Imagine you are walking through a beautiful, lush apple orchard. Rows and rows of lovely looking trees, pretty pink apples blushing through the fresh green leaves.
You smell the sweetness of the apples, you hear the breeze blowing through the branches, the birds are singing and...
What is that? Sounds like someone groaning, straining. But no one's around; you're the only one there.
There it is again. The sound is coming from the tree you're standing under. You look up in it's boughs and *pop* there appears an apple!
But wait, that's not how it works, is it?
We all know how fruit grows. You plant the tree in good soil; you water it regularly; make sure it gets plenty of sun; prune it every winter; protect it from pests and birds; and the fruit just...grows! No struggling on the tree's part to make the fruit grow. It's just natural. It's a slow process and you may think nothing is happening, especially during dreary winter, but the fruit grows and it is well worth the wait.
This is something Pastor Philip shared in his teaching from Galatians 5:16-26 last Sunday.
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
(Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)
"Now the works of the flesh are evident..."
Whatever 'good' we may try to do in our own strength, according to our own finite minds, it is work. It is effort. In our natural state, we are wicked and only want to serve ourselves.
"But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away."
Thus the illustration of the straining apple tree.
But, when we abide in Christ, He will produce much fruit through us.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
And if we bear fruit, we prove we are His disciples AND glorify our Heavenly Father.
What does it mean to abide in Christ? And what does it look like?
I would like to do some research and cover these questions next week. So stay tuned. And meanwhile, if anyone has any thoughts about abiding in Christ, feel free to share in the comments section.
Have a blessed week!
(pictures taken at Star Hill) ; )