Let’s start at the very beginning. First, you must accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. You cannot be a Christian disciple unless you, first, are a Christian. And you cannot follow Jesus as a disciple unless you have a personal relationship with Him.
Next, in order to become a disciple, you must learn to abide in Christ. When I was a new Christian, I had problems understanding the meaning of “abiding in Christ.” Jesus did not abide in me before I accepted Him as Savior. The Greek word μένω simply means “abide, remain, stay” so that was not much help. How can I stay close to Jesus?
[Jesus said] “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. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. . . . If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15: 4-5, 10 (ESV)
What does it mean to abide in Christ? Does it mean to stay close to Jesus every moment of your life? OK. But how do I do that? By keeping your mind set on spiritual thoughts and by filling your life with wholesome friends and spiritual activities. How can you do that? Here are a few suggestions.
Keep Your Mind Set on Christ
In the early years of computers, programmers referred to the acronym GIGO when discussing some of their computer problems. GIGO means “garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, if you put bad data into a computer, you will get bad data back from the computer. This concept also applies to our minds. If I fill my mind with bad or negative thoughts, my mind will not produce good thoughts.
But what happens when a Christian fills their mind with thoughts of Jesus Christ? According to Romans 12: 2, filling our minds with Jesus results in mental and spiritual transformation. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)
How can you keep your mind set on Jesus? First, lay aside all crude or nasty books, immoral or unhealthy websites, porn, negative social media sites, questionable television shows and movies, and anything that can turn your mind away from Christ.
Then, second, fill your mind with thoughts of Christ. The Bible is a good place to start. Also check out Christian books and movies. Listen to Bible studies, both recorded and in person. As you fill your mind with good things, then, over a period of time, you will become transformed. But what about choosing your friends?
Choose Your Friends Wisely
Who are your friends? With whom do you hang out? What do you do when you spend time with others? Where do you go?
Abiding in Christ may result in some old friendships fading away. The Bible says having good friends does matter. I Corinthians 15: 33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ ” (ESV) Proverbs 13: 20 agrees, saying, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (ESV) So choose your new friends wisely.
After you become a Christian, some of your old friends may abandon you. Why? Because if they do not know Jesus, you will hold fewer things in common. Your paths may slowly drift apart. But this is normal. You should be drawn to participate in new activities with new friends who share your new life in Christ.
Participate in Wholesome Activities
As a Christian you may discover that you no longer enjoy some of the activities in which you took part before accepting Jesus. When you learn about being a Christian, you will set new standards of behavior. This will cause you to abandon some of your old activities. The Bible says in Ephesians 5: 11-12, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” (ESV) Some of your old activities were “unfruitful works of darkness.”
In addition, some of your former activities may disgust or offend you. Why? Your life is becoming reoriented. You are turning away from darkness. Jesus Christ is filling your life with light. According to Ephesians 5: 8, “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (ESV)
Abiding Is Staying Close
What is abiding? How would you abide with a physical friend? You would stay close to that person. When you are in their presence, you are abiding with them.
Abiding with Christ closely resembles abiding with a physical friend. There is one major difference. Jesus is spirit. How can you abide in Christ’s spiritual presence? By filling your minds with thoughts of Jesus and by spending time in activities that are centered on Jesus.
The Bible conveys this idea well in Colossians 3: 16, which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (ESV)
This is abiding in Christ. And abiding in Christ is the most important first step in Christian discipleship.