Have you ever been part of two very different groups? Maybe you go to a different school or you’re in different classes than the people in your neighborhood. So you’re a part of both groups. Or maybe you play on a different sports team than all of your friends. So after practice hang out with the team but on the weekends, you hang out with completely different people. When that happens, we feel like we’re from one world and living in another. We’re torn.
And if we’re honest, sometimes going to church or being a Christian can make us feel that way too.
We go to church and what we hear makes sense. We see people living out their faith and it looks perfectly normal, maybe even fun.
But what looks good on Sunday doesn’t always feel comfortable on Monday.
Back in the everyday world, living as followers of Jesus can make us feel like we’re from another planet. But does it have to be that way? And what does it look like to live for God in a culture that doesn’t necessarily think the same way? Believe it or not, these aren’t 21st century questions. Long ago, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi as they figured out how to navigate their faith and culture at the same time. As we spend the next few weeks talking about what he said, we may find that Paul’s advice to the Philippians is just as relevant for us as we learn to manage the tension and live in a way that is out of this world.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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 15:1-2
If a plant could talk, what do you think it would say about being pruned? (You know what pruning is, right? It’s trimming branches and leaves so that a shrub or plant can either take a desired shape, or so that it might grow more effectively.) So, what do you think?
What would a plant say about being pruned?
If we had to guess, you can bet the plants didn’t like it all that much.
Getting part of you cut off is probably a bummer. But here’s the deal: Chances are, the plants would recognize that pruning is good for them. It allows them to grow healthier. It prevents disease. It encourages new growth. And so while pruning means that some of the plant is cut off, new, healthy growth takes its place.
Can you see the parallel in your life?
Jesus says that God prunes you, just like a gardener prunes a shrub. God knows the things in your life that keep you from following Him wholeheartedly. And so God, being a loving gardener, removes those aspects of your life to help you follow Him more.
Pruning isn’t fun. But we have to know that God prunes us because He loves us. Whatever it is He cuts away, we can trust that it was keeping us from being fully devoted to Him.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
When your phone’s battery dies, what is your phone good for? Really, not a whole lot. You can take the most technologically advanced smartphone on the market and without a battery, it’s about as useful as a brick. We’re kind of the same way.
Disconnected from God, our potential to make a true impact in this world is pretty much zero.
What Jesus said in John 15:5 should make us think about a power source. With Jesus as our power source we have all we need to be used by Him to do awesome things in this world. But if we don’t stay plugged-in to Him, we’ll find that we’ll have no ability to impact the world for Christ. It’s not enough to just say we know Jesus. We have to remain in Him to be used by Him.
So what does it mean to “remain” in Jesus?
Easy. We’re to continue to seek Him out. To be close to Him through prayer and through meeting Him in the Bible. We’re to think about Jesus and His ways. Remaining in Jesus means keeping Him as the top priority of our thoughts and affections.
Remaining in Jesus? It’s a crucial part of your identity as a Christ-follower.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8
Don’t miss what’s being said in those verses you see at the top of this devotional. Paul makes a huge statement here. He says that our attitude should be like Jesus’ attitude. And how did Paul describe Jesus’ attitude? He said that Jesus (who was, you know, God Himself) saw His life as a life of humble service to others. Whoa.
If that attitude was good enough for Jesus to take on, then it should be good enough for us.
Spend today thinking about how this simple truth could radically change your life and your faith if you truly embraced it.
What would your life be like if you took on the identity of Christ’s humble service to the world?
Today, as you read this, there are people in your life who would be blown away if you did something for them that showed them that they mattered.
Who are those people?
Who would be completely shocked if you did something today that put him or her first? What if you did something that said to him or her, “I’m thinking about you before I think about me. I’m putting your needs ahead of mine”?
It’s a safe bet that this guy or girl would realize that there’s something different about you. And you might just get the chance to tell them that you’re trying to live out your identity as a Christ-follower.
Don’t miss the chance today to make a difference in someone else’s life by showing them the kind of humble heart Jesus wants to see in His followers.
When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, our identity is forever changed.
A new identity is born in place of the old one. This is the “new creation” Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5. This new identity is one that finds its definition and purpose in Christ.
Jesus had lots to say about our identity in Christ, and for the month of February in ReFuel, we’ll be studying His words. We’re going to take a close look at several snapshots of what our identity in Christ looks like. We will be reminded that Jesus defines greatness differently than the world; we’ll learn that their true purpose is found in remaining in Christ; and we’ll see that Jesus wants to use them to reach the lost.
Here’s a few ways we can help each other begin to grasp what our new identity in Christ means for our lives:
Pray for each other as we walk through this Bible study.
Look for some of the verses that we discuss in the follow-up messages and work through them with your parents, your friends, or your leader.
Be open and honest with each other about our own questions we have about this concept.
Imagine what it would feel like to feel entirely secure, maybe for the first time, in who we are and in who we are becoming as we allow ourselves to be shaped and challenged by Jesus.
So the real question may be: what would it take for us to start seeing ourselves as Jesus sees us?