Series: Part One -From Striving to Abiding in Christ- “Works” to the Grace of God – A Consideration of John 15:1-3

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” 

What a beautiful word picture Jesus gave His followers as recorded in the book of John! He wants us to envision the Father caring for us as a Divine vinedresser. He prunes us by means of the Spirit which controls us to bring our lives into the will of God.  Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of the Father and as such unveiled to all creation the love and divine plans of the Father to reconcile us to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:18)  Though sin separated us from the Father, we have a perfect mediator and High Priest in Jesus who intercedes on our behalf before the throne of grace. (Timothy 2:5) Jesus has made us clean by His healing word so there is no need to strive in frustration after His grace. He loves us and therefore gives grace as a gift and He extends this grace freely to us.   (Ephesians 2:8)
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,  and to walk humbly with your God?”- Micah 6:8
Jehovah’s Witnesses stress good behavior throughout their books, magazines, assemblies (conferences) and weekly meetings. Their “good” behavior is enforced by their Judicial system which is much like a tribunal where church discipline takes place up to and including excommunication for “sins” and other spiritual “offenses”. This system is much like an internal court mitigating “judicial cases” within the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (For a detailed account of the many intricacies of this court system and excommunication please see http://meletivivlon.com/2014/03/11/be-modest-in-walking-with-god/) God is a holy God and requires that we walk modestly with Him and well as meet his standards of holiness. (Micah 6:8) But what happens when we began policing other followers of Christ in matters that are not explicitly spelled out in scripture?
finger-wagging
This is where the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not alone in “policing” the flock of God to the degree that it becomes legalism.  Jehovah’s Witnesses can lose “privileges” or positions of spiritual responsibility based on abiding by a long list of rules that “go beyond what is written” in scripture. (1 Corinthians 4:6) It has been my experience as a Christian that this is often true in some churches. Some churches also have their own “oral” law code within the church ranging from dress and grooming to private matters such as medical treatment. Changes in our lives should be born from a personal conviction by the Holy Spirit to make changes that bring us closer to God.  The Bible is a valuable asset as a “signpost” pointing to Christ and His commands, but it was never meant to be used a rulebook to lord over other fellow brothers and sisters. The fruitage that we are to bear comes not from striving to force changes in our lives so as not to incur discipline or condemning glances of other Christians.  The fruitage that we bear for the kingdom comes solely from the precious truth that we are divinely grafted into the True Vine, Jesus Christ. Concerning the Father, Jesus says, “every branch that bears fruit He prunes, but it is so, “that it may bear more fruit”. We become more fruitful in communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as we are pruned and fashioned into the image of God. That is why it is vital for our spiritual survival that we are grafted into the vine of Christ and not into a counterfeit vine promising earthy rewards for works but cannot grant eternal life.
….. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32-ESV

We are all seeking to live lives patterned after the holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ.( 1 Peter 1:16). To be holy we must belong to Christ, and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. He sent us the Spirit as a Helper to guide us and to bear fruitage of the Spirit to the glory of God. (Galatians 5:22,23) Without the Holy Spirit, we are striving to live up to the holiness of God instead of abiding in His Word and allowing the Spirit to do the sanctification work. (1 Peter 1:1-2) Isn’t it comforting to know that we can experience the Divine Gardner’s eternal love, protection, and purification as we abide in Him instead of striving to abide by a long list of man-man rules?

It is my prayer that one day the Jehovah’s Witness will accept the gift of the Holy Spirit and adoption into the family of God. It is their belief that God has poured out His Spirit and anointed only 144,000 followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses and as such these ones are the only children of God. To know the precious truth that we belong to Christ and will one day be with Him is the precious truth that will set us free and cause us to “cease from striving” and “be still” and know the truth about God and His deep desire for us to ” be still” and remain in Him. (Psalms 46:10)

In the next article, we will explore what “remaining in Him” or “abiding in Him”  means as described by our Lord  Jesus Christ at John 15:4-6.

 

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