Guide Forty Days of Fruitful Living: Practicing a Life of Grace

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Jesus taught a way of life and invited people into a relationship with God that was vibrant, dynamic, and fruitful. He said, I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit. My father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples John , 8. Jesus wanted people to flourish. Scripture is sprinkled with phrases that point to fruitful living—the kingdom of God, eternal life, immeasurable riches, a peace that passes all understanding, abundant life. Jesus and his followers developed core fundamental spiritual practices that sustained them in God and motivated them to relieve the burdens that restrain people from flourishing by protecting the vulnerable, embracing outcasts, healing the sick, welcoming children, caring for widows, confronting injustice, pardoning sin, preaching good news, releasing people from the fear of death.

Paul writes, Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus Philippians Scripture is unified around the theme of a vibrant, fruitful, dynamic life with God through following Christ. How do I have the mind in me that was in Christ? How do I cultivate a life that is abundant, fruitful, purposeful, and deep? What are the commitments, critical risks, and practices that open me to God's transforming grace, and that help me discover the difference God intends for me to make in the world?

How do I live the fruitful, flourishing life of a follower of Christ? The fruitful, God-related life develops with intentional, sustained attention to five essential practices that are critical for our growth in Christ. Radical Hospitality in our personal walk with Christ begins with an extraordinary receptivity to the grace of God. We invite God into our hearts and make space for God in our lives.

The Lord wants us to live a godly and spiritually productive happy life. Many people came to Jesus and asked to be His disciples, but most of them turned away because they were not willing to give themselves to Christ; i.

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He tells his young nephew that humans rarely pray for the thing God wants them to pray for — they simply want enough grace to see them through some moment or time of trouble The best we seem to be able to do is arrive at a compro- mise between what we know to be right intellectually and the howl of protest that lies within us. Most believers think that by being obedient the clouds will go away and skies will turn blue Is God still good? Submission to the will of God in your prayer-life may be expressed in words like this:. You know that my spiritual needs far outweigh any physical or temporal needs that I may have, and I know that Your will being done in my life will give meaning, purpose and fulfillment beyond anything I could ask or understand.

Part of the life we discover when we give our lives to Christ, is freedom from a life of self-obsession; as such, we experience the joy of Christ, and we become more accepting, generous and loving of others. Dying to ourselves is something that we Christians find hard to do. In this world where there is pressure on all sides to replace the love of God for something lesser, to die to oneself is some- thing that nearly every believer is adversed to doing; since we live in a world of instant gratifica- tion, dying to oneself is a concept that is both foreign and unacceptable.

Yet this is one thing that Jesus insisted upon. Essentially, the Christian life is an ongoing process of dying to self and living for Christ — seeking His will and kingdom and righteousness, rather than our own. Though most people deny their own self-centeredness, man by nature is very much self-centered and self-interested. Because we are proud, we chase after other lovers in an effort to please ourselves — and that is the essence of idolatry. Idolatry takes many forms — a relationship we value more than God; the desire for material wealth that is greater than our love for God; the desire to draw attention to ourselves rather than directing the attention of others toward God.

The world is full of idols that dethrone God from our hearts. The issue of dying to self is a process of stripping away layers of sin encrusted with self- ishness — it is an integral part of the process of sanctification. It was the disciples natural instinct to preserve their own lives that caused them to flee from Christ at His arrest; but self-preservation results in spiritual loss Lk When we came to Christ, we chose to make Him our Lord, and invited Him to come live in us — in doing so we chose to give up our will for His.

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Since we chose to become His child and servant, then we must die to ourselves every day, every hour, every minute, every second — the greatest hope for each of us as believers is to die to self that we might live for Christ. Jeff Alexander suggests the following five ways that we embrace the cross www. Humiliation — This is the essence of the Christ-life.

Here God uses reproaches, abuse, poverty, loneliness, persecution, distress, seeming failure, disappointments, and the like. These things succeed when they cause us to lose our own will and let God take charge. Rejecting the praise of men — Self thrives on praise and adulation; self-esteem is the hotbed of the self-life.

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Embracing simplicity and child-likeness — Self feeds on things grand and glorious; Christ-likeness is child-like and simple. Seeking our nothingness and His all-ness — We must make a daily habit to distrust ourselves, our own wisdom, and our strength, and look to Christ alone for what we need. Dying to self is no easy task. Since we are embracing ethics that are foreign to our very nature and are not of our own making they belong to Jesus , dying to self more often than not involves a real fight when we try to surrender our will to the will of God Gal ; Eph By the way, we will never be able to die to ourselves unless we are convinced that serving the flesh our sin nature is totally unprofitable.

We have to see that it has absolutely no worth. We need to come to detest its very presence.

By seeing their contrasting ways, we will hate one and love the other Mt In your quiet moments, talk to God and ask Him to reveal those areas of your life that you need to submit to Him We must also remember that we cannot rid ourselves of the flesh on this earth — it is still with us, and if we do not exercise extreme care, we will serve it How do we void our former allegiance to our flesh? The point is that unless we are absolutely convinced the flesh is a destroyer, we will continue to listen to it, follow it, and serve it.

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As Christians we are technically free from its ruling over us, but we can still serve the old self. The real question is: Do we really hate the flesh? Are you really convinced of such? Paul convincingly set forth this case in the last part of Romans 7 and in the early part of Romans 8. Whenever Paul would go by the old nature, he would serve his own self and bear evil results.

But he wanted to serve Christ Romans 7 which brings forth the fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5. The flesh always brings about death worthless, destructive consequences that have no eternal value because it is hostile to God Romans 8. Our spiritual growth comes as we recognize the complete rebellious nature of the flesh, and the power of the new life through the life of Christ. Here is a possible prayer one might pray while having an early morning meditation —. Right now, I am stating my faithfulness to you. You are the One I love forever.

At the same time, I will clearly state that I want nothing to do with serving my self.

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40 Days of Prayer Experience

Your principles of love and giving are what I want. Radiate in my life through acts and words of kindness. Forgive me of my sin and cleanse me. I make myself totally empty of self so that You can fill me with Your humble paths of love. These same three ingredients will keep a child of God in tune with Him — Prayer, Fasting, and the Study of the Word are the key ingredients to crucifying the flesh that the spirit within might live.

The devil was not successful in getting Jesus to succumb to temptation, because Jesus was strengthened in His resolve to withstand through prayer and fasting. Reflect upon the following —. He gave up His life. How do we die to ourselves? We must stand before God in utter helplessness, and consent heartily to the fact that we are impotent to slay ourselves — we must sink down into our own nothingness, in a spirit of meek and patient surrender to God.

God accepts such humbling of ourselves as the proof that our whole heart truly desires it, thus preparing us for His mighty work of grace that transforms us into His likeness. What a hopeless task it would be if we had to do the work ourselves! We must simply claim in faith the death and the life of Jesus as being ours — and humble ourselves every day into that perfect, helpless dependence upon God. As we sink every morning into the deep, deep nothingness of the grave of Jesus, every day the life of Jesus will be manifested in us.

Ultimately, only God can make us grow. God causes the growth, but we need to do the planting and the watering. We have a vital role in how much we grow in the Lord. Our part is to cooperate with Him by planting the truth in our hearts and watering it.

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Directing our hearts toward God , through the prayerful study of His Word, must be at the core of how we live the Christian life. Scripture is very clear on our need to direct our hearts toward God — spiritual growth will result when we apply discipline to maintain our faith, hope and love toward God.

Carrying our cross is not an end in itself — dying is the path to real living. By dying to our earthly ways, we exit the darkness and enter into the light, and there is where we experience times of refreshing and life to the full — in the presence of God! Remember, God dwells in the light! There are not too many shots taken at department store sales and discounts - they seem to be fine.

Making money from the holiday and getting time off from work has great public support. For Christians, Christmas is a real opportunity to shine, to be salt, light and loving at the same time. Stores and merchants have no problem being public about what they offer, others have no problem being public with their criticism, and we should have no problem being public with "Jesus is the reason for the season".

Joy to the World is a favorite Christmas song. When you think of the title, what picture or images come to mind? Our point is to personalize the birth and coming of Christ.