There is something very special about being the gathered Church. Times spent together relating, learning, having fun, relaxing, worshiping praying and so forth are all vital to our health, well-being and effectiveness, spiritually as well as physically. Several research projects even offer evidence that being part of a church family, singing, learning, praying, etc. can actually lower blood pressure and benefit the soul and the body!
For me, our recent Away Day at Gorsley provided some wonderful snapshots of church at its best. 200+ people of all ages, spending time together, chatting, singing, praying, listening, playing games, eating together, walking, serving together, clearing up together… the theme of the day about ‘Honouring God’ seemed so honouring to our heavenly Father as people honoured one another.
Of course, the vital Person making all this possible is our Lord Jesus. Being the Head of the body, the Church, only He provides the love and forgiveness that enables true well-being. In love, Jesus is also working in us personally and corporately what is perfectly described as the fruits of the Spirit. As we allow Him access to all areas of our lives, He is cultivating a healthy fruitful life.
Psalm 1 powerfully describes the man or woman who decides not to follow the way of sin or other sinners, but instead delights in the LORD. They are ‘like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever they do prospers.’
God made people to be fruitful and to multiply. Naturally, we each want to do well and to thrive in life – in ourselves, in our work, in our gardens perhaps!?, in our knowledge and wisdom, in our relationships, etc. Jesus obviously longed that his followers would flourish as they remained in Him, using the metaphor of branches grafted in the true Vine (John 15). Jesus also spoke of His heavenly Father being the gardener (John 15) who lovingly prunes disciple-branches as well, so that they (and we) can be even more fruitful.
This month at Cambray, we commence a new series at our Sunday services. In the mornings we will look into the nine Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’. On Sunday evenings we will work our way through Paul’s letter to the Churches in Galatia, to provide the key context to the teaching about the fruit. Using the challenge of the Langham Partnership’s project, we are simply calling this series: 9-A-Day.
Hopefully, this won’t seem like the obligations of our health and diet obsessed culture which ensures we benefit from the balance of 5-a-day fruit and veg where possible. Rather, my prayer is that each one of us will experience the freedom in Christ, wanting to get close to the streams of God’s living water, allowing Him to work His word into the roots of our lives as we meditate on Him ‘day and night’. Then, as ‘branches’ of Jesus (the true Vine), we will be able to grow and change and become the fruitful people He longs us to be. Effective and growing in maturity, becoming more like Jesus each day, as His Spirit works in and through us.
To use a phrase we looked at a couple of years ago, this will hopefully help us to concentrate more on the Vine, than the trellis! I recall this, because I am personally convicted that far too much of my attention goes on the work of the trellis – dealing with church structural and organisational issues – rather than the true life which IS LIFE. It troubles me how easily I can be so self-absorbed with performance related projects as the ‘wheel’ of church life spins around and around, while neglecting aspects of fruitfulness and change that the Lord is actually wishing to cultivate within.
Certainly spiritual formation is a very popular and helpful thrust of the Christian church in recent years… yet God is not wanting us to work on just one fruit out of the nine, and then move on to the next, and so on… Becoming like Jesus means that all nine fruits of the Spirit are integrated and balanced as we grow in godliness. He does the work of producing the fruit in us, as we pursue godliness.
May I challenge you in this crucial area – to what extent are you rooted and being built up in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Are you living in Him, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness and productivity? (Colossians 2:6-7)?
May this summer 2013 be a wonderful season of increased fruitfulness and productivity as God works more of His character into our lives. Of course, fruit takes times to mature and ripen… but let’s cooperate with God’s gracious Holy Spirit, allowing Him to get to cultivate a magnificent harvest.
Thanking God for your continued prayers and encouragements.
Your pastor and friend,