This article was orignally published in the January 2023, HomeLife magazine. Subscribe today!
When you think of home, what place do you think of? Where do you know every creak in the floorboards and crack in the ceiling? The spot with the best light for reading? The exact sound of the screen door swinging shut? Our understanding of home can shape our understanding of the Christian life, if we take the time to meditate on it. And of all the writers of Scripture, the apostle John is concerned that we should.
In John’s Gospel, he records these words of Jesus: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23, emphasis added). John captures the idea of spiritual homecoming in his repeated use of the idea of abiding. The word for“abide” (meno) occurs thirteen times in his Gospel account and a staggering twenty-six times in his three brief epistles. John repeatedly offers believers the comforting reminder that God abides in them, as well as the exhortation that they, in turn, must remember to abide in Him — to make their home with Him, as it were. And what a home it is! But why so many reminders? I suspect because making ourselves at home with Christ isn’t something that is easily done.
As Believers, We’re “Re-Homed”
Several years ago, we moved from our familiar two-story home of 13 years to a four-story unfamiliar one. We were beyond excited to move into this new home, but on moving day I misjudged the depth of a front step and ended up with five stitches in my knee and a tetanus shot. For the first six months, we wrestled with the doorknobs that had to be jiggled just right to get the doors to shut. We battled the house keys that stuck in the locks. We tripped on the uneven surface between the kitchen and the dining room. We stubbed our toes on furniture and knocked our elbows into kitchen countertops. We wheezed up and down four flights from basement to rafters transporting laundry. We fumbled through where to put away casserole dishes, remembering that their right places had been second nature to us in our former house.
The habits of home we had learned across 13 years in our last house didn’t translate to our new location. Everything had moved. Nothing was in a familiar place. The more we struggled to settle in, the more tempting it was to wonder if we had made a mistake in moving.
But three years later, we no longer give a thought to the constant climbing of stairs. We navigate rooms uninjured and unimpeded. We unload the dishwasher effortlessly, with complete knowledge of where every-thing should go. The backdoor still sticks quite a bit, but we know just how to finesse it open and shut. Daily repetition has done its work. We’ve learned new muscle memory, new habits of home. What was once frustrating and difficult is now second nature. It took a little while, but we’ve learned to feel “at home” at home.
I think John realized this phenomenon when he wrote his letters to the early church and filled them with the language of abiding. Becoming a Christ-follower entails a change of address. We’re “re-homed” from dark-ness to light. When we’re adopted into the household of God, we enter in with muscle memory for navigating a home we no longer inhabit. Every reflex is toward ungodliness. Every unconscious competency supports away of living we’ve left behind. But over time, we acclimate to the home we could have only dreamed of inhabiting. We do so by learning and practicing new habits of home. In his letters, John points out three in particular: the habit of obedience, the habit of truth-keeping, and the habit of love for others. These are the means by which we learn how to inhabit this new space — this household we share with God and others — as it is intended to be inhabited.
Do you feel at home in your new home with God? By the power of the Spirit in you, and by the grace of God, you can learn your way around the house. This is John’s exhortation to the early church and to us today.
Regarding the habit of obedience, John tells us, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 3:24,ESV). Are you obedient to pray, to consider others more highly than yourself, to serve in humility, to keep a guard on your tongue? Are you obedient to confess sin, to practice thankfulness, to observe rest from labor, to put to death earthly passions? Obedience bears evidence that we’re truly the children of God because we delight to do what pleases Him. Though in our former “home” we did as we chose, now we joyfully submit to His commands.
Regarding the habit of truth-keeping, John tells us, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John2:24, ESV). Do you remember and rehearse the truth of God’s Word? Can you distinguish truth from error because you know truth well? Truth-keeping helps us discern which voices to listen to in a world that clamors for our attention. When we love truth, we grow to detect and hate even the most beautiful and subtle of lies. Though in our former “home”we not only believed lies but propagated them, living our own truth, now we recognize and spread the truth of God’s Word.
Regarding the habit of love for others,John tells us, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14, ESV). He goes on to expand what it means to abide in love: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but indeed and in truth” (1 John 3:18, ESV). Do you actively love others with both your words and your actions? Do you bear with others in their weakness? Do you look not just to your own needs but to the needs of others around you? Do you strive to build up others and refrain from tearing them down? Though in our former “home” we looked out for ourselves at all costs, now we move toward others in sacrificial love through tangible actions.
Our Forever Home
At first, these three disciplines of obedience, truth-keeping, and love for others feel unnatural and hard, even frustrating. But over time, we don’t just learn them, we’re shaped by them. They become outward expressions of a heart that has grown in love for the good God who gave them.
That same God has come to us to make His home with us. This is the home we were created to inhabit. We were made to abide in Him. We were made to make Him our abode.
The comforting closing line of Psalm 23 assures us that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. According to John, if you’re a child of God, that forever has already begun. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we enter into the house of the Lord. We enter with old habits of self-rule, self-defined truth, and self-love. So, it’s not surprising that our new home can be disorienting and hard to adjust to. We will be tempted to return to our former home with its former habits. Instead, embrace your spiritual homecoming. Heed the call to abide in obedience, truth, and love. Walk as Jesus walked. Testify as Jesus testified. Love as Jesus loved.
Welcome to your new address. Make yourself at home.
Jen Wilkin is an author and Bible teacher from Dallas, Texas. Her passion is to see others become articulate and committed followers of Christ, with a clear understanding of why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. Jen is the author of Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands, Women of the Word, None Like Him, In His Image, and Bible studies exploring the Sermon on the Mount and the books of Genesis, Hebrews, and 1 Peter.