Giving, Praying, Going—GROWING

Not all of the instruments play at the same time.

But they all have a part to play.

This morning the going section has taken the lead in this beautiful symphony of serving. But this is not the beginning of the piece… or the end.

This particular movement has been months in building with the generosity of the  giving section. Over and over we have made them aware of the need and the opportunity and they have given faithfully, liberally, and cheerfully.

It has built as we have drawn closer and closer to this day with the stirring and strengthening of the praying section. They have interceded continually and gathered around the going section to do so.

And the going section has itself given toward this and prayed over this and prepared hearts and minds and hands to do this.

In this giving and in this praying and in this going there is a common motif. We give and we pray and we go that the kingdom of God and the impact of the gospel and the people and churches involved will grow.

This morning we took this picture before we set out on our journey. In it you see givers that pray and prayers that go and goers that give. It’s not all of the folks that were there this morning just as it wasn’t all of the folks who made this possible. But it is a sampling of the magnificent orchestra through which God plays this glorious symphony for His own great glory.

Big group selfie as we set off toward CityReach 2019!

As these sections converge on a city in need of the hope of the gospel, we give thanks to all of you that have given to make our part in this symphony possible. We rejoice for the many who have been and continue to pray for the journey and the impact and the experience of this powerful cooperative kingdom effort. We lift up our partners who will meet us in Madison with hearts and hands ready to demonstrate the grace of our great God together.

And we look with hope for the dimensions of growth… as the kingdom of God increases, as the servants are stretched and strengthened, as the local partners are encouraged and emboldened, and as we all lean into the opportunity to join in where we see God at work. 

This is not a new idea at all. In fact, this growing by working together is exactly what Paul taught us about in his letter to the Ephesians:

“… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body,… when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Ephesians 4.15-16

When we each lean into our part, the body grows. That means that God’s kingdom grows—bigger, stronger, more effective. But, more than that, we grow into an ever more effective representation of Jesus himself.

As our Conductor has orchestrated the many parts together to ring out His own great praise, let us each play the part before us for His glory. Let us embrace our role in this work of obedience and honor… giving, praying, going—GROWING.

Stay, Grow.

Abide.

Just stay. Live. Abide.

Jesus was teaching His disciples about living in this relationship with Him and the Father. He was trying to recenter their understanding, to open their eyes to the relational reality that He had come to usher them into in this personal knowledge of Him.

In John 15, the word abide occurs 10 times in the first 10 verses. Maybe it’s important.

[Read John 15.1-17]

Jesus begins to build this understanding by painting a word picture that is familiar to these men from mostly rural areas. You couldn’t walk around Judea much in those days without passing by or through a couple of common things—vineyards full of grapes and groves full of olives.

He paints a picture of a grapevine and identifies Himself as the vine and the Father as the vinedresser (the one who tends and cares for the vine).(1) He points at the vinedresser’s practice of cutting away branches that do not bear fruit and pruning carefully those who do that they might be even more fruitful.(2)

Jesus points to the disciples and reminds them that, by receiving Him, they have been made new, clean, alive.(3) He is making sure they know He is talking about His intention for them.

Then He speaks these words that have been a cornerstone for understanding what it means to walk with Jesus:

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.(4-5)

He urges them to abide in Him. Like the branch has to be firmly attached to the vine, drawing all of its nourishment and sustenance and life through that connection, we are to abide in Jesus, finding life and spiritual health and full nutrition in Him. He tells us that this is the key to a fruitful spiritual life.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? A branch that is not connected to the vine will shrivel in the sun and crumble. It simply cannot bear fruit. Jesus compels us to abide, to stay, to remain, to LIVE in Him.

The branches that are not rooted in the vine will be gathered and burned up. They are worthless, fruitless, dead.(6) But, there is real power and connection for those rooted in the vine. Jesus told them that being connected in Him like this would give them favor with the Father, that our heart’s true desires the Father would grant.(7)

Of course, if we are truly rooted and abiding in Him, the desire of our hearts will be for Him, not for ourselves.

God’s greatness is revealed as we abide in Jesus, allowing His Spirit to bear all kinds of spiritual fruit through our lives.(8) Jesus assured us that He had loved us just as the Father loved Him and urged us to abide in that love.(9)

Ok, we get it. We’re supposed to abide in Jesus, in His great love. But what does that look like?

It looks like Jesus. It looks like what He did. He took great joy in doing what the Father asked Him to do. We abide in His love by taking joy in doing what He asked us to do. We find our life, our purpose, our meaning, in pleasing Him.(10-11)

I have come to comprehend joy as the consciousness of grace. To have joy is to be aware and mindful of how great His love is for us and to recognize how free and undeserved that love truly is.

And just as Jesus taught us that all of God’s law boils down to two commandments—to love God with all that we are and to love others at least as much as ourselves—so we best love Jesus by demonstrating His love to others. (12) In pouring out ourselves for Him and for one another, we are reflecting His love most fully.(13)

There is a pivot point there in verses 13-15 where Jesus begins to refer to them as friends and not merely servants. He is drawing them deeper and deeper into this relational understanding of God’s plan for them. And He reminds them that He chose them (and us too, by the way) to join in His plan, to go and bear good fruit as He works in them by His Spirit.(16)

And what do we gain by joining in with Him? We gain the intimacy to ask the Father for whatever is on our hearts and know that He hears and will surely act in our best interested for His own sake.(16b)

Jesus was teaching us that the key to a fruitful, thriving, abundant spiritual life is simply to abide in Him, dwell in Him, live in Him. And in doing so, grow.

Funny how simple it is, don’t you think?

Stay, grow.