I have read of a young lion whom nothing could awe or keep down but the eye of his keeper. With the keeper you could come near him and he would crouch, his savage nature all unchanged and thirsting for blood, trembling at the keeper’s feet. You might put your foot on his neck, as long as the keeper was with you. To approach him without the keeper would be instant death. And so it is that the believer can have sin and yet not do sin. The evil nature, the flesh, is unchanged in its enmity against God, but the abiding presence of Jesus keeps it down. In faith the believer entrusts himself to the keeping, to the indwelling, of the Son of God; he abides in Him and counts on Jesus to abide in him too. The union and fellowship is the secret of a holy life: “In Him is not sin; he that abideth in Him sinneth not.”
Personally, it wasn’t until I stopped focusing on not sinning, and focused instead on Jesus that I began to experience freedom from sin. Some things that I struggled with for ages simply fell away without me hardly noticing.
O let us believe that when Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you,” He did indeed mean that, while we were not to be freed from the world and its tribulation, from the sinful nature and its temptations, we were at least to have this blessing fully secured to us – grace to abide wholly, only, even in our Lord. The abiding in Jesus makes it possible to keep from actual sinning; and Jesus, Himself, makes it possible to abide in Him.
I still make mistakes and sin. I am not perfect yet, but I can say confidently that I am sinning less. And I expect to continue sinning less. Not because I am getting better, but because my Jesus is able. He is doing this work in me and He can do it.
Let failure and sin, instead of discouraging you, only urge you still more to seek your safety in abiding in the Sinless One. Abiding is a grace in which you can grow wonderfully, if you will but make at once the complete surrender, and then persevere with even larger expectations. Regard it as His work to keep you abiding in Him, and His work to keep you from sinning. It is indeed your work to abide in Him; but it is that only because it is His work as Vine to bear and hold the branch. Gaze upon His holy human nature as what He prepared for you to be partaker of with Himself, and you will see that there is something even higher and better than being kept from sin. That is but the restraining of evil. There is the positive and larger blessing of being now a vessel purified and cleansed, of being filled with His fulness, and made the channel of showing forth His power, His blessing, and His glory.
What a Christ we have to abide in and who abides in us! That He longs to show forth Himself in us. That He is mighty to do it. What a Christ!