BE FRUITFUL

Summary

This episode is also available as a blog post: https://lifelinkdevo.com/2021/04/13/be-fruitful/ — Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/support

Transcription

YOU ARE CLEAN

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/YOU-ARE-CLEAN-eusncf

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Within the next few weeks several things will begin to happen. Camping season will begin. Golf season will begin in earnest. Fishing season will open. The repaving of our driveway will be done. Several trees need to be cut down before the driveway is done so they don’t damage the new one when they fall. The lawn needs to be fertilized, and based on the early spring the lawn mower will need to be fired up. The next few weeks are going to be busy.

Last Saturday I did a big job of moving and restacking my wood pile so I’m ready for the camping season. Now there is space to add more wood as I cut down more trees. When I headed for the house, I saw that I was dirty. Before I got to the garage I brushed off all the residue that had clung to my clothes as I carried the wood. I took off my shoes and left them in the garage. I took off my grubby old sweatshirt and hung it on the hook above the lawn mower. Then I went to the laundry room sink and washed my hands. I declared myself clean enough to eat lunch. The only exposed part of me that had gotten dirty was now clean.

As we study the book of John together, it has been interesting to see how the Apostle carries over themes from one scene to the next. In the upper room, Jesus had washed His disciple’s feet. Peter had resisted, but then invited Jesus to wash all of him. Jesus informed Peter that once you have been fully bathed, you only need to wash the parts that were exposed to dirt. Jesus told Peter he was already clean.

Now, in John 15, as the entourage walks toward the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus again declares that the disciples are clean. As He speaks of the Vinedresser’s role to lift branches that have fallen and clean them so they can produce fruit, He reminds the disciples that they are already clean.

John 15:3  “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”

Let us not overestimate the words of Jesus by declaring that they clean everyone who hears them. But let us also not underestimate the power of the words of Jesus to make clean all those who believe them and abide in them. There is no universal salvation just because Jesus spoke. But there is also no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and have been cleansed by His words.

I believe it would make an enormous difference in our attitude if we started every day by praising Jesus for making us clean before the Father.  I believe we would be different people if every day we would confess to Jesus the parts of our lives that were exposed to the dirt of sin and ask Him to wash those parts in the cleansing water of forgiveness.

Years ago, I was a part of a church that had a large contingency of people who believed that if any part of their life was exposed to sin, then they had to be completely washed again. Any dirt made them lose their salvation. What a tragedy to live life that way. We have been permanently cleansed when we were bathed in the Living Word. We do not and cannot lose His eternal cleansing.

However, we do get dirty. Take all your dirt to Jesus. He will wash your feet.

Pastor John

BE FRUITFUL

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/BE-FRUITFUL-euql78

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Many years ago, I transplanted some raspberry plants from my son’s house to my back yard. I hoped they would be very productive. I think they have their definition of productivity confused with their reproduction. My back yard, and the adjoining trees, and the neighbor’s trees, are now filled with raspberry canes. They are prolific reproducers but terrible producers. Last year I harvested about 12 pints of berries from my wild and free-growing canes.

Meanwhile, at my son’s house, there’s a small raspberry patch in their garden that is carefully maintained. It is one-fifth the size of mine. Yet they harvested five times more berries. I guess caretaking and pruning work. I will either need to become a better caretaker or mow them all down. But I fear that mowing them will only make them reproduce more.

Caretaking and pruning are spiritual principles of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He told His disciples, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”(John 15:2) Jesus cares how spiritually productive we are. God the Father goes to great lengths to assure that we become fruitful in serving His Son.

There are two things the Father does to bring spiritual productivity to our lives.  First, He lifts us up when we have been trampled in the dirt. When Jesus told us that every branch in the Vine that does not produce fruit is taken away, He used a word that means “to lift up.” Every branch that is connected to the Vine and is not bearing fruit because it has fallen down and gotten dirty is lifted up, cleaned, and carefully repositioned so it can bear fruit. The words of Jesus are not a statement of judgment, but of assistance and forgiveness from the Father. This is marvelous. When we fall, or fail, and stop bearing fruit, the Father comes to us to invigorate us in Christ to bear fruit.

Second, when we are bearing fruit, the Father comes to help us be even more fruitful by removing all the things that steal nourishment sent from the Vine. We all have things that steal spiritual nourishment. The Father knows about the sins we keep secret from others. He knows about our pursuits of pleasure and self-advancement. He knows about our desire for financial prosperity. He knows about the places we look for personal affirmation and value. Yet He comes, as a perfect Vinedresser, and begins cutting those things away.  Initially, we feel loss. But the Vinedresser knows that whatever we consider loss in this life is counted as eternal gain. We will bear more fruit.

I am overflowing with thanksgiving right now. I am in Jesus. I am attached to the True Vine. When I am not bearing fruit, God the Father is faithful to lift me up and restore me. When I am bearing fruit, the Vinedresser provides for even more fruitfulness by removing everything that steals the Vine’s nourishment. I am bearing fruit for the King…and by His grace I will bear more.

Pastor John

THE TRUE VINE

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/THE-TRUE-VINE-euocjb

LifeLink Devotional for Monday, April 12, 2021

Jesus used illustrations and symbols from everyday life to perfect our understanding of spiritual truth. In the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus addresses a symbolism that was a significant part of the religious heritage of the Jewish nation. In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:1-7). “Yet I planted you a choice vine” is God’s message to Israel through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel 15:1-8 likens Israel to the vine, as does Ezekiel 19:10. “Israel is a luxuriant vine,” said Hosea (Hosea 10:1). “You brought a vine out of Egypt,” sang the Psalmist, thinking of God’s deliverance of his people from bondage (Psalms 80:8).

The vine had become the symbol of the nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine carved on the front of the Holy Place. Within the Jewish community there was an understanding that the vine represented their national identity. Obedience to the law was the means by which one became a fruit-bearing part of the vine, and the fruit was the spreading of the Jewish law to more and more people. Those who did not hold to the law were removed by the authority of the religious rulers. They believed they were responsible to keep the vine sacred by assuring that all the branches were abiding in the law.

As Jesus and His disciples walked toward the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus would be betrayed, they may well have passed through a vineyard. The sight of the grape vines would have been a perfect visual illustration for the words of Jesus in John 15:1.

““I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”


‭There is one very simple and profound truth in the first five words Jesus says. Religion does not save you. Religious tradition does not connect you to the Father. Only through Jesus can we be saved from sin and bear fruit of eternal value.

My friends, everyday people with good intentions pass into an eternal separation from God because they trusted the laws and traditions of their religion. Every minute of every day people are dying with a false sense of security that they have earned their way into God’s presence based on their family heritage of religious righteousness. Yet without Jesus, the True Vine, they have no access to the Father.

We who are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sin of the world must rejoice that we are included in the Vine. But we must also grieve for those who do not yet know this truth. We must grieve especially for those who claim to know the truth but reject it and even fight against it. With the compassion of Christ, we must join with the Holy Spirit and do all we can to reach those people with the words of Jesus. “I AM THE TRUE VINE.”

Do not trust your religion to save you from your sins. Do not trust your traditions to give you life. Do not trust your sacraments to forgive your sin. Jesus is the True Vine. Trust Jesus alone. He will save you.

Pastor John

THE TRUE VINE

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/THE-TRUE-VINE-euocjb

LifeLink Devotional for Monday, April 12, 2021

Jesus used illustrations and symbols from everyday life to perfect our understanding of spiritual truth. In the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus addresses a symbolism that was a significant part of the religious heritage of the Jewish nation. In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:1-7). “Yet I planted you a choice vine” is God’s message to Israel through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel 15:1-8 likens Israel to the vine, as does Ezekiel 19:10. “Israel is a luxuriant vine,” said Hosea (Hosea 10:1). “You brought a vine out of Egypt,” sang the Psalmist, thinking of God’s deliverance of his people from bondage (Psalms 80:8).

The vine had become the symbol of the nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine carved on the front of the Holy Place. Within the Jewish community there was an understanding that the vine represented their national identity. Obedience to the law was the means by which one became a fruit-bearing part of the vine, and the fruit was the spreading of the Jewish law to more and more people. Those who did not hold to the law were removed by the authority of the religious rulers. They believed they were responsible to keep the vine sacred by assuring that all the branches were abiding in the law.

As Jesus and His disciples walked toward the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus would be betrayed, they may well have passed through a vineyard. The sight of the grape vines would have been a perfect visual illustration for the words of Jesus in John 15:1.

““I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”


‭There is one very simple and profound truth in the first five words Jesus says. Religion does not save you. Religious tradition does not connect you to the Father. Only through Jesus can we be saved from sin and bear fruit of eternal value.

My friends, everyday people with good intentions pass into an eternal separation from God because they trusted the laws and traditions of their religion. Every minute of every day people are dying with a false sense of security that they have earned their way into God’s presence based on their family heritage of religious righteousness. Yet without Jesus, the True Vine, they have no access to the Father.

We who are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sin of the world must rejoice that we are included in the Vine. But we must also grieve for those who do not yet know this truth. We must grieve especially for those who claim to know the truth but reject it and even fight against it. With the compassion of Christ, we must join with the Holy Spirit and do all we can to reach those people with the words of Jesus. “I AM THE TRUE VINE.”

Do not trust your religion to save you from your sins. Do not trust your traditions to give you life. Do not trust your sacraments to forgive your sin. Jesus is the True Vine. Trust Jesus alone. He will save you.

Pastor John

CHOOSE THE RIGHT HAT

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/CHOOSE-THE-RIGHT-HAT-euhvm9

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 9, 2021

I have a variety of hats. Each one has an assigned context.  My red Wisconsin Badgers hat matches my golf bag. My beige hat with the words “I’d rather be fishing” is my work-around-the-yard hat. I have two floppy brimmed hats for the boat when I’m fishing. I also have two hats I never wear. One is a navy blue Detroit Tigers hat with an autograph of Al Kaline in it. The other is a Green Bay Packer Super Bowl champion hat I won. The reason for not wearing that hat is obvious if you know me.

I have lots of other hats also, with a variety of logos or words on them, but I use those for work hats because they don’t necessarily represent me. Most of the time, we choose to wear hats that identify us in some way, either as a fan of a team or a customer of a company.

Just like hats, Jesus told us that there would be characteristics of our lives that we would wear to publicly identify us as His followers. The most obvious one is love. Jesus said that the world will know we are Christians by our love.

However, in the context of John chapter fourteen which we have been studying this week, Jesus reveals another “hat” we wear.

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Let’s review the context. Jesus told the disciples He was leaving. He assured them they were not being abandoned. He revealed the Helper to them, whom the Father would send to abide in them as a constant encourager and teacher. The Holy Spirit would manifest the life of Jesus to them. Then, in a profound statement that is backed up by His own example, Jesus says that His life in them would provide them the same level of peace that He was experiencing as He prepared to be crucified. All I can say is, WOW!”

Yesterday I saw a post of Facebook that bothered me. Christian people complaining about the outcome of the Tuesday election. One even said that they didn’t know what to do anymore. I posted a comment. “Read the end of THE BOOK and then trust God.”

My friends, what if we wore the hat of peace every day to identify us as followers of Jesus. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, suffered at the hands of human government and religious tyranny. Yet He was at peace knowing that He was accomplishing the Father’s purpose. And in preparation for His suffering, He gave peace to His disciples. He promised His presence in each of our lives so we could know and experience His peace.

Why do we wear hats that identify us as discouraged, grumpy, critical, controlling, or hopeless, when we could be wearing the hat of peace? As a follower of Christ, you own that hat. Put it on.

Pastor John

ABANDONED

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/NEVER-ABANDONED-eufk6q

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Yesterday morning a news story caught my attention. Video captured by a Border Patrol officer shows a young boy, tears streaming down his face, who had apparently been abandoned alone in the desert in Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border. The boy was seen in the video walking down an empty dirt road. 

“I came with a group, they dumped me, and I don’t know where they are,” the minor said between sobs to a motorist who was in the area. The boy told an off-duty Border Patrol officer, “They can rob me, kidnap me. I am afraid.”

The world is filled with the tragedy of human abandonment. Fathers and mothers abandon their children to pursue their own dreams. Husbands abandon their wives in search of a better life with someone else. Wives do it too. Employees abandon their posts to follow their impulses and seek immediate gratification. Even in the church there is abandonment, as shepherds leave their sheep for a presumed better flock, and sheep leave their shepherds for possible greener pastures.

Jesus understood abandonment through experience. He was abandoned by the people He came to save. He was abandoned by those who had one time followed Him. He was preparing to be abandoned by the Father to the point of death so He would cry out, “Why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus knew what it meant to be abandoned, so He compassionately reached out to those who would soon feel the same abandonment. He has told the disciples that He is leaving them, so now He assures them that it is not abandonment.

John 14:18-19   “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

This statement of Jesus is packed with truth. When we choose to believe in Jesus, we are never left alone. His promise to us is that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has come to us as He promised by sending His Spirit to permanently dwell in us. We are not orphans. The love of God is being constantly lavished upon us because we are His eternal children.

Yet the world does not see Him or know Him. Those who do not believe in Jesus are orphans by choice. We who believe are promised life because He who dwells in us is alive. Not so for unbelievers. How sad. If only their spiritual eyes were opened so they could see Jesus, then they too could live. If we who are alive would abandon our worldly pursuits and give them a view of life as a child of God, maybe they would abandon their unbelief and turn to Jesus.

We who know we will never be abandoned must choose to abandon everything that contradicts the life of Christ in us. When we do, we become the living evidence of the resurrected life of Christ. We are surrounded by people who are ready to meet Jesus. Show them that they can.

Pastor John

Eternity

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/ETERNAL-LIFE-eudcu3

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Forever is a long time.

We have probably heard and used that statement many times, but it is not a true statement. In fact, a long time is the exact opposite of forever. Forever is the absence of time. Eternity is not measured in time. Forever will never feel like a long time, because the past and the future are all wrapped up in the present. My mind cannot comprehend that because I am confined to a space/time continuum.

God is eternal. He is not limited by time or space. When we enter eternity, and everyone does in either heaven or hell, our existence will no longer be measured by time. We will not have a past to remember or a future to anticipate. Everything about us will be realized in the immediate, and it will never end.

Jesus gave us a glimpse of what eternity will be like in His discussion with the disciples in John 14. Here’s what He said.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…”

Those who have received the forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus Christ are immediately given a Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Eternal God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, comes to us in the Spirit of Christ and dwells in us. Not just for this life, but forever in eternity. It is the Holy Spirit who brings to us the life of Christ, and when these mortal bodies are transformed into immortality, the Holy Spirit will fully glorify the life of Christ in us. It is because we have the eternal presence of Jesus in us today that we can look forward with certainty to the time when time shall be no more, and we experience the eternal glory of God.

Those who are not in Christ have no such hope. They are without the present life of Jesus in them. By their own unbelief they have chosen to not participate in the eternal glory of God. Every unbeliever, with no exceptions, will also become an eternal being, but without the life of Jesus it will be eternal suffering. Today’s rejection of God results in eternal death and separation from God.

Those of us who have eternal life in Christ should be grieving the hopeless state of unbelievers. Yet we are empowered by the life of Jesus in us to be His witnesses to the lost and dying. We have been commissioned by Jesus Christ to go to the lost, make disciples of the lost, baptize them in the Name of Jesus Christ, teach them to obey the commands of Jesus, and then send them out to make even more disciples.

The world is overflowing with death. Our lives are to be overflowing with life so those in death can see the hope we have and turn from death to life. The question of the hour then is this – “Do those in death see the living presence of Jesus Christ in me so that they can find life?”

Pastor John

Love Activates Obedience

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/LOVE-ACTIVATES-OBEDIENCE-eub2pp

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

On Sunday, as I considered the sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf, I was reminded of some basic truths about love.

Love is a verb.

Love is an action.

Love produces activity.

When we love someone, we act on their behalf and for their benefit.

When we experience love we respond with activity that pleases the one who loves us.

All these statements are true of God’s love for us. However, they may not be true of us. Jesus reminded His disciples of this when He said,  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”(John 14:15)

Love for Jesus can be recognized by the level of obedience to what Jesus has commanded.

Love for Jesus will produce the activity of obedience.

Love’s activity of obedience pleases Jesus.

Because I love Him, I will obey Him.

I love Him because He loves me.

My love for Jesus is defined by my obedience to Him.

There is no longer any “If” about my love for Jesus. Rather, I follow Him, obey Him, and serve Him BECAUSE I love Him.

How about you?

Pastor John

IT’S NOT MONDAY

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/ITS-NOT-MONDAY-eu8mc2

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 5, 2021

It’s another Monday morning. The weekend memories of relaxation and fun are quickly drowned in the waterfall of work that lies ahead. But for me, this Monday is different. While it’s true that this day is more overloaded with work than most, carrying well into the evening, I am energized by the ongoing vitality that is mine through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ that lives in me.

The daily presence of Jesus Christ, made possible by His sacrifice for sin on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, does more than just sustain me. His life defines me. His life energizes me. Christ’s life enables me to do far more than I could ever imagine.

Jesus promised me this in His words to His disciples in John 14. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

In my own strength, I am tired. Alone, I am discouraged. But I am not alone, and I do not live in my own strength. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. He has gone to the Father. He sent His Spirit to dwell in me.  The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is mine. And since I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

All the things that lie ahead of you do not and cannot undo the resurrection of Jesus. All the burdens you will pick up today do not have to be carried alone, or at all. Jesus is alive, and if you have believed in Him, His life is in you. His power to do great works is working in you.

It’s not Monday. Every day is Resurrection Day for those who are in Christ jesus.

Pastor John