Celebrate

I am a friend of Jesus

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The Vine and the Branches

John 15:1-14

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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.

“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. 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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for 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. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

What a wise and a widely celebrated analogy from Christ: the vine and the branches. He is the “I Am”. Jesus uses this metaphor to explain how our spiritual life, as born-again believers, is drawn from His life. God’s plan for our lives is to progress from barrenness to fruitfulness, to spiritual abundance. Also very important here is that Jesus also repeats His command for believers to love each other. What a joy to know that if we keep this command, we are friends of Jesus! Wow!

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Jesus refers to abiding in Him, referring to those who are truly connected to the True Vine, and who bear Spiritual fruit as a result (John 15:1–6).

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At the same time, Jesus refers to those in whom His words abide.That is the same deeply rooted, intimate, life-giving relationship as between the vine and branches. We need the same dependency and closeness with Jesus. He clearly connects fulfilled prayer to the will of God the Father. When a person’s prayer is wholly, entirely aligned with the Word and the will of God, that person is legitimately praying in the name of Christ.

What we must remember is this analogy is not a license for believers to treat God like a magic genie or a vending machine, expecting Him to give you everything you desire. No! Bearing Spiritual fruit only comes when we abide in the power of Christ, and answered prayer only happens when what we pray for is part of God’s will.

I am a friend of Jesus. Are you?

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 0 comments

Knowing and Believing

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Who am I?

This is not a one-time question for most of us. Throughout life we can find ourselves questioning – yet again – who am I, and what have I allowed to influence my life over the voice of God?

The living God has given us His Word and Spirit. And He has told us who we are in Christ. He alone has the final word on who we are; not a social media feed, not your latest success or failure, not mom, not our bosses, kids, past, our worst enemies, or even ourselves. As followers of Jesus, we know that God is our identity-maker and shaper. His Word is the very place we find our identity defined.

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If we want to truly live out the life God has purposed for us – righteous, holy, beautiful lives for His glory – we have to know what God says and believe it. Knowing is one thing, but what we believe about ourselves will determine the direction of our lives.

Knowing and believing. This is powerful and true. We can know all day long, but only once these truths take root in our heart to the point that we believe will our words, thoughts and actions begin to manifest and reflect the beauty of our identity, straight from Scripture and the heart of God!

From today’s Scriptures, write down a verse that really speaks to your heart regarding your true identity. Keep it somewhere you will see it often throughout your day. Ask God to enlighten the eyes of your heart to see, know, and believe!

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Scriptures

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:15-23

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Living as Those Made Alive in Christ

3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3: 1-3

Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in Identity in Christ, 0 comments

#5 Misconceptions About Sharing the Gospel

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Have you ever doubted your abilities or effectiveness as a witness? I’ll admit, I have. I want to discuss some misconceptions about sharing the Gospel that fuels fear in my heart and the hearts of others about witnessing. If you’ve struggled like I have with any of these, my intention is not to discourage you, but rather I pray you will be fully equipped to boldly take the Gospel of truth to the world.

9 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Before reading on, I encourage you to read the first entries in this series. Click here to access them:

#1: You must be good at it 

#2: Everything in your own life has to be together

#3: The only way to get someone saved is to invite them to church

#4: You have to make the gospel sound good

Scriptures

John 4:35-38 1 Corinthians 3:5-11 Galatians 6:7-10

#5: You’ve been an ineffective witness SO far

The most disheartening thing as a believer, as a witness is when we feel like we’ve been unsuccessful at leading someone to the Lord.  Jesus talks about this issue in John 4:35-36 when He says:

35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.

Jesus tells His disciples that the fields are ripe for harvest and He gives them the job of reaping.  What does He mean when says “reaping”? He means to win over people, win over souls. After the reaping is done, those who reaped and those who sowed may rejoice together. Everyone who was involved gets to join in on the celebration, even those people who simply sowed one single seed years ago.

Do not be discouraged about your effectiveness as a witness, perhaps you’ve sown one seed, perhaps thousands, but you have sown indeed. We must be grateful when God uses us to simply plant one or a thousand seeds because you never know when those seeds are going to grow into fruit for eternal life.

In the end, neither those who sow nor those who reap can take the credit, for God is the one who saves. In 1 Corinthians 3:7 we are told:

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

This verse is life-changing. For a long time, I haven’t known for certain whether my witnessing has let to anyone being saved, but the truth is I can’t save anyone, only God can. It wasn’t until I realised this that I was able to put my hand to the plough and simply plant seeds out of joy—trusting that God would take care of the rest. All God asks of us is to remain faithful—to continue responding to His love in faith.

Walking with Him is not a waste of time—even if you feel like you haven’t gotten much done yet. It’s up to you to be faithful in seeking Him, in allowing yourself to be discipled, and in stepping out in faith, and God does the hard part. He will bring you to a place where He can use you as a witness who is willing and able to disciple others.

I pray you have found encouragement in this series.

Trust your wilderness seasons, they are designed to build strength, endurance and character as you witness to others.

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath, 0 comments