You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.

John 15: 16

 

There is more than one way to view the total meaning and implication of this verse. However, regardless of your theology, I believe that there is an overarching truth to it that is common to all. It seems clear that God chooses us; we do not get to choose our God. There is one and only one God, and He is sovereign over every aspect of the universe. Out of that sovereignty and because of His desire to be engaged with people in a form of relationship that is voluntary and that we desire to be in, He does grant us humans the ability to accept or to reject Him. Still, God calls to us, and He has designed for each of us a purpose and plan for living in a manner that is productive for the sake of His Kingdom.

 

God does not call us into His holiness and grant us His righteousness in order for us to be superior and separated from our world. Rather, Christ performs His transformative work in us so that we would gain His ability to see sin as it is and to fearlessly engage it head on. He also grants us His wisdom and understanding to use in speaking God’s truth into the hearts and the minds of a desperately lost world. It is God’s truth, when delivered in a package of His grace and mercy, which brings justice, righteousness, and peace into the world. This is the fruit that Christ desires to see. He wants to view a great harvest of lives that are eternally changed and to smell the sweet aroma of an unending bounty of love, peace, and reconciliation.

 

This is a fruit that lasts. As it is deeply rooted and attached to its true source of life in Christ, it draws sustaining nourishment and growth producing understanding from the Spirit. This should lead us into living a life that is centered on the Father and on desiring to know and to follow His will. As God makes Himself known to us, we are called to serve Him in ways that He specially and uniquely gifts and equips us for. It is out of this profoundly intimate relationship with God through Christ that we are provided with the sort of wisdom and understanding which should lead us to seek out the Father’s calling for our lives. From this place of absolute trust we can fearlessly ask God to grant us His blessing upon the ways that we are seeking to join Christ in the tending of His vineyard.

Jesus laid hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.

Luke 13: 13

 

This is an extraordinary moment. It is so far outside of the expectations and of the rules for living that existed that this event had to be stunning to those who witnessed it. Yet, even in their amazement, they could not come close to appreciating what they were seeing. As Jesus was teaching the people who had gathered on this Sabbath day in the synagogue, He first spoke the words of truth in saying to the woman that she was free; then, Christ reached out to her and touched her. The audience for this event was shocked that He would even speak to a woman, especially to one who was unclean by virtue of the obvious disability with which she was afflicted. This was a disability that their theology attributed to sin. Then Jesus goes beyond shock as He actually touches her while proclaiming that she was healed.

 

This story is wonderful and even magical in its portrayal of God’s capacity to heal and with its clear demonstration of compassion, mercy, and grace. But I think that there is something else on display here. God has no particular need to come out of His place in the heavens in order to touch our world and its inhabitants. My mind can not contemplate anything that He is lacking or any rational reason for God to deal in such a gracious manner with us. After all, we are the ones who decided to distance ourselves from Him. We chose to go it on our own and to depend upon our own knowledge, wisdom and interpretation of truth. Just as our initial ancestors determined to move away from the Tree of Life in order to select their own nurture, all people are born dwelling outside of God’s eternal word. Then almost all of us choose to continue to live on the far edges away from eternity until Christ brings about His radical transformative work in us.

 

Like in the story of the woman in the synagogue, God in the person of Jesus the Christ reaches out to us. He speaks His truth in a manner that penetrates deep into the hearts of anyone who is willing to hear. God’s Word is powerful and speaks of a profoundly insightful new identity that He desires to grant as a free gift to all people. Yet God does not stop there. He entered into our world in the person of Jesus, and God continues to dwell among us and in those who accept Him in the person of His Spirit. God, the Almighty, the Creator and King, reaches out His hands to everyone. He touches us with love and acceptance. Christ tells us to stand and walk with heads held high for we are healed. It is in our new redeemed lives that we become living testimonies to the glory of the God who chooses to dwell among us.

I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 11: 19

 

Hard-hearted, cold-hearted, and heart of stone are all descriptive phrases that are used to indicate a person who is capable of separating feelings from actions. These are people who can set aside empathy, sympathy, and compassion so that their seeking after a goal is not impaired by consideration of the others that might get in the way of achieving it. This ability is often considered to be an attribute in our world; yet, its absence is one of the most important distinctions between Jesus and the image of Messiah that His countrymen thought that they desired.

 

People have focused the energy of untold generations and large amounts of our own lives in the pursuit of personal and corporate strength and in seeking after an ability to move relentlessly toward our goals. When this effort results in sacrificing the hearts and the souls of people who get in our way, we have often lost sight of God’s true intent and desire for our lives. The Lord does not call us to be strong in the sense that a well built wall is imposing; rather, He calls us to be strong in our willingness and ability to yield to His greater purposes and to take His love to anyone that we encounter who is in need of it. In God’s view of this world and of our lives in it, His Spirit is our strength. Therefore, we can be open, compassionate, and available to bring Christ’s healing to the hurting souls in our day.

 

Christ has come into my life. His Spirit is that new one that was promised by God. He calls to me to respond to the transformative work of Christ’s Spirit. So, my prayer for today is that I would be less strong, more open, and that my own concept of what it means to serve God will become yielded to and changed by His true and accurate image of what that means. May the Spirit of Christ be my strength and His love be my calling card so that others will be drawn toward the God who restores the hearts of people.