“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… . When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.”
John 15:5, 8
The man who concentrates on the root system of his life is going to bear fruit upward, but if he concentrates on the eye-appealing foliage he may end up a rootless failure.
Robert D. Foster
Bearing fruit, being a believer with Christ-like attributes and characteristics, is not something we can conjure up in our own might and power. If we could, then why would we need God in the first place? Of course you can live as a moral person, with good intentions, but true Godly fruit, only comes from being connected to the source of Godly nutrients, the Vine of Christ. Jesus tells us that apart from Him, we ‘can do nothing’. Yes we can try to be a good person, try to look nice on the outside, and even try to fool ourselves that we do look good. Yet all this is not genuine, God-pleasing fruit, because it comes from us and not from the source of ‘good fruit’, Jesus Christ. In order to make sure we are producing ‘God’s’ fruit in our lives, we need to stay connected to the source, we need to stay plugged into the root of our faith. It is only then that we can be counted as true ‘fruit bearing’ disciples of God and bring glory to the Father. Stay plugged in! Stay true to Him!
“Dear Children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
1 John 3:18
Love is interpreted in so many different ways in different cultures. For some, love is used too cheaply and for others, love is a sacred word, only said a few times throughout married life. Yet what all cultures and nations agree in, echoed in John’s letter, is that love shouldn’t just be limited to spoken words, but backed up by action. Sometimes, we can just hide behind our words. Yet love through actions takes away any hiding. It exposes us. Makes us vulnerable. It challenges our inner motives. Do you really love them? Do you really love that unloveable person? Or the person who just upset you?
Yet the key to loving these people, and showing it by our actions, is firstly by receiving the love of King Jesus in your own hearts. You can’t truly love without first receiving the love of our Lord and Saviour. It is His perfect love that flows through us that enables us to love others. He showed that perfect love on the cross, demonstrating true love by loving those who were putting nails in His hands, and even those who hated Him. Even in that situation, Jesus radically loved them. That same love lives in us. No more excuses. Love those who are hard to love. Not by your own strength or with your own love but through the love of Jesus that is in you and flows through you.
“Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”
As you read this verse, perhaps some of the first thoughts that come into our minds are, how can I not think of the things of the earth if I have to live here? I have family to look after, I have children to care for, I have a mortgage or rent to pay, I need to work, I have responsibilities etc.. Yet being heavenly minded is not negating these things, or even dismissing them as un-important. Rather it is re-aligning our focus and including God in them. If we keep our eyes solely on the things that surround us on this earth, we can easily become suffocated and even loose focus of God. Yet if our eyes are always Heaven-ward bound, although we have to ‘do life’ here on this earth, our hope and futures and our present too can be safe and secure in Him. The struggles of ‘life’ don’t disappear but are seen in the proper light. They no longer seem daunting or overwhelming but are seen in heaven’s light and under God’s protection and comfort. Keep your eyes on Him.
“He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory on the cross.”
When Jesus hung on the cross, our destinies, the heavens and all of creation as it was known changed forever. Our sins, every one of them, from the past all the way into the future, were nailed to the cross in the glorious exchange. See what Paul says at the beginning of this verse. Jesus canceled every record of wrong, all the rightful charges against us for sinning against Him; nailed to the cross in the greatest act of love. Not only did He forgive our sins, but disarmed the foothold the enemy had over us. He took away the sting of death. Death on the cross was not defeat for Jesus, but victory. Jesus completed the work He came to do on the cross, living a sinless, blameless life and taking our sins on the cross. He won. And we are part of that victory. Because of Jesus, we get to live a life forgiven and made right before Christ. It is Christ who gets the glory, now and forever more.
“I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ Himself. In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Paul suffered greatly during his time of ministry. He was imprisoned and beaten and persecuted constantly. Time and time again, throughout his letters, Paul made his objectives very clear, through the chains and suffering. It was never for his personal gain or so he could boast in himself. His passion to share the love of Christ, the unity of Christ and the forgiveness of Christ was his driving force. It gave him an unwavering desire to continue for the church’s sakes and for the lost’s sake.
We too can enjoy Paul’s revelations as found in his writings and be encouraged to live with the same objectives he had; that all would know Christ. We can have full confidence to boldly share this message as he did. Paul’s actions were always coupled with and from a heart of love. He wanted that love to permeate throughout the church, to all believers everywhere: that includes us. When we share the Gospel, or meet with our brothers and sisters, let love be at the heart of your actions and thoughts. Not your own love, but the love that comes from God the Father, that all will be tied together with this bond of love.
“…You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received with you heard the Good News…”
Today’s verse is such a wonderful and confirming truth about who we are in Christ and our position in Him. Once enemies of Christ, now we stand in His very presence. When we stand before God, He doesn’t see someone who just lied, thought or did something bad, or a miserable sinner. No! He sees His child; His child that is free from the stain of sin, without a single fault, because Jesus Christ has paid our penalty and cleansed our sin by His sacrifice. Perhaps we need to hear that again. We stand before Christ without a ‘single fault’. Isn’t that incredible. He has completely forgiven us, completely washed us clean and completely made us new.
Of course this does not give us the license to live reckless lifestyles or negate asking God daily for forgiveness when we mess up. What it does do is affirm, that even though we do mess up, our position as children of Christ doesn’t change. His love for us stays the same. His sacrifice, once and for all doesn’t change. And our position in Him and how He sees us, doesn’t change. This knowledge releases you from condemnation. Stand firm in it. Don’t drift away from it. Let this truth give you hope and courage. Let it make you steadfast and un-wavering in your faith. And finally let it fill you with joy. You are God’s blameless child.
“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.
“Commit everything you do the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.”
Sometimes the ‘believing’ that God can do the miraculous in our lives isn’t the reason why we don’t have peace in our situations. The problem is not the ‘believing’ but the ‘letting go’ that hinders our ability to fully trust God. We naturally want to take the lead and do things our way. But God says to us, ‘Let go, commit it to Me, trust Me and I will take care of it.’ Part of trusting God, is committing things to Him, then letting go. Don’t try to keep one hand on it but fully give it to God, and He will help us. It’s a promise. It’s in His word. Trust Him, and He will help us. Let go. Trust Him. And watch His promises be fulfilled in your life. It is in the place of trust that we can fully have peace.
“Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honour. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teacher of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
There is something so dangerous about self-righteousness. It is like a blindfold that blinds us from the reality of truth. It narrows our vision to see only what we want to see. It negates any responsibility from our actions or thoughts. And furthermore, instead of leading us to Christ, it leads us away from Him. You see, when we think we are perfect, righteous and have no wrong in our lives, we start to become more independent and less dependent on Jesus. We begin to forget that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation and rather focus on doing. We become critical of others and start to judge their ‘unrighteousness’.
Look at the story in today’s passage. Isn’t this exactly what the Pharisees and teachers of the law were doing? Yet Jesus issued a stern warning that we too can take heed of, ‘I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.’ When we realise that we are in need of saving, that is when our hearts are open to accept Jesus’ salvation. When we admit we are sick, that is when we can be healed. If we don’t realise we are sick and lost without Christ, then we will just live in a bubble of ‘me’ and never know or experience Jesus’ love and mercy.
Don’t beat yourself up thinking you are a terrible sinner but equally don’t think you are perfect and have no need for Jesus. Admit that we need saving but then rejoice in the salvation that has been given.
‘I once was lost, but now I’m found. I once was blind, but now I see!’
“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ – for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”
Before you read this devotion and feel burdened by the weight of having to be a ‘good Christian’, re-read the verse again and pay special attention to the words ‘produced in your life by Jesus Christ’. Notice that our characters, are transformed by Jesus Himself. It is not our special or good behaviour. It is not segregating yourself from society and away from worldly temptations in order to pursue inner purity. NO. It is Jesus Christ, alive in us, who transforms us into His likeness. The more we spend time with Him, however, the more our characters take on His. The more we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us up, the more we are filled with His glory and produce the kind of fruit that glorifies God.
Paul’s words tell us that the fruit of our salvation, is having a righteous character. This is completely the work of Christ. We are not made right by what we do, but by what He has done. Moreover, the work of Christ in you, brings God glory. Isn’t that incredible. It is the work of Christ in you that transforms you and in-turn brings glory to God. There is nothing of me or I in this. It is the work of God. Our responsibility is to spend more time with Jesus and ask Him to fill us a new daily and allow Him to transform us from the inside out. That is how we are to ‘always be filled with the fruit of our salvation’!