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An Abiding Relationship with Jesus Christ

In Christendom today we hear a lot about “having a relationship” with Christ. Just what does that mean? What type of a relationship is that to be?

What does the Bible say about “having a relationship with Christ – as both Saviour and Lord”?

Well, it says a lot! But may I share but a “wee” bit – and that in one direction – that of the uncontroversial link between having such a relationship and “allegiance / loyalty / fidelity / obedience” to Christ?

Let’s start with Christ’s own words as recorded in John 15 (emphasis added):

(1) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…… (4) Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (5) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (6) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (7) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (8) By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (9) “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. (10) If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (11) “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (14) You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

Note the operational word “If” in verse 10. It says “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love”. Doesn’t that plainly establish a requisite for “abiding” in Christ? Note it doesn’t say “If you believe in Me”, “If you’re a good person” or “If you keep 90% of My commandments”.  Christ plainly says that He kept His Father’s commandments as part of His abiding relationship with His Father – and that we are to keep His commandments as part of our abiding relationship with Him.

Note also verse 14 – there’s that operational word “If” again! But this time it says that if we do whatever He commands us, we will be His friends – not His “subjects”, not His “creations”, not His “slaves”, but His “friends”! Can you imagine that – being “the friend” of the Son of God! But…that privilege comes with a simple and clear requisite: That we DO whatever He commands us. And there’s another little operational word: “Do”. Note again, this verse doesn’t say “You are My friends if you believe in Me”.

And why is Christ so “hung up” on obedience to Him? Just some of the reasons are in the verses above. Verse 11: That His joy may remain in us and that our joy may be full. Verse 8: That we bear much fruit as His disciples. Verse 7: So that we can ask for and receive from Him what we want and need. God and Christ didn’t give all the various commandments, statutes and ordinances to “test” us or as a means to salvation. They were primarily given for our “blessings and protection”. However, commandment keeping is also a way of evidencing our allegiance, loyalty and fidelity to Christ.

So what does Christ say happens if we don’t so “abide in Him” – if we don’t obey Him? Look at the dire consequences of verse 6: They are cast out and burned in the fire! The Bible repeatedly makes it very, very clear that many “believers” will indeed be “lost”. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be cast out and burned up! I’d rather be considered “a friend of Christ” and strive to do what He asks me to do.

Moving on, let’s look at what John said about “abiding in Christ”:

1 John 1: (4) And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (Again, notice the motive of obedience – that our joy may be full.) (6) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 2: (1) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (2) And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (3) Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (4) He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (A liar? Does this mean that there are “believers” who “know” Christ who are really “liars”?) (5) But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (6) He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 3: (1) Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God(Indeed what an awesome thought – don’t you think – that we should be called the children of God!)  Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (2) Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (Even more awesome is that we will “be like Christ”!) (3) And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (4) Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (5) And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. (6) Whoever abides in Him does not sin. (Can someone who repeatedly, premeditatedly and consciously sins really “abide” in Christ?)  Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. (7) Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (8) He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (9) Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (10) In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, (And what does “practice righteousness” mean? To “believe”? No! It means to strive to be allegiant and obedient to the laws of God. )  nor is he who does not love his brother. (11) For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, (12) not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. (Compare some of the other “works” of Cain and Abel…Abel was allegiant in worshipping God with the sacrifice of the lamb…Cain had the rebellious attitude of “I don’t think it really matters HOW I worship God, as long as I worship Him – so I’ll bring an offering of fruits and veggies instead”. God viewed Abel’s sacrifice as “righteous”, but Cain’s sacrifice, not only as in vain, but as “evil”. Do you think there just might be a modern counterpart of that issue of worship going on in the 21st Century?) (13) Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. (14) We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. (15) Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (16) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (17) But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (18) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (19) And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. (20) For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (21) Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. (22) And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (Note a repeat of the conditional blessing of John 15:7) (23) And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (24) Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (Yet once again, the clear and uncontroversial link between commandment keeping and an abiding relationship with Christ.)

1 John 4: (1) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (6) We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error(In many places, the Bible repeatedly admonishes us to discern between truth and error. Note that these warnings for discernment are directed at Christians – hence it’s clear that “just believing” is not enough.)

1 John 5: (2) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. (3) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (Note two more admonitions to keep His commandments. But also note the vital comment that “His commandments are not burdensome”. As David said in Psalm 119, when one is relationship with God, it is a “delight” to keep His commands.)

2 John 1: (1) The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, (2) because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: (3) Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. (4) I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. (5) And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. (6) This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. (Note in this chapter the references to “walking in truth” and “walking according to His commandments” – both of which connote our relationship with God and Christ. We simply cannot be in a healthy relationship with God if we “walk in error” or we “walk contrary to His commands”.)

So…are there any other Scriptures that link obedience to ALL of God and Christ’s commandments to having an abiding relationship with Him and Christ? Consider the following:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:17-19 (What an incentive plan!)

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in your name? And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  Matthew 7:21-23 (Note that “practicing lawlessness” isn’t only sinning – it’s living like “the law” doesn’t exist or “was done away with”, in whole or in part. Today, a great part of Christendom practices a religion that does away with a vital part of God’s law. The clear implication of these verses is that Christ will not accept their belief, their worship or their service – but He will “unplug” from them.)

“ Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock…” Matthew 7:24 (Not “believes” them – does them!)

“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”  Matthew 12:50

“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”  Matthew 15:7-9 (It is clearly evident that it is possible to be worshipping God “in vain” – which means the person so worshipping in vain can actually be oblivious to the fact.)

 “…if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  Matthew 19:17

If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15

Jesus said to them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is this first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-40 (In these verses Christ gives “two commandments” that sum up all the commandments that have to do with having an abiding relationship with Him. Some Christians think that these two “new” commandments therefore do away with all the others – including the Ten Commandments. But quite the contrary! Christ says that ALL the Law and the Prophets hangs on those two!)

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, “ do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither he day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”  Matthew 25:1-13 (Keep in mind that the five foolish virgins of this parable today would all be described as “saved, born-again, practicing believers” – but they weren’t obedient, they weren’t ready and they were “shut out”.)

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Matthew 15:10

He who has My commandments and keeps themit is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” John 14:21,23-24

But why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50

Then one said to Him, “Lord are there few who are saved?” And He said to them,  “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and not be able.  When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’  then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’  But he will say, I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves cast out.” Luke 13:23-28 (Note here that those cast out are “believers”! But they are believers who are “workers of iniquity” – which basically means disobedient, disloyal and non-allegiant.)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” John 8:51 (Note the operational word “keeps” – not “believes”, but “keeps”.)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (Note the implication that many “believers” will be deceiving themselves, thinking that hearing and believing is “enough”.)

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3 (A vital part of the obedience that is part of an abiding relationship with Christ is in keeping those things He commands us in the Book of Revelation – as in “coming out of Babylon” and not “receiving the Mark of the Beast”.)

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:17 (At the very end of time on this earth, God’s people will be characterized by keeping His commandments – all of His commandments. Again, note that it doesn’t say that the dragon – the devil – is enraged with those who “believe”, but with those who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ”.)

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or in his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God. Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:9-10,12 (On one hand here we have those who are deceived into worshipping the beast – and who will experience the just wrath of God. On the other hand, we have the “saints” who are kept safe and who are characterised by “keeping the commandments”.)

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”   Matthew 28:19-20 (Our commission is not only to be obedient – to all His commands – but also to teach others to observe all the things that He commanded.)

Repeatedly through Scripture, Jesus Christ Himself points to a simple, fundamental and vital aspect of our relationship with Him: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” He further mandates that we observe “all” things that he has commanded and that we teach others to do so also. In today’s world of confused Christianity, many represent that all God wants is for us “to accept Jesus” – requiring mere lip service.

Even in Paul’s day there were false ministers who were misrepresenting the genuine teachings of Christ. In the book of Luke, Christ questions why one would call Him Lord and not obey Him. James warns about empty, vain faith, stating that even the demons believe and that faith without works is dead. Many people today are like the Jews of Jesus’ day – believing in Him, but not obeying, lest they be put out of their churches – for they love the praise and favour of men more than the praise of God.

In being faithful, diligent and discerning in obedience to Jesus Christ, we need to seek after Scriptural truth to know we are truly being obedient to Christ and not to errors of tradition, apostasy or counterfeits of the devil.

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Copyright © 2010 Braden Caldwell
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