By Dr. Andrew Farley, iBelieve.com
In fact, that is part of my story. I would visit halfway houses, jails, prisons—anywhere I could go to tell people about Jesus. I was sharing Christ with everyone I met, I was in church every time the doors were open, and I was reading my Bible four and five hours a day. And yet, I still didn't feel like I was getting closer to God. My whole formula was broken.
But then, I discovered where I'd gone wrong.
Closeness is Not Progressive
I was looking at closeness as something progressive, but the New Testament never talks about closeness with God that way. We have to remember that we are in union with Christ. Closeness with God is a gift. The Scripture says we are close to God through the Cross—not through what we're doing. We’re also close to God because of the Resurrection—we are raised up with Christ and seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6, 13). We are one with Christ and partakers of His divine nature. I don’t think you can get any closer than that!
1 Corinthians 6:17 says: “Anyone who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Is there any way you can improve upon that? Can you get any closer than one spirit with the Lord? Scripture tells us in Romans 6 that we are “united with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection.” You just can't get any closer than God has already made you.
So, it’s not about how many more hours of Bible study you’ll do, or how many more Sunday services you’ll attend in order to be closer to God. And it’s not about how much more you need to serve until you deserve the right to feel close to God. I've got some great news for you—Jesus Christ made you perfectly clean and perfectly close forever.
Abiding in Christ
The idea of abiding in Christ is also important to understand. Jesus commanded, “Abide in me and I in you.” Of course, that was an invitation to live in Him. He issued that invitation 2,000 years ago to the disciples and to the Jews surrounding Him. I’m sure they didn't understand it then, but we are privileged to understand it today. Because we have responded to the invitation of the Gospel, we live in Christ and Christ lives in us. That is what it means to abide. I abide in Texas. I don't have to wake up every day and try to abide in Texas. I don't worry about abiding in Texas. I don't worry about whether I live there. I simply do! Neither should you worry about abiding in Christ.
Jesus says anyone who doesn't abide in Him is like a branch that is burned. This doesn’t describe a believer! We are not punished for our sins, because we do abide in Him. As one who has accepted Christ, you are a branch that abides (lives) permanently in Him. Abiding isn’t some sort of work that you need to maintain. Recognize that Christ took you out of Adam and placed you in Christ, and now you abide in Him forever.
Finding God’s Will
Many of us worry a great deal about trying to find God’s will, getting in it, and staying in it. After all, we don’t want to “fall out” of God’s will!
I remember being really confused about this as I was growing up. I was constantly trying to find God's will—where I was supposed to live, who I was supposed to marry, what job I should have, etc. I was worried that I would fall out of God's will and thereby fall out of fellowship with Him because of it. Ultimately, I was paralyzed by fear. So, I decided to study Scripture for myself to see what it really said about God’s will.
Here’s what I found: I discovered that God's will is that none should perish and that all would believe. That is God's heart; that's His agenda. He wants everyone to believe. Furthermore, God's will is that we bear much fruit, and God's will is that we pray without ceasing (talking to Dad!). In other words, God's will is Jesus—Jesus saving us, living in us, and causing us to bear fruit.
It seems so simple when you put it like this: God's will is Jesus. And yet, we have a hard time accepting that it could be this simple. If we aren’t careful, we turn right back around and make it into a works-based righteousness. If you’re like me, you have worried about the next decision—am I going to make the wrong choice and fall out of God's favor? Is God going to hit me with difficult circumstances, because I didn't choose rightly according to His will? It's paralyzing. You end up like a deer in the headlights!
But if it really is as simple as God’s will being Jesus in us and Jesus expressed through us, this means that God is behind every choice and every door. If Christ lives in us and we are in perfect union with Him, then no matter which door we walk through, He is still there in us, in perfect union with us, no matter what.
This means we can wake up every day and simply “play the game.” You wouldn’t play a game of basketball and constantly ask, “Am I OK? Did I foul?” No! You’d play the game—you’d dribble down the court, make some passes, and take some shots. Maybe you’d fall down and skin your knees; but you’d get back up, you’d learn, and you’d grow. That's what the Christian life is like. We learn and we grow, and Christ goes with us through every ounce of it. He never leaves us, and He never forsakes us. God's will is Jesus Christ. Since you’re in Him forever, you’ll never fall out of God’s will!
Dr. Andrew Farley is a best-selling author, the Lead Pastor of The Grace Church and president of The Grace Message, which exists to proclaim the finished work of Jesus Christ and the love and grace of God with boldness and clarity. His new book, The Grace Message, released from Salem Books on March 8. Learn more about Dr. Farley at www.andrewfarley.org.