1. Like Christ: Because We Abide In Him.
"He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walkeven as He walked."ó1 John 2:6.
Abiding in Christ and walking like Christ: these are the two blessings of the new life which are here set before us in their essential unity. The fruit of a life in Christ is a life like Christ.
To the first of these expressions, abiding in Christ, we are no strangers. The wondrous parable of the Vine and the branches, with the accompanying command, "Abide in me, and I in you," has often been to us a source of rich instruction and comfort. And though we feel as if we had but very imperfectly learned the lesson of abiding in Him, yet we have tasted something of the joy that comes when the soul can say: Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I do abide in Thee. And He knows too how often the fervent prayer still arises: Blessed Lord, do grant me the complete unbroken abiding.
The second expression, walking like Christ, is not less significant than the first. It is the promise of the wonderful power which the abiding in Him will exert. As the fruit of our surrender to live wholly in Him, His life works so mightily in us, that our walk, the outward expression of the inner life, becomes like His. The two are inseparably connected. The abiding in always precedes the walking like Him. And yet the aim to walk like Him must equally precede any large measure of abiding. Only then is the need for a close union fully realized, or is the Heavenly Giver free to bestow the fulness of His grace, because He sees that the soul is prepared to use it according to His design. When the Saviour said, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love," He meant just this: the surrender to walk like me is the path to the full abiding in me. Many a one will discover that just here is the secret of his failure in abiding in Christ; he did not seek it with the view of walking like Christ. The words of St. John invite us to look at the two truths in their vital connection and dependence on each other.
The first lesson they teach is: He that seeks; to abide in Christ must walk even as He walked. We all know that it is a matter of course that a branch bears fruit of the same sort as the vine to which it belongs. The life of the vine and the branch is so completely identical, that the manifestation of that life must be identical too. When the Lord Jesus redeemed us with His blood, and presented us to the Father in His righteousness, He did not leave us in our old nature to serve God as best we could. No; in Him dwelt the eternal life, the holy divine life of heaven, and every one who is in Him receives from Him that same eternal life in its holy heavenly power. Hence nothing can be more natural than the claim that he that abides in Him, continually receiving life from Him, must also so walk even as He walked.
This mighty life of God in the soul does not, however, work as a blind force, compelling us ignorantly or involuntarily to act like Christ. On the contrary, the walking like Him must come as the result of a deliberate choice, sought in strong desire, accepted of a living will. With this view, the Father in heaven showed us in Jesusí earthly life what the life of heaven would be when it came down into the conditions and circumstances of our human life. And with the same object the Lord Jesus, when we receive the new life from Him, and when He calls us to abide in Him, that we may receive that life more abundantly, ever points us to His own life on earth, and tells us that it is to walk even as He walked that the new life has been bestowed. "Even as I, so ye also:" that word of the Master takes His whole earthly life, and very simply makes it the rule and guide of all our conduct. If we abide in Jesus, we may not act otherwise than He did. "Like Christ" gives in one short all-inclusive word the blessed law of the Christian life. He is to think, to speak, to act as Jesus did; as Jesus was, even so is he to be.
The second lesson is the complement of the first: He that seeks to walk like Christ, must abide in Him.
There is a twofold need of this lesson. With some there is the earnest desire and effort to follow Christís example, without any sense of the impossibility of doing so, except by deep, real abiding in Him. They fail because they seek to obey the high command to live like Christ, without the only power that can do soóthe living in Christ. With others there is the opposite error; they know their own weakness, and count the walking like Christ an impossibility. As much as those who seek to do it and who fail, do those who do not seek because they expect to fail, need the lesson we are enforcing. To walk like Christ one must abide in Him; he that abides in Him has the power to walk like Him; not indeed in himself or his own efforts, but in Jesus, who perfects His strength in our weakness. It is just when I feel my utter impotence most deeply, and fully accept Jesus in His wondrous union to myself as my life, that His power works in me, and I am able to lead a life completely beyond what my power could obtain. I begin to see that abiding in Him is not a matter of moments or special seasons, but the deep life process in which, by His keeping grace, I continue without a momentís intermission, and from which I act out all my Christian life. And I feel emboldened really to take Him in everything as my example, because I am sure that the hidden inner union and likeness must work itself out into a visible likeness in walk and conduct.
Dear reader! if God give us grace, in the course of our meditations, truly to enter into the meaning of these His words, and what they teach of a life in very deed like Christís, we shall more than once come into the presence of heights and depths that will make us cry out, How can these things be? If the Holy Spirit reveal to us the heavenly perfection of the humanity of our Lord as the image of the unseen God, and speaks to us, "so, even so ought ye also to walk," the first effect will be that we shall begin to feel at what a distance we are from Him. We shall be ready to give up hope, and to say with so many, It avails not to attempt it: I never can walk like Jesus. At such moments we shall find our strength in the messaoe, He that abideth in Him, he must, he can, also so walk even as He walked. The word of the Master will come with new meaning as the assurance of strength sufficient: He that abideth in me beareth much fruit.
Therefore, brother, abide in Him! Every believer is in Christ; but not every one abides in Him, in the consciously joyful and trustful surrender of the whole being, to His influence. You know what abiding in Him is. It is to consent with our whole soul to His being our life, to reckon upon Him to inspire us in all that goes to make up life, and then to give up everything most absolutely for Him to rule and work in us. It is the rest of the full assurance that He does, each moment, work in us what we are to be, and so Himself enables us to maintain that perfect surrender, in which He is free to do all His will. Let all who do indeed long to walk like Christ take courage at the thought of what He is and will prove Himself to be if they trust Him. He is the True Vine; no vine ever did so fully for its branches what He will do for us. We have only to consent to be branches. Honour Him by a joyful trust that He is, beyond all conception, the True Vine, holding you by His almighty strength, supplying you from His infinite fulness. And as your faith thus looks to Him, instead of sighing and failure, the voice of praise will be heard repeating the language of faith: Thanks be to God! he that abideth in Him does walk even as He walked. Thanks be to God! I abide in Him, and I walk as He walked. Yes, thanks be to God! in the blessed life of Godís redeemed these two are inseparably one: abiding in Christ and walking like Christ.
Blessed Saviour! Thou knowest how often I have said to Thee, Lord, I do abide in Thee! And yet I sometimes feel that the full joy and power of life in Thee is wanting. Thy word this day has reminded me of what may be the reason of failure. I sought to abide in Thee more for my own comfort and growth than Thy glory. I did not apprehend fully how the hidden union with Thee had for its object perfect conformity to Thee, and how only he who wholly yields himself to serve and obey the Father as completely as Thou didst, can fully receive all that the heavenly love can do for him. I now see something of it: the entire surrender to live and work like Thee must precede the full experience of the wondrous power of Thy life.
Lord, I thank Thee for the discovery. With my whole heart I would accept Thy calling, and yield myself in everything to walk even as Thou didst walk. To be Thy faithful follower in all Thou wert and didst on earth, be the one desire of my heart.
Blessed Lord! he that truly yields himself to walk as Thou didst walk, will receive grace wholly to abide in Thee. O my Lord! here I am. To walk like Christ! for this I do indeed consecrate myself to Thee. To abide in Christ! for this I trust in Thee with full assurance of faith. Perfect in me Thine own work.
And let Thy Holy Spirit help me, O my Lord each time I meditate on what it is to walk like Thee, to hold fast the blessed truth: as one who abides in Christ, I have the strength to walk liks Christ. Amen.