Big And Strong

Ezekiel 31:3
“Indeed Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with fine branches that shaded the forest, and of high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs.”

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At the time of Ezekiel’s writing, Egypt was one of the most powerful nations in the world. So great was their strength, many nations allied themselves with Egypt, in an attempt to withstand Babylonian occupation. Many in Judah still believed they could defeat Babylon, if they had the help of the Egyptians. Ezekiel wrote to warn Egypt of the danger they faced. This warning is one that every Christian ought to take to heart.

It illustrates the exhortation of Paul, who wrote,

1 Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

In order to warn Egypt, Ezekiel takes us back in time to remind us of the once powerful Assyrian empire, which had been defeated and destroyed. He compares Assyria to a massive tree of the forest that provided lodging for the birds of the air and shade for the beasts of the forest. This tree was greater than any other tree in the garden of God; it was the desire of all the rest. Ezekiel explains, the secret to the strength of this tree, was an underground water source that provided what was necessary for its growth. Sadly, as the chapter unfolds, the tree weakens, falls, and becomes as much a picture of failure, as it had ever been of success. Ezekiel tells that the cause of the fall was lifting up it’s heart in pride; perhaps failing to understand the hidden source of its strength.

This should serve as a vivid reminder to every Christian, of both the secret to growth and the cause of collapse. Jesus compared us to branches. When connected to the vine, we will have a source of strength resulting in a thriving Christian life, full of fruit. He also warned of the danger of being cut off from the vine. This would result in losing the ability to bear fruit, taking the effectiveness out of our life, and hamper our witness for Christ. Just as Assyria was filled with pride and no longer saw their need for the hidden source of strength, it is common for the Christian to forget that daily time with Christ, His Word, and the fellowship of His body, is what really fuels our growth. When we neglect time with the Lord, we are cutting ourselves off from the very source of strength and growth.

Sadly, Egypt and Judah alike, failed to take to heart the warning, and found themselves defeated. Nations that once shone brightly upon the landscape, became a shell of what they  were. Let’s not be among the casualties. Take time to invest daily in your walk with Christ, abide in the vine, and bear the fruit of godly living.

Pastor Jim

 

Heard It Through The Grapevine 

Ezekiel 15:2
“Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any other wood, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest?”

Recently, my wife and I went shopping for wood flooring. We were actually quite surprised by the number of choices available to us. We found cherry, oak, pine, bamboo and a plethora of other woods from which to choose. Upon reflection, however, I did not notice any grapevine flooring. As I recall, when we shopped for furniture, we found the same thing to be true. Lots of wood choices, that never included grapevine. In the text, God makes reference to the fact that the wood of a vine is not even suitable for making a hook upon which to hang anything. Why then would He refer to this wood as being better than other woods of the forest? The answer is found in the words of Jesus.

John 15:1  “ I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”

John 15:5 “ 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.”

Both Israel and the individual Christian are compared to a vine. The purpose behind the illustration is to cause us to see our need to remain in an abiding relationship with Christ. To abide simply means to remain. As a Christian, it is important to do those things that will keep us in close contact with the Lord, and to avoid those things that will lead us away from Him. The things that keep us close are prayer, Bible reading, fellowship and service. When these things are neglected it is easier to drift away from the Lord, and even slide back into the lifestyle from which we were delivered, when we first came to Christ.

There may not be a more important concept in the entire Bible for the Christian to grasp, than that of abiding. We were not saved to become religious activists or moralists. We were saved to be in a living, growing, and thriving relationship with Christ. We were saved so we could walk in step with Christ, hear Him speak to us from His Word, and empower us with His Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

Fruit-Filled Life

John 15:8
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”


God desires that we live fruit-filled lives. When we do, He is glorified and we are blessed. A fruit-filled life is marked by the characteristics of Christ. In Galatians 5, Paul listed many of the “fruits” that God desires us to bear. These are inward qualities that are a result of being transformed by Jesus.

 

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,   self -control. Against such there is no law.”

When our lives are filled with these qualities, God is glorified, others are drawn to Him, and we are blessed. Think about it. Don’t you want to be filled with love, joy and peace? Isn’t life better when you are patient and kind? Jeremiah contrasted two lives. He spoke of the one who departs from the Lord, being like a shrub in the desert; while the one who trusts in the Lord is like a tree by the waters bringing forth fruit (Jeremiah 17:5-8). I don’t speak “tree”, but if I did, I think I would hear the trees longing to be by the water’s edge where life is better, and fruit is abundant.

The key to living a fruit-filled life is abiding in Christ. The word ‘abide’ speaks more of a condition, than an action. We abide in Christ when we believe Him and receive Him. At that moment, a miracle happens. Our sins are forgiven, we come alive to God, and we are placed in Christ; where the life of Christ begins to flow into our lives. Jesus contrasts the branches that are in Him, with the branches that do not abide. He tells us the branches that are not abiding, or not connected, are cast out, withered and burned; while the branches that are in Him, are lifted up and pruned, in order to bear more and more fruit (John 15:4-6).

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are attached to the life-giving vine. The more time you spend with Him, the more His life will be produced in you. Take some time today allowing the vinedresser to lift you up, that you may become more fruitful.

Pastor Jim