"Are We ABIDING??"
Good Morning!! We are in Spiritual Spring Training!! This is that time of year where getting outside and exercising is on our minds. The weather is warming up, and becoming physically fit takes a more prominent role in our lives. Maybe you love to get out for jogs, or walks, or hikes right now, and that is wonderful, but I want us to remember what 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “…EXERCISE Yourselves toward godliness. For bodily exercise if of SOME value, but godliness has value for ALL things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come!” We are called to Exercise ourselves toward Godliness! This means that becoming Spiritually Strong will not happen by accident! It will take deliberate action and effort. It will take purposeful choice and obedience! Often, though, we become lazy in our spiritual growth and think we will be transformed by osmosis or by doing nothing at all, because if God wants us transformed it is up to Him. Now part of that is correct…it IS through God, but WE have a part to play in this ALSO!! God wants partnership in our growth. In fact, He gives us a choice. We can choose life surrendered to Him or we can choose life a part from Him. Last week I challenged you to ask The Lord (Your Personal Trainer) what the areas are that you are strong in and what the areas are in which you are weak. What are the areas God would like to strengthen you in? Maybe it is Forgiveness, Patience, Love, Giving, or being bold in your faith. These are all incredible fruit that are produced as we are trained in Godliness (doing that which is well pleasing to God with a God focused attitude). Today I want us to consider HOW we can produce this Fruit! How can we train ourselves in such a way where we see results that LAST in our life? How do we fulfill this command? The good news is that there IS a Way, and the GREAT news is that there is ONLY ONE WAY! The very first thing we must do is found in John 15:5. Jesus says, “I AM the Vine; YOU are the Branches. The one who ABIDES IN ME and I IN HIM produces MUCH fruit, but APART from ME YOU can do NOTHING!” Can I just say something here? Often times I feel like we may get it backwards when we are discipling new believers. After a person accepts Christ as their Savior they usually ask what they are to do next. The reply that I hear most often is that they are to start reading their Bible, praying every day, and they need to join a group of believers. Now, please understand that this is Absolutely Needed, but when this is the first thing we say it begins to sound like another “To Do” List. It almost makes life with Christ seem “Works Based” all over again. In Truth, the VERY first thing we need to do as a Christ Follower is to FOLLOW CHRIST!!! We need to ABIDE with Him! That list mentioned above gives us ways to do just that! They are avenues God has provided to help us Abide in Christ! We are called to Stay with Him! To Remain with Him! That is what ABIDE means. To stay, to remain, to Continue with! We live in a culture, however, that does not like to have to rely on ANYONE! We want to be the master of our own domain! We want to create our own destine! In fact, this Independent attitude rears its frustrating head at a Very early age! If you have ever had children you may recognize the, “I DO IT” phase. This is the time in a young child’s life where they try to do things on their own, and as they are struggling to accomplish something, a parent will often ask if they can help them and the child will adamantly reply, “NO, I DO IT!” Anyone else ever taken that attitude with our heavenly Father? You see, as long as we keep trying to do things on our own, we are going to end up like most young children, frustrated, tripping over ourselves, getting all tangled up, and ultimately NOT accomplishing anything that will last! Jesus makes it very clear that HE is the VINE, WE are the Branches. He is the one with POWER to PRODUCE, we get the joy of Bearing the fruit! This only happens though, IF we Abide in Him! When we first come into relationship with Christ we experience a UNION with Him, from then on we are called to experience COMMUNION with Him! It is like a new baby at the moment of conception. A Union is formed right at that moment, but from that point on the baby MUST stay in constant contact with its mother in order for that baby to thrive and grow! So it is with US and Christ! At the moment we are born again we have Union with Jesus, but from that moment on it is critical for our growth, strength, and survival that we remain connected to Him. Think about Abiding this way. Picture with me a parent holding a child’s hand and walking along with that child. They are walking down a street in perfect unity. The child trusts their parent to lead them exactly where they are supposed to go. There is no struggle, just perfect communion. All of a sudden, however, something catches that child’s attention, perhaps a toy shop. The child is distracted by their desire and as the parent continues forward the child stops and is focused somewhere else. There is now a tension between the parents arm and the child’s arm as they are stretched a part. At this moment the child has a choice. They can either let go of their parents hand and follow after their distraction or they can turn away from it and resume walking together with their parent. We face a similar choice! Everyday this world will try to draw our attention away from walking in communion with Christ. There are distractions thrown at us from every angle. Our enemy wants nothing more than to pull us away from Abiding in Christ so he can disrupt the flow of intimate fellowship with Jesus! He wants to see us unhealthy with fruit that is shriveling up so it will be easy to pick us off, like a dead leaf. So the question for us this week is, “Are we remaining with Christ?” Do we have that continual intimacy with Him or have we become distracted? Is our attention focused on Him or on something else? God is waiting for us to surrender to Him. There is NO struggling for the branch that remains in the Vine to bear Fruit! It JUST DOES!! As we Abide in Christ we can be SURE that we WILL bear fruit, and that our fruit WILL REMAIN!!
The Spiritual Challenge this week is to ask the Lord to help us Identify if there is anything that is trying to pull us away from staying connected to Him. These might be small things, like how we spend our time, but they could also be large things, like tragedies or sin. Once we can Identify these things we can make the choice to turn from them, take hold of Christ’s hand again, and continue walking with Him in unity! IN HIM WE WILL BEAR FRUIT, BUT APART FROM HIM WE CAN DO NOTHING!
Scriptures to Meditate on: John 15!