Intentional Progress in 2022: Life Lessons From Jesus (Part 17)

by Rick

This morning we continue our journey into this year, focusing on making “Intentional Progress.”  I shared six steps to intentional progress with you, and I will continue to walk through them over the next few weeks.  As a reminder, here are the six steps.

Here are the steps again:

1.  Pray/Discern

2.  Plan/Prepare

3.  Wait/Discern God’s Timing

4.  Execute/Measure Progress

5.  Wait/Faith & Patience

6.  Receive When Harvest Time Comes

After studying our way through the Gospel according to St. John chapters 5, 6, 8, 12, and 14, we are in chapter 15.  Yesterday we looked at verses 1-8.  Let’s go back to this passage today.

(John 15:1-8 Message Bible)

Jesus said, “I am the Real Vine, and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

So what does this mean for you today?  A few things.

1.  The Holy Spirit is your connection to the “life” of God.  

Jesus characterized Himself as the vine and we as the branches.  It is obvious that the branches cannot live without the vine.  What may be less obvious is that the life of the vine flows (literally) to and through the branches.  Yesterday I wrote, “A productive and fruitful branch is really just an extension of the vine, and it becomes the conduit through which the life-producing power of the vine is manifested.”  

— In one of his later letters, the Apostle John wrote, “This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son.  So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life” (1 John 5:11,12).  The life of God, which is expressed in scripture as the Greek word zoe, is the life that flows from the vine through the branches.  

— You don’t know true life until you accept Jesus as Lord.  Every Born-Again believer knows what I am talking about.  It’s hard to explain to those who have not experienced it.  But when you accept what Jesus did on the cross, you repent of your sins, and you make Him your Lord, you are Born-again, and for the first time in your life, you are whole, you are complete, you are the way God intended for you to be.  The level of peace and power you experience when the LIFE of God is living INSIDE of you is like nothing else in this world.  I told you that we were all born with a hole that was created when the Holy Spirit was removed from Adam and Eve in the Garden.  People try to fill that hole with sex, drugs, alcohol, money, women, fame, stature, etc., but nothing can fill the hole by the one who created it when He left.  That is the Holy Spirit.  

2.  The point of our life is to allow His life to flow through us.  

— When you are Born-Again, and the Holy Spirit takes up residence IN you, you are directly connected to God Himself, and His life, His zoe, flows through you.  It comes TO you (affecting divine change), and it then flows THROUGH you (effecting divine change).  Said another way, the life of God produces change and fruit.  The change happens IN you.  Once you are changed, the fruit is produced THROUGH you.  Your life becomes a fruit-producing conduit through which God can manifest His glory on this planet.  

— So many people are struggling to get ahold of their lives, working on the change they want God to produce IN them, that they fail to see the bigger picture.  The LIFE OF GOD is so much life that it is for more than just you.  God wants the blessing to come TO you, but He then expects it to flow THROUGH you for His glory.  Please open your heart to both levels: 1) change in and 2) fruit from!

— God’s life is IN you (if you are Born-Again).  This life will only flow THROUGH you to the extent that you open your heart and allow it.  The problem for many of us is that we have too much of “us” in the way.  

— The key to becoming a human conduit of the divine is NOT more TRYING (because most Christians have been trying for years), it is more DYING.  Remember, you are not trying to MAKE God use you.  He already wants to use you.  You just have to allow it.  Your part is to yield to the Holy Spirit and live in harmony with Him.  

3.  An intimate relationship with God produces sweatless abundance.  

Jesus said, “When you’re joined with me, and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.”  

— The Father does not just want you to produce fruit.  The Bible is clear that God wants you to produce much fruit, an abundance of fruit, and He wants your fruit to remain.  

— A fruitful, productive, and abundant life comes as a result of an intimate relationship with the Father, through the Son, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.  You don’t really have to work hard to make it happen.  The closer you get to God, the more fruit you will produce, and our text says that the production will be “organic.”  This means that it will come naturally.

— Prospering in God in every area of your life is not effortless, but it should be sweatless.  It should come as a result of dying to self and allowing God’s zoe to flow through you.  

I will use something that happened with Peter while he was still a fisherman to drive home this point.

Simon, the fisherman (later known as the Apostle Peter), fished all night and caught nothing.  He was cleaning his nets by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, getting ready to go home, when Jesus walked up and asked him for help.  Jesus wanted to preach to a crowd that was following Him.  Simon agreed to help.  The fisherman contributed his time, talent, and treasure to Jesus’ ministry.  When Jesus was done preaching, He honored the principle of sowing and reaping and saw to it that the fisherman received a harvest on the seed sown.  Simon gave from his fishing business, so he was going to receive in his fishing business.  Jesus told him to launch out and let down his “nets” for a catch.  Simon almost missed out on the blessing.  After years of fishing, Simon knew how difficult it was to catch fish in nets during the day, which is why he had fished all night.  Furthermore, this was just not a good time to fish.  All his human efforts had proven fruitless.  

As he considered all knew about fishing and all the toil he had already put into a fruitless night, Simon’s head was telling him to tell Jesus, “No, thank you”.  He was the fisherman and Jesus, the preacher.  But thankfully, his heart overrode his head.  Something ‘on the inside’ told Simon to give the preacher a chance.  So Simon said, “Just because you said so, I am going to do it.”  However, I don’t think Simon was truly convinced.  He launched out with only one net, not the “nets” Jesus told him to cast.  Simon put that single net into the water, and it was like the fish were jumping into it.  There were so many fish that the net began to break, and the boat began to sink.  This was a net-breaking, boat-sinking load of fish! 

— While Adam was in the Garden of Eden, his provision came from God, by grace, without human effort.  

— Working hard for everything you get is part of the curse that was pronounced upon Adam when he sinned.  Remember, Jesus came to get us OUT OF everything Adam go us INTO.

— Simon had worked hard all night long.  The Bible says he “toiled” all night and had nothing to show for it.  He, like all of us prior to coming to Christ, was living under the curse.  He was working hard to earn his provision, and in this case, all his human effort was fruitless.

— Jesus gave Simon a glimpse of what it was like before the fall of man when man did not have to earn his provision.  As soon as Simon put his net into the water, God supernaturally caused the fish to jump into it.  This was the largest load Simon had ever drawn in, and it came by God’s supernatural power.

— When we have an intimate and organic relationship with God, Jesus said our harvest is “sure to be abundant.”  This is all part of #TheGraceLife.

That’s enough for today.

Declaration of Faith

Father, I thank you for helping me get to the point where I experience sweatless abundance by your grace.  I don’t deserve the life You destined me to have.  I could never earn all You have done for me.  I am not worthy of Your profuse favor and blessing.  However, You have chosen to freely bless me by Your undeserved grace, and for that I will forever be thankful.  I am the branch, You are the vine, and Your life-giving power, Your zoe, has come TO me, to change me, and it now flows THROUGH me, to change the world.  There was a point in my life when I was Born-Again, but there was still too much of “me” in the way, and people could not see You in me.  Those days are over!  People clearly see You in me every day, in every way.  My intimate relationship with You produces much fruit in every area of my life, and I experience divine prosperity.  I live the life You want me to live.  I enjoy Your best in every area of my life.  It is not effortless, but it is sweatless.  GREATER IS COMING FOR ME!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

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