Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘the branches’

As a kid growing up in the Catholic Church, my earliest and strongest impression of Jesus was that of Him hanging on the cross.  To my young mind, the fact that God would require this of His Son was pretty strong evidence of how serious He was about sin.  Thus, throughout my formative years I assumed that the mission was essentially to be good, and thereby avoid sin.

 

That seemed simple enough.  After all, I was a good person, so sidestepping the evil stuff shouldn’t be that big a deal.  It didn’t take long to figure out that there was more to it than that.

 

By my teen years, I realized that I not only struggled to avoid sin, I was actually quite drawn to it.  For a while this made me wonder whether I was just a bad person, but eventually I came to a deeper understanding of both what is “good” and what is “sin”.

 

Interestingly, the choice that Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden wasn’t between the fruit of what is good, and of what is evil.  It was fruit from the Tree of Life, or fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  One offered daily provision from the Giver of life, while the other offered the ability to decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil.  The sin occurs every time we shun the former in favor of the latter.  The consequence of that choice is that there is a way that seems right to a man, but that it ultimately leads to death.

 

While it was good to discover that I wasn’t necessarily an evil person, and that everyone has to battle their fallen nature, how does one begin to battle something that so naturally bubbles up from within them?  Like Paul wrote to the Romans, the good things I wanted to do didn’t seem to be getting done, while I often managed to do the very thing I was trying to avoid doing.  Clearly, I needed some new source of power if I had any hope of winning this battle with my own nature.

 

It was at this point in my journey that I encountered the Holy Spirit of God, who up until that time had been the Holy Ghost; little more than a sacred mystery to me.  As I reread the scripture, I was amazed by how plainly Jesus spoke of the gift of His Spirit, and of all He meant to accomplish through Him.  He would be the Comforter, the Counselor, an ever present help, and the very presence of God, manifested within His children.  He would be the fulfilment of God’s promise to never leave us, nor forsake us.

 

Indeed, finding the Holy Spirit changed everything for me.  It brought God out of heaven, and Jesus out of history.  It made the scripture the “Living Word”, and for the first time, it made me feel as though all things were truly possible.  It also provided a profound sense of His nearness, and I can honestly say that since that time I have never really felt alone.  But along with those blessings came a new set of challenges, and a greater understanding of the mission.

 

Realizing that God wasn’t just speaking figuratively when He said, “My sheep know my voice, they listen, and they follow”, forced me to change the way I made decisions.  Whereas I’d previously just done whatever seemed best, my genuine desire to be a “follower of Christ” compelled me to at least try to consult with Him first.  And while He didn’t (& doesn’t) speak to me about every little thing in my life, I was amazed by how often He does.  At that point in my journey, it became all about being led by the Spirit.

 

Looking back, I guess I must have thought that following after the Spirit was going to put me on the path to righteousness, and truth, and ultimately to my calling, as though He was just some heavenly tour guide.  But over time I came to understand that I had a rather significant misconception.  Our God isn’t simply a loving God, He is the embodiment of love.  Our God doesn’t just love truth, He is the truth.  And Jesus didn’t just come to show us the way, He is the way.  Following after the Spirit isn’t us trying to get to Jesus, it is Jesus walking with us.  Like the disciples of old, we have to be willing to walk away from our own plans in order to truly follow Him.

 

Ultimately, our destiny isn’t a location or a vocation, it is a person He’s created us to be.  Paul told the Romans (Rom. 8:29) that God has predestined us to be conformed into the image of His son, and he spoke of this transformation in his letter to the Corinthians (2Cor. 3:18) as well.  Jesus taught that He is the vine and we are the branches.  He promised that those who “abide in the vine” will bear fruit.   Paul went on to describe the fruit of living by the Holy Spirit to the Galatians (Gal. 5:22-23).  Those attributes are Christ’s character, which He intends to be revealed in us.  In this we become the genuine “Body of Christ”.  Indeed, He said that it is Christ in us that is the hope of glory.

 

I would submit that this vine is the same life giving tree that was offered in the garden.  So at this point in my journey, the mission is mostly about abiding in that vine, and allowing Him to transform me into the person He conceived me to be.  In many ways it’s very simple, if we wake up to find that our phone didn’t charge overnight, the first thing we check is whether the charger is plugged in.  I would suggest that we need to act similarly when we don’t see the fruit of transformation that God promised.  It is from the vine that all provision, power, and life flow.  Apart from it, we can do nothing, but through it, all things are possible.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »