Abide in the Vine (Identity in Christ Part 16)

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“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,”~ Jesus, from  John 15:5.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,”~Jesus, from  John 15:16.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you,”~Jesus, from John 15:7.

I want to focus on John 15:5. Jesus tells us that He is the vine. What does this mean? It means He is the source. To the audience receiving this message, a vineyard would have created a picture for them that was easy to understand. We are the branches, meaning we are not the source. Any good in us come from Him. Any fruit of the Spirit manifested in our lives comes from Him. Therefore, no person can boast of how good or righteous they are. We have no righteousness of our own. Any self-righteousness is like filthy rags to Him. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away, Isaiah 64:6. We can’t be holy enough to please God. We can’t do enough good works to earn His favor. It’s only by faith in Christ, relationship with God, the acceptance of the sacrifice of His shed blood, that we are able to obtain righteousness.

Apart from God we can do nothing. I love the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:31. The key to the verse is that the strength comes from God. It’s not our strength. I went through four years of very challenging relationships, stress at work, family members sick with cancer, and looking back the only thing holding me together was Jesus. I had a lady tell me I must be faking it because there’s no way I should have had it together (not that I did). I see Jesus holding a fragile person together. It wasn’t my strength. It was His strength. The past few weeks I’ve lost two family members and survived a car accident which totaled my car. It’s not me who lives, but Christ who lives in me. Does this mean we have no weakness? Absolutely not. We will still struggle, cry, maybe weep, maybe stumble along this rocky path called life. It does mean that God keeps His promise to be our strength if we abide in Him.

He’s looking for fruit.

If I plant tomato seeds, I expect tomatoes to grow. God is looking for fruit in our lives as well. We are intended to look more and more like Him. What is this fruit? It is the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s take a look at Galatians 5:13-25

 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

When we first start walking with Christ, we will not automatically have all the fruit manifested in our lives. God works in us to sanctify us. We are already justified by faith, but we don’t look, act, or consistently behave like Jesus. It’s a process of being with Him, submitting to Him, and abiding in Him. I love Bill Johnson’s quote, “Many believers have the Holy Spirit, but does the Holy Spirit have them.” God will not force us to grow up, mature, or submit to Him. He will lovingly keep pointing in the direction of truth, pruning us so we can bear more fruit, and setting up circumstances so we could become more like Him.

What does it mean to abide?:

To abide means to remain in or  stay connected to.  Sunday morning service is not enough to abide in Christ. If we ate food only once a week, we’d be weak and starving. If we only spend time with God every blue moon, then spiritually we are not as strong as we could be. I am not an advocate of forced time either. God like us, knows when people don’t want to be with Him, but they are doing it out of obligation. He wants us to want to be with Him.

Jesus who was God in the flesh took time to be alone with the Father. He regularly left the crowds to be alone with His Father. The disciples would look for Him and He’d be away. If Jesus did it, there’s a good reason why. God is our source. It’s not people. It’s not the TV. It’s not the internet. It’s not our family. It’s not our Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. God alone is the One who can change a wicked man into a righteous man. God alone went to the cross for our sins. God alone heals to wholeness. Without intimacy, partnership, relationship with God, we can not do anything. We are alive today because God allowed it. We need more than anything to be with Him. He said to love Him first, then others. To put Him first above all others. God is more important than a spouse, family member, friend, pastor, job, ourselves, or anything in this world. We become like the one we spend the most time with. God says, “Spend time with Me.”

Final Notes:

We are the objects of His affections. God doesn’t love us based on the fruit in our lives. He loves us whether we are progressing or not. He longs for us to grow so we can be blessed and be a blessing. If we look like Jesus, and acted like Jesus, how blessed would we be and the world? The word Christian originated from the fact that the early church was doing what they saw Jesus (the Christ) doing. If we don’t look like Him, then how will the world get to know Him? I’ve met too many people who are turned off from church because they have encountered mean, hateful Christians. At certain points in my walk, I have encountered hateful people who claimed Christ as Lord which made not want to fellowship with other believers. The point isn’t to judge or condemn others. Every person has their own journey. And we are to pray for people, knowing we are not perfect either. The point is, to abide in the One who is life. We can impact the world for good! Jesus did. He’s calling us to follow His lead.

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P.S If you’d like, join me on http://ithoughtiknewwhatlovewas.com. The Journey into God’s heart. Weekly posts about the Father, God’s love, and book excerpts. Bless you friends. Praying you are blessed richly this year.

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