Saturday, 3 January 2015

We need to be well rooted in Christ if we are to produce good quality fruit.

As we enter a new year I have been deeply challenged on where I need to head this year.  For me I want to draw nearer to God.  I want to be totally in tune with what He wants to do in my life.  What follows is an extract from my sermon for this week.  In 2015 I certainly want to be at a different spiritual level to 2014.  2015 is a clean slate and an opportunity to go deeper with God.  Change however will only happen if we make the first move.
The end of the year is a great way not only to celebrate the year that was, but also the New Year that now lies before us. I don’t know about you but I am excited about the year ahead and the things which God has planned for me and my family. The year ahead is new, it is fresh and it holds so much potential for us as followers of Christ. The New Year brings with it a clean slate.  It offers opportunity to improve on the past year and to even in some instances, make changes in our lives that will lead to further growth and transformation. 

Probably my favourite part of the Old Testament is the writing of the Psalms. They are books of poetry, of wisdom and of challenge as the writers wrestle with the tough issues that they have faced in their lives. As you read through the pages of these amazing writings you can see God’s people pouring their hearts out before their God. The Psalms are a wealth of teaching that can inspire and transform us. 

Psalm one and the editor who placed this sparkling gem at the beginning of the Psalms, has done an amazing thing for it points the way to blessings and it warns its readers of divine judgement. The ideas of blessing and judgement are common themes that run throughout the Psalms. Psalm one is what is known as a wisdom Psalm and it focuses on God’s Word, God’s blessing on those who obey it and meditate on it, and God’s ultimate judgement on those who rebel. 

I wonder how many of us enjoy growing fruit and vegetables. Since coming to Port Augusta Claire and I have been having a go at planting our own vegetables.  In recent days I have seen similarities between what we use to look after our vegies and Psalm 1.  There are many things that we use to tend our vegetables and garden and some of these things will either hinder or benefit what we grow.

 If you are going to grow a garden that is successful then there are some things that you have to do. Plants need to be planted in good soil. They need to be watered, fertilized and given lots of tender loving care. Using the wrong thing on your plants like weed killer could and will have devastating effects on your crop and the fruit that it produces.  So what do these things have in common with Psalm one and how does this Psalm encourage our Spiritual Walk with Jesus?

Watering Can – Throughout the bible water is an important symbol of the power of the Holy Spirit. It represents cleansing, healing, restoration and new life. The water and refreshing of the Holy Spirit washes away the impurities from our root system. The water of the Spirit is refreshing and brings life to us just as water brings life to the plants.

Blood and Bone, Plant Food – Feeds the root system and keeps it healthy. Friends as Christians we are reminded that the bible and God’s law brings about strength and power in our lives that nothing else in this world can. Verse two of Psalm one reminds us that as we meditate on the Word of God it feeds and nourishes our souls. The Word of God brings about new growth and it produces beautiful and tasty fruit that not only benefits us but also benefits those around us. But like the analogy of our vegetables we can only produce good fruit if our food is of a high standard. The Word of God is the high standard of feeding by which we live by. As we let the Word of God feed our souls it brings about conviction, it hopefully brings about repentance which then leads to transformation. Verse three tells us that those who meditate and obey the Word of God will be like a tree planted by streams of refreshing and life giving water. The fruit that we produce (that is our actions and words) is the outworking of our faith that has been built on good and well fertilized soil.

Finally we come to the most dangerous of all of the garden products. 

Weed Killer – In the very first verse of Psalm one the writer reminds us that a person who refuses to walk in the council of the wicked will be blessed. What does this mean? Well the council of the wicked referred to here is like the weed killer in our illustration. It represents the ideas, thoughts and teachings of our world and from the people around us; the very people that we are called to minister too. If we listen and rely on thoughts and ideas that are man-made they will eventually lead us to become like a plant that has been affected by weed killer, that begins to get sick and that will eventually wither and die. The plant is so damaged that it simply will not produce any good fruit, nothing that it produces will be of any heavenly value. Like a plant that has been sprayed with weed killer the believer that follows the path of sin will look good for a short time but eventually like the plant they will spiritually die.

Friends there are many influences in our world that are not of God. Sometimes these influences come from the most unlikely of sources. Very often the people that we associate with and listen too will cause our faith to wither. Some of these people may even be our own family and friends who do not understand the new lifestyle that we have been called to. It is almost certain that as we choose to push into God this year there will be those around us who will struggle with that choice because they simply do not understand it. There are some who will challenge and maybe even ridicule our faith and our beliefs. They may challenge our decisions and pose questions like: Did God really say that or does the bible really say that? Sound familiar? If it does it is because that this is the argument that the serpent used to persuade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge that ultimately led to them stepping out of the will and blessings of God.

One of the persuasive ideas that regularly challenge Christians is the decision to not go to church. They use arguments like “I don’t need to go to church to be a believer” or they believe the deception that by missing a lot of Sunday services or small groups won’t matter to their spiritual journey. Some choose to listen to these ideas and if it happens too often they inadvertently begin to move away from the church. I have heard it said that if someone misses church three weeks in a row it is highly likely that they will walk away completely. Friends I want to say to you today that meeting together on Sunday and throughout the week is important to our spiritual growth and development. This is why the writer of Hebrews warned us in Hebrews 10:24-25: to let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did he say this? Because he knew this important truth: that if we surround ourselves with people who hold worldly ideas rather than God’s Kingdom ideas too much then we will ultimately be more influenced by them than they are by us. Meeting together in Church and more importantly in a small group, ensures that we are regularly hearing the Word of God in a way that encourages and builds up. It keeps us accountable. It helps the believers to disciple each other and to meditate and teach the truth that is the Word of God.

Friends as we enter the new year of 2015 I pray that we will be like the tree mentioned in Psalm 1. The tree that puts its spiritual roots deep into good soil and which craves and absorbs good nutrients and the fresh refreshing water that produces good fruit, and which can only come from Jesus Christ. If we are to truly grow as Christians and be all that He has called us to be then this is important. We cannot afford to get lazy on this. If we are not living our lives in a way that reflects the teachings of God’s Word or which remains connected to Jesus Christ (John 15) then we will never flourish and produce good healthy fruit. As tempting as it is to listen to the ideas of humanity we must stay true to the Word and teachings of the one we profess to follow. Jesus Christ. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. The will and purposes of God will never align itself with the will and purposes of the world. That is not how God works. Psalm one is great encouragement and reminder that if we remain in Christ and if Christ remains in us then we will be fruitful and flourish. Meditating on the Word of God means to spend time reading the scriptures and thinking about what we have read. It means asking the tough questions about how we can align our own lives with the Word of God. Knowing the Word of God and meditating upon it are the very first steps to being able to apply it in our lives. Friends the more we delight in doing God’s will the more fruitful we will be for the Kingdom. Likewise: the more we allow others to dictate what we do and make our decisions for us the more we begin to separate ourselves from the good and healthy source of nourishment that can only come from God. It is important that we interact with non-believers otherwise how can we ever witness to them but we have to be so careful that we do not join or imitate their sinful behavior. There is a saying that says: “How can I soar like an eagle when I am surrounded by turkeys.” The same is true in our Christian walk in that you will become like those you spend most of your time with.

I pray that in 2015 that we will each walk closer with God, that we will repent of our sin and allow God to nourish and feed us as our Spiritual roots begin to go deeper in Jesus so that we may produce fruit that is in keeping with our repentance. 
“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 15:5

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