I was thinking this week about an experience that Jan my wife had when looking at the “Chosen” site on line and sharing my thoughts with my friend, Ben. Jan wrote a blog about her experience (see Sunday 17th May 2020) and the thing that she shared from it was about reputation and how we guard it when Jesus abandoned His for us. As I talked to Ben though, and shared what had happened on that exchange between Jan and the other person, another seed thought began to germinate in my mind.
What struck me was how Jan could have responded like the others who were defending their views about the video. They were arguing from one viewpoint or another trying to undo the comments and arguments of the non-Christian. Jan took a step back and asked the Lord what to share with this guy, who was clearly angry about the message being conveyed on the “Chosen” site. She opened her heart and gave him a completely different kind of answer, full of the love and compassion of the Lord for this dear person. It pulled me up short because the response from the other person changed fundamentally – it became engaged and sincere and open.
This made me think about the scripture that says that our job is to plant the seed and water the seed – but the Lord gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase”.
Paul is saying that the ‘ministers’ are nothing in themselves, the power is in the seed (the word of the Lord) and God who gives the increase.
I thought about how so often we can be tempted not to ask the Lord how to respond in a given situation but try and manipulate our message to a desired end. Effectively we stop trying to sow and water the seed – share and live out His word - but instead argue to a particular end out of which often comes stress and emotion that does not bring glory to the Lord. Also, as a consequence if we think that we have won an argument or achieved something who does the glory go to – not the Lord but ourselves?
This isn’t the picture that Jesus paints about abiding in John 15:5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples.
In John 15 it is abiding that brings forth fruit to the glory of the Father. In a previous blog we looked at our need to fully embrace what Jesus says in this chapter, including “without Me you can do nothing”. So, if we make up our own answers and live our own living, what are we producing (no matter how good it appears to others) – does not bring glory to the Father.
I am sure that we can all relate to the circumstance where we are in conversation with someone who doesn’t know the Lord and suddenly there it is – a moment that we recognise as a “divine appointment moment” – the conversation turns and presents an amazing opportunity to say something about the Lord. Only, instead of saying what we feel we should be saying, we are hunting wildly for words to say – a gospel punchline or a way of bringing the Lord into the conversation that occurs to us either not at all or 5 minutes after the moment has passed. Or maybe there is a difficult situation with a work colleague and we want a sanctified and righteous way of addressing it without resorting to manipulation of some kind?
I can relate to this latter situation well because when I was in my last job there arose a number of occasions where I felt righteous indignation about a situation within my team of peers and totally failed to find a way through that dealt with the issue and also gave testimony to the Lord at work in my life. This grieved me greatly I have to say and I felt that I glorified the Father not at all. When I thought about these things and talked with my friend, it occurred to me in a new way that whilst on earth, Jesus Himself was never in any of these situations without an appropriate response. From the accounts that we have He answered even those who were trying to kill Him with wisdom and grace, and for those He met with issues of faith He got right to the heart of the matter.
For example, to Nicodemus He said: “Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3 v 3) and to the woman at the well in Sychar: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4 v 10). At the same time He responded with righteous anger when He found the temple grounds full of marketplace activities: Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Matthew 21:12-13).
Sometimes His response was silence, as with the Pharisees who accused a woman of adultery in John 8:6 “This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear”.
It occurred to me that Jesus, called in Revelation “the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14) was completely congruent in thought, word and deed. Leaving the issue of wisdom aside for this blog, where did this wholeness and congruency come from?
In Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and us in John 17:20-21 He prays: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me”. So, Jesus was abiding in the Father in the same way that He wants us to abide in Him. Also, all that Jesus thought, and said and did was to glorify the Father – that was His sole concern. In John 8:28-29 Jesus tells the Jews: “… I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
As I thought about this I thought about the power of it – its not the whole answer I know, but the power of changing the issue from working out what to say to pleasing Jesus is all that we think, say and do changes the problem in my mind completely. My prayer changes from “what do I say Lord”? to “How do I please you in this situation Lord”? It changes from “how do I work out what I should do here”? to “how do I please you in this situation Lord”? It changes from “how do I think this through”? to “how do I please you in this situation Lord”?
Now we see more clearly one of the reasons that Jesus is telling us that we must abide – and why there are so many gaps in some of our responses to people. If we are abiding (“being one in us” as in John 17:21 above), then all of this becomes a natural part of the way in which we live. We will sow and water as we live our lives and the prayer “how do I please you in this situation Lord”? does not become a desperate scramble for words as much as a part of the way we live our lives and relationship – abiding in Him. If we have a close loved one, we know that oftentimes it is not necessary to speak to ask a question – a look or a small facial expression will do – even so the Lord wants our communication not to be as strangers but close family members.
If this is the way that we walk with Jesus and our prime goal is to please Him then maybe it doesn’t matter so much if we get the words exactly right on every occasion – He is the one that brings forth fruit and if our chief concern is His glory then I am sure that He will deal with the rest. As with life in general and Jesus in particular, sometimes the words matter a lot and the Father provides exactly the right ones, and sometimes they matter less. Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, we can ask what we will and it will be done.
One final thought; my assumption was always that it was the fruitless branches that were cut down and burned – but no, let’s look again – it’s branches that are not abiding that are cut down and burned. Fruit is the Father’s business, let us seek and find the place of abiding and to please Jesus and glorify the Father in every situation. ”For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord”. (Ephesians 5 v 8-10)
Author: Chris Pearson
May God bless and enrich your life
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