Thursday, April 26, 2012

Standing Firm In Christ Through All Seasons...

My husband is a gifted gardener.  He grew up knowing the earth, plants and how to grow them so that they thrive.  After having lung cancer, we started organic gardening and grow pretty much all of our own vegetables.  I used to question his technique when I would see him prune his plants.  I would tell him "you are cutting all the leaves off, how are we going to get any fruit that way?"  He would just smile and keep on pruning.  I would be delightfully surprised when after a few weeks had passed, the tangerine tree would have all of these little fruits growing.  It reminds me very much of what Jesus taught us in John 15.

At church last Sunday, our pastor did the hard teaching of pruning the Christian.  He called it "the best news you never want to hear". Isn't that the truth?  As soon as he said that, I could see many of my brothers and sisters in the church squirming in their seats.   So many times we go to church to get uplifted  so that we can go out into the world and share Jesus with everyone we meet.  Even though that is a very admirable goal, we need to grow in our walk with the Lord to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ.  Our Father has an amazing plan for each of us to thrive.  He wants each of us to flourish physically, emotionally and spiritually.  When this starts to happen, we get what the Bible refers to as fruit. 

If you look at a vineyard it really makes sense.  What do they have in the vineyard that ensures that they will produce great fruit?  They have a vinedresser, the vine, the branches and lastly, the fruit.  The Bible says:
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Love and Joy Perfected
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 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.
11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  John 15:3-11
The Father is our vinedresser, Jesus is the vine, you and I are the branches and fruit is the goal. What are some examples of Christian fruit?  Titus 3:14 tells us to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs so we won't be unfruitful. Romans 1:13 and John 4 identify fruit as winning lost souls, Romans 6:22 defines fruit as Holiness, Romans 15 names Financial giving or tithing as fruit,  and Galatians 5:22 tells us that fruit is love.  So how as Christians are we supposed to get all of this wonderful fruit on our branches?  PRUNING!  No one likes pain and unfortunately for us sheep, we are not always the best listeners.  Though pruning never feels good, it's important to keep in mind that God doesn't apply pain when a more pleasant method would do. Yes we have to go through the pain of pruning, but the good news is it won't last forever.  The key to pruning is God must rule if we are to bear fruit.  This means we need to take a close look at our lives. Have you surrendered every part of your life to God?  Every person and possession can be an idol to us if we put them or it before God.  How can this happen?  The truth is that sometimes those possessions or those people we love most make us feel good, proud, and special.  In some cases this can lead to an inflated ego.  I had a teacher in high school who had a lasting impact on me. He would tell each one of us to leave our egos at the door. He informed us that he would not be able to teach us unless we left our egos there.  I think that is what God wants from us as well. 

 When you look at the pictures of the grapes, you realize that they could not exist without the vine.  Jesus is our vine.  We need to abide in Jesus to to have His fruit in our life.  Can we abide in Jesus without obeying Him?  Of course not.  As we abide in Jesus His words will abide in us and without Him we can do nothing. If we are abiding in Christ that means we go where He goes. The Greek word for abide is meno, which means dwell, remain, continue, and to stay. So if we were to cut the branches away from the vine the fruit would die. So I abide in Christ by keeping His commandments (15.11).

 God comes with His pruning shears to cut away all of the dead wood and extra leaves that are not needed.  He takes the dead branches and He throws them into the fire. He does this so that the fruit has a chance to grow and thrive.  God begins pruning us to change our priorities and disciplines us to remove sin.  God does not want us to do more for him, He wants us to be more with Him.  He prunes us because He loves us.  He prunes us for four reasons.  To remove growth of dead or dying branches, to make sure that the sunlight can get to the fruit bearing branches, to increase the size and quality of the root, and to encourage new fruit to develop. 

 God can use us in all seasons of our walk with Him.  He has a plan for each and every one of us and it's never too late for us to start bearing fruit.  He promised us joy. His joy that is equal to God's presence, not happiness in the world. He is calling us to continue walking in his incredible love. He is calling us to be obedient.  He is calling us to abide in him and yes he is calling us to be filled with the joy of his Holy Spirit. He wants each and every single one of us to be successful  in our own unique walk with Him.  He loves each one of us so very much. 

If you are reading this and you want to have a walk with the Lord Jesus.  I want you to know He is right there with you right now. He wants to come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior.  God created us in His own image so we can know Him personally and have a joy-filled life. He did not make us as robots to automatically love and obey Him, but gave us a will and a freedom of choice. Since the beginning of time, we have chosen to disobey God and go our own willful way. We still make this choice today. This results in separation from God and ends in misery. The Bible says that disobeying God results in being separated from Him.  Our attempts can never unite us with God. Through the ages, people have tried many ways to bridge this gap and reach God – without success.  I believe that each one of us has a little puzzle piece in each of our bodies that only the love of God can fill.  We try to fill it with all kinds of things like sex, boyfriends, children, drugs, alcohol, education, clubbing, partying and everything else that you can think of.  The thing is nothing fits right in there.  Only God can quench the longing of your soul.
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. John 3:3-6

If you want a new life in Christ Jesus, ask Him into your heart today.  Simply pray this:  Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you took the pain of the cross to give me new life. I ask you to come into my heart and to give me your peace and joy. I confess that I am a sinner that I have gone my own way and have done wrong. Please forgive me for my sins. I receive you now as my Lord and Savior. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to follow you and to serve you all my life. Thank you, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.  If you prayed that prayer you are a new creature in Christ Jesus!  You are Born Again!


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