Saturday, February 23, 2013

Abiding in Christ - Renewed by the Vine

As we spend time in His Presence, we take nourishment from His very life, just as a branch receives the nutrients it needs through it's connectedness to the vine. So eating and drinking the Reality of Christ fills us with an ever growing awareness of Who God is: He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and fully-good! I become emboldened by His love, the heart-felt knowledge His goodness is directed at me, and that his power and knowledge are working that goodness together for my benefit! (Romans 8:28)
Basking in the Reality of God soaks us in the awareness of His Presence. Where we see the Reality of God, then?
  • We know Him through the life and witness of Christ
  • We touch Him through the life and witness of Christ's Body, His people
  • We listen to Him through His prophetic speaking through dreams and visions or as a gentle voice in our consciousness
  • We breathe in His Presence through our wonder of creation
  • We experience Him through His coordination of our life's circumstances
  • We see Him like the wind, moving in all things, as our awareness of Him grows
  • We understand more about Him through the revelation of Scripture
And as we bask in the awareness of Him, His fruit grows upon us: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self-Control. This fruit feeds the world around us and attracts a starving world to the Life that is within us. It cannot be imitated by the Accuser of Men or by his emissaries, who by the way, can appear as messengers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ) These servants of our Adversary have the appearance of being righteousness, but instead of life, they usher in death.

Now here's the really bad news: we can serve the purposes of the Enemy when we are not abiding in Christ. Without the nourishment of His Presence in our lives, we wither and die. Sometimes we feel the dryness and sometimes it sneaks up on us. It's like a cascading fountain that is capped off: the pool of water no longer overflows into the lives of others. Oh sure, we can throw more of ourselves into it so that the love still appears to flow, but working in our own strength to appear “loving”, the more our junk overflows into the lives of others. Maybe we recognize what's happening, and we just give up... we stop trying. And in that case, we evaporate into a hollow structure that’s devoid of life... we bear no light... we display no love. Without His love, how can we love? (1 John 4:19) Trying to do it on our own, we push a legalistic death pill, erecting an idol of our own righteousness. “Be like me!” we preach, leading others to a false idol.

The veil of sin in our life hides God's Presence to the point where we can doubt or disbelieve in Him. We doubt Who He is: Is He truly all-powerful? Is he aware of my circumstances? Does He even care about me? Our joy is far from complete when we stand so far away from Him. That doubt can become anger or despair, which in turn can develop into rebellion.

But the nature of God has never changed, and He is faithful to redeem! He does not forget His promises to us or His plans for us. Remaining in Him is evidenced by the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. When do I sin? When I choose to be apart from Him, I start to fill the emptiness of my spiritual stomach with junk food. How am I set free from my desire to sin? I spend time with Him! Coming into His Presence uncaps the fountain and pushes all the junk, all the emotional baggage out of our lives, and fills us with a growing awareness of Who He truly is: to us, for us, and in us.

If we are to know a tree by its fruit, the first place we should look is at our own fruit. Although most versions of the Bible separate the following verses under different topical headlines, I believe we can join them together for a new understanding:

"How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.
Luke 6:42-44 (NIV)
Next: Abiding in Christ - Obedience

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Abiding in Christ - A Transforming Consciousness


So jumping back to the first question: what does it mean to remain in Him? Somehow, our lives and His essence are joined. My very being, my existence is intertwined with His. My purpose, my identity, my... me, is one with Christ. The circumstances of my life are perceived in the context of this relationship with Him. It is my very life.

“I think and therefore I am” is a quote attributed to Rene' Descartes, a French philosopher, mathematician and physicist. Descartes exposed a fundamental truth about living, something completely personal, inward-looking and undeniably real: with life, there is an awareness of existence. The mere fact that I know I'm alive, proves beyond doubt that I am a being who exists. You see, this awareness... this heart-felt understanding that “I am aware” proves that I am alive. Am I aware of my environment? Am I aware of pleasure? Am I aware of pain? It's this awareness that makes my existence irrefutable. But there's a deeper, newer awareness that comes when we are in relationship with Christ. It testifies to a life in us that is more real than the life than we can have on our own.

Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian church leader and author, also wrote about awareness as it relates to life. He observed that when we become a Christian, when we place our trust in the power of Christ to reconcile us to the Creator Father, a new awareness becomes a part of us. He writes about this deeper life:
Now by the same token, the life which God has given to the Christian believer can likewise be known by its consciousness. Although we cannot take hold of such divine life and show it to ourselves or to other people, we nonetheless know we have this new life because there is within us an altogether new consciousness.... How does he know he has the life of God?... If the life of God is in him, the consciousness of that life must be in him as well... He feels restless when he sins. He immediately senses a veil between him and God after he has sinned and instantly loses his inner joy. Such manifestations as these are facets of life's consciousness, for because the life of God hates sin, therefore a person who has God's life must also have a certain feeling against sin. The very fact of his possessing this life's sense proves he possesses such life.
"The Body of Christ: A Reality", Watchman Nee (Chapter 1, emphasis added)
There is new Awareness that enters our soul, an Awareness that gently molds us into the people we were created to be. This new consciousness is both undeniable and deeply personal, challenging our thoughts and attitudes, prompting changes in our actions and ultimately bringing restoration into our lives as well as to the world around us. As a result, we are a peculiar people, a special people, who have been remade and are being remade into Christ's image.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (New American Standard Bible)
Next: Abiding in Christ - Renewed by the Vine

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Abiding in Christ - Abiding in Joy

So as adopted children of God, what are our Family Values

Above all, we value the Presence of God’s love. We seek to live in His Presence. John’s gospel is often used to introduce new believers to the faith. John, friend of Jesus, often referred to himself as the beloved disciple. He understood the importance of basking in God’s loving Presence and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote:
"Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples. 
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:4-11 (NIV) (emphasis added)
There is so much in the above quote: so much to dwell upon... so much to understand... so many questions that flow from the verses! What does it mean to “Remain in” Christ? How do we remain in Him (once we understand what that even means!)? What does He mean by “fruit”? How do we “remain in [His] love”? And if I don't understand all this, how can my joy be complete?

I love the way that Jesus gives us the “why” here: “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” It demonstrates the essential motivation behind all His actions: He loves us and wants the best for us! My joy is dependent upon His working in my life. For my joy to be complete, His joy needs to be inside me.

Now “joy” is different from “happiness”. Happiness depends on our circumstances. I'm happy when events go my way. I find happiness in those things that please me: a good joke, a movie, some appetizing food or beverage, recognition by others, and the list goes on and on. We are happy when something pleases us.

But joy is different from happiness. It is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) (What's a fruit again??? I’ll describe it's relevance in a future blog.) And unlike happiness, it is somehow possible to find joy even in the midst of suffering; James exhorts us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), and Peter writes that we should “rejoice that [we] participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that [we] may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) Joy flows from a confidence in a reality that cannot be seen. In other words, it comes from “faith” (Hebrews 11:1), a gift that God provides to enable the flow of His saving grace in our lives. (Ephesians 2:8) It's an awareness of the invisible truth that comes from dwelling in the very Presence of Truth. Basking, soaking, and dwelling upon God's working in our lives brings a certainty to our hearts of Who He is for us.

Next: Abiding in Christ - A Transforming Consciousness

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Family Values

In some ways, this is a continuation of a previous post, but I think it also stands on its own:

In the beginning God's love overflowed into an action: the creation of others for Him to love. Because of His love, we are continuing to learn how to love. But rebellion entered the world when those He created for love sought to become their own god rather than remaining in the peace and grace of His Presence. The rebellious forsook His provision and protection (as well as obedience to His divine direction) and pursued inflated self-gratification in all its myriad forms. So sin entered the world, and the would-be-gods became victims of each other, pawns of a great deception because a rebellious heart tends to use everyone and everything for self-gain… and because there is and can only be One True God, Who is all-powerful, all-knowing and fully good. 

God is love, and while He has loved us from the very beginning, He existed before “the beginning”. Since love only exists when there is both a Lover and a Beloved, God (Who is love) exists as both Lover and Beloved. In a way we can’t totally understand, the One True God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: 3 persons in one God. And because God’s very nature is love, even in the midst of man’s rebellion, the Father reached out through His Son with Good News: He desires a relationship with us... we have ever remained the object of His affection! Those who embrace this message are transformed. They are no longer children of the Rebellion; they have become children of the Kingdom, children who return and promote the love of God. No longer do these people accept the values of the Rebellion, but as adopted members of the Royal Family, they embrace the Kingdom values. They have become the Church, a Remnant of people faithful to the divine order of a heavenly family.

We, the Church, are messengers of His love, only capable of communicating this message as we are frequently reminded of the life-giving gospel ourselves. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ commissioned His Remnant to proclaim through action this Good News (a.k.a. – “gospel”): Love God, love others, and cultivate the same. Through our actions and words, we promote this gospel message for all those He has predestined for love. 

This is our all-encompassing purpose: to love God, love others and cultivate the same. We love as a reflection of His love. We work, joining Him in the work He is already doing. We live as travelers in this world, strangers to the Rebellion, and ambassadors of the Truth, a reality that is often hidden by the lies of the Rebellion. We seek to speak the truth in love, trusting in God for the outcome, never knowing the outcome ourselves but trusting that He will be true to His promise to work all things together for our good. Even adversity has been remade as an instrument for our good. Every adversity will be overcome as a demonstration of His power and love and to build up God’s people, even the great adversity of death… because at some point, each of us will leave this world to see our heavenly family clearly and to know Love fully. And that will be very good.

But until then, we seek to live in His love, extending that same love and grace to others and promoting the values of our Father.

To do this, we need to Abide in Him

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)