ABIDING IN CHRIST (Part 9 of blog series Growth In The Vine)
Once again we see the key to the Christian life is ONLY the motivation of the love of Jesus. This is why discipline always involves love. If God’s love for us is not the focus, then the discipline is really punishment. Punishment is just that – result of doing something wrong. Punishment carries no mercy, no grace, and no forgiveness. You are guilty for the wrong you do and must pay the penalty – no exception. (For example, if I receive a speeding ticket, it does not matter the previous 99 times I drove under the speed limit. I am guilty and must pay the fine.)
Discipline has the opposite effect than punishment. Punishment and discipline both involve pain. But, discipline is always for the better. The pain is only for our growth in character and maturity. It is for us to die to whatever is holding us from growing richly in Jesus. As Christians, God’s discipline causes a daily dying to flesh, our sin nature. We are to lay this pain and these burdens on the cross of Jesus (die to them) and look forward to the resurrection (life) as His fruit grows and matures in us. Then, we bear His fruit in the correct season because we are only depending on Jesus in us (Colossians 1:27) to produce His fruit through us. Yes, Jesus will be glorified through us. His fruit will be seen to others through us. This easily keeps us “abiding in Jesus.” It is so necessary.
- John 12:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
- John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye absolve one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
- John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
“Love” is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit that the apostle Paul states in Galatians 5:22-23. Therefore, it is obvious that love must be the center of the Christian life. Love is the key that keeps the bond alive between Jesus and you. Love keeps you “abiding in Jesus” and Jesus “abiding in you.” Because we love Jesus first in our lives, then we only naturally desire to love one another, especially our sisters and brothers in Christ. (Side note: To love those not in Christ, more “pruning” is necessary to undergo. Then we can see them through the eyes of Jesus, and not through our own.) And we only give our love because of the love we have first received from God. We can only give love depending on the depths we have received from God. If we give more than we have received, our fruit will die because it will be given in self-effort. Then we usually become burnt out in Christian ministry.
- I John 4:12 “No man hath see God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
- I John 4:19 “We love Him, because He first love us.”
- Mark 12:29-31 “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Once you realize that Christ lives in you and in every born again believer, loving them as Jesus loves you comes very natural. Very simply, you will be loving Jesus in them.
Again we consistently see that when we are growing in love with Jesus, only He becomes the central focus of the Christian life. When the Body of Christ focuses on Jesus as the center, the head, the True Vine of Life, then it becomes so much easier for His body to bear the fruit Jesus produces through them. We will all be living as one under Jesus the Head. The world will only see the Body of Christ loving its King. As branches, we all bear different fruits. We have different gifts, but have only one True Vine. So when we permit Jesus to produce His fruit (His life) through us, then the Body of Christ works in conjunction with each other under the Head, then only Jesus will be seen and glorified. Outstanding! But, when the Body of Christ begins to compete with each other over each one’s fruit and gifts, then the vine begins to grow wildly and uncontrollably. Jesus then becomes hidden. Then a painful act from God will follow: PRUNING. Ah yes, the gift of “pruning!” Do you see that “pruning” leads so naturally and easily into “abiding?”
Each member of the Body of Christ had different gifts, distributed only as the Holy Spirit desires. Each gift is unique for the person and the way it is to be used for the glory of God, especially to edify the Body of Christ. Much too often, the Body of Christ looks more at the gifts than the Giver. Yes, the Body of Christ is guilty of idolatry. Often, the Body of Christ shuns this “idolatry” concept, thinking it does not occur to them today, but only in the Biblical times of Israel or in the lives of other Christians. This is false and demonic. This is how malicious and sadistic Satan is to take the Body of Christ away from Jesus. And we sure leave Jesus out of sight. How sad! We focus more on the gifts each has and then, sort of, “idolize” others who have special type of gifts. Where is Jesus left when we do this? Somewhere hidden on the side is Jesus. Yet, He always waits patiently for one’s open heart so He can prune her and change her. This really shows how deeply Jesus loves her. He is always there for her.
Beware: The very gift(s) the Holy Spirit provides you with can easily become a form of self-idolatry.
As we read before, remember that even in the third year, the vinemaster continues to prune the vine, even cutting off the fruit. This is because the fruit, even though seen, is not yet mature. It is usually too heavy for the branch and, therefore, becomes wasted. Only the vinemaster knows this. To a passerby, the fruit may appear to be edible and appealing. But, this is looking at the outside. Often we become so impressed by someone’s outward appearance, but have no idea how unimpressive, and usually contaminated, the inside is. (Thank the Lord He deals with the inside.) The vinemaster looks at the inside, which is not clearly obvious to the naked eye. This is another excellent analogy of how God the Father, our Vinemaster, looks at our heart while we tend to often look at the outside. This is illustrated in I Samuel when God instructs the prophet Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint David to be the next king of Israel. I Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Again we see how “abiding” is closely related to “pruning.” So keep “abiding” and “pruning” closely related in your Christian walk.
Another trait about vines is that if they are not managed properly, they grow in all different directions and often become entangled with one another. It is sort of like they begin choking one another for survival. The Scriptural example that comes to mind is the Parable Of The Sower in which Jesus speaks about thorns becoming entangled with the seed (Word of God) and then choking it. The parable is found in Luke 8:5-16. I recommend you read and reflect on it often.