Reflections: Let My Life be the Proof – CUMC Youth Retreat

Friends, last night we began our study of what it means to be reflections of Christ. We discussed how, to live in Christ, we must do everything out of love. For if love is not the driving force behind our actions, it is not the work of God. We read the first three verses of our focus chapter, 1st Corinthians 13:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (The Message Bible)

The goal of last night was to identify the pitfalls of self-serving, loveless actions and to highlight how essential love is to being a reflection of Christ. To sum it up, action without faith is useless. Now this morning, we’re reversing it. Flipping the script. Just as we see that actions without faith are nothing, faith without application is dead. James pretty much writes a whole book of the Bible about this:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

– James 2:14-18 (NIV)

James is pretty clear. Faith, love, is totally and completely worthless if you don’t follow through, if you don’t take action on it. Our actions are the external proof of our faith. The proof of His love in us. I wrote out these lessons weeks ago. I had them mostly set and finished. And then on Wednesday, I basically scrapped this entire lesson. My small group studied John 16 this week and it totally provided a new perspective on this subject. So I want to read and walk through some of that scripture with you all today.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…   16 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. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

 – John 15:1-12,16-17 (ESV)

So lets recap:

Jesus = Vine
You and me = Branches
Fruit = Work of God, New Believers, External Proof
Abide = To live in, To live through

Jesus says to his disciples, and to us, that we are to abide in His love, and in doing so bear good fruit. So we ABIDE in His love. And if we truly ABIDE in His love, we are LIVING all aspect of our lives in His love. Step one. Then step two, in doing this, BECAUSE we abide in His love, we bear GOOD FRUIT. Action. Proof. This is what James was talking about in the passage before. This is what For King & Country talks about in their song. If we ABIDE in God’s love, our lives and the good fruit we bear will be the PROOF of His love.

See I think its about living our lives so that God’s love is on display through our actions. Through our words. Through our interactions with others. ABIDING in His love means being living proof of God’s love. Everything we do should show to the world that we are children on God. If we are abiding in His love, it’s our responsibility to put that love on display for everyone. The kid next to us in class, the barista at your local coffee shop, the stranger on the sidewalk. We are called to take the love given to us from God and reflect it to the rest of His creation.

16 …I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.

 – John 15:16 (ESV)

So I have a question for you. Have you ever had anyone say to you, “Wait, you’re a Christian?!” It’s kind of a blow to the gut. This has happened to me before. In high school, there was this guy who I’d know for a few years (we played on the ultimate team together). The week after Resurrection, I was telling him about the weekend I’d had and he stopped me mid-sentence. “Wait, you’re a Christian?!” Stopped me dead in my tracks. How could it be that after knowing me for two years, this guy, my friend, didn’t know I was a Christian? And not only that, he was SURPRISED that I called myself a Christian. The way I acted and spoke, in his eyes, how could I be a Christian? On the field, during practice, I was a jerk. I was overly competitive. I blamed people for my mistakes. I used bad language excessively. I was friendly most of the time but I wasn’t loving. I definitely wasn’t being reflective of the love of Christ.

We hear a lot about putting God first. Put God at the center of your life. I think we miss the point here a lot. It’s not about spending more time at church or studying scripture. It’s really not a matter of scheduling. Its not about setting aside time for God, removed from your “normal life.” Think about it. Does is make sense to say, “Okay, Sundays and Wednesday nights are God days so I’m not going to cuss and I’m going to try really hard to be nice. Maybe I’ll listen to my parents. Hey, I don’t know, maybe even read the Bible and pray a little bit.” Listen those things are great, come hang out with us at church. Its fun, you may learn a thing or two. It’s great.

Sundays and Wednesday nights are good things, but being your best self during those times is not what it means to put God at the center of your life. That’s not what it means to be a reflection of Christ. To really be a reflection of Christ, our WHOLE LIVES should be in pursuit of love. Everything we do should be out of love. There shouldn’t be a difference in “church me” and “real me.”

So I’m in a Bible study/life group with some friends of mine that’s led by this super smart pastor guy. He told us about this idea of multiple identities that we cast off. Basically, there were three:

  • The real one. The one at our core. Good and bad. This is who we actually are.
  • The one we try to be. We each have an image of what we want to be like and we try to grow closer to that.
  • The one God sees. The REAL perfect. Void of all sin, all wrong, all imperfection. Reconciled.

So I think maybe living a life of reflection means modeling that second identity after the perfect identity. The one that God sees. And what can we look to in creating that model? To whom should we model our lives and our identities? JESUS!

Let’s wrap this all together. Last night we learned that Love should be the foundation for everything. This morning from James, we learned that any love or faith that we have is useless unless we live it out, unless our lives are the PROOF of His love. Then we read in John that if we ABIDE in His love, we will produce good fruit. And that good fruit, the people whom we bring to Christ we be able to abide in God’s love as