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
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
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
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
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.