Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bearing Fruit

"…Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…" Read John 15:1-17

Christ often used physical pictures to teach spiritual truths. Because of this, a passage can become more meaningful when we look at both the physical picture and then the spiritual truths. In the beginning of the entire passage, Christ, the God-man, calls His disciples “friends” when He is talking to them. That word had never been used before in describing a man's relationship with God. It is indicative of the deep intimacy, which comes out of a "branch" relationship with Christ. Often a grape plant will have a healthy root system with branches that produce small fruit. A vinedresser will then take a branch that produces large fruit and graft it into the main branch. From then on the branch is fed and nourished by the original root and branch, which enables it to produce good fruit. After the graft has taken it is difficult to determine exactly where the vine ends and the branch begins because they are so interconnected. The same sap flows internally through the vine and out through the grafted branches.

This picture tells us that we can have lives that are so interwoven with Christ's life that we can't tell one form the other. To be honest, I know it isn’t hard for other’s to tell my life apart from Jesus’ life. But I can continue to grow towards that. It is out of that deep intimacy and growth that the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, faith, patience, etc, will begin to grow. I can’t develop spiritual fruit apart from Jesus any more than a branch can produce grapes without being connected with the vine. I can and do often try to muster up those qualities on my own, thinking that that is what I am supposed to do, but I always fall short.

This passage makes it very clear that those qualities are the byproduct of intimacy with Christ. That takes a load off of my shoulders in trying to muster it up on my own. This passage was spoken to disciples and is not about salvation. He tells us up front that we are already clean. He tells us that we are to abide or remain in Him and He in us. From other passages we know that Christ promised to never leave or forsake us, and that the Holy Spirit was a permanent indwelling so He could not be talking about a physical staying or leaving in the passage. It is a conscience awareness of living in the presence of God and understanding He is living in us through the Holy Spirit and His word. In verse 7 He even talks about Christ's words dwelling in us. I think that means that His words become a part of our core belief system so we are actively living them out at a gut level. What is cool about that is that is begins to feel natural when those things become our core beliefs. He also tells us that He loves us the same way that God the Father has loved HIM! I hope that it is a love that we find irresistible.

He then points out that the way we remain in His love is to obey His commandments. This doesn’t mean that when we disobey Him that He removes His love and His presence from us. The word makes it clear that it is His love that disciplines us and calls us back to repentance. I am confident that it is something in us. When we sin we feel unlovable and we hide! That is no surprise if we think back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid from God. Nor is it a surprise when we think back to the cross. As our sin was laid on Christ, He cried out, "Abba, why have your forsaken me?" By his use of the intimate word Abba we know He's confident of his relationship and is not questioning God about His love. We also know that the cross is a demonstration of God's deep love for us, not an act of rejection for the beloved Son! It was a cry from the depths of His humanness and it fully describes the emotional affect that our sin had on Him…and ultimately on us. We "leave" God in a spiritual sense when we sin, yet we feel and sometimes believe that it is God who leaves us. To remain in His love means to remain in the state of joy of relating openly and honestly and lovingly to God – a state that is without fear. It means to confess known sin immediately and to continuously choose to obey. It means that to have that sense of belonging we need to obey Christ's commandments. It means to be in a constant state of awareness of His presence and continuously discussing with Him all that concerns us and praising Him for who and all that He is. His love and the other fruits are manifested and enjoyed by us only when we walk in obedience to His word. When we don't obey our own guilt distorts our picture of love and distorts our beliefs about God.

In conclusion are you abiding in Christ and His love? Are you letting the Lord nourish you by memorizing and meditating on His word? Are you letting His words take up residence in your soul? Are you remaining there by choosing to obey Him? Are you willing for Him to prune away what is not holy so that the fruit of the Spirit will be produced in your life? Are you letting Him abide in you by spending enough time with Him that His character and His goodness is starting to rub off on you? In other words, is He affecting your decisions, your character, your words, and your actions?

Prayer: Father, it is such an interesting picture to think of ourselves as branches that have been grafted into Christ. As we worship, read your Word, and meditate on it may we begin to let it permeate the deepest recesses of our hearts and begin to reflect your nature and character and love to those around us. Thank you for loving us and sending your son to demonstrate your love to us. Thank you for telling us that He loved as in the same way and with the same depth that you loved HIM! Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!