Thoughts on a believer’s struggle against sin

Most Followers of Christ know that we all are in a spiritual war against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-18; etc.) We all have sins that we individually struggle against, even for many long years. Today, I want us to think about what we should do when there is a pause in the battle against one of these sins; that is, when you no longer sense the old pull of evil toward a particular sin. (Yes, I know that some of you are wishing that you could have one day like that!) Whatever the cause, a time will come when you will enter a pause in the active fight in your struggle against the sins that hinder you. How can you improve the opportunity?

Reconnect with Christ. In part your struggle against the same sins points to some sort of weakness in your communion with our Lord. Look at this lull in the battle as an opportunity to draw closer to him. Read John 15 again and ask for grace for its truth to be real in your life.

Rethink your obsession with these few sins. For example, are you bothered by them simply because you suppose “God won’t like you” if you do those sins, while other sins are acceptable? In other words, our struggle is not against a short list of sins that we feel guilty about for various reasons, but it is against all sins. Read Colossians 3:1-17 and take note about what you feel guilty about doing or not doing. Ask yourself, “Am I more concerned about the social consequences of getting caught doing a sin than about how sin disrupts my worship of God? If we are honest, we will admit that some of our attitudes about sin expose the reality of fearing people rather than God. So then, take advantage of this time to correct this tendency.

Redeploy to a new position on the battlefield. What I mean is this: If certain activities of your life lead you into specific struggles with sin, wouldn’t you be better off avoiding exposure to attacks from the enemy. A wise soldier doesn’t wave to the enemy and yell, “Here I am again; shoot me.” For example, if you’re struggling with greed, stop watching commercials and looking at ads that intend to incite greed.

Redirect your efforts. Part of our weakness comes from passivity in what we do with our lives. It is very easy to be self-indulgent in the stress and hurry of our lives. We like to zone out, instead of taking charge of our way of life. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). But if we let most of our thinking revolve around not doing certain sins, we exhaust ourselves and in the process fail to do what we ought to, like doing good works. (Read Titus and 1 Peter and notice how many times good works are mentioned.) Let me state clearly that we must wage war against sins like anger, fear, greed, and sexual immorality. But I am trying to present a larger vision for our lives. A concern about individual holiness to the near exclusion of gathering with other saints to do good and/or to evangelize is not wise.

Much more can be said on this topic. I hope that this stimulates new activity in your service to the Lord Christ.

Grace and peace,

David

 

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Remain in the Vine

“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” (John 15:4 NIV). We have called our mission “FifteenFive”; this name is based on John 15:5. Now we have arrived at the “doorway” to that great verse. It should be obvious that Jesus took time to set forth the truth of the believer’s union with him, slowly stating it to let it sink in and permeate our understanding. Let’s invest some time to consider what our Lord and Savior says to us.

First of all, consider that he remains in us. Every believer has a vital, organic connection with the Lord of glory. While many think about the benefits that believers gain from Christ, the Lord Jesus is saying more than that. We are truly joined to him. He continues in us at all times. This is truly astounding! The matchless, infinite, all-powerful, holy Lord remains in us. His presence provides confident expectation (hope) to us, regardless of the circumstances. He continues with us to provide spiritual nourishment and strength to act for his glory and to resist evil.

Second, Jesus tells us to remain in him in the same way that he remains in us. Union with Christ demands communion with him. This is a clear responsibility. It is also a high responsibility: “as I also remain in you” (cf. John 13:34). A command likes this requires that we draw strength from the Vine simply to fulfill it. But the point here is that we sense our responsibility. Spiritual vitality does not simply happen. Nor does it happen by the mere performance of some so-called spiritual disciplines. It happens only as we remain in him as he remains in us. (Some of this repetition of phraseology sounds cumbersome, but I fear we too often lose track of the point, as I have learned from years of teaching the word.) Our commitment to Christ is to mirror his commitment to him.

Third, Jesus wants us to realize that branches cannot bear fruit by themselves. Each branch must remain in the Vine (fellowship with him). Why do we not see spiritual fruitfulness? I think we can retrace our failures back to a lack of personal, persistent contact with the Lord. We cannot bear fruit unless we remain in him. We need to share our lives with him consciously and daily. Prior attainments do not provide present, fresh relationships.

So then, we all need to examine our continuance in the Vine. We must fix our thoughts upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:2; Colossians 2:6). This happens as we listen attentively to the Lord’s voice in the word, and as we talk with him in prayer. Remain in him as he remains in you!

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Our Jobs

“As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen” (Matthew 4:18 HCSB). As I write this, I am on the shore of Lake Eire, which is considerably larger than the Sea of Galilee. As I looked at the lake, this verse came to mind. Peter and John were doing what they had been doing for many years—fishing. It was what they were supposed to be doing, because they were fisherman. As far as they knew, they would be fishing for the rest of their lives, or until they weren’t able to fish any longer.

On this Monday unless you have retired, you are working at a job that you expect to be involved in for a long time, or you might be in school, preparing for a job that you want to do. (Happy is the person who is doing the job that they want to do!) Regardless of what job or training you’re doing today, remember that doing what God gives you to do (your calling) is exactly what you ought to be doing. Right now, my task is to write. Throughout the work, I will be doing more writing as well as many other tasks. But it is important for you and me to do our best at what the Lord gives us to do. The apostle Paul wrote to slaves in Colosse, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). I really understand how tough this can be on the job, especially when the task before us is unpleasant and painful. However, this week approach your work with a better perspective. Do your job for the Lord; do it as something that he has given you to do; do it to show his greatness where you work!

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Remembering the Lord in the Park

It was the very first time I had remembered our precious Lord Jesus’ death in the great outdoors! We were at the park where we had met to worship; praising God and singing, reading the scriptures – God’s word to us. Dave had shared what he had prepared from Matthew, Colossians, and John. We were encouraged to write down any comments or questions and we will discuss them at the next meeting at the park.

Skies were blue and clear as we sat around the table under a canopy of trees. Even the trees were making noises; they seemed to be lifting their voices to their Creator, perhaps remembering that it was on a tree the Savior had given his life that we might be forgiven.

I passed the basket with bread after taking a piece, to those gathered around and we remembered his body that was broken for us, and then having poured grape juice in a glass pitcher, I passed it, saying, “Take as much as you need to remember that it represented the blood of Christ, which is what alone can take away sins.”

Christ is the Vine. Dave had just spoken of him to us, and we are his branches. We need to stay connected to him. Yes, we too felt crushed like grapes; misunderstood as Jesus once was, but he is our Head, the Head of our church! He feels our every pain and sorrow. We remembered his pain on Calvary that day for us.

We must not think we can go through life problem free. We are not better than our Lord! We must be willing to pick up our cross and follow him.

We drank of the juice that warm day, and then I did something I had never done before in church, but finally felt free enough to say, “Let’s pass the juice around again and fill our cups, raising them to Jesus!” We did, and again we said thank you to the Lord and Savior, who had done so much for us. We are connected to the Vine. May his life flow freely through us, today, tomorrow, and forever! He alone has given us eternal life. Yes, thank you, Jesus! He made us and we celebrated the life he had given. It is eternal!

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The Word and the branches

“You are already clean through the message that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Jesus continues to speak to the Eleven about the relationship between the Vine and the branches. The Father as Gardener prunes the branches. Jesus uses a noun form of the verb translated as “prunes” in verse two to describe the condition of the apostles. They are already “clean” (cf. 13:10) or “pruned”. Jesus reassures his core group after telling them about others who would be cut off because they were not fruitful (like Judas, 13:30). They were fruitful branches that were clean.

What caused the difference in their lives? It was the word or message of Christ that he had spoken to them. The message includes everything about his person, teachings, and redemptive mission that he had already told them. They had received the message, and it had produced an internal, cleansing effect in them (cf. Ephesians 2:20-21; cf. John 6:44-48). Jesus is the source and substance of life for his people.

Jesus wants us to know that we continue or remain in him in the same way that we began (cf. Colossians 2:6-7). We begin through faith in Christ. The Father by the Spirit causes us to be born again as he uses the word of Christ in us (1 Peter 1:23). We are his new people. We are ready to bear fruit. This continues to occur as Christ uses the word in us (Ephesians 5:26). For this reason, when we read the word, we ought to seek the Lord by his Spirit to use it in us. And a gathering of believers should want the word to operate in us powerfully (Colossians 3:16). This is a conscious, deliberate activity. It is something that we must want and have room for. Like anything in life, it requires an investment of time. How much time are you investing in listening to the word of God? May God bless you with grace and peace!

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The Gardener and the branches

In the Gospel of John, we hear a lot from Jesus about God the Father. (A good place to dive into this subject is chapter five.) Here, Jesus tells of the Father’s activity in tending to the branches that are connected to him, the Vine. The Father has a great interest in the productiveness of his people. But first notice that everything is focused on Jesus Christ. “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” (John 15:2 NIV1984). The Father is concerned about Christ and his people. He wants Christ’s people to produce fruit for the glory of his Son. For this reason God the Father performs actions on the branches, the people of God.

First, he cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. (Fruit represents everything godly that comes from a living union and communion with Christ, such as peace, obedience to Jesus’ commands, joy, love for one another, and witness to the world, cf. 14:27; 15:9, 10, 12, 27). Sadly, there are some who have an outward connection to Christ, but who lack a real, vital, organic connection. They do not bear fruit (Matthew 13:18-22; Col 1:23; 1 John 2:19.) The Father acts to remove them from the people of Christ.

Second, the Father prunes every fruit bearing branch. A few years ago, I was pruning the bushes in our backyard. The old, unproductive branches had to be cut off, so that the living branches could increase. A friend of mine was watching as I basically cut off well over half the branches. They looked scrawny. He said, “I hope you know what you’re doing, because there isn’t much left.” I did know, and the bushes thrived, but at that moment in time, it seemed counterproductive. It can seem that way in our lives, when the Father prunes away stuff that needs to go. It is too easy to focus on what is gone, instead of what will grow and bear fruit for the glory of God in Christ.

How is the Father pruning your life now? You should be observing the removal of unproductive stuff from yourself. And you might be shaken and shed tears when you see the pile of discarded ideas, attitudes, and activities. But this is only for your benefit. You do not want to be like discarded branches that bear no fruit. No, you want to be a fruit-bearing branch that becomes increasingly productive. So then, how are you concentrating more on Christ? What new godly interests is the Father developing in you as you draw upon the life-giving power of the ascended Christ?

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First thoughts on the Vine and the branches

God likes to use stories and illustrations to help us know the story of his glory in the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, when God sent his one and only Son into the world, he came teaching with stories and illustrations. In John 15:1-8 Jesus gave the illustration of the Vine and the branches.

When Jesus told his disciples (learners) this word picture, he used imagery from the Old Testament Scriptures (Psalm 80:9-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; etc.) God had pictured his people Israel as a vineyard from which he expected fruit. Now in the Gospel of John, Jesus says that he is the “true vine”. Christ is the ultimate reality of what God had expected of Israel. The members of Christ’s new people (his followers or learners) are branches in him. Jesus is the fullness of God’s plan; in him are a people that will bring forth the righteous fruit that God desires. The good news is that if we are in Jesus Christ by grace through faith, we are part of God’s people.

Jesus also tells us that the Father is the gardener; he cares for the Vine and his branches. In the Christian life we too often forget that God the Father is active in our lives. We can wrongly think that producing fruit for God is a matter for our best efforts. And we fail miserably! But Jesus wants us to know and to experience that fruitfulness comes from our union with him, as the Father acts in our lives. So believer in Jesus, rejoice today! You are connected to him who has power to produce fruitfulness in you, and the Father kindly acts to help you bear fruit.

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Welcome to Mission FifteenFive

Welcome to the blog of David and Sharon Frampton! We hope that what we share will be an encouragement to those who are disciples (learners and followers) of the Lord Jesus Christ. Either David or Sharon will be sharing what the Lord has taught us from the Word by the Holy Spirit. We want you to know how much God the Father cares for you. Look for something new often.

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