November 22, 2013

{Day 22} Saved and Called: "I am the Vine"

If you're just popping in on this November series, you can catch up here.
There's also a give-away in progress, get your name in the drawing here.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you.No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  John 15:1-5

We are about to enter our last week in this exploration of what it means that God has saved us and called us to a holy life.  I have really enjoyed this examination of Scripture and the exercise of daily writing again this November.  (I am also looking forward to slowing down with the writing a bit in December.  Please, don't tell anyone.)  Thanks for coming along for the adventure!

To conclude the series, I want to take a peek into what Christians call the Spiritual Disciplines.  Wow, that phrase sounds like lots of fun, doesn't it?  Well, take a look at the verses I posted for you at the beginning.  The quick take-away from this and the rest of the passage in John 15 is that we cannot do life with Christ without a constant, abiding, dependent, and consistent connection with Him.  He is a constant, abiding, dependent, and consistent vine, a source of life and strength.  A disconnected branch benefits from none of that, but a connected one?  Well and, oh my and, indeed!  A connected branch is regularly nourished by the life and strength flowing from the Savior.

Jesus is not speaking here only monks and clerics.  He's teaching his disciples!

You too are a disciple of Christ if you belong to Him.  He's talking to you.  Dear ones, he says to us, I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

That last phrase is telling, isn't it?  We can strive, and struggle, and gather up our will power in the pulling up of our boot straps, but it's all for nothing apart from our Vine.  Bless His holy name!

But, how in heaven's name do we do the Spiritual Disciplines thing?  First, we start with our understanding of the purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines.  There is a lovely book that I have not read in years, but thought would fit well into this series, called Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster.  Today I'm going to leave you with some passages for contemplation from the first chapter titled, The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation.  (The title alone piques the interest, right?)

We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are only for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach, or only for contemplatives who devote all their time to prayer and meditation.  Far from it.  God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns.  p 1 
Joy is the keynote of all the Disciplines.  The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.  When the inner spirit is liberated from all that weighs it down, it can hardly be described as dull drudgery.  Singing, dancing, even shouting characterize the Disciplines of the spiritual life. p 2 
We need not be well advanced in matters of theology to practice the Disciplines. ... The primary requirement a longing after God.  p 2 
God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace.  The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.  ...  This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines -- they are God's way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us.  p 7 
We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur.  This is the path of disciplined grace.  p 8 
As we enter the world of the Spiritual Disciplines, there will always be the danger of turning them into laws.  But we are not left to our own human devices.  Jesus Christ has promised to be our ever-present Teacher and Guide.  His voice is not hard to hear.  His direction is not hard to understand.  If we are beginning to calcify what should always remain alive and growing, he will tell us.  We can trust his teaching.  If we are wandering off toward some wrong idea or unprofitable practice, he will guide us back.  If we are willing to listen to the Heavenly Monitor, we will receive the instruction we need.  p 10-11

Ah yes, the Christian life all comes back to and centers around Christ.  He is the vine; we are the branches.

Aren't you now wondering what the Spiritual Disciplines are?  Try making a list and we can compare it to Jesus' teaching and Foster's Table of Contents.  We'll move in that direction tomorrow!

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