Having told His disciples to “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4; NKJV), Jesus now goes on to explain the practical implications of that. What does it mean to “abide in Christ”?
He begins by saying, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (V. 9). This goes back to what He had said earlier in Chapter 14, verse 21: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” As we have seen, this is a reference to God’s “love of complacence,” or His “complacent love,” as we might call it, the type of in which God is genuinely please with us and wants to have fellowship with us, as opposed to the compassionate love that He has for the entire world of lost sinners (the English word “complacent” comes from the Latin verb “complaceo” which means “to please exceedingly”). In this case Jesus says that “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” Jesus was the Father’s only begotten Son; the Father loved His Son dearly. This also, Jesus says, is the way He loves His disciples. They were dear to Him. They had followed Him; they had made sacrifices for Him, and as a result He genuinely loved Him.
But having established the fact of His love, He then tells them to “abide in My love.” The quality of our fellowship with Christ is variable, depending on the extent to which we love Him and consciously seek to serve Him. But if we wander and stray we lose the benefit of close fellowship with Him. Our hearts grow cold, we become preoccupied with the things of this world, and we see little spiritual fruit in our lives.
But the Jesus goes on to reiterate something else that He had said earlier: “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” (v. 10). The true measure of our love and devotion to Christ is our willingness to obey His commandments. And here He points to His own example: He was willing to obey His Father’s commandments, even thought that meant going to the cross and sacrificing everything. But in so doing He was abiding in His Father’s love – He obeyed because He loved the Father, and the Father loved Him in return. And so we are required to be imitators of Christ, and to love Him the same way that He loved the Father – with a self-sacrificing love that is willing to surrender all. Again, as we have noted before, this involves keeping His commandments. We are not to go through life living for ourselves. Jesus is our Lord and Master; He has given us commandments to obey, and we must pay close attention to what He has said and follow His instructions for our lives. Christian discipleship is not a program of self-indulgence!
Does this sound grim and depressing? It should not. For Jesus goes on to say, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (v. 11). It may seem paradoxical – how can we experience joy by surrendering all the joys and pleasures of this life? But true joy, lasting joy, is the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It is the sense of Christ’s love toward us. It triumphs over adversity and lasts for all eternity.
How much do we lose because we do not live for Him? For too many of us our faith is but an empty shell and our lives our spiritually barren and fruitless. We have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. We can experience the Christian life as it was meant to be experienced only by returning to Christ and seeking the restoration of fellowship with Him. We are missing out on so much. Let us turn around and set our sight on Him!