one of the seven well-known “I am” statements that we find in the Gospel of John. In the Greek it’s EGO EIMI; it is “I AM.” This is the name of God.
Exodus 3:14 when Moses asked God what His name was, God said, “I AM WHO I AM.” When Jesus makes these statements, each time He is making a claim to complete and total deity. He is absolutely God.
“I am the light of the world.” Then He says, “he who follows Me.”
Now He is not talking about salvation here, because He doesn’t say “he who believes in Me.” He says, “he who follows Me.” That is discipleship, that is following Jesus, and it says we won’t “walk in darkness, but we will have the light of life.”
Now what is light referenced to here? It speaks of revelation. That if we follow Jesus, there will be ongoing revelation of who He is. How do we get that? Well, according to the Gospel of John, we get that from the Word of God.
It is the Word of God—the living Word of God, the LOGOS of God, and the written Word of God Who is Jesus Christ—that reveals to us Who God is, who we are, and how we are to live.
Jesus makes this astounding claim, “I am the light of the world.” Now there are only basically two ways you can take this. Either Jesus is telling the truth, and He is the light of the world, and He is fully God, and He is who He claims to be; or He’s lying.
If He’s lying, the only two options are that He’s lying intentionally, which means He’s intentionally deceiving everyone, and therefore, He’s not a good person.
You can’t fall back, as many unbelievers do, and say, “Well, Jesus was a good man. He was a moral teacher. He was a spiritual reformer;” all these positive things. But Jesus doesn’t leave you that option, because if He’s intentionally lying, then He’s evil and wicked, and He’s a deceiver.
Or, He could be self-deceived, in which case He would be psychotic, and then we would be following somebody who was a nutcase. But nothing about Jesus indicates that He is emotionally unbalanced or mentally unhinged.
He is making a clear statement, and we must accept that to be the truth: that He is the light of the world, and therefore, we are to follow Him and by following Him, then our lives will be illuminated by truth.
That becomes evident as we go through subsequent passages. Looking further down in John 8, we discover that there is a conflict that occurs between Jesus and the Pharisees.
In John 8:30 we discover that there are those who have believed in Jesus, “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.” That is, they came to Him, they trusted in Him.
That is the term for salvation. It is used 95 times in the Gospel of John. “Believe on Him.” It’s not believe and repent; it’s not believe and confess; it’s not believe and walk the aisle; it’s not believe and do good works. It is simply to believe in Him: PISTEUO EIS AUTON.
John 8:31, “Then Jesus spoke to those Jews who believed Him …”
He had a crowd there; many of them had believed on Him; now He was going to be talking to the believers. This is not unusual.
I’ve been in many situations, for example in funerals, where I have an audience. I don’t know most of the people there, but I know that some of them are believers and some of them are unbelievers. I address the unbelievers in the audience in one way and I address the believers in the audience another way.
That’s what was going on here. Jesus addressed those who had believed in Him; they’re already saved. He’s not telling them something they need to do to be saved, but He’s telling them what they must do now that they are saved.
He says “… to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.’ ”
That is the core verse this morning. We are to abide in Christ. That’s how we are His “disciples indeed.”
The result is, John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
There are a lot of other things that are going on in this passage, but what I want to address is this one idea: What does it mean to “abide in My Word?”
The word translated “abide,” is the verb MENO. MENO is an important word in Johannine theology. It is an important word when Jesus is teaching.
When we read the Gospel of John, one of the things that we learn about the Apostle John is that John was the youngest of the disciples. He was probably 18 or 19 years of age when he was called to follow Jesus. When he writes the Gospel of John, he is much, much older.
He wrote the Gospel of John, according to tradition and evidence, somewhere between AD 90 and 95. Jesus called him to be a disciple at approximately 18 or 19 in AD 30. He wrote the Gospel in AD 90.
From AD 30 to 90 is approximately 60 years. He was approximately 20 when he was called to be a disciple, so he was close to 80 by the time that he wrote the Gospel of John, and he had 60 years to reflect upon what Jesus meant to Him.
Now he was a young man, and like many young men who are attracted to strong dynamic teachers, I believe that John picked up a way of teaching that was similar to Jesus’, that echoes how Jesus taught.
That’s why many times many scholars have observed that you’re reading sections of the Gospel of John—this happens in John 3—and you know Jesus is talking, and then all of a sudden you realize that John is the one who is speaking, but you don’t know when Jesus stopped and John started.
When you read the Upper Room Discourse in John 13, 14, 15, and 16, and then you read what was written 50, 60 years after Jesus said it, in his first epistle, 1 John, it sounds just like Jesus speaking in John 13,14, 15, and 16. He just absorbed that as a young man.
We know many people who when they are impressed by a speaker when they are young, that as they mature, they often sound like their mentor. You see that in many areas of life, and maybe not only in speaking, but you can go to Italy and go to museums there, and you can see the great artists, but then you see their students, and the students often have techniques that closely imitate that of their masters and of their mentors.
That’s what we see with this word MENO, is that John takes it over, and he uses it as Jesus did to refer to an ongoing relationship with Jesus. It’s not talking about that which happens at salvation.
This is one of the problems that you get with Lordship salvation: they want to take MENO as a word that means salvation that once we trust in Christ, we are permanently abiding in Him. That is positional truth.
But it’s not positional truth. He is not talking about those who are unbelievers and saying you need to abide in My Word, He’s talking to believers because believers can fall away and not abide in His Word.
This word is then used when we get over into John 15 in the Upper Room Discourse. I want to point out one other thing before we go forward into John 15 …
John 8:31, Jesus says, “If you abide in My Word—what will be the result? The result of abiding in His Word is John 8:32—you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Now that verse is really ripped out of context and used by all kinds of people and educational organizations in all kinds of things, but Jesus is not talking about any kind of truth.
It becomes clear in John 17:17, when Jesus is praying to the Father, “Sanctify them in truth, Thy Word is truth.”
The word there translated “sanctified” is a word that basically means to grow spiritually, to be set apart in the service to God. And how you do it? You do it by God’s truth.
He defines God’s truth as, “Your Word is truth.” I can’t help but think that this is another double entendre there that John is quite fond of, because it means not only the written Word, but also the living Word; and that that is the basis of our spiritual growth, to be set apart by our study and knowledge of the Word.
In John 15:1 we had a very famous passage were Jesus talks about the importance of abiding in Him, and He uses the analogy of a grapevine and an analogy of viticulture.
A number of years ago now there was a graduate of Dallas Seminary whom I’ve gotten to know a little bit over the years named Gary Derickson. What was significant about how God used Gary Derickson, was before he went to seminary he had a Master’s Degree in viticulture.
That’s a great skill to have if you’re going to go be a seminary student. It gave him great insight into what Jesus is talking about in this passage, because he was able to go back and research what first century practices of viticulture or vine growing was all about, which helps illuminate what’s going on this passage.
Jesus sets up this metaphor, and He says, “I am the true vine, and My Father’s the vine dresser.”
Here’s the image: the Father is pictured as owning a vineyard, and He’s taking care of the vines. Then Jesus says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away …—which is a poor translation.
The Greek word there AIRO is used several times by John, and in some cases it means to take away, but in other cases it means to lift up. So, what does it actually mean here?
Well, according to first century practices of viticulture, when that vine is growing the first year, there are some of those new tender shoots, young branches that haven’t borne any fruit.
You don’t go in and cut them off, which is how Lordship salvation interprets this, “Well, if you’re not bearing fruit, you weren’t really saved, so you’re removed.” That just denies history context, and it’s not talking about a loss of salvation.
The practice, according to Derickson, is that the vine dresser comes along and he will tie up those new branches to the trellis, so that it gets more airflow, gets more sunshine, and the second year it will produce fruit. That makes much more sense; it fits the context.
John 15:2, what Jesus is saying is “Every branch in Me that doesn’t bear fruit He lifts it up, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes.” This is when you go in and you take the sucker vines away that are taking energy from the plant, to remove the distraction, so that the branches can bear more fruit.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “You are already clean …” That’s the same phrase He used in John 13 to say that they were all clean—all but one of them. The contrast is between the Eleven who were saved, and the one who was unclean, Judas Iscariot, who was not saved and was going to betray Him.
John makes it very clear that that is the one to whom Jesus is referring in John 13. Now that Judas has been removed, Jesus says, John 15:3, “You are already clean because of—what?—the Word that I have spoken to you.”
What gave them positional cleansing? Trusting in the gospel, the Word, the message that Jesus gave them. Believe on Him and you’ll have eternal life.
John 15:5; Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit.”
That’s that intimate relationship where we are walking with the Lord. When we sin it breaks that abiding relationship. It’s a term of fellowship. He says, “those who abide in Him.”
See you can be a believer and not abiding. You can be a believer and not walking by the Spirit. You can be a believer and you’re walking in darkness.
That is why Paul in Ephesians 1:7 says, “You are children of light, walk as children of light,” because the problem with Ephesus was they were walking like unbelievers, the same as the Corinthians.
In John 15:6 He said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch—this is divine discipline—and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
That’s not talking about going to the Lake of Fire. That’s just part of what happens after the harvest, you go through and you cut off the branches that are older and are no longer productive, so they don’t take away from the energy of the plant.
Then the vinedresser sweeps them all up and removes them because they’re no longer fruitful and are no longer usable. This relates to divine discipline.
When Jesus says, “if we abide in Him,” He is the Word, so that means we’re abiding in the Word. Again, you have that double entendre: “abiding in Christ” is abiding in the living Word, but we are also to abide in the written Word.
Paul echoes this thought in Colossians 3:16 when he says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you—the results of that are—teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
One of the problems we’ve gotten into, and part of it is the way a lot of churches practice singing, that “on Sunday we’re going to sing our two hymns, and then you know, the real reason we’re here is to get into the Word.” Of course, that would be applied to older, more traditional congregations.
Today we have a lot of congregations that give 15 minutes to the Word and the rest of the time they’re singing, and mostly it’s just entertainment—the contemporary chorus group is just basically entertaining people. Since most of the tunes are not singable, most people have a hard time learning them and they just sort of stand there and watch.
We have to recognize that singing is part of our spiritual life. In both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, singing hymns and songs and spiritual songs is the first thing mentioned as a result of being filled by the Spirit or letting the Word of Christ dwell in us.
Now if “A” action produces (C) result, and “B” action produces (C) result, then by logic “A” and “B” are comparable.
In Ephesians 5:18 we’re told, “be filled by means of the Spirit,” but it doesn’t tell us what we’re being filled with. The result of being filled by the Spirit in Ephesians 5:19 and following are the exact same result you have in Colossians 3:16b and following.
That tells us that being filled by the Spirit and letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within us are comparable ideas.
In Ephesians 5:18 Paul is talking about the “means” of the filling. When we walk by the Spirit one of the things that is happening is God the Holy Spirit can fill us with His Word.
That’s how the Word of Christ richly dwells within us. We’re letting the Word of God abide in us. “If we abide in His Word, then we are disciples indeed.”
Abiding in His Word is to let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you.
Now there’s nothing new about this idea. We see it also in the Old Testament. In fact, it’s a great passage for parents to understand.
Deuteronomy 6:7-9, “You shall teach them—that is the precepts of God, the Law, the Torah—You shall teach them diligently to your children—for us that would apply to all the Scripture—teach them to your children.”
The best thing you can do as parents and grandparents is get the Word into children early. Read it to them when they’re infants, because their mind is hearing it, their mind is absorbing it. We have no idea how that is shaping the thinking of an infant as the synapses and everything are developing and forming when they’re little.
When they’re young, have them memorize Scripture. Everybody here almost can tell me, the first verse my mother had me memorize was 1 John 1:9. She understood that I would have a sin nature. And I don’t forget that verse. And the second was John 3:16.
I memorized a lot of verses, and the older you get, the harder it is to memorize. It’s so important to get as many verses into those young minds, memorize them, because they’ll come back.
I remember when I first went into the pastorate, and it had been a long time since I’d reviewed memory verses. In those first six months you’re nervous, you’re concerned about all kinds of things, and I would be teaching and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit would start bringing these verses to my mind that I had memorized years before, and they just really fit the context.
But you’ve got to do that when you’re young. The older we get, the more difficult it is.
I’ve memorized Luke 2 and parts of Matthew 1, the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, just about every year for the last five or six years, and each Fall it’s like something all new again.
It’s just not as easy as it was, but those verses that I learned when I was a kid in Sunday school and those verses I learned when I was at Camp Peniel when I was a young camper, those verses are there. That’s important.
It’s the same with the truth. You’ve got to teach these diligently. That means intentionally, purposefully with a plan. Then talk about them when you sit, when you walk, when you lie down.
As you go through the course of life, issues are going to come up, and you talk about how the Word of God applies to those situations. What are you doing? You’re abiding in the Word.
John 17:18, the implication of this has to do with we’ve moved from Jesus is the Light; He is the revealer of the Word. We are to abide in the Word and what then are we to do? We are to imitate Jesus as revealers of the Word.
John 17:18 is Jesus Christ’s High Priestly prayer, He says to the Father, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
We’re to go forth as light bearers, revealing the Word of God to others.
This is seen in Philippians 2:15-16; Paul says, “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
We do that how? The next verse starts off with an instrumental participle, “by holding fast the word of life—how do we shine forth as lights in the world? By holding fast. That’s abiding in the truth. That’s abiding in the Word—by holding fast the word of life.”
At first I thought that word for “holding fast” was going to be ECHO, but when I looked, it was EPECHO, which means more than just holding onto something, but also has the sense of applying it, of giving close attention to something. Not just being aware of it, not just reading it, but studying it.
You see what we need to do in order to abide in the Word is to develop certain habits and practices on a regular basis.
First, we all need to read our Bibles. Read your Bible through. We have Bible reading plans we’ve put up on the website every year. There are many others. You can search for them on the Internet and come up with different ones.
I would encourage you to use a different plan every year. Sometimes you can read from Genesis straight through to Revelation. Other times you take a chronological look. There are various different plans you can do, but read the Bible.
Reading the Bible is like a familiarization tour, like an orientation before you go off to college or when you first go to work for a company. It just sort of gives you the overview, but you constantly have to be reminded of who those people are, and what the events were, and that gives you that framework.
As you read it over and over again, by the time you get into the sixth or seventh year, you’re going to start recognizing so many things that you’re learning and putting together.
The next stage is you need to spend some time studying it, not just listening to me teach, but opening your Bible for yourself. Go through the Bible Study Methods course and begin to learn how to do that study on your own, and have a notebook where you’re writing down what you’re learning.
It just helps you to concentrate a little better and to focus and to pull it together.
Those are just some of the ideas. Then memorize Scripture. Begin to work your way through some Scripture. Learn eight or nine key verses. We have the little pamphlet out on God’s Powerful Promises. Work your way through all those promises in that book, and memorize it.
That’s just a start. And what will happen as you go year to year in your spiritual life and spiritual growth is that your thinking will be shaped more and more by the Word of God. It will change a lot of things. It will change your ideas; it will change your focus, and change your priorities as God uses that to make each one of us more and more like Jesus Christ.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study, to reflect, to be reminded of the challenge that we are to abide in Your Word. We need to think about how to do that; making plans to carry out those plans, that we may let the Word of Christ richly dwell within us.
“Father, we pray that as You challenge us with this that there may be those who are listening who’ve never trusted Christ as Savior. They don’t know if they’re going to end up in Heaven when they die, and they need to be reminded that abiding in Your Word is not a condition for salvation. The condition for salvation is simply to believe in Jesus as Savior.
“All we’re to do is trust in Christ. He paid the penalty for our sins, and by trusting in Him we are accepting His payment on our behalf. And at that instant we’re given righteousness and declared righteous, we’re given eternal life.
“Then the next issue is what are we going to do with that life? How are we going to nourish and feed that life? And that is where abiding in Your Word comes.
“Father, we pray that you’d challenge each of us in the area of application necessary that we may take the next step, move to the next level, in our spiritual advance and spiritual growth.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”