- Verb: Become or make smaller in size or amount; contract or cause to contract.
- Noun: A clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.
28 And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
(1 John 2:28, 29, NASB).
After all of the talk about antichrists and liars and people trying to make us sway into deception, John offers some words of comfort. All of us, the whole lot of us, are little children. We may think we are sophisticated believers, able to fend off every error and discern every subtle gnostic tendency, but in the end we are little children. The solution will not boil down to being smarter than our adversaries. We need not fear, God Himself knows that we are like little children. A little child does not worry about adult issues, they trust that others will take care of them. When we abide in Christ, we trust that He is able to take care of all of these problems, and that things will work out somehow. John offers this sort of comfort here. It is not our problem to solve. He is real, He is smart, and He is strong. Abide in Him and you will have no problem. He is the solution. He is the One who can take on the antichrists. As we abide in Him and are led on by His Spirit,
The admonition to abide in Him is repeated so many times here! (1Jo 2:24,27,28; 3:17; 4:13) Abiding is different than striving or resolving or repenting. Abiding implies a simplicity of belonging, a comfort and a rest. You may go on difficult excursions, but you return to the place where you abide. Abiding implies continuance, but not a continuance of commitment. It implies a continuance of inertia, of rest. Striving and resolution are born of human strength and flesh, but abiding is the place of the child within the family. We are little children, and all we must do is abide with our Father.
Abiding is not sinless perfection! If it were, it would be at odds with the close context of 1 John 1:5-10:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
(1 John 1:8-10, NASB).
It does not do to equate abiding in him with sinless perfection, nor does it do to equate it with some significant level of fruitfulness. The word “abide” does not mean this. It means, we walk in the light, confess our sins, and allow Him to cleanse us. It means that on a daily, hourly, even moment by moment basis, we count His blood that was shed for all of our sins to be sufficient for these particular sins. It means that we take a high and difficult view of the law and morals at all times, and consider that we must always come to His gracious throne where He stands as a lamb as if slain. We abide in Him because we count Him kind and gracious and merciful and thus in our imperfection we do not shrink away. If we are not considering abiding to mean a confidence in His kindness and mercy, we must instead believe it means a perfect presentation of our fruits, which we do not have to give. This is the only way to make sense of the idea of abiding in the context of 1 John 1.
The mistake we make when we resist this perspective on abiding is that we don’t believe confession leads to cleansing and instead believe it mainly leads to license. When we abide, mercy is present and healing and cleansing happens. When we acknowledge our sickness and go to the great physician, we get healed, not rejected. We confess, which brings us to the edge of our lack of ability to change and measure up. It is by His miraculous work, through His blood, that we are cleansed. This is the dynamic of abiding in Him.
If we have become accustomed to this simplicity and grace of living in Him, we will be familiar and comfortable with the idea that at His coming He will appear as a gracious kind redeemer who knows how to cleanse us and who is never shocked or dismayed at our confession. It is the harsh moralist who waters down the law and pretends to be righteous that knows in his conscience what a fake and a sham he is. It is the fool who imagines he is hoping for the return of a lord instead of a savior. The one who defines abiding as adhering to some arbitrary level of righteousness is the one who will shrink away and hide at the appearing of the One who is actually holy. Jesus is not returning to claim conquering heroes, He is coming to claim His little children.
Again, we know that He is righteous through this practice of confession and cleansing. We may not practice righteousness perfectly now, but through confession and cleansing, through the application of His blood to our here and now circumstance, we practice it some. While the Greek for “practice” does not denote imperfection becoming better through repetition, yet the context suggests it. Just because we don’t drink all the water in the ocean, we still truly drink water. The law demands perfection, but grace gives room for actual practice and obedience (though imperfect) born of the heart’s desire rather than fearful coercion.
So if we are those imperfect little children who confess, and know that in this hour His blood still counts for our sin, and know His cleansing as a gracious and merciful savior, we are those who are born of Him. We may still sin, but as Paul writes in Romans 7, it tortures us and we wish altogether that we could stop. Yet, we are born of Him, and His grace reigns over us and His love defines us now to the very end of days. It is moralism that creates smaller people who flee to the place of insanity at God’s appearing. Grace is what gives us joy at His coming, and makes us truly more holy in the root of our being!