To read more devotions by Cheryl Zelenka go to http://facingtrials.com
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. LOVE NEVER FAILS. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV)
God IS love and He commands us to love one another. He “demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:8) Even when the filth of our own sins cling to us, His unconditional love remains. God sees the good in all of His children. Looking past our present flaws, knowing they will transform into attributes of beauty through His grace, He rejoices over the work of art we are destined to become.
Oh, that we would see our brothers and sisters with the same spiritual eyes of love that our Savior reserves for us! Why must we continually focus on the sins within individuals? Instead, we should praise God for the work He has already done within them! We live in a world filled with hash criticisms so, we often follow worldly ways and point out weaknesses in others to puff ourselves up in pride. How much better it would be to simply consider the plank in our own eye.
God’s love is not always puppy tails and cotton candy. Sometimes His love is a plate of vitamins and liver. He sees our malnourished spirits and lovingly asks us to swallow some bitter pills. Because God loves us so, He brings difficult matters to our attention. At first they may be a real challenge to digest. But once we decide to taken that first awful bite ….. and really chew on it, we decide to lay down our pride and admit our wrongs.
As living vines in God’s orchard, and in order to bear more fruit for His glory and praise, He lovingly prunes back our branches. The pruning is painful. Never is it a pleasant experience, but it is worth enduring. The growth and transformation our pruning produces eventually result in our becoming a better reflection of Christ.
Thus, it is in love that God draws our attention to personal sin areas. He does this because He wants to cut them out of our life. But how is this done and how will He bring flaws to our attention?
God uses His Word to convict, instruct, and encourage. Guilt and shame is never of the Lord, so renounce it if you are feeling condemned. However, conviction is of the Lord and should never be ignored. Philippians 4:13 tells us that “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” This means we are able to recognize and conquer the sin within us because there is freedom and power through Christ.
If you are aware of sins in your friends and family, God may use you to help root them out. However, be very careful to recognize and deal with any gigantic planks in your own eye first. How would another person accept your words of exhortation if you are rebelling and acting out with your own sin?
Additionally, pray whether you are the person God has selected to speak to that other individual. They might not receive your words of exhortation because God has raised up a different believer to share insights that will bring about their repentance. Maybe you have been called to lift them up in your prayers instead.
Overall, spiritual pruning is an act of love. With this perspective, we will find the removal of our sins easier to bear. We are also called to compassionately love our neighbors, but with truth. Our goal is to be transformed into the image of Christ, and help others in their transformation as well.
There will be times when God asks us to speak truths to other believers in love, even at the expense of hurting their feelings. If we are truly called to speak, we must obey. There may be tension and anger at first, but He will work on the heart of those we love. Obedience is a big part of walking with God.
May God bless you with a mighty pruning so that a marvelous harvest is yours to lay at His feet. Fear not when He cuts away your dead branches because new growth will quickly appear. You will find yourself a much healthier and fruitful vine. May His love and grace cover you today, and always. Amen!
IN YOUR QUIET TIME CONSIDER YOUR LIFE. ASK GOD TO REVEAL ANY AREAS THAT REQUIRE PRUNING.
“With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love” Ephesians 4:2 (NKJV)
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 (NKJV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful. “ John 15:1-2 (NIV)
“God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.” ~ Max Lucado
This devotion is from my book FACING ADVERSITY: THOUGHTS OF WISDOM, PRAISE, AND PROMISE. Look for it this December on Amazon.