God’s Mission of Grace – The Source of Our Work - Thursday, March 7th

God’s Mission of Grace – The Source of Our Work - Thursday, March 7th

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 …. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples …. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain. John 15:4-5, 8, 16A

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day long?” They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You go into the vineyard too.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.” When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” But he answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:1-1Today's thoughts from today's verses:

When it comes to things that grow in the soil, we might say that the fruit is the product of the plant. Fruit is a good word for capturing all that comes forth from our lives that is beneficial and worthwhile. You may recall the expression: “the fruit of your labors.” In a broader sense, then, fruit is the good product our lives yield from the work we put into living life well. So, good fruit is the outcome we want from the lives we live and work is what we do to achieve that outcome. But the question must be asked, “Where does it all come from? To put the question another way, “What is the source of the work we put into our lives that yields a successful outcome?”

The answer to this is super significant; way, way more than might strike us at the outset of considering what the answer is for us. There is a metaphor about glowing embers that will help us grasp the central issue that is involved here. What it is that happens when one of the embers is separated from the others is the focus of the metaphor. The glow of the ember gradually fades until it grows cold and stops glowing altogether. While the main lesson of the metaphor is the need for embers to stay close to each other, a more fundamental lesson can be drawn from the metaphor. Glowing embers do not come about just because embers are in close proximity to each other. It is the fire and the fire alone that makes each ember glow. God is the fire in our lives and his life in us needs to be active and full in order for our lives to “glow” so to speak. Our natural tendency is to slip away from being close to God and having his life be active and full in us.

Being close to God and totally dependent on him as the source of our lives is absolutely essential. Our John 15 passage is all about the close dependent relationship we need to have with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The universal problem of mankind is the delusion of “independence.” This is particularly true in our western culture. In other words, we want to be our own source, utilizing whatever resources we need to achieve the outcomes we want for our lives through own skill and hard work. To use the terminology of our passage, we cannot accept that we are branches and nothing more. We are trapped in the delusion of independence, because we think we are the whole kit and cabuddle. In reality, we were made for “dependence” on God so that the product or fruit of our lives is rooted in him and not us. God is not a resource but the one and only source that can truly make our lives count for eternity.

Here is our John 15 passage again. Read it, meditate on it, and let God move in your mind, heart, and life like never before. May you be moved in such a full way that you are forever settled on the reality that you are a branch, Christ is your vine, and apart from him there will be no lasting fruit from your life. “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 …. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples …. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.

A fruitful life that flows out of an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ who is our one and only source is the key to our participating in God’s mission of grace in ways that really count. And now we turn to the highlighted portion of our Matthew 20 passage for further help with understanding the centrality of grace in God’s mission. We see that the end of the work day has come for the laborers in the landowners vineyard and that both those who worked a full day and those who didn’t received the same wage. The laborers who worked a full day were the last to receive their wage and when they realized they had received no more than the rest, they grumbled and complained.

These men are wrapped up in themselves and not the gracious landowner. They are not focused on the fact that the landowner is the source of their good fortune of having gained a day’s work for a day’s wage. It is the gracious landowner and not their efforts that account for their good fortune and they don’t get it. Because it is all about them and their efforts they are not happy with the landowner or the latecomers who got the same outcome with less time and effort spent. We are so like these first men. Truly getting it, that God is our one and only source and that our spiritual existence is always and only about grace, doesn’t come about easily for us.

How easily it is all about us and our efforts to serve God. How readily we become dissatisfied with God and look down our noses at latecomers to the faith. This why we asked the question earlier, “What is the source of the work we put into our lives that yields a successful outcome?” It is also why it was said our answer to it is super significant. Are you ready to fully enter into God’s grace so that he is the one and only source for your spiritual existence. Get your eyes off yourself, abandon all self-effort, and forever settle into the reality that you are a branch, Christ is your vine, and apart from him there will be no lasting fruit from your life.

Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

Lord, I am so prone to self-reliance and independence. I want to get close to you and stay close to you. Show me how to depend on you for the work I put into living my life. May the fruit of my labors be the outworking of your life in me and through me. You are my vine (source) and I am your branch. I choose to abide in you. I believe you will make my life count for eternity as more and more you enable me to participate in your mission of grace. Amen!

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