In the past two days, we have seen that all the promises of joy, peace, love, strength and rest are tied to the condition of abiding in Jesus. But do we ever question whether such a blessed life is possible for us?
Is it possible, a life of unbroken fellowship with the Saviour? Eminent Christians, to whom special opportunities of cultivating this grace have been granted, may attain to it; for the large majority of disciples, whose life, by a divine appointment, is so fully occupied with the affairs of this life, it can scarce be expected.
I think this accurately describes what many Christians think. We have this idea of hierarchy in the church: the leaders are the holy and godly people who seem so at peace with Christ, and everyone else sees this grace as a bonus, an add-on to salvation. They think they live in the ‘real’ world while the spiritual leaders have the luxury of attending to spiritual things. Some do really desire to be like their spiritual elders and try extremely hard to imitate them but fail to achieve this bonus. They fail simply because it is not a bonus. As long as they consider it a bonus, they will never succeed. Their idea of grace is plain wrong:
The idea they have of grace is this–that their conversion and pardon are God’s work, but that now, in gratitude to God, it is their work to live as Christians, and follow Jesus. There is always the thought of a work that has to be done, and even though they pray for help, still the work is theirs. They fail continually, and become hopeless; and the despondency only increases the helplessness.
Murray seeks to correct our understanding of the relationship between Christ’s work and our work. He does not wish that we fail continually and become hopeless. Therefore, he wants us to see that as Christ gives us grace to come, so He also gives us grace to abide. Just as the grace to come is solely the work of Christ, so the grace to abide is solely the work of Christ.
And if the question be asked, “But surely there is something for us to do?” the answer is, “Our doing and working are but the fruit of Christ’s work in us.” It is when the soul becomes utterly passive, looking and resting on what Christ is to do, that its energies are stirred to their highest activity, and that we work most effectually because we know that He works in us.
This sounds ridiculously simple! At heart, we all know how to rest. We enjoy lying in on the weekends, in the illusion that we will not have to confront for a little while more the responsibilities and worries that the world places on us. We immerse ourselves in things like computer games, where it seems we’re no longer troubled by this world, absorbed by the realities of a virtual world, where failure can be easily rectified with a restart. We waste away in front of the TV, enamoured by the lives of others, so that we will not have to scrutinise our own. We get involved in all sorts of recreational sport, enjoying the rush of endorphins when engaged in fierce competition, not having to worry about anything else but the present game. Victory or defeat, though we always like to walk away as the victors, are ultimately inconsequential, and the memory of it only lasts till the next game, where bragging rights are either retained or relinquished.
The problem is we rest in the wrong things. We grow bored of our computer games, we constantly switch the channels on our TV, we eventually have to get out of bed, and age catches up with even the best of sportsmen. These things do not offer rest. Our ultimate rest can be found in Jesus alone. And it is as we do this, resting in the knowledge of who Christ is, what He has done for us, and what He is presently doing, that we are strengthened to do every good work.
And so if you think this good work is unattainable, if you think that abiding in Christ is too difficult, this is the knowledge of Christ Paul offers as an encouragement:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:12
The thing which Paul speaks of obtaining is the reality of becoming one with Jesus, of being found in Him. And the reason Paul can press on to make this reality his own, the reality of being found in Jesus, is simply because Jesus Himself has made Paul His own possession. This then is the truth about Christ that we should fix our hearts and minds on, that Christ has made us His own! The confidence that we can truly abide in Christ comes not from the strength of our will but from this very truth. It is not our work; it is His work. If we trust that Christ can accomplish this in us, to make us one with Himself, if we fix our eyes intently on this truth, then we can take this leap of faith – to surrender ourselves wholly to Him that He might abide in us.
Remember from our reading on Day Two that it is not the yoke that is difficult, but our resistance to the yoke. This resistance can be broken down if we fix our eyes on the truth that Jesus has made us His own. Do you not trust that the One who saved you has power enough to keep you abiding in Him, the source of all love and joy and peace and strength? Yield then to Him, that He might work this in you.
And if ever doubts again arise, or the bitter experience of failure tempt you to despair, just remember where Paul found His strength: “I am apprehended of Jesus Christ.” In that assurance you have a fountain of strength. From that you can look up to the whereunto on which He has set His heart, and set yours there too. From that you gather confidence that the good work He hath begun He will also perform. And in that confidence you will gather courage, day by day, afresh to say, ” `I follow on, that I may also apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.’ It is because Jesus has taken hold of me, and because Jesus keeps me, that I dare to say: Saviour, I abide in Thee. “