12- LIFE IN GOD'S KINGDOM - Relationship
By Colleen Donahue
You and I were created for a high and holy purpose. We were derailed from God's original purpose when our first parents chose to sin against God. From that point on every person born has inherited a sin nature with the result that most of us live our lives independent of God even though we may believe in him. Choosing to live independent of God has most of us living a substandard life, far different from what God would have wanted for us.
If you are a believer and follower of Christ it means that you have been born again and have entered the doorway back into real life. What do I mean by real life? I mean a life lived in partnership with God -- a life where your spirit is filled with the Spirit of Jesus.
We have some understanding of why Jesus came and who the Holy Spirit is to us from the last two studies. Now it's our turn. We feel such a gratitude for what Jesus has done and for the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives that we want to fully give ourselves to working for Jesus. And so we get busy and involved. At one time we had nothing to do with the church and other believers, now we want to be a part of everything. It's here that a word of caution must be given.
Isn't it good to start getting involved in a church and being part of some "work" or ministry for Jesus? Yes and no. I have said it before in this course that Jesus is far more concerned with a relationship with you than with your work for him. Some are so busy working for him that they have no time for a relationship. If this is the case then working for Jesus has become a substitute for Jesus himself. And that's the danger. It's very gratifying to our egos to be doing and accomplishing things for Jesus while he stands in the background of our busyness waiting to talk with us or just BE with us.
Sadder still, many of us have found ourselves doing the wrong things, or doing too many things until we are finally burned out. We have become part of a religion, rather than a relationship, and all religions have this in common: they are do, do, do. We get on a roller coaster of things we feel we need to DO until we are so tired and disillusioned we are ready to toss it all overboard.
So, if you are one of those "eager beavers", as I was, I'd like to ask that you put the brakes on for the moment. There will be plenty of time to work for Jesus and do the things that HE directs you to do but we must put first things first and that is our relationship with the Savior. If you are a new believer hearing this I hope it will save you years of misdirection and heartache. If you are an older believer who is weary and tired then I know you'll find this study a blessing as you return to your "first love" who was why you got busy doing in the first place.
I know that you are expecting me to list off certain MUSTS that you should DO to have a relationship with Jesus -- the ABC's.
A=Asking God about things (called prayer)
B=Bible -- read and study it and
C=Go to church
We'll talk about some of these things in a future study for sure. But for now I'd ask that you'd open your heart and mind to what Jesus wants. He wants a relationship with YOU before he wants what you think you can do for him.
THE CALLS ON OUR LIFE
1. What is the first call on our lives that we answer?
And for those who heed this call, Jesus gives us another.
Notice that Jesus doesn't say "abide (remain, stay or live) WITH me." He says, "abide IN me." Our communion with Him is meant to be intimate and fulfilling. If we are lacking in anyway in our experience of salvation it's because we have come but we haven't stayed.
2. The king has invited us to come in but many of us have been content to just camp out in the doorway. We have said "Yes" to Jesus, but we haven't fully come in to live continually with Him and share all the glories of his royal life WITH him. As a result what are we missing?
This is the first promise that the Savior gives us and it implies deliverance from every fear, and the rest of pardon and acceptance.
3. Whatever promise the Savior gives us must be appropriated into the life and so he goes on to tell us how to do this.
This means that by letting our lives become one with Him we yield to His training and teaching. We submit our will to Him and in that we find the secret to rest. The rest is in Jesus and not something He gives apart from Himself. Abiding in Jesus is the giving up of ourselves to Him to be ruled, taught, and led. In return we receive all from Jesus and are enabled to rest in the arms of everlasting love.
"Abiding is simply entrusting our weak self to be kept by the Mighty One. It is the unfaithful, casting itself onto the One who is faithful and true. It is a consenting to let Him do all for us, in us and through us." Andrew Murray
4. The connection between the vine and the branch is a living one and the result of the Creator's own work.
The same Spirit who dwells in Jesus becomes the life of every believer. This Holy Spirit produces a union that is so close that neither the vine or the branches are anything without the other. A vine without branches can't bear fruit and branches apart from a vine can't bear fruit and eventually shrivel and die.
5. We owe our lives to Jesus and He gives us all that we need so that our lives can carry on where He left off.
John 14:12-14 / John 17:22-23
That is the whole reason for our existence -- to show forth the excellence of the vine and to bear fruit that will be life for others.
6. It's by faith that we come to Jesus and are made right with God.
It's by faith that we abide in Him so that we become rooted and established in Him.
And it's by faith that we continue to live our entire life.
This contrasts the wrong thinking that we come to Jesus by faith and then after that everything depends on our own diligence and faithfulness. No. As sinners, enemies and strangers to God we come to Jesus who receives us, loves, pardons and saves us. So then, how much more when we belong to Him will He keep us abiding in Him despite our many faults and weaknesses?
7. What do we have to believe to abide in Him? Look again at:
A. The first thing we must believe is that Jesus is the vine and He will be to us all that a vine does. He will keep hold of us (the branches) and make sure that we receive the life of His Spirit (the sap) so that we will be nourished to bear fruit. His love will hold us fast.
B. The second thing we must believe is that I am His branch and am IN HIM. I only need to consent to be there -- i.e. IN Christ where I have been placed. Then, despite my own weakness, I will find all that I need to grow, become strong and bear fruit.
8. Our union with Jesus as a branch on HIS vine is not our own doing. Whose is it?
1 Corinthians 1:30A
Every believer owes all that he is to the Father who places us "in Christ". As the Father watched over His Son, so he watches over us. Why does he do this?
Whatever God has created is equally suited for its purpose.
So right now we should stop looking at our old nature and complaining of our weaknesses as though God had called us to something we are unsuited for. Our calling in time is a manifestation of His purposes in eternity.
9. After God puts us in Christ what is the first thing that manifests in us?
1 Corinthians 1:30b
God gives us Christ and in Him are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. But we get this backwards. We seek for knowledge first, hoping that we will understand. It was for this very thing that Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders.
We should study to know the written word of the Bible, but we should study even more the life of Jesus who is the "living word". It's by His life that we are taught and guided. It doesn't come from without.
10- The first thing that Jesus as our wisdom reveals to us is our righteousness. Reread 1 Corinthians 1:30 and keep your fingers in this verse. Sin has disturbed our relationship with God, with others, and even ourselves. We desperately need peace in all these relationships. Jesus came to restore peace in our souls so that we could have peace with God.
How was this accomplished?
Romans 5:18 / 2 Corinthians 5:21
In other words, the living Christ is our righteousness. He watches over us and keeps us so that it's like we have put on Christ as an overcoat and all day long we walk clothed in His loving presence.
11. How does the world we live in witness the righteousness of Christ?
1 John 3:7
If we are clothed in Jesus then love will start to flow out to others, especially to other believers. If this isn't the case what is true?
1 John 3:10
12. Abiding in Jesus is the only way to have right-standing with God which in turn enables us to have peace with others and ourselves. It is never because of our good skills at relating with others. It's only because Jesus IS our righteousness and we take that by faith to be true.
13. Looking back to 1 Corinthians 1:30 we see that the second thing Jesus brings us into is sanctification. Righteousness (or right-standing with God and others) must preceded sanctification or holiness. These words conjure up a bit of fear in us. What does this mean? It all sounds odd and spooky.
Holiness is the nature of God. Something becomes holy when God takes possession of it and fills it with Himself. Then, whatever he takes possession of, it is set aside for his use -- like a pure and dedicated vessel. God has commanded all believers to be holy in the same way that he is.
1 Peter 1:15-16
But how can sinful men and women ever become holy so that God can use us?
Our answer is always Christ who is the holy one of God. By abiding in Him we become holy. What cost Jesus everything becomes ours so we can serve God.
Hebrews 9:14 / 1 Peter 1:18-19
The life of holiness is just the life of Christ within us. It's not a life of strain and effort.
14. Going back to 1 Corinthians 1:30 we see that there is one more thing that Jesus Christ in his wisdom brings to us. First, He clothes us with His righteousness, then he sanctifies us so that we can be used by God. And now we see that He becomes our redemption.
Redemption is the great consummation of Christ's work for us. In the early part of this course, we saw that man was created in God's image to be the ruler over all the created earth. He was to subdue it, fill it, and with God make it into a "colony of Heaven" -- a paradise for man and a pleasure for God. But sin changed all that and started a tremendous spiral downward until men and women are only a shadow of what they might have been. Not only that, all the created universe has been running downward as well which is why we see decay and destruction.
So, the redemption referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:30 refers to the complete and final deliverance from sin and all its affects with the result that humanity and the world at large will regain all that it lost.
15. When we first become believers and received the Spirit of Jesus within us, what was this a pledge of?
It is the Holy Spirit within you that identifies you as God's own possession and who will guarantee that you are saved on the day of redemption.
16. Our redemption is not meant to be only something in the distant future. Why? Because we have the same Spirit indwelling our spirit that filled Jesus and raised him from the dead. When His Spirit fills our spirit He immediately begins the transformation and restoration of our fallen lives to remake us the way we were originally intended. With Christ's Spirit within us we no longer need to be controlled by our old sinful nature. Instead we can walk as God's children. Read and reread these verses until they fill you with their truth.
"Of God are you in Jesus Christ as your redemption."
GOD HIMSELF WILL ESTABLISH US IN CHRIST
17. We have learned that the Father first unites us to Christ. But we must also be assured that it's the Father who keeps us in Him.
Psalm 138:8 / Philippians 1:6
Stop all your striving to get into Jesus and all your trying to stay in Jesus. Let the Father do his work to maintain the connection.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9
Our faith in God to do His part will free us from the care and responsibility of it. We must put ourselves into His hands and leave our lives with Him so He can do His work.
Philippians 2:13 / 1 Thessalonians 3:13 / 2 Thessalonians 3:3 / 1 Peter 5:10
18. There are two main objections that believers have making them doubt that they can abide continually in Jesus. The first objection is our work. All of us
are occupied at school, in the home or at work for a good part of everyday. How can we keep our minds and emotions on Jesus constantly? The answer is you don't. Once again it is God through His Holy Spirit in you who will keep you while you are engaged in your work. The Holy Spirit is always at work in your spirit even though your mind is occupied with other things.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
And when you do need to remember something how will this occur?
Jesus who is our life dwells within us and by His presence He maintains our consciousness that we are in Him.
19. The second objection believers have is that our sinfulness will keep us from always abiding in Jesus. Christians are accustomed to believe that sinning daily is inevitable and therefore there is no way we can constantly abide. This is false thinking. Once again our answer is God. He will keep us from all evil and preserve our soul.
And how often does He promise to do this?
With faith you will be able to say in firm belief.....
The Father gives us one day at a time. Learn to live in the present moment. Accept that God has put you in Christ and that He is keeping you there moment by moment through the Spirit of Jesus who dwells within you. Jesus is our nourishment, strength, and life. Start every day with Him. Every day of faithfulness will bring a blessing for the next and so on throughout the entire life.
IN EMPTINESS WE HAVE FULLNESS
20. Life with Christ can never be static. There is a constant interchange of taking in and giving out. It's only in our emptiness that the divine life can keep flowing in.
Question: What is it that needs to be forsaken and given up?
Answer: There are three things:
1. Sin and all unrighteousness.
There is no true conversion without the giving up of sin and every sin surrendered means the inflow of the presence and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even though we are now a child of God, all our natural gifts and powers are still defiled by sin and under the power of the flesh. They must be laid at Christ's feet to be cleansed and refined by Him. And the forsaking of all self will mean the receiving of all that Jesus wants to be in us.
3. The third forsaking will seem very strange. We are to forsake even the spiritual gifts that are the result of God working them in us by the Holy Spirit. Whenever we try to hang onto something stagnation sets in. It's only into an empty soul that streams of living water can flow. An empty soul is one who continually thirsts.
Daily, even moment by moment, we lose ourselves for Him and then he takes us -- you and me-- wholly for Himself.
PRUNING THE BRANCHES
21. If you have ever seen a professional prune rose bushes or certain fruit trees you become shocked at the final result. They have cut off so much that the stubs and stumps left leave you wondering if it will ever bloom again. But then the next season there are more blossoms and fruit than ever before. In the plant world, the branches of a grape vine are in constant need of pruning. They grow so fast that the branches are in danger of becoming "woody" instead of being fruitful.
This pruning and cutting is painful but it's the Father's plan that in our suffering we would draw closer to Jesus than ever before. By abiding (or remaining) in Jesus during all affliction and trial what will it produce in our life?
22. According to James, how are we to view all the trials and tribulations that come our way?
The softening that we receive from the trial will fit us for becoming more like Jesus -- the servant of all. Our strength to endure the test of our faith will come only as we abide in Christ.
2 Timothy 2:1
That must be our only calling in affliction.
THE FRUIT OF ABIDING
23.All fruit is for the nourishment and refreshment of others and brings glory to the Father.
John 15:5, 8
Where is your fruit ultimately from?
As you abide in Christ and bear fruit for others you begin to realize how feeble your own life is for it to be a blessing to anyone.
2 Corinthians 4:7
But then you also realize that you have the Lord of the universe dwelling within you and HIS power is what will flow out through you to others. It will enable you to go forth in victory and bear even more fruit.
1 John 5:4-5
We can claim and expect a blessing because we know with deep conviction that we are nothing but He is everything.
24. One of the fruits of our abiding will be prayer. Whatever our need and situation our first impulse will be to share it with the Father.
It is only because we abide in Him that we can ask what we will and God will do it. God speaks to the Holy Spirit within us what He wants. We pray that back to Him and then He sets about doing it. In this way His prayers and our prayers have become one and the same. We soon start to have the effective prayers of a righteous man.
25. Another great fruit of abiding will be the fruit of love in our life. Love is the very nature of God.
1 John 4:7-10
We have the nature of God within us and He begins to transform us from the inside out to be like His Son Jesus. Jesus was the object of the Father's love. We are the objects of the Father's and Christ's love. And those in and part of our life will become the objects of our love.
26. Another fruit of abiding is being able to operate in rest and joy. This comes by the receiving of a new nature. Jesus became man and took on human nature that He might become one with us. By our new nature we become one with Him and are made partakers of His divine nature.
2 Peter 1:3-4
Christ's life was one of dependence and subjection and He invites us to live this same life. "Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5) is only a forerunner to: Philippians 4:13
If we are content to have no life but in Jesus then He will do for us what the Father did for Him.
2 Thessalonians 1:12
27. Joy is the essential character of a person abiding in Jesus. It is the proof of what fully satisfies our heart. Notice WHOSE joy will be filling us.
It's the joy of God that overcomes all the trials of life and becomes our strength and confidence and courage.
It's the joy of triumph and victory as we go through life spreading the knowledge of Jesus Christ like a sweet perfume.
2 Corinthians 2:14
When does our joy become full?
28. It's our weaknesses that we heartily accept and continually realize which give us our claim and access to the fruit of strength. Three times Paul asked the Lord to take away from him something that made him weak. How did the Lord answer?
2 Corinthians 12:8-9
And when Paul came to accept his weaknesses what became true for him?
2 Corinthians 12:10
It's in the power of our omnipotent Savior that we find the strength for our life and work. Every believer will have different work but the power will be the same and it will result in living for God with power.
1 Corinthians 4:20
It isn't that Jesus imparts to our feeble life some of his power. No, we stay continually weak and impotent so that He can be strong and mighty in us.
2 Corinthians 4:7
Christ, in filling us with His Spirit becomes the strength of our life and enables us to do everything we are put here to do. Reread and memorize this wonderful proclamation.
ABIDING SO THAT WE MAY NOT SIN
29. One of the great heart breaks for all believers is falling back into a sin that we had firmly declared we would never do again. The pain of sinning, repenting, sinning, repenting ... has caused more than one believer to give up and declare that the Christian life is impossible to live. And they would be right in that assessment unless they stay abiding in Jesus so that they may not sin.
1 John 3:5-6
Notice especially the promise in verse 6a.
30. All true believers have two admissions to make:
1. We have sin within us -- 1 John 1:8
2. Sin in former times has broken out into sinful actions - 1 John 1:10
Having sin in verse 8 is not the same as doing sin in verse 10. Having sin is having a sinful nature. But doing sin is yielding to that sinful nature and falling into actual transgression.
So how is it possible for us to have a sin nature and not be doing sin?
The answer is found in 1 John 3:5-6. What 4 things do these two verses declare?
31. Close abiding in Jesus means that He becomes our keeper. Together we keep down the power of the old nature so that it does not regain dominion over the soul and the body. What are we able to proclaim by faith?
But this promise also has a command.
Romans 6: 12-13
It is either ignorance of the promise (that we no longer need to sin) or unwatchfulness that opens the door to sin and keep us in a life of stumbling and sinning. Jesus saves us from our sins not by the removal of our sinful nature but by keeping us from yielding to it. Our flesh will always be at enmity with God but by abiding in Jesus his presence keeps it down so that we can live without "doing sin".
We need deal only with the present moment. Jesus keeps you moment by moment and saves you NOW. Union and fellowship with the Lord is the secret to a holy life and makes it possible to keep from actually sinning.
32. We may be weak, but the indwelling presence of Jesus has sufficient power to overcome every temptation. In fact, He cannot afford to leave you to yourself for even a moment. If He did He would fail in His undertaking.
Your relationship with Jesus is the heart of everything in your Christian walk. If you are a new believer this is the foundation that must not be rushed over. It is exactly the same as if you got married, got about the business of work and family and never took time to really know and love your spouse. Isn't this the sad story behind most divorces? The husband/wife relationship was never developed until one day they both woke up to a total stranger.
A believer can get so busy working for the Lord and doing for others that life in Jesus is only a distant memory. Jesus warns us against this. It's our natural tendency to get busy doing, to run ahead of Jesus and do things in our own strength. The believers in the early church were as guilty as we are. In Revelations 2:2-3 Jesus tells the Ephesians church that he can see all their deeds, hard work and perseverance. But then in verse 4 we hear these sad words: "Yes, I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love."
Anything you and I do in our own ability and strength without Jesus will be burned as wood, hay and stubble at the day of judgment. But every believer who remains in Jesus as a branch on his vine will bear much fruit and it will be fruit that will remain to feed others for a long time. The fruit of abiding will not come because you are striving and straining. No, it will just be the life of the Lord Jesus flowing through you and out to the world in the most natural way.
You will see the power of sin and the flesh destroyed because Jesus himself will keep you and be the strength of your life. The One who keeps you never sleeps or slumbers so that you can do your work in peace and rest. Joy will be the key note of your life -- even amidst your trials. Your life will be one of expectation and hope for all that Christ wants to do through you. We end this study where we started. The Lord's first command to you is to "come to Him". His second command is that you would "stay with Him".