Living with Jesus

There are some lines from an old hymn that say:

"Living with Jesus a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine -
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am thine."

And if we're going to live with Jesus, then one of the first things we must do is to follow the instructions given in Romans 12: 2 "Stop always trying to adjust your life to the world's ways" (Barclay). The world is in opposition to God, the world which tries to make us forget God and to abandon His standards but we have something that will help us overcome the world's pressures and that is Faith.

Faith, according to the definition given in Cruden's Concordance, is a dependence on the veracity of another: a firm belief or trust in a person, thing, doctrine or statement. Saving faith is the acceptance by our intellect, affection and will, of God's favour extended to man through Christ. Paul says that it's a faith which works by love: a living trust in God's grace that expresses itself in acts of love (Gal.5: 6)

Faith gives us a defense against the evils in the world. All around us there are the pressures of worldly standards, desires and motives. We're surrounded by the attractive appeals of wrong things: we're continually subjected to temptation, both from within ourselves and from outside sources that are a part of the world, and a society which is not interested in, or is even openly opposed to, God. But we do have complete protection from these temptations if we follow the instructions and "Take up the shield of faith, with which you (we) can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions." Eph.6:16-18 (NIV). This reminds us that we're in a spiritual battle and that it must be fought in God's strength, depending on Him and His word.

The apostle John defines the faith, which is our defence, as the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. As long as we believe this and trust and remember that our Lord said that He would always be with us, then we have a strength to endure the attacks of the world. Paul tells us to : "Live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you into His Kingdom to share His glory." (1 Thess.2:12 NLT).

Our human lives are full of things which try to take away our faith and make our lives an unworthy tribute to God, and the adversary uses every one of them to weaken our resolve and try to make us give up. There are the sorrows, sometimes such as to be beyond our understanding. The disappointments that try to rob us of our hopes and our dreams. And for many of us there are the constant failures in life which try to make us feel that any further effort is useless. But we should remember that our Lord went through all these things Himself and if we remember this our faith becomes a shield which quenches the darts of doubt and keeps the enemy at bay.

The world did its worst to Jesus. It harassed and slandered Him. It called Him a heretic, a sinner and a friend of sinners. It judged Him, tried Him, crucified and buried Him. It did everything it could to break Him and eliminate Him—and in spite of everything the world did to Him—IT FAILED. After the cross there came the resurrection: after the shame there came the glory. That is the Jesus who is always with us. Our Lord told His disciples "I have overcome the world," and if we truly believe in Jesus as the Son of God then by that faith we too will overcome the world.

But faith doesn't stop there. If we are truly walking with Jesus, we too must be willing to risk apparent failure in the eyes of theworld and even to remain secure in His love when we're misunderstood by others. Faith is trusting in God and our Lord Jesus and there's an old hymn which exhorts us to trust and obey. It's only when we've learned the faith and obedience which leaves all consequences with God that we can really appreciate His power and experience the deep joy of His love for us.

That obedience must lead to action and James tells us that if faith doesn't lead to deeds it's a lifeless emotion (Jas.2:17). Faith in Jesus Christ does not promote a lazy religious attitude. It must grow into a vigorous relationship with God and His dear Son. A relationship which allows us to walk with Jesus in a way that our heavenly Father would consider worthy.

But although we cannot come to the Father unless we have faith and trust in Jesus as the Son of God, there is something that is even greater than our faith. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV) tells us: "Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." This love is the Agape love. These graces of Faith, Hope and Love which are to abide in us need knowledge as their foundation stones. There can be neither faith nor hope without knowledge and it most definitely a fact that there can be no Agape love without a knowledge of God's intention to rescue the world from sin and death. It's the realization that we have this knowledge that makes us long for the companionship of Jesus every day, and find his resurrection power working in us all the time.

These graces of faith, hope and love develop in us when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives. Paul says: "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, it will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal.5:22).

These fruits are the manifestation of the love which our Heavenly Father shows towards us and are the characteristics by which we, through the Holy Spirit's indwelling in us, should be recognized. Fruit is produced to be eaten, not for display, or to be admired. People around us are starving for Love, Joy, Peace and all the other Graces of the Spirit, and when they find them in our lives, and see them in our behaviour, they realize that we have something that they would like to have. We don't bear fruit for our own use, we bear it so that others may feed and be helped and so that our Heavenly Father may be gloried.

Paul also wrote that we must clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends us. Remember, the Lord forgave us, so we must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing we must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony (Col.3.12-14).

The Christian who behaves like this becomes the Light that shines on the earth with a ray of the Glory of Heaven. The Salt that brings flavour into people's bitter lives and silently keeps society from corruption.

Jesus told us that; "You can't get grapes from a thorn bush," and He also said that "If someone wants good fruit they must go to a good tree," which means that it's not much good telling someone what Jesus said we must do, or how he said we should behave, if we don't give an example to others by our own behaviour all the time. After all, we're told that a picture is worth a thousand words when you want to describe something to anyone.

Our Lord Jesus said; "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me."Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask for any request you like, and it will be granted! My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father." (John 15.1-8 NLT) The gardener, our Heavenly Father, only allows those branches which bear fruit to remain on the vine, everything else He cuts off.

And what is fruit? The term implies something which requires a long developmental process, and which is therefore lasting and permanent. It's something that the branch bears,—not for itself, but for the owner:— something that's to be gathered. True the branch draws sap from the vine in order to grow stronger and thicker, but this is only so that the branch can fulfil its purpose of bearing the fruit, which is a process of development in each one of us: and the produce of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is lasting and permanent. Fruit is a visible expression of the power of the Holy Spirit working, secretly, within us: while the nature of the fruit is evidence of that power at work within us. However the Gardener's not satisfied to leave the vine just bearing fruit. He prunes all the fruit-bearing branches so that they will produce MORE fruit, and this is a continuous process throughout our lives because, as the Lord says, "My true disciples bear much fruit," which shows us that as we grow in Him our fruit bearing increases until we bear the nine-fold fruit that Paul wrote about. The fruit bearing that brings great glory to the Father.

But just as all the pruning in the world can't make the tree produce good fruit unless it has the right growing conditions. So spiritual fruit can only grow in a climate blessed with an abundance of the Holy Spirit and the word of God. The vine needs good light to produce fruit bearing branches. The dark places produce unfruitful branches: strange weaknesses, distortions, immaturity, indirection, failures in practical life and conduct. So, if we're to bear all kinds of precious fruit, each in its rightful season, we must trustfully and joyfully lay open our whole being to the full expanse of God's light shining in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to tell us that we should "walk in the Spirit," and it's our privilege to be able to walk in the full light, to have our whole life being instructed and illuminated. But to take full advantage of this privilege we must keep in step with the Lord Jesus. We shouldn't try to run ahead, neither should we lag behind, because our Heavenly Father knows what we need for our spiritual development, and He knows just how quickly or slowly, we can absorb what He supplies for that development.

Now a non-believer judges the quality of our Lord's fruit by the behaviour of those who claim to be Christian, not just their words. So, if we fail to show those fruits of the Spirit, which have been developed in us through the Holy Spirit's working, by not giving understanding, kindness, sympathy, or even just a friendly word—however low or ill we may feel in ourselves, or whatever we may think of the person to whom we're talking—we're letting down our Lord.

There is a tale to illustrate this about an old man, Gobi, with poor old and mended clothes, who started to go to a church every day at noon to the curiousity of the local curate, whom he told he had come in to pray to his Friend Jesus. Suddenly the old man stopped coming. Eventually the curate discovered he was in hospital. The other old men there were grumpy and used bad language. The nurses noticed how Gobi did not. After a fortnight the mood and language on the ward improved. Gobi attributed it to his Friend Jesus who visited him every day.

This story raises a few self-examination questions. For instance, can we honestly say that our normal behaviour is like Gobi's? Would it influence a worldly non-believer sufficiently to cause them to change their way of life or even to modify any colorful language they might use? Can we honestly say that God would consider that our behaviour is worthy of Him?

If we were the judges instead of God, could we sincerely and truthfully say that the way we're living our lives is really what should be expected of someone who says that they want to share Christ's glory? Gobi trod a different path than that used by the world. He marched, as they say, to a different drumbeat, but he was guided by his friend Jesus as he made his way along that pathway, and, as a result of his close association with his friend, he reflected our Lord's glory to those around him.

Now our Lord is asking us to walk along a different road. It's a strange and narrow way, but He never sends us on ahead along a strange pathway alone. He has already blazed a clear way through every thicket and wood. Like the Good and Faithful shepherd that He is, He goes ahead of His sheep and then calls softly, "Follow Me. Let's go on together, you and I". He has been everywhere that we're called upon to go. His feet have trodden down a clear track through every experience that comes to us. It may not always be a smooth path or even a level one, in fact it's more likely to be a rough one, but He knows each road and knows it well.

He knows the valley road of disappointment with its dark shadows that are so intimidating, but he, who in the first chapter of his gospel verse nine the apostle John called: "The true light that gives light to every man (NIV) is forever with us, always near at hand to still our fears and to show a guiding light for our next step.

He has known the steep pathway of temptation, down through the rocky ravines and slippery gullies, where we only need to let our eyes stray away from our goal, just take one false step, and we could fall but Isaiah tells us that God has said: "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand". (Isa.41.10 NIV) So, if we trust in Him, He will hold our hand and will guide us, guarding us from all dangers.

There are the narrow pathways of pain and sorrow, with thorny bramble bushes on each side, which cut, sting and leave wounds that seem as though they will never heal. He's travelled this way many times and understands our worries and our pains, but Psalm 147.3 (NIV) says that: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds". So He will always be there to share our load of sorrows and His healing hands will soothe away our anguish.

David stated: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psa.23.1-3 NIV). So we can be sure that even along the old, dusty, well beaten track of dull and common place daily routine, when we feel that we should be being used for better, higher things, He will be there because every one of these paths He's trodden and glorified, and He'll patiently and lovingly walk them again with each one of us. The only safe way to travel along the narrow way that leads to eternal life is with Him at our side. To trust Him and to let Him be in control of our lives.

Trust in Jesus and our heavenly Father should result in a willingness to let them do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Barclay says, "The first beatitude means, O the bliss of the man who has realized his own utter helplessness and has put his whole trust in God, for by this alone can he render to God the perfect obedience which will make him a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven." When we have this understanding, our thoughts will be stirred to a greater determination and earnestness every day as we look for the opportunities for us to grow into Christ's image. And this urgency to grasp every opportunity is very important because every day that passes brings us nearer to the time when the Body of Christ will be complete, and when it is, the opportunities will never occur again.

When we live our lives with Jesus we will, as Gobi did, radiate His love to all who come into contact with us. This is true of all fruitful discipleship. If the love of Jesus is in our hearts, people around us will soon see it: it will be seen in our bearing, in our disposition, the way we honour God and in the way we treat our fellowmen.

The Psalmist reminds us that the LORD is our strength. The LORD is our rock, our fortress and our deliverer our God is our rock, in whom I take refuge, He is our shield and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold. (Psa.18: 1-2) So! May we be a channel of our Lord's peace and, as we walk the narrow way, may we reflect the light of Christ's love by the way we show love to others and may we all be united as one company linked by His golden cord of love. And may our lives be lived in a way that He will consider worthy of those who are to share His glory.