Drinking Deeply

Sunday, April 09, 2006 at 2:13 PM

Abide in me...

Partially inspired by this post and completely inspired by Scripture, I wanted to add my thoughts on the discussion on "having a personal relationship with Jesus."

In short, I'm not a big fan of using the phrase "having a personal relationship with Jesus" to describe a member of the church.

A few reasons:

1) It is, at best, extrabiblical. There is nothing in Scripture that talks of salvation, discipleship, sanctification, or anything, as requiring a "personal relationship with Jesus." The call isn't to "have a relationship with me" but it's "repent and turn!"

2) At worst, it can be misleading. Without someone properly describing what he or she means by "have a personal relationship with Jesus," one can come away with a variety of different requirements/interpretation.

For example. Having a personal relationship with Jesus could mean that he or she talks to (maybe with?) Jesus on a regular basis. To almost everyone, this means prayer. But is prayer directed to Jesus? Or is it directed to God the Father? I would argue the latter, as Christ is our intercessor, as well as the fact that Jesus teaches his disciples to ask the Father of this, ask the Father of that, and to pray to Him in Christ's name, and the Father will do this...

Having a personal relationship with Jesus can mean the ability to "see" him all around. What that means can be interpreted in so many different ways. Do we have visions? Or 'see" him written in nature (which is entirely appropriate).

Instead, what is used in Scripture to describe a saint? Simply someone that is "in Him." Now of course, this comes with a lot less intellectual baggage. We actually do have to explain this. What does it mean to be "in Him"? This is the passage that inspired me and reminded me of the idea of being "in Him." I think it provides a fairly clear description of what it means to be one of the saints:

John 15

I Am the True Vine
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide 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. 5I 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. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

What does abiding in Jesus entail? A few basic principles that we can draw out:

v.1) An acknowledgement that it is God who grows, plants, and prunes.

v.2) A dependance upon Christ, the true vine. A real recognition of the penalties of sin (thrown away and burned), and the costs of discipleship (pruning).

v.3) Already clean, not by works, but by Christ.

v.4) recognition of complete dependance upon Christ as well as the exclusitivity of Christ being the only way.

v.5) The promise of bearing fruit for God for those who abide.

v.6) Contrasted with the consequences of not abiding in Christ - leading to withering and destruction.

v.7) Having Christ's words abide in us (we'll get to what that means) leads to a promise of a Father who hears and answers.

v.8) Glorify the Father by prove by fruit/works that they are truly in Christ.

v.9) Abide in Christ's love - recognize this, acknowledge it, and live it. Forgiven by the love of God, not earning it.

v.10) Obedience!

Really, the issue isn't with the phrase "personal relationship with Jesus" itself. It's much more with the ambiguity inherant in that phrase. If we defined what "personal relationship with Jesus" in a consistent and Scriptual manner, I don't think I could object.

But personally it seems much more consistent to use the phrase the Scripture uses: "in Him." It is in Him we live. It is in Him we are sanctified. It is in Him we grow. What does it mean to be "in Him?" Gradually to me it would seem to grow more and more to include these things. Now, this isn't a checklist to see if you're actually a Christian or anything like that. Nor is it a checklist to make sure you're saved. (Otherwise it would be justification by works all over again!). But what it is to me, is a goal and end. This would be what I would tell someone who asked in desperation "Then how can I be saved?"

1) Dependance upon God for all things. He is the one who made you as you are, without Him, you are nothing.
2) Acknowledgement of God's holiness and righteousness. God hates sin, and for all those who die outside of Christ, there is eternal punishment and wrath.
3) Acknowledgement of God's goodness and guidence. God loves His own, and prunes them so that they would bear fruit for Him.
4) Acknowledgement of being cleansed by faith alone and not by faith and works.
5) Acknowledgement of Christ being the way, the truth, the life and the only means to salvation.
6) A bearing of fruit in keeping with repentance. The fruit of the spirit come to mind.
7) Obedience to the Words of Christ. One cannot claim to love God yet hate his word.

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

Being "in Christ" is a covenantal idea, no? Before, we were "in Adam", and we got the curses of the covenant with the first Adam. But for those who are in Christ, there is now no more condemnation. We now have the blessings of the covenant. Similarly, being in Christ is like being in a family (idea of adoption?). We belong, we are heirs, etc. Here, having a relationship with Christ would also encompass having a corporate relationship with one another. I feel like we miss this idea in an individualistic "personal relationship with Christ." But I also agree that there's a personal level. Jesus calls us friend, and he is our brother, etc. These are good metaphors to think about especially when we feel like our Savior is "impersonal." But I hate how altar-calling evangelicals use this phrase as a litmus test for salvation. It's is vague and misleading. good entry. =)  

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Blogger ts said...

i think the phrase arose as an antidote to popular culture's view of christianity, which is that of a religion or set of moral laws by which one abides. when you describe christianity as "having a personal relationship with Jesus," it shows that what you are talking about it completely contrary to what the non-believer is probably thinking. it's just like saying, "invite Jesus into your heart," which is a misinterpretation of that verse in revelation 3 where Jesus is described as standing at the door and knocking.  

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Blogger mxu said...

theocentric - That's definitely something that had slipped my mind but is a good point to bring up as well.

ts - Thanks for the info.  

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