Monday, February 22, 2010

INTIMACY WITH GOD - PART 7 - Married, Separated or Divorced?

If a man abide not in me,
he is cast forth as a branch,
and is withered;
and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15:6

You can be a Christian, yet still be cast out from the Vine! How is this possible?

To abide means to remain consistent in attitude, condition or relationship. This implies unity, perseverance and durability. The opposite of abide is to migrate, resist, or reject. It implies that the relationship or condition is periodic, hit-or-miss and lukewarm.

Think of abiding as similar to a marital relationship. If the husband and wife are profoundly intimate with each other on all levels, then their abode – their home – is a sound one. Both the husband and wife work at maintaining their commitment to each other, and as a result their children – the fruit of their union – reflect the security of their parents’ relationship.

However, infidelity, lack of communication and loss of commitment will result in schism. In this case the marriage becomes compromised, and their abode will be filled with tension. Their children, consequently, will reflect the disharmony in the parents’ relationship. If nothing is done to repair the breach, the relationship withers, the husband and wife will gradually separate and they could finally end in the fiery pain of divorce.

When a young Christian does not follow through in his relationship with the Lord, when he does not allow the Word to penetrate and change his life, then the cares of this world can easily beset him. His focus, then, turns from the Lord to himself.

When a seasoned Christian leans on his own maturity; when he no longer seeks the Lord for every detail in his life, then his relationship suffers and separation begins – first slowly and subtly. Paul himself was acutely aware of this danger. This is why he said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “…But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Jesus is your Husband, and you are His bride. He is completely committed to you, having shown His unconditional love in the ultimate sacrifice - His death on the Cross as a ransom for your soul. He yearns to be one with you for all eternity. He wants to be your first Love, your only Source, your best Friend, your Provider and Protector – not just in times of need or convenience, but every moment of every day!

It is not the Lord’s desire that any should perish, but He can only be united with those who are solidly rooted and grounded in Him. A migratory, on again-off again, lukewarm relationship with Him will wither and dry up.

I urge you to ask the Holy Spirit to shed His light on any area of your life where you are not firmly abiding in Christ the Vine. As He does so, don’t shun the correction, but rather agree with it and ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to make the necessary changes. It is time for the Body of Christ to abide in Him!

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. 
I could wish you were cold or hot. 
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, 
I will vomit you out of My mouth. 
Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, 
and have need of nothing’
—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, 
that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, 
that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; 
and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. 
Therefore be zealous and repent. 
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. 
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, 
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 
Revelation 3: 14-20

“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. 
For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, 
much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven…. 
For our God is a consuming fire.” 
Hebrews 12: 25, 29

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

INTIMACY WITH GOD - PART 6 - Bearing Fruit

Jesus made a distinction about the fruit that you bear when you are in Him. Let’s take a look at what He says. First…

“…every branch that bears fruit He prunes…” – John 15: 2b

When you are in Him you will produce some fruit. This qualifies you to be pruned – to have everything and anything taken away that distracts you from focusing on the Lord.
Next…

“…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15: 2b, c

Pruning makes you produce more fruit. And finally…

“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15: 5b

It is only when you are abiding in Jesus, embedded in Him and being constantly impregnated with the sap of His Word, that you can bear His fruit in the highest quantity and quality.

What fruit is Jesus talking about? They are all attributes of God shown through your attitudes and actions. Remember that they are the fruit of the Vine, not the fruit of the branches! You, the branch, are the conduit through which the fruit is revealed.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5: 22, 23

 
LOVE
This is the kind of love that Jesus expresses to you and me. It is neither casual, sensual nor conditional, but is shown regardless of the response or lack thereof.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

JOY
True joy lies in contentment with whatever state you are in. It is the ability to rejoice in all situations.
“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

PEACE
Your peace is revealed through the tranquil state of your soul. It is a condition of security in Christ, safety and harmony.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…” – John 14:27

LONGSUFFERING
When you exhibit patience, endurance, steadfastness, the ability to go the extra mile all while remaining constant you are revealing this attribute.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

GENTLENESS
Your gentleness is shown through your integrity (soundness of character and honesty) and your kindness
“Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” – 2 Corinthians 10:1

GOODNESS
This is being good-natured; pleasant
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” – Romans 2:4

FAITH
Faith is trust in God. It is the unwavering confidence of knowing that He Himself is faithful.
“Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back (from living by faith!), My soul has no pleasure in him.” – Hebrews 10:38

MEEKNESS
Meekness is mildness; humility. It is not weakness, but rather it is power under restraint.
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth...” – Isaiah 53:7

TEMPERANCE
This is the attribute of self-control; the ability to master the desires of your senses.
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” – 2 Peter 1: 5-7

Just as the fruit of any tree identify what type of tree it is, the fruit that you express through your attitudes and actions reveal the level of your intimate union with Jesus Christ. It is possible to express a few of the fruit in a substantial measure while not expressing much of the others. For example, you may be one in whom men can see longsuffering (patience) and great self-control, but love, joy and peace may be sadly lacking. Or you can express each of the nine attributes, but only to a small degree.
Little intimacy = little fruit; 
more intimacy = more fruit; 
much intimacy = much fruit!

The fruit of your union with Jesus Christ 
will ultimately allow people to 
taste and see that the Lord is good!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

INTIMACY WITH GOD - PART 5 - Abiding

Abide in Me, and I in you. 
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 
John 15:4

Definitions of abide (from Blue Letter Bible):
1. In reference to place – not to depart; continue to be present; to be held; kept
2. In reference to time – to continue to be; not to perish; endure
3. In reference to state or condition – to remain as one; not become another or different.

(Photo above is of a grafted branch abiding in its host.)


ABIDING IS TWO-FOLD

1. “Abide in Me…”
A branch participates in the process of grafting. It presents its body, so to speak, to the vine. It leaves its old life and environment (the original plant it came from), and conforms to the environment and life of the vine. On the outside the branch may look the same, but on the inside profound changes take place. A key to its survival is that it has to throw out little shoots which would attach it to the host vine so that it would not die, but remain in the vine and continue to be held there. This is a clear illustration of what Jesus meant when He told you to abide in Him.

HOW DO YOU ABIDE IN HIM?
  • You follow Jesus’ example of His abiding in the Father. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” – John 4: 34.
  • Obedience is the key. This is what Jesus thrived on, and so must you.
  1. Jesus answered, “If a person [really] loves Me, he will keep My word [obey My teaching….” – John 14:23a
  2. Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12: 20-31. Therefore if you don't love, you won't abide.
  3. "...present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." - Romans 12: 1b, 2

2. “…and I in you.”
The host vine also participates in the grafting process. The vine infuses its sap into the grafted branch, giving it life-sustaining nutrients. If the graft is successful the sap helps to fuse the vine and the branch together.

WHO ABIDES IN YOU?

     When you fulfill the conditions that Jesus has given, then His promise of abiding in you is activated.
  • The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him or know and recognize Him. But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you.” – John 14:17
  • “If a person [really] loves Me, he will keep My word [obey My teaching]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home (abode, special dwelling place) with him.” – John 14: 23
It is clear, then, that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit abide in you in response to your obedience to Jesus’ word.

DIVINE INTERDEPENDENCE

“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

You can do nothing for God in your own strength. You must be one with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in intimate union. Jesus, your Vine who is one with the Father (the Vinedresser), must continually impregnate you with the “sap” of His Word through the power of His Spirit. Remember that you do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You, in response, must remain embedded in Him and yielded to Him, allowing the Word to work in you and through you.

ABIDING OR JUST PASSING THROUGH?

Apostle Austin J. de Bourg says, "A man has not learned anything until it has changed him". Therefore you don't abide in the True Vine until you have learned of Him, obeyed Him and allowed Him to change you.

Here is a simple test…
  1. What were the last two instructions that you received from the Lord, either during your own personal prayer, Bible study or from a minister preaching the Word?
  2. Since receiving them how have you specifically been living out those instructions on a daily basis?
  3. How has it changed you?
Your honest answers to these questions will help you to determine if you are truly abiding in Him and He in you, or if the “sap” of His word is just simply passing through you.

Friday, February 5, 2010

INTIMACY WITH GOD - PART 4 - Another Touch of Love

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.....
and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” 
John 15: 1, 2b

Picture this………… You’re a strong, healthy branch, firmly attached to the Perfect Vine. Your leaves have been a vibrant green and you have produced huge clusters of grapes. Even now there are buds of new growth bursting out all over you – heralding more fruit to come.

Along comes the Vinedresser. His face lights up when He sees you, and His eyes twinkle with that unmistakable look of love. You are so proud to show Him what you have produced, and the promise of even more things to come!

You notice that the Vinedresser has pruning shears in His hand. Suddenly you feel searing pain as the instrument cuts into you. Severed leaves, woody bark, fruit and new buds all crash to the ground below you. The Vinedresser seems unconcerned that He is stepping on your hard work – the very things that you thought would have been so pleasing to Him. He pauses briefly to step back, smile and admire His handiwork before resuming the painful lacerations.

At the end of it all you stand before Him stripped bare except for a few short nubs that are closest to the Vine.

You have just received another touch of love from the Vinedresser.

In the natural, when grape vines are pruned it is not just to remove parasites that may have attached themselves to the branch from the outside. The main purpose for pruning is to remove growth that came from within the branch itself - growth that once was very positive and productive. The greater the growth, however, the greater is the need to be pruned.

You see, a branch that is left to grow without pruning may produce a lot of fruit, but the quality is inferior. This is because its nutrients have to be disbursed to too many of its parts. Long stems from a previous season's growth make the vine look productive on the outside, but they consume too much sap. So when the branch is cut back to just a few shoots, the sap is concentrated in a limited area. When new fruit come forth they are abundant and of high quality.

Just like the natural branch, those “long stems”, “fruit” and “buds of opportunity” in your life can be a hindrance, so the Father uses His Word and experiences in your life as instruments to prune you.

Are you due for a pruning? You are if...
  1. You are involved in multiple ministries, activities or projects and you have little quality time to spend abiding in the presence of the Lord.
  2. You have been working hard, but the fruit of your labor is less than satisfactory.
  3. You are feeling dry spiritually, even though you have been going through the motions.
  4. You have become satisfied and comfortable with your role as a (fill in the blank) _______________, and what you have accomplished in that role.
  5. You have allowed the sin of pride to infiltrate your life by becoming dependent on your own abilities and accomplishments.
  6. You have been secretly or openly taking credit for your “fruit”. For example: you may credit your qualifications, your children, your position in church or in the secular arena to your own self-effort.
  7. You are at a crossroad in your life.
  8. Friends, family or other interests distract you and keep you from focusing on your calling in Christ.
  9. You have accomplished great things for the Kingdom of God recently.
  10. You have been self-absorbed.....allowing your imagination to get the better of you, and you have been envisioning yourself reacting to people and/or situations in an effort to defend or preserve yourself.
How does pruning promote intimacy? It causes you to focus. You don’t have “leaves”, “stems”, “buds” and “fruit” to work at maintaining. All of self has been cut away. You have been crucified. Now you can focus on your Beloved Vine, Jesus the Christ. As you tap more and more into Him, He is able to pour more and more of Himself into you. Your dependency on Him is more profound. Your relationship blossoms and you are ready to engage with Him in Divine spiritual intercourse.

...to be continued

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

INTIMACY WITH GOD - PART 3 - The Touch of Love

“I am the true vine, 
and My Father is the vinedresser. 
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away…”
John 15: 1, 2

Picture this... You are a branch attached to a strong, sturdy Grapevine. However, you are a weak branch so you are trailing on the ground, unlike some of your fellow branches above you. Your outer bark is covered in dust, and when the rain falls the dust turns to mud. You really want to be like the other branches and produce some luscious grapes, but your leaves are not receiving enough sunlight or air, and you are stuck in the mud.

Along comes the Farmer – the Vinedresser – and He sees your condition. What does he do? He gently but firmly lifts you from the ground, washes you clean and ties you to a higher stake. He ties you in order to train you to grow in the direction that would give you the sunlight and air that you so desperately need in order to become fruitful.

When Jesus said that the Father takes away every branch that does not bear fruit, He was illustrating the loving touch of our Father when we are unproductive. The phrase “takes away” literally means “to raise up, elevate or lift up”.

Have you ever felt like that barren branch? Do you feel like that now? You are a Christian, and therefore you’re in Him, but you are stuck in the “dust” of carnality. It need not be sexual sin; it could be anything that prevents you from focusing on what God created you to be.

It is in these times that the Father – your Vinedresser – comes along and washes you with the water of His Word. He does not immediately cut you off from Himself and discard you because of your unfruitfulness. No, instead He corrects your position, lifting you up and limiting your movement. He causes you to have experiences that emphasize your total dependence on Him. He leads you to just the right Scripture or sends someone with just the right message at just the right time. All of this is to make you grow in the direction He wants for you.

God is a loving God of infinite second chances. He chastens those He loves, but at the same time He does everything to restore you to health so that you can be productive in Him. Your job is to yield to His corrective measures - whatever He uses to "tie" you and train you.

Once you adapt to your new position in Him and you begin grow in the right direction and produce fruit, the Vinedresser – your Father – returns with another touch of love…..

….to be continued.
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