The Gospel of John, in chapter 15, records Jesus words,
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (v. 4).
From these words, we see the idea set forth that ‘abiding’ in Christ, and Christ’s abiding in us, is essential for, and vital to, a Christian’s sanctification.
I find Michael Polanyi’s work on Personal Knowledge to be quite helpful in understanding the idea of abiding. Polanyi often referred to the idea of ‘indwelling’ as the means of true personal knowledge. Indwelling describes the act of ‘tuning in’ to an object of knowledge. From his experience as a scientist, he came to the conclusion that true knowledge did not essentially come from following particular methods of inquiry or perfectly performing experiments according to the scientific method, etc. Rather, this is only an aspect of knowledge (and a superficial one at that).
True knowledge, he argued, comes from actually indwelling the object of study. Mars Hill Audio’s program, Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing, devoted to Polanyi’s life and thought, uses the example of violin and cello makers to demonstrate the point. The great craftsmen, like Stradivarius, did not simply follow blueprints and methods. Rather, they worked by feel. But this working by feel was not random. Rather their work stemmed from the imitation of skilled workers (from studying as an apprentice, learning at the feet of a master) and through much careful thought and reflection, as well as hands on experience. All of this combined to create excellence.
All of this is a part of ‘abiding’ in an object. It stems from focused concentration, apprenticeship, imitation, and regular contemplation in order to ‘tune in’ to an object of knowledge. Since I have used the phrase ‘tune in’ a couple of times, let me illustrate its meaning like this (this is taken from Polanyi):
In order to have true working knowledge of a hammer (that is, to know it in such a way as to use it correctly), one must ‘indwell’ the hammer. That is, as one strikes a nail, he must almost forget that the hammer is even present. He assumes the hammer’s presence, but in reality, the hammer becomes, as it were, an extension of his own arm. That is tuning in, that is abiding.
The Scripture calls us to indwell Christ in much the same way. And this happens through discipleship, imitation, and meditation (all by the power and aid of the Holy Spirit), with the result of bearing fruit (sanctification).
Psalm 1 pronounces the man blessed who delights in, and meditates upon the ‘Law of the LORD’ day and night. The result of this is that
He shall be like a growing tree planted by the waterside
Which in its season yields its fruit and has a leaf that does not die (v. 3).
Christians must not accept the Buddhist idea of meditation. Meditation is not the emptying of the mind, or following a specific routine, or trying to reach a nirvana-like status. Rather, biblically –
Meditation is effortful contemplation on the Holy Scriptures (both in short bursts and sustained reasonings), with an aim toward the application of its teaching (read doctrine) to ourselves, our situation, and the world in which we live.
But this is not specific enough, so we must flesh it out:
The Psalmist writes that we are to meditate upon ‘the Law of the LORD.’ This entails not only the five books of Moses (though they are certainly intended as well), but all of the Scriptures – specifically as they relate to Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ IS the blessed man of Psalm 1. He never so much as walked into sin (v. 1). Rather, he delighted in God’s Law and meditated upon it day and night (v. 2). And thus he spiritually prospered in he did (v. 3). Therefore Christ is the definitive example of the blessed man described here.
Yet he is not only our example, but also the object of meditation – for the Law of the LORD points to him. He is the Law-Giver. The Law is derived from His character. He is the purpose of the Law as well, being that the Law is meant to drive us to his perfect obedience in our behalf and his substitutionary sacrifice for our law breaking.
Therefore, the supreme object of of our meditation ought to be Jesus Christ – his person, his work, his gospel.
This, along with the imitation of Christ through discipleship, is the primary means God uses to sanctify his people, causing them to bear fruit. It is through the contemplation of Christ that his image is built up within us. It is through the focused attention and application of Christ to our own situations that the ‘leaf mould’ of our minds is formed around him, stamping his likeness upon us beginning from the inside.
Think much of Christ therefore. Think of his life and death. Think of his resurrection. Think of his glory. Think of his power and weakness, of his majesty and meekness, of his glory and grace, of his exaltation and humiliation. Think of his beauty, and holiness, and love. Think much of him.
This is not a burden. This is not a call that demands you become a scholar. Rather this is a joy and privilege. This is not a weight or a law under which you are yoked. Rather this is liberty. As the Apostle says, ‘the mind set on the flesh is death. But to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.’ Tuning into Christ with our minds is being spiritually minded. And this is life and peace.
Use the mind YOU have, and use it for all its worth. In this there will be much glory and gain and gladness.
What a joy that God calls us not only to think, but to think of the most desirable object to which we might direct our thoughts. And that in beholding this object, Jesus Christ, we might be transformed ‘into that same glory, from one degree to another.’
Our blessedness comes through his blessedness, as we believe in him. And believing in him for justification, we now fill the mind with him unto sanctification. Would you have life and peace? Would you bear fruit? Would you prosper in all that you do? Then fix the mind on Christ. Abide in him as you tune in to him in the invisible world of the mind.