Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the life that produces fruit

it made perfect sense to me. "if you go to eastern washington and find two apple trees -- one laden with fruit and the other dry, with no fruit or leaves," the speaker said, "you'd conclude that the first tree was alive and that the second was dead (or dying). that first tree doesn't produce fruit to obtain life; it produces fruit because it is alive." God created us to bear the godly fruit of good works (ephesians 2:10), but such fruit is born out of the life of God in us -- not worked up as a way to gain life from God.

Jesus tells us that he is the vine (john 15). he commands us to abide in him -- to remain in a continuous, organic connection in which the life of God himself sustains us and produces lasting fruit. apart from him, Jesus says, we can do nothing. i learned all of this long ago; i've even taught on it. yet still i find it a challenge to live this way.

i'd be hard-pressed to argue that point, given the evidence from my life. besides, i wouldn't want to dispute it. my mind is satisfied by the iron-clad logic of it; and everything in my inner being tells me that it is true.

so what makes it so hard? by nature, i seem to be easily distracted. i am also bent toward doing; without meaning to, i find much of my identity in accomplishing things. besides, it's often easier to act independently than to wait expectantly on God. and i think there is a part of me that doesn't quite know what to do with some of the things that God has done (and hasn't done) over the years -- unresolved, some of those issues are corrosive to my faith.

i have found it helpful to begin my time with God by lighting a liquid candle. i seem to focus better when i have it. i don't really pray a lot during that time; i simply rest in the presence of God. sometimes, i meditate on that passage in john and tell Jesus that i want to abide in him. there's a remarkable freedom that i experience once i get past needing to accomplish something during that time. i can sit in God's presence, sense his love and acceptance, and eventually, invite him to fill and transform me. this has happened consistently.

as some of you already know, i use the candle, in part, because it is an object lesson. the wick on the candle doesn't burn up. it's actually the liquid paraffin that burns. if the wick were the fuel, it would be consumed quickly. but as long as the wick is in contact with the paraffin, the flame can burn indefinitely. that, for me, is a helpful visual reminder of what my life is supposed to be -- like the burning bush which is not consumed.

but God added something this morning. he said that i am like my candle (pictured here). it's a tiny little thing, only an inch or so tall. it doesn't hold much paraffin, and has to be refilled often. so do i.

in days past, youthful enthusiasm inclined me to gather all of my energy and resources, and put them to work serving God. in recent time, i am more convinced than ever of the need to be filled daily with his Spirit, and to nurture that on-going contact with him. that's not as natural for me as it is for some around me (including m, who seems always to be in prayer and in contact with him). but there can be no lasting flame -- and no lasting fruit -- apart from him.

abide in me, and i in you.
as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself
unless it abides in the vine,

so neither can you unless you abide in me.
i am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in me and i in him,
he bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.
john 15:4-5

1 comment:

Michelle said...

good word! think i have to get me one of those liquid candles too.