“He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.”
Have you ever had a time were you have had to prune a favourite tree or plant. It almost feels like you are killing or destroying it. As you cut off the dry twigs and trim down the deadwood, one wonders if it will kill the plant or tree. Yet all fears are alleviated when spring comes and you start seeing the plants and tree growing again, even more beautifully than the previous years. The same is with our walk with God.
Jesus said that the Gardener (Father God), prunes the branches (us), so that we will produce even more fruit for Him and in our lives. Sometimes it’s painful when we realise that God is gently trimming off the things in our lives that need to be got rid of. We almost want to cling on to them as if we know best. Yet a life unpruned, untrimmed and undisciplined, is a life leading only to destruction. Staying connected to the source, to the root of Jesus, is the ONLY way to continue to grow in Him. We are fed and pruned by His word and we are purified by His message! Then we will be even more beautiful for our KING!
“I am the true grapevine and My Father is the gardener”. . . . .“Yes I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.””
Jesus in John chapter 15, gives us a picture of the vine tree as a symbolism of our position in Him. Jesus explains that He is the vine and we are the branches. The Father is the gardener and sustainer of the tree. The Father prunes the branches so that they will produce more fruit and cuts of the dead branches that don’t produce fruit. Yet the source of a tree’s fruit never comes from the branches itself, but the nutrients that are absorbed by the root of the tree. Jesus again alludes to this and reminds us ‘that we can do nothing apart from Him’. If we want to produce fruit in our lives, then we need to stay connected to the source, to Jesus Christ.
Although this is a simple illustration of who we are in Jesus, Jesus highlights again and again throughout this analogy, that we need to remain in Him. The fruit we produce is love, peace, joy, and patience. It’s kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. The great truth of the tree analogy is that we produce fruit that mirror Jesus’ character. The more we feed from Him, the more we grow in Him, the more we become like Him and produce fruit that shows Jesus through our lives. Remain in Jesus. Feed on and grow in Jesus. Remain in Him!
24th – 26th February
“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you can trust those who have taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.”
2 Timothy 3:14-15
Don’t give up. Don’t let this world dictate how you should live, but rather stand firm in the knowledge of who you are in Christ and what His word says about you. God’s word is so powerful that even 2000 years after it was written, it is still impacting people’s lives. Many have tried to destroy it, tear it apart and say it’s worthless, yet nothing could be further from the truth. His word is as real and alive today as it was when it was written. It is not empty words but life giving truth. Even when we see calamity and disaster around us, God’s word is the sure foundation on which our hope rests. It gives us the surety to trust in Jesus Christ and wisdom to receive the truth and gift of salvation.
Paul’s final encouragement to his young disciple Timothy, was to not abandon God’s word but to stay steadfast and faithful to the things he had been taught through the scriptures. Most probably it was his mother and grandmother who educated him in the scriptures, as referenced in 2 Timothy 1:5. Yet whoever it was that did teach him, he clearly had a deep reverence for the word of God and was also trusted by Paul. Today we too are encouraged to trust in what we have read and been taught and hold firm to God’s word. May His word strengthen you today, may it be a source of wisdom and hope for you too. May it stand as a direction post to Jesus and His salvation, His grace and His love. May you know all that Jesus has for your life. May His word give you strength to remain faithful.
“The seed of good deeds becomes a tree of life; a wise person win friends.”
It takes a long time for a tree that is planted, to bear any resemblance to what we might imagine it to look like. From the seed first being planted, to its constant care and nurture as it grows, a tree can take years to fully form and stand towering above the person who planted it. Yet when that tree is fully formed, it stands its ground when storms rage, provides fruit and flowers in its season, shade from the sunlight and its branches help build homes for birds. Yet the beginnings of the tree’s life, a small seed, may seem so small and insignificant.
Interestingly, we can also find similarities in our lives to that of the analogy of the seed and tree. Our seeds are good works (the sowing of the gospel) and the trees are the lives of people we have sown into. We may not always see the finished product of firm Christians, steady in the faith and firm in their foundation, but that’s okay. Our role is to shower God’s goodness wherever we are so that His Spirit can provide the growth and open people’s eyes to who Jesus really is. What we can take courage in, is knowing that our good works, our sowing of the seeds of the gospel, are nurtured and cared for by the Holy Spirit, to become trees of life, firmly rooted in Jesus Christ.
Let our light (and good works) so shine before men that they will want to know Jesus for themselves.
“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.”
If you are stressed, out of hope and ideas, low, depressed or sad, then today’s verse is for you. Friend, don’t give up. Keep on keeping on. Trust in the Lord. Trust in His promises. Trust that whatever you are going through, a promise of great reward is waiting for you. These are God’s words and God’s promises. In John 14:27, Jesus again promises us His peace through the power of the Holy Spirit, ‘I am leaving you with a gift’ Jesus says, ‘peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.’
Throughout God’s word we are encouraged to keep going, to endure all things. The reason; because we have a glorious hope that awaits us. A promise of an end to our suffering, pain and circumstance: in this life or the next. As you battle on, may you find strength to persevere and endurance to keep going. Don’t give up. God is with you and on your side.
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”
When we try to separate the Holy Trinity and dismiss the Triune divinity, our faith becomes confused, and doesn’t make sense. This is not to say that the ‘Trinity’ in-itself is easy to understand. Of course it is a deep and complicated theological issue. But when we believe by faith that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONE, things can begin to make sense, as we reconcile our ‘theological knowledge’ and our ‘practical faith’. The reason is because the Triune God-head works in perfect harmony together, to bring about salvation in one’s life and to reveal the fierce love that God has for us, His creation. When you try to separate the God-head, we start confusing this harmony, giving a higher preference to one and not the other, thus confusing who God really is.
John makes this very clear in his gospel when relaying Jesus’ words to His disciples. Jesus says that ‘My Father (The Father), will send the Advocate (The Holy Spirit), to remind you (us, His children), about My (The Son) teachings’. If we are to believe that Jesus’ teachings bring life, then we can see a clear and even partnership, within the God-head, to bring about Jesus’ words through the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing the Father’s heart and plans for our lives. It’s perfect unity. And we too are included in that perfect relationship.
May we too, pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the glorious truth revealed to us in Jesus’ words, reaching our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is theological knowledge lived out in practical faith.
“When Jesus had tasted it, He said, “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head and released His spirit.””
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.
Jesus came down from the cross and rose again on the third day. Yet sometimes we live our lives as if Jesus was still hanging there. We resonate with the wonderful song lyrics written above and say, ‘Yes it was MY sin that held Him there.’ We hang onto those words and live our lives, daily nailing Jesus back to the cross saying, ‘Lord, it is my sin that is holding You on the cross!’ BUT, then Jesus says back us, ‘My child, yes it is your sin that nailed me to the cross, but it is finished!! I have good news, I came down from the cross!’ Yes, that’s right. Jesus didn’t stay on the cross. He came down. He is resurrected to have a personal and living relationship with you, free from the chains and guilt and condemnation of your sin. Jesus came down from the cross. We don’t need to keep nailing Him there because it is done, it is finished, it is over. Jesus paid the price for our sins once and for all; for all time, for all of humanity, everywhere. ‘His dying breath has brought me life – BECAUSE I know that it is finished’! Hallelujah!
“In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.”
In today’s world there is so much trying to create disharmony. Be that political elections, a rise in racism and sexism, and a massive increase of disharmony and dis-unity; even in the church! Yet it is in the church that unity should be increasing. We so quickly forget that if Christ lives in us, then we are brothers and sisters of the same family. There is no separation. As Paul rightly says, ‘it doesn’t matter who or what you are….Christ is all that matters!’
Yes we may have different worship styles, we may speak different languages, we may have completely different characters and views about life, but we should be united because of Christ. Our prayer should be that we can love the bride of Christ, Jesus’ body, the church. Not the four walls that make a building, but the people that worship inside. Christ is all that matters. Our prayer should be that we can live in harmony with all types of people and be united in our worship to and of Jesus. Friends, brothers and sisters, let us put to death feelings of dis-unity and disharmony and allow Jesus to bond us and bind us together for His Kingdom. He is all that matters.
“If you love Me, obey My commandments. And….”
When Jesus said, ‘If you love Me, obey My commandments’, He wasn’t behaving like a parent trying to get their child to do the right thing by using reverse psychology on us, He was stating a fact! If we love God, we will obey His commandments. It’s a natural process. It comes with the inner change that happens when we accept Jesus into our lives. The Holy Spirit enters our lives too, and with His power, our longings and desires for sins we used to commit decrease, replaced by a longing and desire to please God. We don’t love God and obey His commandments for reward or even to try to gain favour with Him. We do it because we have been loved and it is a natural reaction to love Him back, and want to honour Him. We are not bribed into loving God, we are not forced, and we are not manipulated to love Him either. We love and obey Him, because He loved us first and because He lives in us.
“You will tell His people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from Heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Zechariah’s prophecy over John the Baptist remains, even to this day, a wonderful reminder of John’s role in preparing the way for the Christ, but also stands as a declaration of who Jesus was and what He came to do.
Through John the Baptist’s declaration many people did believe in Jesus as the Messiah. He boldly declared that Jesus had come to take away their sins and that through His life, may people would be saved. John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for Jesus, was even prophesied before he was born when the angel Gabriel came to John’s father, Zechariah, whilst he was in the temple fulfilling his duties as a priest. Gabriel declared to Zechariah that John would “turn many Israelites to the Lord their God…..He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.”
As John grew older he did just that. He declared that Jesus was truly the Lamb of God, able to take the sins of the world and in so doing, lead people to the path of peace and out of the shadows of death and darkness.
That same message is still preached across the world today and is the hope and joy that we hold on to. Jesus did come to save us from our sins and to lead us out of darkness, into the path of peace and light. His word lives on forever. May we accept His generous love and kindness and hold on to the hope of His salvation.