Is God Pruning You?

-Pruning Produces More Fruit!

My parents used to grow grapes; and, there were times when they had to cut away the dead branches that produced no grapes! But, they also cut back “living” branches; so, the vine would use it’s resources to produce more “fruit”—GRAPES! In the timeline, of John 15, Jesus is preparing His disciples for life after His death, resurrection & ascension. He begins with these words: “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” (vs. 1-2).

-Things To Come!

As you move, through the rest of the chapter, Jesus tells them that 2 things will come after his departure. First, He says there will be defections from inside the faith; or, inside the church body! People, who claimed to be followers of Jesus, will walk away from “the Faith.” They’ll quit! It’s not for them! And, second, Jesus tells them there will be persecution from the outside! Bogus faith inside the church & suffering from the outside! And, He uses the metaphor of a vine, a branch; and, the fruit produced, to illustrate the difference between a true disciple of Jesus and a fraud! Jesus is the Vine! The Father is the Vinedresser! And, there are 2 different kinds of branches here—ONE that bears NO FRUIT! And, the Father REMOVES it! And, the other—that produces FRUIT! And, the Father prunes it so that it produces more fruit!

-Responding To God’s Pruning!

So, here’s the bottom line—It is our RESPONSE to God’s pruning that proves what kind of branch we are! Are you a dead branch that produces no fruit? Or, a living, healthy branch that responds to the painful process, of pruning, by producing more fruit? Let’s talk about some of the points that Jesus makes, about fruitfulness, through His use of the metaphor of the Vine & the branches! First, He clearly indicates that fruitfulness is expected from every genuine disciple of Jesus. In the first 3 verses, of John 15, He says that if you don’t bear fruit, it’s because you’re “not abiding” in the Vine! In other words, you’re NOT “IN CHRIST.” So, what kind of fruit should we expect to see growing in the life of a follower of Jesus? While several passages answer that question; perhaps, none better than Galatians 5.

-The Fruit Of The Spirit!

The Apostle Paul, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, wrote the Church of Galatia to tell them that the indwelling Spirit will produce fruit in their life that looks like this: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (vs. 22-24). That’s some of the low hanging fruit that’s produced by those who belong to Jesus! The Spirit produces it! If you’re a believer, Jesus invested His life in you! And, He expects a “return”— or, FRUIT— from His investment! We’ll come back to this next week!

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The Fruit God Produces In You!

-The Evidence Is The Fruit!

Everyone that is “in Christ” will evidence the fruit of that relationship. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches! So, if you don’t bear fruit it’s because you’re “not abiding in the vine,” He said. So, let’s take some time to consider what kind of fruit is expected to be growing, in our life, if we belong to Him. Besides Galatians 5, which speaks to fruit the indwelling Holy Spirit produces in us, there is also an expectation that our lives would produce the fruit of winning others to Jesus.

-The Fruit Of Disciple-Making!

In John 4, Jesus said: “Do not say, ‘There are yet four months and then comes the harvest. I tell you lift up your eyes and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.” Does your life reveal the fruit of disciple making? Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 14:15.  So, we would expect to see the fruit of obedience in the life of someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

-The Fruit Of Obedience!

If our faith is genuine, the indwelling Holy Spirit will be at work in us—pointing out all the areas of our lives we still need to line up, in obedience, to the Word of God. In John 15, Jesus refers to The Father as the Vinedresser (v.1); and, He added that God will remove you, from the vine, if there’s no life in you. In v.6 He says you’ll be thrown into the FIRE! Jesus taught the same truth in His parable about the wheat & the tares in Matthew 13. The “tares” LOOKED like wheat; but, they were frauds! They were weeds & at the harvest they’ll be separated from the genuine wheat and burned up. That pictures judgment for everyone who claims to be Jesus’ disciple; but, have no fruit to evidence that claim! Just as the owner, of a vineyard, expects fruit; so, God expects every one of us— who genuinely abide in Christ— to produce fruit! He saved us on account of His great Name & for His great purpose— that He might gather a people, to Himself for all eternity, that belong to Him! Jesus Christ “invested” His life in you; and, He expects a “return” on that investment! Consider what Jesus said!

-Jesus Chose Us!

You did not choose me,” Jesus said, “but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” John 15:16.  It’s fruitfulness, He says, that evidences real faith! If your life is absent, of fruit, you’d do well to examine yourself against the Scriptures to see if you’re faith is the real thing! Please consider Jesus’ words carefully, with all sobriety! This is “life or death” because fruitfulness is always the result of “abiding in Christ.” If there is NO FRUIT of the Spirit; if there is NO FRUIT or passion to “MAKE DISCIPLES”; If there is NO FRUIT of obedience—it may be because you do not abide in Jesus! Nor does He abide in you! The church, here in the west, has made a distinction between a “believer” & a “disciple.” A distinction that’s not endorsed by Scripture! We’ll get into that in next week’s post!

 

Supernatural Prayer!

-Lot’s Of Goofy Ideas About Prayer!

The world— and, even the church— has some pretty goofy ideas about prayer! For some, prayer is like magic! If your faith is strong enough, YOU can pray the sick back to health! YOU can pray the dead back to life! I’ve heard prayers— by some who claimed to be believers— that sounded more like witchcraft or New Age spirituality, where, prayer is like “The Force”; and, the battle against the dark side! And, if God is going to win, YOU have to support Him with your payers! In other words, the fate of the world; and, even of GOD, is in YOUR hands; or, in your prayers!

-Blasphemous Prayer!

Then, there is the blasphemous “Word of Faith” teaching on prayer; or, the “Prosperity Gospel” that makes God out to be little more than your personal “Jeannie In A Bottle.” You want health, wealth & prosperity? Just name it and claim it! God is helpless against the power of YOUR words if you claim it in Jesus’ name! He has to give it to you! That’s a perversion of what Jesus taught His disciples to pray! It’s a perversion of what prayer looks like in the New Testament.

-Why Is Real Prayer Supernatural?

Prayer, in the New Testament, was SUPERNATURAL! I mean, by that, that prayer was an absolute reliance & dependence on God. These perversions of prayer are humanistic in nature. The power is INSIDE us! Biblical prayer, instead, depends on the power of God that is OUTSIDE us! We’re admitting to our WEAKNESS; and, to our inability to affect change! We’re trusting in a SUPERNATURAL God to do what we cannot do! Biblical prayer is expressed helplessness & a dependence on God’s power! Let me put it another way:  whatever we don’t pray about, we’re basically telling God, “I got this,” right? Don’t need you for this one, God! Let me get personal! How many of you get up early enough Sunday mornings to pray that God would move powerfully in your Worship service? How many of you prayed specifically for a certain person that needs to be saved? Whatever ministry you might be part of in your church, do you pray regularly over it? For people that are part of it? I doubt that most of you really believe you can do God’s work without His SUPERNATURAL help! But, if you’re not praying over it regularly it kind of casts doubt!

-What Are Your Expectations?

We need the Holy Spirit’s conviction that if we’re not spending significant time appealing to God, in passionate prayer, that we shouldn’t expect him to do any supernatural work in our midst, in our lives,  or, in our church! By our failure to pray, we’re telling God, “I got this! Don’t need your help!” Listen, the Holy Spirit doesn’t need our self-centered know how! He doesn’t need us at all! But, it seems to be God’s M.O. to engage His people in deep, passionate, humble, helpless & desperate prayer BEFORE He does His great,  SUPERNATURAL work! He includes us; and, He uses our prayer to grow, in us, a deeper dependence on HIS power, rather, than our own! Will you repent of your false views of prayer; or, your prayerlessness? God help us!

 

What Sexual Health Looks Like!

-It’s Not What You Think!

Unfortunately, marriage & parenting are the butt of a lot of jokes in our society. We sing a lot of sad songs about lost love; and, it seems that’s one way we manage the pain.  Like the story of a woman whose husband lay in bed dying, going in and out of a coma. One day he briefly awoke & reached out to his wife to draw her close.  As she sat next to him, he began to whisper some of his remembrances to her:  “Honey, you’ve been right there beside me through all the rough times.  You were there when I got fired. You were there when my business failed.  You were there when we lost the house.  And, you’ve been right here—the whole time—by my side even as my health failed & I lay dying.” He paused briefly & asked, “You know what?” “What, dearest?” She asked as she wiped a tear from her eye.  “I think you’re bad luck” he said; and, then slipped back into a coma!

-Flawless Marriage Counseling!

I’m pretty confident that everyone enters into marriage longing for a partnership that remains strong & healthy! I hope that it doesn’t surprise you when I say that God’s Word provides us with the ONLY flawless counsel for building those healthy marriages; and, for training up godly children! If you’re a relatively new follower of Jesus, you may be surprised to find out how much the Bible has to say about marriage & sex & family! But, think about it! It was God who created marriage! And, it was God who created sex! He created the family, too! So, it really only makes sense that we would go to the SOURCE for wisdom & counsel in these areas!

-A Foundational Bible Text!

A foundational text on the subject of marriage, sex, and the family is 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. It’s incredibly practical; and, if you’ll commit to obeying the words of Scripture—rather, than listening to the foolish, so-called “wisdom” of the world—you’ll have that strong & happy marriage that everyone longs for.  It’s an intriguing passage! What the Apostle Paul says to the Church of Corinth—and, these are words inspired by God’s Holy Spirit—are completely out-of-step with the world’s wisdom and the societal norms for family & for human sexuality! So, choose who you’re going to listen to!

-Where Healthy Sex Happens!

If you just google “A Healthy Sex Life” you’ll get results like “10 Signs You Have A Healthy Sex Life”—but, not one sign is attached to marriage between a man & a woman! Your google search results will also include articles on sexual dysfunction & how to maintain an active sex life; but, again, with no reference to marriage! But, according to God, “Healthy Sex” ONLY happens in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman! Over & over, the Word of God warns us against the ramifications of sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman! All other sexual activities are spiritually unhealthy because it is disobedience to God’s word! But, it can also prove to be physically & emotionally unhealthy! It has a trickle down effect, negatively impacting others downline! Next Week: We’ll get into 1 Cor. 7.

 

God’s Glory Over Our Sanctification!

-It Begins At Our Salvation!

Eternal salvation begins for us the moment we are “justified”! Though we are born “…dead in trespasses & sins…” we are made alive through Jesus’ substitutionary atonement, on the cross, on our behalf! And, because the sinless One paid the price for sin—that sinners should have paid—God is LEGALLY “just” to pass over our sin and grant us salvation. That’s why we say we are “justified.” Here’s a great way to remember what it means to be “justified”— “Just as If I’d never sinned!” Next, after God justifies us, He moves into our “house” & He begins to “clean house”; or, to “sanctify” us by the power of His indwelling Spirit.

-Sin Loses It’s Power!

Sin no longer has power over us! By God’s power, sin can be defeated! This is what it means to be “sanctified.” And, God is glorified in our “sanctification” also! He grows us spiritually! He matures us in our faith! Here’s what the Apostle Paul wrote, in his letter, to the Church of Ephesus:  “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory” Ephesians 1:11-12. In Christ we’ve obtained an inheritance! It’s an inheritance that has been predestined to us; but, we don’t have it yet!

-Receiving Our Inheritance!

Now, someone has to die before an inheritance can be received, right? Usually, someone else dies & we receive an inheritance as a result! In regard to our eternal inheritance, in heaven, however, WE have to die to obtain it, don’t we? So, Paul seems to be referring to this time—RIGHT NOW—the time in between our salvation & the time we will inherit it! When Daniel was taken captive, by the Babylonians, they intended to break him from his faith in Yahweh, in part, by a diet that was offered in sacrifice to their Babylonian gods.  “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” Daniel 1:8. In other words, Daniel was “sanctified” or “set apart” for God as he faced this decision! And, God is glorified as we grow in our sanctification because He’s doing the work in us! We submit to His work! But our spiritual growth is His work!

-Work Out Your Salvation!

There’s an incredibly interesting scripture related, to this subject, in Philippians chapter 2. I’d encourage you to memorize it; or, at least remember where it’s found: “Work out your own salvation,” Paul tells the Church of Philippi, “with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” Philippians 2:12-13. There’s no mistaking that God commands us to “work out your own salvation.” That’s an imperative! We are commanded to grow, in our salvation; or, to be sanctified! But, God actually does the work! He “enables” us & gives us the “desire” to grow in our faith! The flesh cannot produce a sanctified life! It appears, that our brokenness and depravity is so thorough that we can’t even muster the “desire” to grow up spiritually! God gets the glory for our sanctification! All of it!

 

God’s Glory Over Our Justification!

-He Alone Gets Glory For Our Faith!

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Church of Ephesus, he made it clear, from the start, that God ALONE must receive the glory for anyone’s salvation! From the beginning of salvation, through our “justification”, until it’s completion at our “glorification”; and, everything in between during our “sanctification” in the present— ALL of it is God’s work for which He is to receive Glory! “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul began, “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved” Ephesians 1:3-6.

-To The Praise Of His Glorious Grace!

That phrase, “…to the praise of His glorious grace…” is actually translated, “…to the praise of the GLORY of His grace…” in the NKJV. In other words, God is glorified through our “justification.” He is glorified AS He justifies us! It isn’t anything that we do! HE justifies us! HE saves us from the penalty of our sin! That’s what it means to be justified in God’s sight! Our sin legally condemns us to death! But, when Jesus became the substitutionary atonement on our behalf, God could LEGALLY remove the death penalty, we deserved, because Jesus died in our place! And, clearly, Paul intends for us to understand that our justification was God’s work alone!

-God Chose Us Before Creation!

No doubt drawing from Jesus’ words— “…You did not choose Me, but I chose you…”—Paul confirmed that, “…HE CHOSE us… BEFORE the foundation of the world…” v.4. Think of that! Let those words sink in! Feel the weight of that statement! BEFORE the world was created; BEFORE you were created, God had already CHOSEN you IF you’re a believer! “HE PREDESTINED us to be ADOPTED…” v.5. It’s because HE chose us & HE predestined us, to be saved BEFORE we were created, that all boasting or credit we might take, for our faith, is removed! One of the most significant aspects, of a marriage, is that from that day on a woman is called by a new name! Her name is changed because the groom loves her!

-Called By A New Name!

The groom loves her & invites her to take on a new identity as his wife! One of the most significant aspects of accepting Jesus, as Savior, is the fact that from that day on we’re called by a new name! Jesus loves us & invites us to take on a new identity! We’re no longer called  a “sinner”; but, a “saint”; His “bride”; His “church”! Throughout Scripture, there are many examples where God changed the names of His people— He changed Abram, meaning “high father”, to Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude of many nations”; He changed Sarai, meaning “argumentative”, to Sarah, meaning “princess”; He changed Simon, meaning “he has heard”, to Peter, meaning “the rock.” There are many more if you’ll look into it! When God justifies us He gives us a new name to signify a changed life; and, He does it all for His Glory!

 

God’s Glory In Our Salvation!

-We’re Rendered Speechless!

Music is a powerful medium! Especially, in a worship service! Just combine a deeply moving message—about grace, mercy, love, the cross & salvation—with an appropriate musical score and it locks up my vocal chords! I’m just rendered speechless! I can’t sing! All I can do is praise Jesus—in my heart—as I listen to the congregation sing! That’s the kind of picture I get, in my mind, when I read about the worship service that will one day take place in heaven— “And I beheld, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor,  AND GLORY, and blessing.” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying, “Blessing and honor AND GLORY and power be unto him that sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever” Rev. 5:11-13

-Jesus, The Lamb, Is Worthy!

Why? Why will there be such a scene in heaven? Because Jesus, the Lamb, is worthy! Jesus is worthy of blessing, honor & GLORY! He willingly submitted Himself to the Father’s plan! He was the Lamb of God, who shed His blood—on our behalf—so, that we might be saved! And, every believer since creation will sing their praises to Jesus because our salvation was the result of Jesus’ work, on the Cross, ALONE! Our salvation is God’s work alone! So, He gets all the Glory alone! There is no one else to praise!

-Because Of His Great Love!

We can take no glory for our own salvation! We were DEAD in our trespasses & sins— “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages (That’s the scene described earlier in Rev. 5) He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” Eph. 2:4-9.

-Nothing To Boast About!

We have nothing to boast about in ourselves! We boast in Jesus & the cross! Our greatest preoccupation must be with God’s Glory! It’s for that purpose that we exist! Jesus is the HERO of our story, NOT us! Our salvation didn’t require a little bit of our effort & a lot of Jesus’ work! All that we contributed was our total depravity & brokenness! His coming, to save us, was nothing short of a “rescue mission”! And, Scripture teaches clearly that He is to be offered praise for the entirety of our salvation! So, that, from the beginning of our faith, in this life, to the completion of our faith, in heaven, He gets ALL the Glory! It’s appropriate that we remain committed to giving God Glory for our salvation every opportunity we can!