It’s nothing new. We like the benefits of being near Christ.
Having Him around is good for us. It’s good for society. It benefits our marriages, families, businesses, and finances. He makes people ethical. He influences people to be moral. It’s all good. It’s arguable that Christians who take their faith seriously are (by and large) less likely to lie, cheat, and steal.
Churches can be good places to find decent people, even marriage partners. And if we align with large congregations, we’ll probably find they offer counseling services, financial aid for those in crisis, youth workers for our kids, MOPS groups for young moms, and so many other benefits. And the list continues. It’s good to be near Christ.
But being in proximity to Christ — near Christ — is not nearly the same as abiding in Christ (John 15:4).
In ancient Israel, God delivered a stinging rebuke to His people, through the prophet Isaiah. “This people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13).
Nearly 800 years later, Jesus repeated those words (Matthew 15:8) to describe the Pharisees and scribes, the most religious people of His day. They had a remarkable commitment to Scripture, to moral living, and to religious disciplines. They enjoyed the benefits of being near God, but remained at arm’s length from God.
Might this also be true at times of us?
In John 15, Jesus declares that our best lives come from abiding in Him. This is not the language of proximity, but the language of intimacy.
Churches often attract people who like to be near Christ. Christianity has, historically, brought healthcare, education, and prosperity to cultures. We like that. Who wouldn’t? But Christ intends more for us. While He shapes cultures, He also renovates hearts — our hearts — as we press into Him.
Transformational discipleship involves more than mere association with Christ. It calls for complete abandonment to Him.
What might “abiding” look like for you this weekend?