"The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!"

"The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!"

Much of my life I lived under the "frown of God," or so I thought. I wasn't a bad kid; in fact, I was quite religious and moral. But I wasn't perfect for sure. (For one thing, I was a terrible big sister, mean and self-centered toward my siblings.) But I knew God required perfection, so I was always working my way down a spiritual "to do list" of some kind (depending on the Christian group I was with. They each had their own, you know).

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The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!

The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!

Much of my life I lived under the "frown of God," or so I thought. I wasn't a bad kid; in fact, I was quite religious and moral. But I wasn't perfect for sure. (For one thing, I was a terrible big sister, mean and self-centered toward my siblings.) But I knew God required perfection, so I was always working my way down a spiritual "to do list" of some kind (depending on the Christian group I was with. They each had their own, you know).

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Your Job Description: you may be surprised!

By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8

Have you ever started a job with no job description?  I have, and it's pretty confusing.

About 8 years ago, I was looking for a part-time teaching job.  A friend asked if I would like to apply to substitute teach in ESL & GED classes.  I told her that I didn't have a clue about either one of those.  She assured me that it wasn't difficult.  All I had to do was follow the teacher's lesson plans.  So I naively applied.

Well, guess what?  As my application reached the supervisor's desk, the beginning ESL teacher was in a very serious accident.  This was at the end of the first week of class.  By then, beginning ESL students don't know much more English than the day they walked in.  There were no lesson plans and no curriculum, because the teacher was so experienced that she did her own "curriculum".  Needless to say, I was terrified.  But God met me in my need (and that's for another post!).

BUT that first year, I had no job description.  I just took the bull by the horns and prayed and taught and loved it.  And I think the students did too, by God's grace!  (I taught that class for 9 more years!)

However, without a job description, I made many mistakes and often got myself in trouble.  Most of the time, my mistakes were from my ignorance...or from my zeal to "do things right".  As a result, in several instances, I unknowingly went over the head of my supervisor and assumed her role.  Not good!

That's what happens for us believers with living the Christian life.  I don't think we truly understand our "job description."   We try to do in our own strength the things that only God can do.

John 15 is a perfect place to start to understand what it means to be a Christian (the branches) in relation to our Father (the Owner/Gardener) and His Son (the True Vine).

So let's look at WHO does WHAT in a vineyard?

First there's the Gardener or Vinedresser.  His job is to care for the vine and branches by watering, fertilizing, and above all... pruning. Without that almost "violent" pruning, a rich crop cannot come forth.

And after all, the vineyard owner's reputation is at stake!  If someone sees a barren vineyard, no one shames the branches or even the vine, but rather the owner/vinedresser.  That's because whoever does the work gets the credit or the blame!   So it's his job to do whatever is necessary to ensure an abundant crop of grapes.  Even the good, new growth gets cut back so as to bring forth an abundance of fruit.

As we've seen in a previous post, that is what the Father does for us branches.  Sometimes we may feel like we've grown so much and have been "fruitful"...then all of a sudden, the desert! dryness! seeming barrenness!  But the process is not done yet!

Then there's the Vine.  The Vine is the source of life for the branches, which then enables the fruit to come forth.  Without the life of the Vine flowing through healthy branches, nothing fruitful can happen!

Jesus is the Source of life for us His branches.  In another post we saw that Jesus, the I AM, is LIFE itself! In Him was life, and the life is the light of men...I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. John 1:4; 10:10b

And that's why the main job of the branches is to abide or stay connected to the vine.  The branches are the vehicles for the life of the vine to flow through so that fruit will come forth.

Jesus said,  Abide in Me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  John 15:4

So what does it mean to abide in Christ?  It means to live in & from, remain in, sink down deep into, rest in, stay [experientially] connected to HIM!

Here's a feeble, but hopefully helpful, illustration of what I think it means to abide.  I have this wonderful couch in my living room.  It is hard to sit or lie on this couch without falling asleep.  When I come home from a full day of teaching, I look forward to sinking my weary body into that couch.  I'm often able to just put some instrumental music on and surrender to the comfort of my glorious couch. Later, I leave that place refreshed and energized!

However, sometimes I still have things I need to do before supper time.  So I abandon my tired self to my life-giving couch and make my phone calls or read my lessons or do whatever duty or desire dictates.  I still come away refreshed because I'm working from a position of rest.

That's what I think abiding in Christ means.  I do what I do from my position of rest in my Glorious Vine.  I'm secure in Him and He in me.  His resurrection life flows through me, His branch, to bring forth the fruit designed by the Father for my unique life.

What about you?  Are you living the Branch-life?  Do you do what you do from the position of rest in your Glorious Lord Christ? Or are you trying to do what only God can do -- give life and produce fruit?

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.  John 15:5

The Rest of the Gospel: Job Descriptions in the Father's Vineyard

Some of you have been my faithful readers for the past three and a half years. {Thank you so very much...I am truly humbled!} When I started writing this blog, in keeping with the name of my site, I thought it would be appropriate to explore the parable of the Vine and the branches in John 15.

And since we believers are each a branch in the True Vine, it would be good for us to know Who does what in our Father's vineyard.  Thus the post Job Descriptions, dated April 9, 2011.

Here is a repeat of that post with some minor revisions.  In light of our study in The Rest of the Gospel, let's look at "Who Does What?" (chapter 14) from a slightly different angle.

You may also like to see the entire Vine & branches series (Click here).

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By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8

Have you ever started a job with no job description?  I have, and it's pretty confusing.

About 8 years ago, I was looking for a part-time teaching job.  A friend asked if I would like to apply to substitute teach in ESL & GED classes.  I told her that I didn't have a clue about either one of those.  She assured me that it wasn't difficult.  All I had to do was follow the teacher's lesson plans.  So I naively applied.

Well, guess what?  As my application reached the supervisor's desk, the beginning ESL teacher was in a very serious accident.  This was at the end of the first week of class.  By then, beginning ESL students don't know much more English than the day they walked in.  There were no lesson plans and no curriculum, because the teacher was so experienced that she did her own "curriculum".  Needless to say, I was terrified.  But God met me in my need (and that's for another post!).

BUT that first year, I had no job description.  I just took the bull by the horns and prayed and taught and loved it.  And I think the students did too, by God's grace!  (I'm still teaching that class 8 years later.)

However, without a job description, I made many mistakes and often got myself in trouble.  Most of the time, my mistakes were from my ignorance...or from my zeal to "do things right".  As a result, in several instances, I unknowingly went over the head of my supervisor and assumed her role.  Not good!

That's what happens for us believers with living the Christian life.  I don't think we truly understand our "job description."   We try to do in our own strength the things that only God can do.

John 15 is a perfect place to start to understand what it means to be a Christian (the branches) in relation to our Father (the Owner/Gardener) and His Son (the True Vine).

So let's look at WHO does WHAT in a vineyard?

First there's the Gardener or Vinedresser.  His job is to care for the vine and branches by watering, fertilizing, and above all... pruning. Without that almost "violent" pruning, a rich crop cannot come forth.

And after all, the vineyard owner's reputation is at stake!  If someone sees a barren vineyard, no one shames the branches or even the vine, but rather the owner/vinedresser.  That's because whoever does the work gets the credit or the blame!   So it's his job to do whatever is necessary to ensure an abundant crop of grapes.  Even the good, new growth gets cut back so as to bring forth an abundance of fruit.

As we've seen in a previous post, that is what the Father does for us branches.   Sometimes we may feel like we've grown so much and have been "fruitful"...then all of a sudden, the desert! dryness! seeming barrenness!  But the process is not done yet!

Then there's the Vine.  The Vine is the source of life for the branches, which then enables the fruit to come forth.  Without the life of the Vine flowing through healthy branches, nothing fruitful can happen!

Jesus is the Source of life for us His branches.  In another post we saw that Jesus, the I AM, is LIFE itself! In Him was life, and the life is the light of men...I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. John 1:4; 10:10b

And that's why the main job of the branches is to abide or stay connected to the vine.  The branches are the vehicles for the life of the vine to flow through so that fruit will come forth.

Jesus said,  Abide in Me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  John 15:4

So what does it mean to abide in Christ?  It means to live in & from, remain in, sink down deep into, rest in, stay [experientially] connected to HIM!

Here's a feeble, but hopefully helpful illustration of what I think it means to abide.  I have this wonderful couch in my living room.  It is hard to sit or lie on this couch without falling asleep.  When I come home from a full day of teaching, I look forward to sinking my weary body into that couch.  I'm often able to just put some instrumental music on and surrender to the comfort of my glorious couch. Later, I leave that place refreshed and energized!

However, sometimes I still have things I need to do before supper time.  So I abandon my tired self to my life-giving couch and make my phone calls or read my lessons or do whatever duty or desire dictates.  I still come away refreshed because I'm working from a position of rest.

That's what I think abiding in Christ means.  I do what I do from my position of rest in my Glorious Vine.  I'm secure in Him and He in me.  His resurrection life flows through me, His branch, to bring forth the fruit designed by the Father for my unique life.

What about you?  Are you living the Branch-life?  Do you do what you do from the position of rest in your Glorious Lord Christ? Or are you trying to do what only God can do -- give life and produce fruit?

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.  John 15:5

The Rest of the Gospel: Who Does What? (Chapter 14)

Chapter 14  Who Does What? Key Verse:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV

Key Question:

Is Jesus living His life through you, or are you trying to live it with His help?

Read chapter 14 and answer the following:

1. In what ways do you live as if God does a little and you do the rest?

2. On p. 152, Dan quotes Ezekiel 36:26-27. Rewrite those verses in your own words,substituting your name in the process. What is the significance of those verses to you?

3. Reread the middle paragraph of p. 153. What does it mean for how you live that nothing has its point of origin with you?

4. Are you still trying to live a life that you were never meant to live (p. 155)? What does that look like in your life?

5. What does it take to move you from self-striving to Jesus living the life through you?

6. How is our willingness for God to live His life through us expressed? What role does reckoning play in this? What is something God wants you to start counting on each moment?

7. Review the quotes at the top of page 162. Ask God what some areas are where He wants to live through you. What must you trust Him for in each case to see that happen?

You may also like Job Descriptions

The Rest of the Gospel: The Rule of Grace (chapter 13)

Chapter 13  The Rule of Grace Key Verse:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 8-10 ESV

Key Question:

Do you live under works (the law) or by grace through faith?

Read chapter 13 and answer the following:

1. Why is it that life can be as difficult after we come to Christ as before we come to Christ? How do we make it more difficult? Give examples from your own life.

2. Why does it sound logical that we should bring the Law along with us in the Christian life? What is the end result of that?

3. When Paul spoke of the Law, what Law was he talking about? How do we know?

4. Why does religion assert that law and grace flow together? Why did Paul say they were mortal enemies?

5. What laws—Mosaic, denominational, or personal—are you still inclined to try to keep through your own strength?

6. Why is a law-based program designed for futility, frustration and failure? How does God use that program in a positive way in our lives? Tell about this process in your life.

7. What does it mean to live by Christ, or the Spirit, instead of the Law?

8. Why do we never escape from the temptation to slip back under the Law? How do we respond to that temptation?

9. What was the main point the young man on page 147 was making? What was the essence of what Dan was trying to tell him?

10. For what can we thank God regarding His use of the Law in our lives?