St. John’s message this morning is a timely one, coming as it does at the end of another civil year. December 31 is a time to contemplate the sorrows and joys of the previous year, to anticipate with hope the new year, to examine ourselves for what we did wrong last year, and to resolve to be more faithful in the new year.
And so John’s theme of abiding in Christ is a most timely one. John is concerned that the little children who God has entrusted to Him would not fall away but would abide in Jesus Christ. He knows that some who love the world or the things of the world are likely to be tempted away. He knows as well that there are false teachers or antichrists roaming the earth, willing to lead away any sheep who is willing to stray from its Master.
What is the key to abiding in Christ? How can we protect ourselves and our little ones from antichrists? The key lies in understanding the nature of “Christ.” Sometimes we forget and think that “Christ” was Jesus’ surname, that he was Jesus Christ in the same way I am Charles Erlandson. But “Christ” is His title, and it means “Anointed One.” Jesus is the Anointed One, the One anointed by God to redeem the world. At His Baptism, Jesus Christ was anointed by John and the Holy Spirit to become the Messiah or Christ.
At His Baptism, Jesus the Christ was given all three anointed offices of the Old Testament, for in His Baptism He was anointed prophet, priest, and king. He is the Prophet, the one who will completely speak the Word of the Lord because He is the Word of the Lord and the complete revelation of the Father. He is the High Priest who offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice in Himself, the perfect Temple. And He is the King of kings who reigns at the right hand of the Father.
Jesus is the Anointed One, and He is our protection from antichrists. These antichrists I take to mean anything that sets itself up against the true Christ. They include in their numbers all false teachers but I believe should also include the things of the world that tempt us away from the Christ. There is a clear opposition here. One the one side you have the Christ, the Anointed One, and on the other side you have all antichrists who set themselves up against God’s Anointed one and His rule.
The secret, therefore to withstanding the temptations of the antichrists in our lives is to abide in the true Christ. By abiding in Christ we are made Christians, little Christs, anointed ones. To attempt to fight the antichrists on our own power is, in fact, to begin to act like an antichrist. The whole premise of being an antichrist is autonomy or “self rule” apart from the Christ and His rule in our lives. Therefore, the only way to defeat the antichrists is to abide or continue in the true Christ.
But how can we do this? First, we should remember that as Christians we too are anointed ones, not on our own merits but as we abide in Christ, the true Anointed One. There are no anointed ones outside of union with Christ: only antichrists pretending to be Christ. At your baptism, you too were anointed because you were baptized into Jesus Christ and were brought into a covenantal relationship with the true Christ. Through baptism you have an anointing so that Christ abides in you and you in Him.
But baptism is not sufficient, and here is where the importance of time comes in, here at the end of another year. In baptism you were anointed with the Anointed One. But baptism by itself cannot help you to abide in the Anointed One. To abide in the Anointed One, which is to abide in your own anointing, you must abide in the things which you have learned from the beginning (verse 24).
There are two main ways that Christians abide in their anointing. First, since baptism is your anointing, you should abide in this sacramental anointing by abiding in Christ in His Supper as often as you can. “The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” By feeding off Christ, we Christians abide in Him and He in us.
But there is another way, and that is the faithful hearing of the Word. “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father” (verse 24). The reason I have called these meditations Give Us This Day is because it is through the Word that the Father gives us our daily bread, the food we need to abide in Him. So closely is the Christ related to the Bible that they are both called the Word of God. The bread and wine are just bread and wine: but God has chosen to use them to bring His Son to us. The ink and paper are just ink and paper, the oral words we hear are just compressions of air molecules: but God has chosen to use them to bring His Son to us.
John speaks of an anointing in us that is abiding. It is not a one-time, static action but is an active, alive, daily living in the Christ.
If you want to abide in Christ and have Him abide in you; if you want to avoid the temptations of the antichrists who are still in the world and are even in the church – then seek Him every day. This abiding in Christ is not an On/Off switch so that you are either abiding or not. If this were so, then it would be easier to see when we have stopped abiding in Him. Instead, we abide in Him the way the branches abide in a vine. There is to be such an organic union of our lives that we are constantly feeding on Him and living in Him.
To abide in the Anointed One, to be anointed ones, we must truly abide or live in Him every day. We must use every means He has given us to consciously turn to Him every day and every hour.
And, since we are beginning a new year, it is appropriate to spend some extra time today vowing to turn to Him this year. During the course of a year and during the course of a lifetime, it is easy to forget the things we were taught at the beginning. But now is the time to return to and abide in the things we have heard from the beginning. And what we have heard is Jesus the Christ.
Prayer: Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God, I praise You because You always abide in the Father and the Father in You. Thank You for sharing Your eternal life with me by making me your anointed one. By the anointing of Your Holy Spirit please help me to abide in You each day. Especially at the beginning of this new year, help me to abide in the things which I have heard from the beginning. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Write down 3 practical steps you will take this year to abide more fully in Christ. Treat these as your New Year’s resolutions.
- Review the various resolutions you have made this year, in your meditating on Scripture through Give Us This Day. What things has God been most impressing you with this year? Keep a permanent list of these that you may continue to listen to God in this New Year.
Resolution: I resolve to more faithfully abide in Christ this year. I further resolve to write down 3 practical things I will do to more faithfully abide in Him.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson