Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 15:1-11 (ESV).
He Prunes (vv. 1-2)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
All throughout the New Testament we get this picture of the difference between those who truly know Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, and those who profess his name, but do not really know him, or who started with him, but their faith never really took root, because it was not founded in Jesus Christ and in his Word. What this passage of scripture teaches, and many more like it, is that true faith abides in Christ, it turns away from living for sin and self, and it turns to God, to walk in his holiness and righteousness. True faith is continuous, persistent and endures to the end. We are not saved on the basis of past belief. Jesus said that whoever “believing” in him has eternal life (Jn. 3:16). That means we have to believe in him to the end if we want to have the hope of heaven.
We also learn throughout the New Testament that the Lord disciplines (prunes) those who are truly his. I asked Google this question: “Why prune trees?” One of the answers was, “Remove dead, damaged and diseased branches to help prevent insect and decay organisms from entering the tree” (1). This fits with what we read in Hebrews 12: “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:1-11). In other words, we are not saved, then live our lives however we want, and then we die and go to heaven. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). So, he disciplines (prunes) us to keep the bad stuff out of our lives, and to keep the good stuff inside.
Abide in Him (vv. 3-11)
“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Our faith in Jesus Christ is not about following a religion. It is about a relationship with God. It is not just about being forgiven of our sins, but it is about turning away from our sinful lifestyles in order to follow Jesus in surrender to his will for our lives. Jesus did not die to take away the sins of the entire world just so we could profess his name and then go about our own business of living life how we want. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit of God (Ro. 8:1-14). If we truly believe that Jesus died to deliver us out of sin and to make us his holy people, then that belief should be reflected in how we live our lives each and every day. We should no longer be slaves to our sinful flesh, but we should now be servants of his righteousness, living to please God.
So, what does it mean to abide in Christ? How do we do that? It has to begin with being born again of the Spirit of God. A mere profession of faith in order to escape hell and to have the promise of heaven when we die is not abiding in Christ. When we are born again we start all over. We don’t keep living like we did before. The old has gone, the new has come. This does not mean we will all of a sudden be perfect, but it does mean that we turn away from sin and we turn to follow Jesus with our lives. We can’t go two opposite directions at the same time. So, when we follow Jesus, we naturally (or supernaturally) turn away from sin. This begins with the Father drawing us to Jesus, and us accepting God’s invitation to believe on his Son, and the Spirit enabling us to turn from sin to follow Jesus.
Then, in the power and the working of the Spirit within us, we die daily to sin and self, and we walk in fellowship with our Lord, living to please him and to do what he says. This means we need to be in his Word daily, taking it into our minds and hearts. Then, we have to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit and respond in obedience to what his word teaches us. We also need to be in prayer daily, in confession of sin, in bringing our requests to God, in trusting and believing him to work miracles of his grace in other people’s lives, and we need to thank and praise him for who he is and for all that he has done and will do for us. When we know his word, we can fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us, and we can resist Satan’s attempts to try to get us to sin against God. We can also refute Satan’s lies and discern his tricks so that we are no easily deceived into believing false teaching.
When we are abiding in Christ, we can hear his voice speaking to our hearts throughout the day, no matter what we are doing. It is just like having another person right there with you all day long listening to you and speaking to you, too. Not only does God speak to us through his written word, but he speaks to us through his Spirit whom he has given to us to indwell us and to counsel, guide, direct, rebuke, correct, encourage, instruct and empower us. Yet, we must always test the spirits to see if they are of God. In other words, we all have more than one voice speaking to us. We have our own inner voice, our conscience, Satan, other people, including past voices, and we have God in the person of the Holy Spirit speaking to us. So, we need to make sure that the voices we listen to line up with God’s word and that they agree with God’s divine nature and will for our lives.
When we are certain it is God speaking to us, we must obey what he tells us to do. Not only does God have a specific will for all of his followers collectively, such as to turn away from sin and to follow the Lord in obedience, and to love one another, etc., but he has gifted us each individually, and he has given each of us specific assignments within the Body of Christ which we are to fulfill. Yet, the Bible is not going to literally say anything to us specifically with regard to God’s calling on our lives. For instance, “Sue Love” is not mentioned in scripture, so I am not going to find a passage where it says “Sue, you are to write what I teach you from my word each day and you are to post it on the internet,” yet that is his calling on my life. Nonetheless, he did use Habakkuk 2:2-3 to place this calling on my life. He, by his Spirit, gave me that calling when I read that passage. I knew it was his voice speaking to me, and so I have done what he has asked me to do these past ten years.
So, if you are not certain how God has gifted you, or what his specific calling is on your life, ask him to reveal it to you. Turn from your sin. Walk in obedience to him and to his Word. Love him with all your heart, and enjoy your times of sweet fellowship with him each day. Resist the devil, flee temptation, and draw near to God. There is no better life than one that is committed to following Jesus Christ in surrender to his perfect will for your life.
My Sheep / An Original Work / June 24, 2012
Based off John 10:1-18 NIV
My sheep hear me. They know me.
They listen to my voice and obey.
I call them and lead them.
They know my voice, so they follow me.
They will never follow strangers.
They will run away from them.
The voice of a stranger they know not;
They do not follow him.
So, I tell you the truth that
I am the gate, so you enter in.
Whoever does enter
Will find forgiveness and will be saved.
Nonetheless whoever enters
Not by the gate; other way,
He is the thief and a robber.
Listen not, the sheep to him.
Oh, I am the Good Shepherd,
Who laid his own life down for the sheep.
I know them. They know me.
They will live with me eternally.
The thief only comes to steal and
Kill and to destroy the church.
I have come to give you life that
You may have it to the full…
They know my voice, so they follow me.