Abide and Obey: A Powerful Summary of New Testament Teaching

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If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. (John 14:15-21 NIV)

In some sense, the entire New Testament outside of the Gospels can be summarized by “abide and obey.” We see Jesus doing just that throughout the Gospels, and commanding his followers to do the same going forward. The Epistles are centered around what it means and how it looks to abide and obey. As you read today in John 14 and 15, it is important to note that these two things are intimately linked. For example, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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” (John 15:9–10 ESV).

Obeying is abiding. Abiding is obeying. The themes of obedience, God’s active presence through his Holy Spirit, complete joy, and real love are all wrapped up together. As we’ve learned, one of the key works of the Holy Spirit is transforming each one of us to be more and more like Jesus. Cooperation with the Spirit in this work involves surrendering to God and obeying him as he reveals his will.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom. 12:1–2 NLT)

It’s submitting to God’s will—making his will more important than our will—and then doing what he tells us to do. It’s starting what he commands to start, continuing what he tells us to continue, and ending what he desires us to end.

A final thought about abiding and obeying. In our abiding, we need to be aware of God’s grace to us in our failures to obey. It is so easy for us to slip into a human-centered religious perspective that makes obeying the prerequisite for God being present with us in love. God pursued us and Jesus died for us while we were sinners; his love is not earned by our obedience.

Closing Exercise

Review your calendar over the past two weeks or start today and review each day forward for two weeks. Take note of the time you spend abiding in God—spending time focused on him and his presence in your life. Also look for time munchers—activities that produce no fruit in terms of loving God, loving others, serving God, or serving others. Ask God to renew your mind about these activities and try to create space to abide more in God as you eliminate fruitless activity.

Do you hunger for more—more from life, more from yourself, more from God? So many people in our churches have not regularly experienced good news, comfort, wholeness, freedom, joyous energy, or beauty. So many have stalled in becoming who God intends them to be. Perhaps you, those you love, or those you lead feel this way. The Experience: Breaking Through the Barriers That Block Spiritual Growth is a short tool that provides a clear map of the abundant living journey, the obstacles that prevent progress, and offers fresh fuel for moving forward once again. Get it from our store here.

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After more than a decade in engineering and business—and running from a call to ministry he received in high school—Rob Mehner was hired as an associate by a local church to help with their exponential growth. While working in that church, he received his master of divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and was ordained in the United Methodist Church. But it was the work of God through the Holy Spirit, after years of spiritual stagnation, that changed his life, empowered his call, and inspired the class that God has used to change many lives and from which this study is born. Rob and his wife, Kristy, have two adult children, Stefan and Casey. After twenty years of pastoral ministry in local churches, he is serving as a missionary in Guatemala.

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