This past week I heard the news story of over 365 Syrian immigrants who paid $4000 - $8000 to get on a rundown ship to escape the hardships of their war-torn country to escape to Italy. What they didn’t know was that the criminal smugglers had started the boat on course and then put the steering wheel and throttle on autopilot...and then jumped off to a smaller boat to take them to safety. The ship was moving aimlessly! The immigrants hoped to make it to Italy knowing they would have to survive perilous conditions. But thankfully, before they shipwrecked, they were rescued by Icelandic and Italian officials.
In search of a better life, they jumped on a boat thinking that everything was just fine, except found themselves coasting on autopilot heading toward disaster.
Hope is a good thing, but a bad strategy. A plan is a good thing.
I can’t help but to think of the parallels this story has to how we typically live our lives.
Living on autopilot seems easy and convenient, but, live long enough on autopilot and the trajectory of our lives becomes perilous.
Jesus told a story about how God is the Master Gardener, and we are the branches. He is the leader, the pilot. In the story Jesus tells it was understood that Israel thought they were God’s chosen and privileged people by virtue of their genealogy. But, Jesus redefines the relationship. First, Jesus calls God “Father”. That would have been heard as offensive to many of the religious who thought God could not be known so intimately. Second, Jesus claims that he is the new vine, not Israel. Finally, Jesus claims that anyone who lives, abides, remains, and stays with him are the branches. Anyone.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Ok, so, if you’re a committed Christ follower, you’re a branch. You should produce fruit. Much fruit! It's part your effort, but all of God's work in you. What kind of fruit is the kind of fruit Jesus desires? Fruit that produces signs of the kingdom of God, namely, the godly content of our character and the quality of our service to God. Everything else is discarded.
It is here we see that God prunes us, Jesus asks us to “stay” in Him, and that we bear much fruit. In God the Master Gardener, we see Jesus teaching us that God prunes His children so that they can produce more fruit. We see Jesus insisting that we remain in him to stay connected to God the Master Gardener, and, that as branches, we can’t produce fruit ourselves apart from being connected to the Jesus the Vine.
So, as we think about 2015 New Year’s resolutions and goals, we might consider how we can stay connected to the Vine so He can produce His good fruit in us. We can call it a New Year’s Revolution around Jesus.
Here’s a few recommendations for being fruitful and productive in 2015:
1. Prayerfully set soul goals and life goals. (I use the 4 by 4 method of setting goals: 4 goals every 4 months). Don't set more than 4 in A specific area. Keep it focused.
2. Ask yourself these 5 questions:
- What do I need to start?
- What do I need to stop?
- What’s missing?
- Who do I need to talk to?
- What am I afraid of? What does God say about my fears?
3. Use the SOAP STUDY ways of interacting with the Bible. (www.soapstudy.com or find the app)
S for Scripture
Take time reading and allow God to speak to you. Highlight, underline or place a mark in the margin of your bible next to the scriptures that stand out. When you are done, reread the verses you marked, look for one that particularly spoke to you that day, and write it in your journal.
O for Observation
What are you observing in this scripture? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. Paraphrase and write this scripture down in your own words in your journal.
A for Application
Personalize what you have read by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Write how this scripture can apply to you today.
P for Prayer
This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this scripture, or it may be a greater insight on what He may be revealing to you. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say! Then, write it down.
4. Be Committed to your Church. We have narrowed it down to 4 things that are absolutely true that God wants for every believer:
LOVE- Be part of a community group or meet with another person weekly for encouragement and prayer.
SERVE- Serve one another joyfully and regularly at church and outside your church.
GIVE- Tithe generously and consistently to God at NorthCreek.
GROW- Be intentional and strategic about your own spiritual formation (reading, praying, etc).
We’re starting a new series at NorthCreek. One of the greatest stressors we have is not living out our inner values. The Bible says a lot about who we are in Christ! We’ll be taking a look at how we can bring alignment between our inner and our outer lives. Join us for "Aligned in Christ: Chiropractic Sessions in the Book of Ephesians."
If you’re new to church or haven’t been to church in a long time, you should check us out sometime! If you're looking for a church, we'd love for you to join us this Sunday at the Woodinville Movie Theaters at 10am on Sunday! You'll be glad you did!