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/)