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Abide With Me

Abide With Me

    This song is in many of the hymnals in the ‘churches’ today. It has been for a long time. It was written in 1847 by Henry Francis Lyte, who by some accounts, presented the hymn to his hearers not long before his death and as he preached his final sermon as part of the Anglican church. Reportedly, he had written part of the song several years earlier. It is also been said that the first time the song was sung was at Lyte’s funeral. It has also been speculated that he wrote the song during a period of poor health, and as he anticipated his departure from this life.
     Not knowing the man, nor his intent while writing the song, I cannot be absolutely certain of what he was trying to convey. However, the words of the first verse seems to be asking the Lord to be “with him” as the darkness of the close of life drew near. The second verse confirms that this is the idea in the song. An ill-conceived concept that many folks have, is that the Lord is with them so long as they are ‘religious’. The idea of the song is derived from Luke 24:29 as the risen Lord, along with some of His disciples came near a village. When the Lord “made as though He would go further”, those with whom He walked “constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.
   Christ went in to tarry with them, and was with them in the flesh, having arisen from the grave to die no more. But as the account continues, we see He only remained with them for a brief period. As He sat at meat with them, He took bread, blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. When “their eyes were opened”, and they knew Him, He vanished from their sight. Later, in Luke 24:36-49 He appeared to His apostles. In Luke 24:50-51, He rose from their sight as He ascended into Heaven. However, Christ had not left them forever. He was returning to His Father having fulfilled His earthly part of God’s plan, designed from before the beginning of time.   Has not one of the Godhead “been with” humanity from the beginning?   Obviously, God was “with” Adam and Eve in the Garden. Gen. 3:8 clearly shows that God was in the Garden, and “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the gardenafter they had sinned. Years later, in Gen. 18:33, after Abraham interceded for sinful Sodom, we read: “the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” Even later, the aging psalmist, in Psa. 37:25 penned the Words: I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
     This continued into the New Testament. After Jesus’ resurrection, before He ascended into Heaven, in Matt. 28:16-20, He met with His apostles, and after giving them the Great Commission, He told them: . . . lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”. As Paul spoke to the Athenians at Mars’ Hill, in Acts 17:27-28a, speaking of God, he said: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being;” Then in Heb.13:5b the Jews that had become Christians were assured “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” With this abundance of evidence that God has always “been there” for all of His creation, should not His faithful children be comforted that God ever abides with them?
    But, should not all seek to abide with the Lord? It should be the goal of everyone to ‘go to heaven’. Many fail to realize that unless and until they seek the Lord in accordance with His Word, and “abide” with Him in this life, they haven’t a chance to be with Him for eternity. This is why Jesus, in Matt. 6:33, in that Sermon on the Mount, while continuing to call Israel to repentance told them of the church. He said: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;”. He wanted them to repent and prepare for the time when they could be baptized into Christ when the church came. In Acts chapter two, the gospel was preached, the church was established and some of these same souls were ‘added to the church’ and from that point forward, could ‘abide in Christ”.
   Even the Gentiles would be granted this opportunity. In Eph 2:12, those Christians of Ephesus were reminded of their condition before they obeyed the gospel. That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But in vs 13, we see their condition afterward. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  They did as Jas. 4:8a advises. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
    This is accomplished initially in obedience to the gospel. 1John 2:24 tells us how, once we have been baptized ‘into Christ’ how to continue to ‘abide in Him’. One can only do so through abiding in His Word. 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.  We don’t have to worry about God. His promises are sure. If we ‘go to Him in obedience’, He’ll always be there. Rather, we need to make sure we do as we should to obey His Word and always abide “in Christ” until His return. This the only way we can be with Him forever.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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