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Faithlife

Are You connecte1

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ARE YOU CONNECTED?
John 15:1-8
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

6 Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.
7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!


There’s a phrase that has become popular in sports arena today, Being in “the zone.”
The zone refers to that state of mind when everything is clicking for you and you’re doing everything right.
You can’t miss a shot, you’re able to anticipate what the opposition is doing, and you have a quick answer for every question.
Anyone who has ever played sports or performed in public knows what it’s like to be in the zone.
Also, anyone who has ever played sports or performed in public knows what it’s like to be out of the zone—there are days when you don’t think straight, don’t perform well, and nothing seems to go your way.
When it comes to living the Christian life, there’s a zone that we can be in—a zone that makes it easier to walk in faith, live in obedience, see our prayers answered, experience joy, and handle adversity.
It is a zone that Jesus challenges us all to live in.
What is this zone?
Jesus said,
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.
What does Jesus mean when he says, “Remain in me”?
Where you abide is where you dwell, or (as this Greek can be translated) where you stay.
Abiding in Jesus means remaining in the presence of Jesus throughout the day.
Of course, if you are believer, you are always in the presence of Jesus, because he is with you every minute of every day.
The problem is, sometimes we forget that, and we forget to acknowledge his presence throughout the day.
Too often we begin our days in a mad rush and move forward at breakneck speed all day long, dealing with problems and challenges that drain us of peace and joy, until finally we collapse in exhaustion at the end of the day.
Jesus is telling us we don’t have to live that way.
We can experience an abundance of life and a fullness of joy, if we learn to abide in him.
One reason Celtic Christianity has experienced a resurgence of popularity in recent years is that many have discovered their lifestyles were in many ways similar to our own, and yet, as a culture they learned to incorporate Christ into their daily lives.
Celtic communities were primarily agricultural, and they all worked (both moms and dads) very, very hard from sunrise to sunset.
They didn’t have an abundance of free time.
They constantly faced the stress of dealing with the harsh weather, of living in a society that wasn’t predominantly Christian.
They constantly faced the risk of being raided by the Romans, the Irish, the Vikings, and anyone else.
Life was hard in those days, and yet, the writings that remain from this period of history reveal a people who had discovered the joy of abiding in Christ.
They incorporated their Christian faith into every area of life.
Every activity throughout the day became a religious ceremony that included the presence of God.
For example, most people wash their face first thing in the morning, but the Celts made a religious ceremony of it.
They would splash their face with water three times and pray,
The palmful of the God of Life
The palmful of the Christ of Love
The palmful of the Spirit of Peace
Trinity of grace.
As they clothed their children, the children were encouraged to pray,
Even as I clothe my body with wool
Cover Thou my soul with the shadow of Thy wing.
Their lives were hectic and busy, and they didn’t have time for long prayers, but throughout the day, each event became an opportunity for prayer.
As they kindled the fire, as they made the bed, as the baked bread or scattered seed, everything was offered in the name of God.
Do you know what that is?
It is abiding in Jesus.
It is remaining in his presence throughout the hours of the day.
Imagine how much different our lives could become if we included Christ in every activity of the day.
Do you know what would happen?
Every event in our lives would become sacred, or holy.
There’s nothing spiritual about washing your face or making a bed or building a fire or driving to work or turning on a computer, or crunching numbers or waiting on customers.
There’s nothing spiritual about any of these things, but they can become sacred events when you do them in the presence of Christ.
One thing that will help you if you have a job that is boring is to throughout the day pray, review Scripture memory verses, sing hymns.
You will know that God is with you all day long.”
A story is told about a man who is a mailman.
As he drops the mail into each person’s box he says a prayer for the family.
He knows most of the people on his route only by name, but he offers a prayer for them—basically the same prayer house after house, day after day.
He said, “I go home now so full of Christ I can hardly contain my joy.”
Jesus said, “Abide in me and I will abide in you.”
He is saying, “Include me in the details of your day, and I will fill your life with my presence.”
When we do that, we enter in “the zone” of Christian living, and our lives begin to work more effectively and more efficiently than ever before.
In John 15:1-8 Jesus mentions three ways your life will benefit from living in the zone of his presence.
Here they are. First of all...
1. Your life will become more productive.
Jesus said,
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
What kind of fruit is Jesus talking about?
To begin with, he’s talking about the fruit of your labors.
He’s saying that your work will become more fruitful.
You’ll do your job better, and you’ll get better results.

Abiding in Jesus will help you be more productive in your job, as well.
You’ll bear more fruit as an employee, as a parent, as a spouse, as a friend, as a servant of God.
When you abide in Christ, you put yourself in a position for God to bless the work you do.
When Jesus said you will bear fruit, he was also talking about the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Abiding in Jesus—living in his presence throughout the day—causes these qualities to bloom and grow within you.
When you abide in Christ, he promises that you will bear much fruit; your life will become more productive. Secondly,
2
. You’ll learn to be more selective.
Jesus said,
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

2 He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
I know very little about gardening, and even less about how to prune.
We used to live in a house that had some rose bushes in the front.
Each year they produced beautiful flowers.
One year a neighbor offered to prune the bushes for me.
I agreed, so she went to work, clipping away at each bush.
When she was finished they looked completely barren—like sticks in the ground.
It appeared to me like she had scalped them completely.
Yet, later that season the bushes produced roses bigger and better and more beautiful than ever before, simply because my neighbor understood the principle of pruning.
Life is a process of pruning in which we learn to separate the good from the bad in our lives, and the good from the best.
It’s a process in which we learn to weed out those things that prevent us from maximizing our lives.
As we get busier and busier, and our plates become more and more full, we have to learn what to keep and what to throw away.
We have to determine which things are worth our time and which things aren’t.
The process isn’t always easy.
In fact, if a tree could talk, what do you imagine it would say when it gets pruned?
Probably “ouch”, because pruning can be painful.
But it is necessary, and in the long run, it pays off.
When you live in the zone of abiding in Christ, God does the pruning for you.
He helps you to prioritize and focus on that which is worth the most in your life, and eliminate the rest.
What kinds of things does he prune away?
Here are some examples.
Time-wasting activities.

I don’t mean leisure activities, because play has its place in our lives.
But God helps us get rid of those things that are not beneficial to us and do not give glory to him.
It is too easy for us to over-commit our time, and soon we find ourselves involved in a dozen projects that, in the long run, simply are not the best use of our time.
God helps you weed those out, so that you can focus your time and energy on what is best.
Another area of our life he prunes is...
Destructive relationships.
Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships that don’t benefit us or anyone involved, and God will prune those out of your life.
I’m not saying that he doesn’t want you to be friends with non-Christians.
Of course he does.
How else can you show Christ’s love to the world?
But sometimes we get involved with relationships that aren’t good for us—where we don’t have the amount of influence that we should have, and that God isn’t given the proper place he should be given.
When that happens in a friendship, you can expect God to prune it away.
Another area in which God prunes us is...
Sinful behavior.
He will not allow sin to reign in your life.
When you begin to abide in Christ, and live each moment of the day in his presence, sin will become an unwelcome guest.
We all have certain areas of our lives where we are more vulnerable to sin.
Maybe it’s your temper, or self-control, or laziness, or gossip—whatever it is, God wants to get it out of your life.
Now, whenever you sin, does that mean you’ve lost your chance to abide in Jesus that day?
No.
It means that you need to confess your sin and resume your life.
Learning to abide in Christ takes practice and patience, but remember, he is there with you every step of the way.
The third way you’ll benefit from living in the zone is...
3. Your prayers will become more effective.
Jesus said,
7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!
Some parents left their child with a babysitter for the evening.
When they got home, they asked her how the evening went. “Fine,” she said, “though little Billy had some trouble getting to sleep, but I talked to him for awhile, and he finally drifted off.”
The parents were pleased to hear everything went well, but then babysitter said, “Oh, and by the way, I promised him you would buy him a pony tomorrow.”
You can imagine how the parents felt.
Now they were faced with the task of telling little Billy that the babysitter’s promise was well-intentioned, but not going to come true.
When we preachers discuss the promises Jesus made regarding prayer, we have a tendency to take the role of the parents in this story.
Too often, we try to explain what Jesus meant, or qualify his promises with terms and conditions that he never included.
Too often we put ourselves in the position of telling people why they’re not going to get what they ask for even though that is exactly what Jesus promised.
We’ll say something like, “I know that’s what he said, but this is what he meant.”
Today, I’m going to tell you exactly what Jesus meant when he made this promise.
He meant:
7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!
In other words, he meant what he said.
How could he make such a promise?
How could he say unequivocally that you will get whatever you desire?
It’s simple.
When you abide in Christ, your desires become what they should be.
When Christ is not the center of our lives, we live in constant conflict with our desires.
We don’t want things that we should want, and we want things we shouldn’t want.

When we’re not consistently abiding in Christ, it’s hard to know what to ask for, because we’re not sure what we should have and what we shouldn’t have—we’re in conflict with our desires.
When you begin to abide in Christ you experienced change from within, and your desires are completely overhauled.
For starters, when you abide in Christ your attachment to material possessions takes a nosedive.
So, when you pray for material things, you pray out of need, not out greed, and you can therefore pray with confidence.
Also, when you abide in Christ your prayers become less self-serving.
You can pray with confidence because you know that you’re going to use whatever he gives you for his glory and for the benefit of others.
Also, when you abide in Christ, you become mature enough to see the world with an eternal perspective.
For example, a child might ask for candy at every meal, or ask to get out of going to school, or ask for everyday to be Christmas.
A grownup isn’t likely to ask for these things because they know better.
Abiding in Christ gives you the maturity and wisdom to know what to want.
So, abide in Christ, and ask for whatever you desire; it will be given to you.
The miracle is not only in the answered prayer, it is in the change that God will work in the desires of your heart.
CONCLUSION
If you want your life to flow more smoothly—if you want to be more productive, and learn to be more selective, and your prayers to be more effective—then live in the zone:
Abide in Christ.
Acknowledge his presence in each event of your life.
Recognize that he is there with you every step of the way.
Abide in him, and your life will never be the same.

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