Sunday, July 10, 2016

Abiding in Christ

by Nicky Smith

Christ's parable of the true vine
In John 15, Christ states that he is the true vine and we are the branches. Those branches that bear fruit are purged in order to produce more fruit and become clean, while those branches that do not produce fruit are burned in the fire. 
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Jesus says that the key to producing fruit and not being burned is abiding in Christ. Abide literally means "to accept" or "to remain with." Christ continues to explain what he means. 
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
A person abiding in Christ possesses Christ's word (light and truth) and is obedient to it. These people are considered Christ's disciples, and can eventually become his friends when they are completely obedient to him.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Anyone who receives Christ's word will be given difficult experiences. Obtaining light and truth is not sufficient to become like Christ. We need experience (or trials) in order to become purified. This is what Christ referred to as purging.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
As we are given both the words of Christ (truth) and experiences, we can use them to sanctify ourselves. This is how we become "clean" and bear more fruit. Eventually our heart becomes pure and we can be in the presence of Christ. Without a pure heart, he cannot appear to us. 
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3)
As we move along this path, we grow in love for God and others (see 1 John 15:10-14). 

Jesus' parable of the vine explains the process of sanctification and what we need to do in order to be in his and the Father's presence. It begins with obeying the word of Christ through the Holy Ghost until we are purified, then being admitted into the presence of Christ and continuing to obey what we are taught until we are ready to enter the presence of the Father. At this point we have enough of Christ's word in us and we have shown through experience that we can be completely trusted. Then, we can be told,
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
The teachings of John
John further explores this idea of abiding in Christ in 1 John 2-3. 
1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2)
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3)
18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. (1 John 5)
All blessings are predicated upon particular laws (D&C 130:20-21). Each kingdom (Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial) has a set of laws (D&C 88:36). If you live the Telestial law, you will be sanctified by that law and can obtain the blessings associated with that law. If you live the Terrestrial law, you will be sanctified by that law and obtain those blessings, and so on. The blessings of each kingdom are outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 76. It is worth studying, but simply put, those living the Telestial law can be ministered to by the Holy Ghost and angels (D&C 76:86, 88). Those living the Terrestrial law can be ministered to by Christ (D&C 76:77), while those living the Celestial law can be in the presence of and ministered to by the Father (D&C 76:62). 
 34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same. 35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still. (D&C 88) 
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom. 22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. 23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. 24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory. (D&C 88)
So if Christ is not appearing to me regularly, I would know that I am not living the Terrestrial law. But, if I am experiencing the ministration of the Holy Ghost regularly, then I know I am living the Telestial law. Our experiences will give us an indication of the laws we are living and not living.

When we obtain Christ's word (either from others, the scriptures, or the Holy Ghost), it will require repentance from us. We will be told the things that need to be changed in our lives and hearts. John says that we get to the point where we no longer sin. But, what this means is that we begin living a higher law and we are no longer breaking that higher law. Although this leads to greater blessings than previously experienced, we're still not living even higher laws. 

In other words, imagine you are living the Telestial law. Not living the Terrestrial law means you are breaking that law. Your sins prevent you from living the Terrestrial law and you need to repent. As you stop committing those sins, you now begin to live the Terrestrial law and reap the blessings from doing so. But are you perfect even though you have repented of your sins? No! You learn through revelation of higher laws (Celestial laws) and you realize you are not keeping them (it should be clear since you are not enjoying the presence of the Father). So, as you progress, it's not that you necessarily stop sinning altogether, but you stop breaking Telestial laws and then Terrestrial laws and so on. The more you progress the more you will see where you are still sinning. Eventually you get to the point where you are like Christ and you are perfect.

Right now, I am living in such a way that the Holy Ghost can teach me (I am living the Telestial law, but not the Terrestrial one). As I have asked what I need to do in order to see Christ, I have been told what I need to repent of. First, I was told what outward sins I needed to quit doing and then as I was obedient to those commands, I was told about things in my heart that I needed to remove, which were mostly just observable to myself. The Spirit has taught me that if I want to see Christ, he demands a pure heart. So, as I have been shown the aspects of my heart that aren't pure, I have been changing those things and I am getting to the point where I no longer do those things. I have begged and pleaded for truth and experiences to help me overcome them and it has been incredibly painful. One day, I hope to be pure and I know when I reach that point, Christ will unveil his face to me. This is the point where I am keeping the Terrestrial law and no longer committing Telestial sins. I then will continue on the path of sanctification until I am able to be introduced to the Father. This means that I have moved to a place where I am living a Celestial law and no longer breaking it. Each time I ascend, I am no longer sinning according to the lower law. As John says, "sin in the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). 
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1)
As we overcome our weaknesses and purify our hearts, we will learn why loving God and loving others are the first two commandments. As I have been told to overcome malice, selfishness, pride, jealousy, and so on, I have seen that the only way to do so is to learn to truly love others. We cannot commit Telestial sins and love others as Christ does. They are opposites of each other. As we repent, we eventually will get to the point where we can love like Christ. This is part of the process of becoming Celestial and we can be in the presence of the Father.
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (1 John 2)
20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. (1 John 3)
This is the path that Christ walked to get to where he is. There is no other way but to do exactly as Christ has done. As Paul said, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered (see Hebrews 5:8).
6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. (1 John 2) 
John then explains that this process involves learning not to love the things of this world and our flesh. What this Telestial world has to offer is only temporary and in fact, is just an illusion. 
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2)
The Holy Ghost (John refers to this as an unction or anointing from the Holy One) will teach us all things. The more we continue down this path, the less others can teach us and the more we are required to learn straight from heaven itself, until we get to the point where no one can really teach us anything we didn't already know. This could refer to the mysteries of God, which few know about, or the things that we need to change in our hearts that few know about. The point is for us to rely more and more on God and less and less on others, although receiving truth from others is essential and necessary at first.
20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2)
Eventually we have been tried sufficiently that we know and God knows that we are currently willing and always will be willing to sacrifice all things for him. This is the point at which we are told that our calling and election is made sure. Overcoming sin and proving ourselves to him enables ourselves to have confidence when Christ appears (although having one's calling and election made sure is not a prerequisite for seeing Christ).
24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. (1 John 2)
John reiterates what Christ said when he says that we can get to the point where whatever we ask, we will receive. 
 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1 John 3)
All these teachings describe how we abide in Christ. It requires real endurance. Eventually Christ abides in us and later, the Father can too. As both John and Christ stated, it begins with the reception and application of truth. We need a real connection with God. Otherwise, we're not branches attached to the vine. We use what we learn and the experiences given to us to overcome all our sins and weaknesses. We learn to love God and others as a result, and we get to the point where we are repulsed by the things of this world. This process is punctuated with significant experiences, such as receiving the Second Comforter, being introduced to the Father, having our calling and election made sure, and so on. Those who reject truth and the experiences he has for us, choose not to produce fruit and to be "cast into the fire" (John 15:6). I know this path of sanctification which John describes is correct because the Spirit has taught me these things and I recognize my experiences in his teachings. I have a long way to go, but I know that God's promises are sure and that I will receive the promised blessings as I am true and faithful to the things he commands me to do. 

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