Deuteronomy 30: 11-20, Deuteronomy 28:1, John 15: 1-2, Joshua 6: 17-19, Joshua 7:7, Joshua 7: 10-12, John 15:6, John 15:5, Joshua 8:1, Joshua 8:34-35
Life in the Vine

Expanding Our Territory 

Life is in the Vine-

Remain in the Vine and Bear Much Fruit
Sunday, January 14, 2024

Romans 11: 33-36 33  Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34  “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
35  “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”
36  For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Let’s pray and worship the Lord with our praise.

If you were with us at the start of 2023, we entered the year with a focus on Taking Hold of the Promised Land- meaning learning how to receive the blessings and favor God has already given us because we are His children and heirs to all the Kingdom holds-as we discussed last week. If you remember, we began January with a series in Joshua to see how God called Joshua to rise as the leader that would bring the people of Israel into this new promised land. Moses wasn’t able to take them in; he passed the torch to Joshua. But in taking hold of the land God promised to them, they had to fight many battles and overcome the enemies who wanted to keep them out. But God
said, take courage I have already given this land to you. These are words we must remember also as we go forth into unknown territory-take courage, God has promised to be with us, never forsake us, never abandon us and Jesus says I have already overcome the world! So no matter what battles we face, in Christ, we have victory every time. This takes practice for us to trust in these truths and stand in them by faith when we can’t see that victory.

This is what we’re doing as the body learning to trust and stand in faith more and more.
It was the same for Joshua and his people, to take hold of the land, required faith and trust that God
would be with them in those battles, and it required obedience to follow exactly what He told them to do before, during, and after each battle. This would prove very important as Israel entered each battle and sought to expand into more and more of the land God promised to them. When they were with God and worshiped Him only, following His ways, no army could stand against them. When their hearts turned away and they began to worship other gods being influenced by the pagan nations around them, and they directly disobeyed the Lord’s commands- thus dishonoring Him, we see God’s favor was not with them and instead of victory, they suffered defeat.

We’re going to look again at this time with Joshua and Israel to see how things progressed. We ended our series with their victorious battle at Jericho-an awesome display of God by having the wall crumble to the ground and giving way for Israel to storm in and take the city. As we look again, we’ll see instructions God imparted to Israel before they went into battle and we’ll see how they did following those instructions.

As we enter 2024 and go forward, we’ll be looking at Scriptures that will help us expand into the territory we have been given as Joshua and the people of Israel expanded beyond Jericho. They went further into the Promised Land to settle. We too are going to go further with our discovery and application of receiving His blessings and favor, while increasing our understanding of how obedience and faithful worship affect our ability to receive from God.

Joshua and Israel did not have Jesus directly with them; they had God speaking through His anointed servants. They had the Law handed down through Moses as their guide to live holy and righteous lives. We are not held under the Law, for Jesus fulfilled the Law and we have Him living in us through the Holy Spirit. It is imperative, for us to stay very near to Jesus though, so our hearts remain pure before God, to cleanse away sin, and to receive life that comes through Him. We were not given the Holy Spirit to live separately from God but to live joined as One with Him.

Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches who receive life from the Vine. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. We have every advantage to live in the riches of God’s grace and abundance of His blessings for we have Christ, the Holy Spirit, and His Word as our guide and teacher. We simply need to seek, listen, and follow. Let’s look today at how the commands God gives correlate to the teaching Jesus shares about the vine and the branches. Listen and let us have ears to hear what God desires from us; what He has desired from His people all along. To best understand where we pick up with Joshua, let’s look at the commands given to Israel before they ever crossed the Jordan River. This will be our key Scripture today for us to ponder as well.

Deuteronomy 30: 11-20 NIV

11  Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  12  It is not up in heaven so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  13  Nor is it beyond the sea so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 15  See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  16  For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17  But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,  18  I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19  This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  20  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

             - Life and Blessing Found in Obedience.

Deuteronomy 30:16 .  16  For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

Chapter 30 is a summary of what was spoken very specifically in chapter 28 regarding God’s desire to bless Israel and the destruction that would come should they choose to be unfaithful. Right at the front God professes this promise as they follow Him.

Deuteronomy 28:1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.

Joshua and Israel had this promise they were holding on to as they entered the Promised Land and prepared for the battles they would face. They were told they would be victorious over anyone who would come against them. They certainly experienced that in Jericho.

This is a promise that holds true for us yet today as we choose to walk in obedience, keep His ways, and love Him with all our heart, THEN we will live and increase, God will bless us and He will set us high above the nations-if you go on to read it says we will be the head, never the tail-meaning leaders and influencers in our communities.

Obedience is the key to the release of God’s blessings in our lives. The word obedience can get a bad rap in our culture today we grow up wanting to be fiercely independent and not having anyone tell us what to do or how to live-we see obedience as a sign of weakness or giving up. I say- if we
have the right understanding it is not weak at all or a sign of caving but one of purpose, wisdom, and honor to our God. We recognize we did not create ourselves but have been created by another greater than us who has a purpose greater than our desires and we are honoring our God-for who He is-God Almighty.

At some point, we must recognize if we resist what God wants to shower upon it’s just foolish pride that causes us to miss out on His goodness and favor.

Now let’s compare these commands to what Jesus taught in John 15: 1-2

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  2  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

He is the vine, we are the branches. The Father is pruning the vine so the branches can bear even more fruit-to give their life greater purpose and joy-not to harm them. Notice the ones pruned are the ones who are bearing fruit- those who are close to Jesus and following Him. We can’t bear any fruit apart from Christ, so we must be joined with Him, tuned to Him, listening to Him, and seeking Him. Then the Father’s heart is to tend to us in such a way that we blossom even more; to pour out His blessings upon us.

                  - Destruction Comes By Turning Away.

Unfortunately, it is our heart that can be fickle, not God’s. It is we who turn away; we who choose to be unfaithful and disobey even though we know the promised and even realized blessings of God we have when we remain close to Him. How easily we are swayed and drift away to chase after other gods (things we worship in this world more than God Himself); and let our hearts grow cold or indifferent to God. We see this pattern throughout history.

Let’s look at what happened when God was instructing Israel to prepare for battle and take hold of Jericho. God gave very specific commands if you recall about what to do for 7 days leading up to their victory at Jericho- remember? March around the city one time each day for 6 days and then go back to your camp. On the 7th day march 7 times around and then when the priests blared the trumpet horn, all the men should give a loud shout and the wall would crumble down. They all followed this exactly as God said and the wall did come crumbling down just as God said it would and they ran right in-overcoming their enemy.

But during these instructions God also said this in Joshua 6: 17-19
17  The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared because she hid the spies we sent.  18  But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.  19  All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.” Don’t take anything-bring it to the house of God. This battle wasn’t about taking these items; it was about displaying the glory and sovereignty of God in the victory, so those items would be devoted to God.

Was it a test? Absolutely. Will God test you and me to be faithful? Absolutely.

Unknown to Joshua one of the soldiers Achan, took several things because he saw they were very nice and he wanted them. He hid them and didn’t tell anyone he had them. God always knows what we’re doing. Joshua was preparing for the next battle against Ai and he sent soldiers to scope it out who said we shouldn’t even need all our men to defeat them. Great! Go ahead! Joshua gives the orders. But to their great shock, the army comes strong against them and beats them back, killing many of their men. Joshua is in great distraught about the loss of their people and confused and discouraged as to why God would make all these grandiose promises only to have them beaten down. Have you felt like Joshua before as events unfold in your life?

Joshua 7:7 7  And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to
deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 

Here is God’s response:
Joshua 7: 10-12 10  The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?  11  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  12  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

God’s favor and protection was removed from Israel until they got rid of that which was devoted to
destruction. This is true in our lives too- if we are bent on a path that is leading to destruction we must know God’s favor and protection will not be with us. We must get rid of that in our lives that is devoted to destruction. What is it for you? What was it that you already dealt with? Could you see the hand of God return when you dealt with that which was leading you toward destruction?

Can you see how you must deal with it now if it’s still in your life? Jesus gives us the same message with a different visual:
John 15:6 6  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 

Apart from Christ, we wither up and die for He is our life source. He says, those branches that are withered are good for nothing except burning on a fire. There will be no life and no fruit coming from them. So what are we to do to remain in God’s favor and enjoy His abundant blessings? He tells us exactly what to do.

                             - Hold Fast to the Lord- He is the Vine Who Gives Life.

Jesus taught in John 15:5 5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

We can do nothing on our own. We can’t build His Kingdom as an independent contractor. God isn’t about us building our own little kingdoms that have us at the center. It’s about glorifying God, our Creator, and advancing His Kingdom which is already perfect. We don’t need to improve on it-we simply need to follow to expand His. Joshua and the elders had to deal with Achan’s sin and unfortunately for Achan, his disobedience and greed in his heart cost him his life. He set out on a path of destruction and he took his entire family down with him- which is so often the case when we go on a path of destruction-we bring down those closest to us. But once the sin was dealt with God spoke to Joshua again and encouraged him to go forward with courage and faith.

Joshua 8:1 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 

God is merciful and true to His Word and consistent. Once the sin was dealt with, obedience returned and they were devoted to God alone, He restored full favor and blessing to His people.

Joshua understood what God required of them and he knew the great value of living in the blessing and favor of God Almighty. He knew God was their life and apart from Him, they would be overrun by the enemy. After their victory in Ai, Joshua called together an assembly of all the people, children, and even foreigners living in their land to hear the Word of the Lord and worship God in humble reverence and adoration-for it is only through Him they lived and had their victory.

Joshua 8:34-35 34  Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law.  35  There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.

Jesus is the Word and He is the Vine who is our life source. In Him, we overcome every battle, draw from an unfailing strength, rest in everlasting peace, and know an unspeakable joy. Through the Word and the Holy Spirit who teaches us we find the path to righteous living and come to experience the riches of God’s blessings and favor in our lives.

Conclusion: The Lord sets before us the promised land to live in, enjoying His abundant favor and blessings. Our ability to live fruitful and peaceful lives is in direct correlation to our connection to the Vine that sustains us.

Let’s pray.
Guest speaker: Val Ash with Eric & Co Seize Epilepsy

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