We talk about the courage needed to leave a place, the strength to move out into uncharted territories. We admire those who take to change like a boat to water, dipping their oar in for the next new adventure. This is the stuff of revolutions and gold rushes. But sometimes it takes just as much strength to stay put as it does to go. It's not easy facing the same dishes piled up in the same sink, the routine work week, the interminable habits that of course you don't have but that the people around you use continually to sharpen your character.
Remaining takes commitment. It puts up with the mundane. It chooses to love even when the glow of newness has faded. Remaining knows the value of longevity, loyalty, and hard work that eventually pays off. To remain is to know your labor is not in vain. It's to live with hope.
If we were to wake up in the era of John the Apostle, we would witness an upheaval from within the church, new and vogue ideas about Jesus were circulating---ideas contrary to what had been taught from the beginning. We'd see people leaving the church for "higher enlightenment", attempting to pull others with them.
In response to all the tumult, Johns plea was simple: Remain, Dwell, Abide. Don't leave the steadying truth that you know for the sparkle of new philosophies or the swell of cultural tides. Remain within Jesus and the fellowship of his Bride.
The practice of abiding is never more difficult than when we're surrounded by a host of other vines from which a lot of bubbly people are hanging--all happy in their flesh and darkness. You know, when everyone else's vine appears more thrilling than the one you're attached to. You look around and begin to believe the lies of the Enemy--that the way of Jesus is limiting and that his followers are outdated.
Suddenly you have this overwhelming pull to tie your branch up to that new belief system, the married man who's showing you attention, the higher paying job that will take you away from your children, the extra drink, the glance at pornography. We deceive ourselves into thinking new, interesting branches will offer more nourishment, so we spend our time hopping from vine to vine, looking for another place to dwell.
For a season I toyed with what it might look like to try to play in both places; a toe in the church and my heart in the world, but this is not what abiding means. Rather, such a lifestyle means a crack down the center of your being. Ultimately I couldn't live torn like that for reasons that have a whole lot to do with the mystery of abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in us. Because of this truth the Lord never lets me break away, and I'm forever indebted to Him. Praise God for us in Him and He in us, the latter being the most powerful of the two.
Perhaps you are in a similar position. You're wondering if the message of the gospel is really all it promises to be. The Christian walk you've known seems tired while the lust of the flesh appears to gallop across the fields with vigor and excitement.
But, the annointing that the world boasts of is counterfeit and its fleeting. It's not the real thing which is why the Apostle John says, "Do not let anyone deceive you". There are deceivers out there and people get deceived. One of Johns greatest passions was to keep the fellowship of the community intact, reminding the church that the constancy in Christ far outweighs the temporal electricity of those who'd move on for more "enlightening" ideas.
As I grow older, the more my heart yearns for stability. Not stagnancy, mind you--rather Immutability (constancy; being fixed) I long for what will never change, all that's constant in Jesus, promises that never fail, fellowship that will carry on for as long as forever. In a world of ceaseless change and dissenting opinions, how grounding it is to know that we can know. Especially when social spheres, media, and culture timelessly seek to persuade us to question our faith, to doubt Gods truth, to adhere to His Word selectively.
I can hear John calling out to his readers, "Dear little children, don't let the deceiving voices make you doubt what you know! You know His truth. You've confessed the Son and so you have the Father as well. Remain right where you are. This is your home. I know the voices are familiar, people who were once close to you. But don't forsake what you've heard from the beginning--the gospel that rung so true the moment you heard it, the moment it changed you."