Abiding in Christ is the most vital place a believer can find themselves. The Word picture Jesus uses in John 15 is the Vine and branches. What is the Vine dresser’s goal for the Vine (branches)? That the vine/branches bear more fruit. However, the danger in bearing more fruit, for the sake of bearing fruit can lead to self-contentment or self-sufficiency. As true branches we must guard against being fruitful for our glory, or we could end up as a dead limb.
The Vine dresser (God the Father) also “prunes” the Vine’s branches by cutting back, excess, old wood and excess shoots from branch to make it healthier. The function of pruning is to help the branch deepen its dependence on the vine and bear more fruit. The Vine dresser’s pruning knife is the Word of God. How did the Word (Christ) prune the disciples (branches) for growth? He taught them by example, walked alongside them, preparing them for the Spirit to fill them, and to empower them for their journey of bearing more fruit.
Abiding in Christ and pruning is accomplished for God’s glory. Hebrews 4:12 states, “the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the division of Soul and Spirit of the joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Surrender is defined as yielding to the power of another, to submit possession of one-self. God calls us to absolute surrender to Him. Because God is our Holy Creator and Redeemer He deserves nothing less than absolute surrender. As believers, there can be no half-hearted attempts at following Christ. Jesus taught His disciples that they must abandon “all” and follow Him. He told the rich young ruler to sell “all” he had and follow Him. (Matthew 16:25, Luke 18:18-23)
When theologian & author Andrew Murray asked a fellow pastor “what is the great need of the Church?”, the answer was, “absolute surrender was the one thing.” (Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray) The term absolute consists of giving everything for one cause, and upon completion having nothing left to give. Is this the cry of your heart? Absolute surrender to the will of God will revolutionize your prayer life, your devotional life and your walk with Christ.
Surrender is different than commitment. With commitment, you have a tendency to use your willpower to accomplish a task. Commitment is about you. Asolute surrender is about God and His will and power. One example of this is the subject of breakfast with the chicken and the pig. The chicken is committed and produces an egg. The pig absolutely surrenders and produces bacon.
What are you devoted to? Most of us have a handful of things we spend our time and energy on. Where does prayer fit into your spiritual life? Sadly, I know in my life, prayer often becomes a last resort instead of a first priority. I believe if we are to see spiritual awakening in our Land and revival in our church, prayer must become a central priority in our lives. Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. We have that prayer recorded in Matthew 6. The outline of the ACTS of Prayer is a great way to specifically remember key points on prayer and how to pray effectively. God desires to hear our prayers and He longs to answer them according to His will.
Adoration: Praising God for WHO He is!! (Psalm 31:23-24)
Confession: Confessing our need for His forgiveness, love and cleansing! (1 John1:9)
Thanksgiving: Thankful for God’s provisions! (Psalm 100:4-5)
Supplication: Praying for Others! (1Timothy 2:1)
If you hang around long enough as a follower of Jesus, someone is bound to ask you this question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It has no easy pat answer that will suffice. In reality, there is probably no way to fully answer the question in our lifetime. Without trivializing suffering, here are some potential biblical reasons for the need for this question.
First, Romans 8:22-25 says, that the “whole earth groans and suffers pain, seemingly longing for redemption.” Much of our perspective is that pain is bad, but many times pain is purifying, not joyful to endure, but necessary for leading us to search for a remedy and rely on God rather than our own strength.
Second, Romans 3-6 tells us that “sin” has broken all humanity both physically and spiritually. Again, to say “good people” should not suffer misses the point. There are no “good” people, only people in need of redemption living in a broken world.
Finally, there is hope for the suffering. All people need a Savior. Even for Christians, God does not always eliminate the pain or keep us from death, disease, or hurricanes. However, He promises to walk through the flood and fire with you, never leaving us alone. If you know Jesus you can know peace, even in the midst of a storm. (Isaiah 43, Hebrews 13)
I truly believe that being a father is one of the hardest, yet rewarding opportunities on the planet. God gives us the chance to rear and shape little lives. Fatherhood is not just a title but a responsibility that changes lives for eternity. Our sons will learn how to be leaders, defenders, and a men of integrity from our example. Our daughters will learn what kind of man they should desire because of our love for our wives and our diligent nurturing.
God our Heavenly Father has established guidelines for fathers in His Word, and it centers around love, wisdom, and obedience. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, First, God establishes a pattern through His amazing love for His people Israel and the World through His Son Jesus. (vv.4-5) Second, He gave instructions on how to accomplish the task of Fatherhood for us, by setting an example of repeating the Word and diligently teaching our children what real-life obedience looks like. Finally, God gives us all the tools we need to be the father He desires, by seeking Him with all your heart, you are fulfilling this awesome task of fatherhood. (vv.6-9)
Being a father is not about being perfect; it’s about being available. Our children need to know they matter to us and to our God. Our children need to know we love them with no strings attached. Our culture screams that children are of no value, and where there is no value there is no hope. Fathers, we are the hope of the next generation.
The Bible describes the world in which we live in various ways, but one intriguing way is through word pictures. Jesus taught in parables, stories that have hidden, but profound meanings. When you understand Jesus’ parables you understand the thoughts of God toward His people. Jesus used parables to teach lessons on living for Truth, righteousness, love, and obedience. In Matthew He uses the term kingdom numerous times to describe a realm in which we live. There are two realms or kingdoms, the kingdom of heaven and earth (world). Jesus’ primary focus is on the value of the Kingdom of Heaven over the kingdom of this world.
In Matthew 13:44 Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” This parable speaks of the intrinsic value of knowing God. This parable speaks of the intrinsic worship of being willing to give up all you own on this earth to follow Christ. This parable speaks of the intrinsic joy of inheriting an eternal blessing that can only come from living for God. When it comes to Kingdom living there is only one choice of any lasting value.
Think about the one sin you have trouble shaking! How does it make you feel when you fall into temptation? The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 5-8 the joy that can come through the challenge of sanctification. In Romans 5, we have the promise of eternal glorification in Christ. In Romans 6 we have the freedom from sin that only comes through the Spirit of God living in us and through us. Romans 7 reminds us that in our own striving and strength we can do nothing. Now, Romans 8:1-2 states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8 provides the promise of “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus. We do not have to walk around defeated due to sin. We can overcome sin in this life by knowing Christ has already overcome sin for eternity. Are you in Christ? If you are a follower of Jesus, you can overcome any temptation and sin that easily entangles you, so you can become a slave to righteousness and life, instead of sin and death.
Live in Freedom,
You have probably heard it said, “Life is hard, but God is good.” There is truth to that statement. Life is hard. Since the fall of man in the Garden, life has been hard. The world is waiting for complete redemption with the second coming of Christ. His first advent released the world from the guilt of sin and gave us a reward of knowing God. In the meantime, the Apostle Paul describes how our life can be renewed and regenerated. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things are passed away and behold new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
First, Paul describes the event of faith and trust in Christ, that is, being “in Christ”. This reminds us that when God looks at us as believers, He sees Jesus’ sacrificial atonement covering our guilt and shame.
Second, he describes that we are “new” or renewed in Christ. Our priorities change, our desires change, and our love is rearranged. We have new passions. Our “old“ desires are replaced, and we answer the calling to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.
Finally, our new priorities bring new habits and choices, that in the end provide joy and freedom. This new creation does not insure a care-free life, but it does insure a hope even in hard-times.
In our culture it seems joy is hard to come by. We mistake joy with happiness and that can lead to frustration. Joy transcends happiness and the circumstances that surround you. The chaos of this world can lead us to lose our joy and hope that anything will ever change. The Bible tells us otherwise, and it gives a us some great examples of how joy can overcome even the darkest circumstances.
In Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes from a prison cell about the joy he has in knowing Christ, the progress of the gospel, and even awaiting trial. His punishment even in innocence could be death but he is still joyful. How? He knows Christ and the power of his resurrection and he is willing to hold on to his joy even when life seems dark and dreadful.
Joy is finding contentment in Christ through prayer, His Word, and encouragement of fellow believers who are going through similar struggles. God never promised relief from the pain or struggle or even prison, but He does walk through them all with us, and our faith as it is tested by fire will be purified as gold and silver. Allow God to provide joy even when it seems there is no joy to be found.
Have you ever lost something super valuable to you? I heard about one story of a lost wedding ring in a lake, later found by a couple in shallow water. One day, while asking a local jeweler what they should do with the ring, after four months of searching for the owner, he asked, “where they found the ring?” Sure enough, it was a couple who had just inquired if anyone had found a lost wedding ring in the same lake. Rings can be lost and found, just like a fruitless wandering life can be lost and found in Christ.
After trusting in Christ, Jesus gives us a picture of what our new life should resemble in Luke 9:23. First, self-denial – we must seek after the things of God not our selfish gain. Second, self-sacrifice – the cross is a place of death, there is no making it out alive. The cross symbolizes in our life all that must die in order to become a disciple of Christ. Jesus is not just an add-on to our life. His journey becomes our journey. Finally, we must be self-motivated; we must desire to follow Jesus example; it cannot be a casual relationship. Following Jesus means that we consume our life with His directives, and He will make our path straight. Ask God to help you live the sacrificial life!