Remain Rooted

One of the great misunderstandings of spiritual life is that people try to manifest love, joy, peace, and other Fruits of the Spirit by themselves. As Christians, it is not our responsibility to create these virtues out of our own power.

Instead, the writers of Scripture teach that we should remain rooted in the practices, experiences, and relationships that enable us to receive power to live life on purpose.

Good morning!

This is our second week talking about living on purpose.

We started with the first two verses of Psalm one last week. Today we’ll look at the rest of Psalm one.

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We’re looking at two ways of doing life.

Today we’ll talk about how we can live fruitful lives. Or we can waste our lives.

They may be real busy, very driven and look pretty impressive, but they’ll be a waste.

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Alright, let’s start by reading Psalm 1, verses 1-6

Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

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I want to start today with verse 3.

In verses 3 and 4, the psalmist gives us a picture of two different ways of doing life.

Take a tree and plant it in the desert. By itself, it will just wither and die.

Put that tree by a stream or by a river that flows with water, which is not all that common in that part of the world — water was a precious thing — and an amazing thing happens.

This tree is full of life. It’s sappy and vigorous. If it’s a fig tree, it bears fruit. When the season comes, it’s filled with figs.

It’s a thing of beauty, blesses the earth, gives good things to people and delights God. If it’s planted by rivers of water, that’s what a tree does.

Bu the tree better not get cocky about it and say, “I can produce fruit by sheer effort. I don’t need any roots. Roots are confining to me.”

That would be death.

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You don’t need a lot of brains to be a tree. Being a tree is not a high-IQ occupation. You have to stay rooted and stay where the source of life is.

The tree’s destiny is to be fruitful, but the tree’s job or task is to be rooted and to abide.

That’s the first picture.

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I want to look at John 15. We’ll come back to Psalm 1 in a moment.

In John 15, Jesus uses the same metaphor — fruitfulness — to talk about spiritual life.

I want to read that and then unpack it a bit.

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Jesus says in John 15:4-9:

Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not abide in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, 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. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now abide in my love.

It’s the same metaphor and the same analogy.

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As we think our way through it, there are three parts to this metaphor.

There’s the tree or the branch. Of course, that’s you and me. Those are the followers of God.

Then there’s the water that you have to be rooted to, or the vine that you have to be connected with. What’s that?

It’s that which nurtures and sustains spiritual life. It’s the Spirit of God.

We abide in Jesus through the Spirit of God. Scripture often uses water as an image of the Spirit.

In John 7:37-39:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.

Then there are these wonderful words.

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Out of the believer’s heart — out of your heart — shall flow rivers of living water.

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Then John said:

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

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You are the tree. You are the branch.

Then there is the source of life — the water or the Spirit of God.

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Then there’s the fruit. The fruit is the outer expression of inner life. Those are the things that you say and do.

Paul says that if you are living in the Spirit and abiding in the Spirit, it will result in certain characteristics. He describes them as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

What does he call these characteristics?

Fruit.

It’s the fruit of the Spirit. It’s exactly the same metaphor Jesus uses in John 15. They are the manifestations of the Spirit and evidence that the Spirit is present.

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Just as a apple tree is to produce apples.

You are to produce thoughts and deeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so on.

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How do you do that? How do you bear fruit?

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One of the great misunderstandings of spiritual life is that people try to produce fruit by effort.

They hear messages about following Jesus and about living his kind of life… and they think, “I’ve got to be more loving, more joyful, more patient, and so on.”

They try, but get defeated.

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Your job, and my job, is to remain rooted and to abide.

This image and metaphor is used over and over and over in Scripture. It’s used in Jeremiah, Job and Matthew 7 over and over. Your job is to abide.

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How do you do that? What does it mean to remain rooted?

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It means to engage in those practices, experiences and relationships that enable you to receive life and power from the Spirit.

Last week we talked about some — the practice of assembling and the practice of meditating on God’s Word.

Others are confession, fasting, solitude, being open to the leadings of the Spirit when the Spirit whispers to you during the day, enduring suffering with patience, performing acts of servanthood.

Some of you are abiding right now. When you came in today, you didn’t rush here.

You took a few moments to consciously place yourself in this amazing truth that you have gathered with brothers and sisters in the presence of God.

Some of you took a few moments to reflect on that.

Right now, you are open before God, listening and waiting.

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Well, that’s one way to do life — to abide in God, to be rooted in rivers of living water.

Then you bear fruit and begin to produce acts of love, joy, peace, patience and so on. You are a blessing to the earth and glorify God.

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The psalmist has a metaphor for this way of life. He says in Psalm 1:3

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that everyone gets rich. It means they live fruitful lives.

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Then there’s another way of doing life. Look at verse 4:

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

This, too, is an unforgettable picture, if you’ve ever been in a developing part of the world and seen someone harvest grain.

They take it outside the village to a threshing floor and go over it with a threshing instrument until the grain is separated from the stalk.

The stalks and empty husks are ground into what is called “chaff.”

That’s the stuff no one wants. No one buys chaff. There are no investors for chaff. You wont find chaff at the New York Stock Exchange. It’s just waste.

In those villages in biblical times, they would take a pitch fork and throw the grain and chaff up in the air — all this stuff mixed together.

Being substantial and weighty, the grain would fall back and mostly straight down.

Being insubstantial, the chaff would blow away with the wind. It vanishes like it was never there. It’s gone.

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The psalmist says that lives separated from God are lives that are lived in defiance of his will. It’s as if there were no God, and he had no will.

They are people going down another road where they are not devoted to becoming loving, joyful and peaceful people.

He uses this picture of wind as the Judgment of God.

One day, we’re going to see. He says that whatever they might have accomplished on this earth that looks impressive is just a picture of something that is as useless, worthless and discardable as is possible to imagine.

He says that you can wrap their resumes up in a hefty bag, put it in the garbage can by the curb. A truck comes around on Thursday morning, and it is gone. It’s like it was never there.

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The sad but sobering truth is that it’s possible for human beings to do that with their lives.

That’s tragedy.

And that’s the result of sin — a whole life is like chaff just blown away.

What could be worse than to get to the end of your life, look at it and see that it didn’t matter?

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The psalmist is trying to find as graphic a picture as he can to arrest our attention. He goes on in verses 5 and 6 to emphasize that the decision — the call — of what’s fruit and what’s chaff belongs to God alone.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

The psalmist emphasizes that the call — what’s fruit and what’s chaff — belongs to God alone.

It will be clear at the Judgment, because in this world we get it mixed up.

In this world it’s possible to be a driven person — to be very hurried and very busy and to be producing nothing but chaff.

We very often mistake fruitfulness for impressive, visible accomplishments.

You may have achieved extraordinary accomplishments.

If your life is not characterized by manifestations of the Spirit, it’s all chaff. It’s going to blow away… so the psalmist says you better get clear on this.

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So this week I’ve given it some thought. How do we know… because other areas in life are so tangible?

Very often, we will assess, “How am I doing financially? How am I doing vocationally?” Kids get report cards from school.

What about what really matters? How do I know how I am doing in this business of fruitfulness?

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Well, I want to spend some time looking at this today.

Here’s what I am going to ask us to do. I’d like everyone to grab a piece of paper and a pen.

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You can use the notes section of your bulletin, I’d like for you to make a column on the left-hand side of the paper and number it one to nine from the top to the bottom of the page, starting with number one on the top.

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We’re just going to walk through the fruit of the Spirit, and I am going to ask all of us to assess where we stand. So above the numbers you can write, “Fruit of the Spirit.”

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And here’s how I want us to do it, because this really is a growth deal. I want you to take last year as your baseline.

As we walk through these, as best as you can, try to assess, “Where was I 12 months ago, at the beginning of 2023?” So you can write 2023 at the top in the second column.

Then ask, “How am I doing 12 months later?” So you can write 2024 in the third column.

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Then give yourself one of three marks.

If you’re growing, put a arrow pointing up. You can say, “I’m farther along than I was 12 months ago.”

If you’re going backwards — put a arrow pointing down.

If you feel you’ve plateaued — put a dash.

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Alright, here we go. There are nine categories. I’ll go through them fairly quickly.

Number one is Love.

Where were you 12 months ago and where are you today?

Are you engaging in more acts of servanthood?
Is your heart more tender toward God?
Are your deepest relationships more intimate… or more superficial?

Where are you love?

If you’re not sure, let the person next to you grade you on this one.

Maybe they’re strangers and will be kind to you.

Kindness is coming up a little later on. If you’re grading someone else, remember that.

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Alright, the second fruit of the spirit is Joy.

Where were you 12 months ago and where are you now?

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I called someone this week and said, “How are you doing?”

I was so sorry I did that. In reflecting on that conversation afterwards, I realized that it’s just a litany of complaints almost every time I talk to that person.

They view themselves as a victim of life.

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Honestly, what’s your joy factor? Is it going up or going down?

If you’re truthful about it, are you always finding some rationale to excuse your lack of joy?

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Number three is Peace.

Are your mind and heart more at ease and at rest in God or more troubled and anxious than they were 12 months ago?

Again, you have to consider — maybe your circumstances are much more troubling now, so you have to consider that.

Do you find yourself relating to other people in a way that promotes peace more, or do you find yourself more often stirring up dissension?

Is your home a more or less peaceful place than it was a year ago?

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Number four is Patience.

If you’re already working on number five, give yourself a down arrow.

If you don’t get your own way, how do you respond?
When you’re frustrated, how do you respond?
When you’re frustrated, what’s the reflex response of your body?
How do you do when you’re driving?

You don’t have to comment on this. A simple, little mark is all it takes.

Can you wait gracefully?

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Number five is Kindness.

Again, try to rate where you are today compared to 12 months ago.

Are you more likely to do good things for other people when you’re not going to get any benefit from it?
Are you more affirming now?
Are you more likely to say “thank you” than you were 12 months ago?
Are you more hospitable than you were?

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Number six is Goodness.

I’d like for us to get real concrete on this one.

Think about tangible stuff like: Am I doing good with the resources God blesses me with? Am I giving to the poor or to organizations that are making a difference for the Kingdom of God?

How does that relate to 12 months ago? Is it greater, less or the same?

Does my heart desire to do good in this world?
Am I doing good things with my time and resources?

Rate yourself on goodness.

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Number seven is Faithfulness.

Again, rate yourself with 12 months ago.

Are you more responsible today than you were 12 months ago?
Are you less likely to quit or give up?
Are you tougher?
Would people around you say that you’re a more dependable person?
How are you on procrastination?

If you’re still on number four, give yourself a down arrow here.

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Number eight is Gentleness.

Are you more or less approachable than a year ago?
How often do you use words to inflict pain on other people?
Are you more able to mourn with those who mourn than you were a year ago?

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Number nine is Self-control.

Some of you couldn’t help blurting out “self-control” just before I said that. You get a down arrow on self-control.

If there are bad habits that you wrestle with, are those more or less troubling than they were a year ago?
How is your mouth?
Are you more or less likely to give into impulses that could move you away from God?

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According to the Bible as you look at those categories, essentially you are looking at the manifestation of the Spirit in your life.

Take a moment and look at it.

What’s the trajectory of your life? What’s the direction you’re headed?

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It’s so important that we understand this together.

All of us have distorted pictures of ourselves, so it’s impossible to be perfectly accurate. But when someone asks you, “How is your spiritual life going?” this is the kind of stuff that your mind should run to.

Often it runs to things like, “How much am I reading my Bible? How much am I praying?”

Those are ways to stay rooted. Those are things to do to remain rooted, so you can produce fruit.

The question that I want to be asking is…

Am I growing in love and joy?
Am I doing the right things to be rooted?
Do I need to do some other things to be rooted in God?

And the most important question is — What’s your plan to grow more fruitful?

Your job, my job, is to be rooted.

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Again, this image is used often in Scripture. Colossians 2:6-7

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Thankfulness would be the fruit.

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So how do we stay rooted in Jesus?

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He talks about it in the next chapter.

Colossians 3:16

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.

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So in the moments that remain today, I want to talk about two aspects of being rooted — two aspects of abiding and allowing rivers of living water to flow through your life.

One of them is something to do, a practice to engage in.
One of them is something that I am going to ask you to avoid for awhile.

One is a positive deal — something to do.
One is a negative deal — something to abstain from.

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The first one may surprise you, but it actually is commanded in the Bible quite a lot.

It’s to Meditate on Scripture.

I know we talked about this last week, but I want to go deeper with it today.

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The writers of Scripture have quite a lot to say about this.

Joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Have you ever read Psalm 119, the longest of all the psalms?

It’s a continuous song of praise to “the one who hides God’s Word in your heart.”

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We read last week in Psalm 1:2 about fruitful people, “Oh, how very happy are those whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.”

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Dallas Willard writes these words:

Here we have an activity of mind and body undertaken with all the strength that we have to make our total being cooperate effectively with the divine order.

Then he says:

As a pastor, teacher and counselor, I have repeatedly seen the transformation of inner and outer life that comes simply from meditation on Scripture.

Personally, I would never undertake to pastor a church or guide a program of Christian education that did not involve a continuous program of memorization of the choicest passages of Scripture for people of all ages.

Then he writes:

The inspired writers of Scriptures like Psalm 1, Psalm 119 and Joshua 1:8 simply were recording certain observable facts of the spiritual life.

Here’s the deal. What matters is not how much Scripture you meditate on. What matters is what happens to your mind while you’re meditating on it.

While you’re exercising in that way, your mind and heart are being stretched. They’ll never go back quite to their original shape.

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Do you know what would be a great deal?

What if it could be said of all of us — the whole Blue Oaks community — that “their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night?”

What if that could be said of all of us?

There would be fruit popping off the trees. If you’d just hide God’s Word in your heart, you would be the sappiest group of people around.

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I want to give you an example of this in the life of the Apostle Paul.

One of the statements he had memorized was:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

These were the very words of Jesus.

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Today, it’s become a common phrase: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”

And, pretty much, everyone in this room, I suspect, would say that they believed that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.

I think, pretty much, everyone in America would say that. I think if we took a nation-wide poll on it, everyone would vote: “Yes, give; you’re more blessed.”

But let me ask you a question: Do you think everyone in America, really, at the deepest place in their soul, believes it?

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There was an interesting study done by Martin Seligman, who may be is the greatest American psychologist in our day. He wrote a fascinating book called “Authentic Happiness.”

He devoted his life and study to trying to find out what it is that causes authentic human joy and well-being and wholeness.

He writes in this book that we all tend to think that if we could just get more of the stuff we want, then we’d be happy.

We tend to think the secret to happiness is just more — more money, more fun, more sex, more chocolate, more success, more achievement, more stuff, more.

But he says it turns out there’s this gap between more and enough that can never get bridged. More is never enough.

Quick question: Who is more content — the man with 12 children or the man with 12 million dollars?

The correct answer is the man with 12 children, because he doesn’t want any more.

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Seligman did a fascinating thing. He gave an assignment to one of his classes.

He said all the students were to go out and engage in one activity that they thought would make them happy and engage in one act of giving, and then write down their reflections on both things.

This is what he writes:

“The results were life changing. The afterglow of the pleasurable activity, going to the spa, watching a movie, eating a nice meal, whatever it was, paled in comparison with the affects of one act of giving.”

Seligman has found when people are involved in giving, they become less self-absorbed. They become less depressed.

They become more tuned into others, more capable of empathy. They have a greater sense of community and a decreased sense of loneliness.

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It’s very ironic that when people’s primary focus is on doing something that will make themselves happy, they get depressed. And when they focus on giving themselves to others, they get joy.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Jesus says.

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Now, you’re programmed, and so am I, in ways that we don’t even know, by our society, our culture, our media, and our own fallenness — programmed to believe that it’s better to receive.

We all spend enormous amounts of time and energy figuring out ways to acquire.

So the Apostle Paul takes this idea, this teaching, that it’s more blessed to give than to receive — which is the opposite of the wiring of everyone in this world. He takes this idea, and he ponders it.

He meditates on it, so that it just becomes part of his mind.

And he watches people who focus on acquiring, on receiving, and he watches other people who focus on giving.

And he looks at who is content. And he looks at his own life. And he does experiments with giving. And he prays about it. And he practices it. And, in time, Paul discovers that he really does believe that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.

It’s become part of his thinking. It becomes part of his world view.

And the Spirit calls him to live with very little.

And he works hard, but he’s content. He says in another place in the Bible, “I’ve learned the secret of being content. Even when I have very little, I’m content.”

He really has come to trust that it’s better to give than to receive. And if you look at his life, you see evidences of it everywhere.

He discovers Jesus was right. Jesus was wise. Jesus knew what He was talking about. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. And the Spirit just leads him to give and give and give.

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Now, if we want to pursue God’s guidance, one of the things we must do is expose our mind to the teachings of Jesus. And this is a theme that runs all throughout scripture.

We looked at Joshua 1:8. It has to do with this idea of allowing our minds to be transformed:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

The writer is saying, allow God’s word to be on your lips, in your mind — so often that they just become a part of you.

And as we meditate on God’s word, it starts to become like a filter in our minds so that everything we do run’s through the filter of God’s word.

So eventually, as we think about how we’re going to handle our money, one of the thoughts that is just a part of our mental framework is: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”

It just simply becomes a part of the way we think.

And it’s then that the Word of God is always on your lips. It’s in your mind day and night; it’s just become part of what you believe… like you believe in gravity. You never violate the law of gravity, because you really believe it’s true.

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Alright, well this is one thing we can do.

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The second one can be called a “Discipline of Abstinence.”

This is something the writers of Scripture don’t talk about, because it’s an activity that didn’t exist in the day of the Bible.

If the Bible were written in our day, I think the writers would have a good deal to say about it.

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Last week, we read, “Blessed are those who don’t live in the counsel of the ungodly.”

Walking in the counsel of the ungodly is a barrier to fruitful living.

In our day, I believe that one of the primary sources of the counsel of the ungodly is social media.

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Think about social media, and I’ll just ask you, “Is it producing fruit or chaff in your life?”

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The irony is that people generally go on social media when they’re exhausted and tired. It’s the path of least resistance.

But how often do you hear someone say, “I was on social media for five hours today and I feel so rejuvenated, renewed and refreshed because of it.”

You don’t… because it doesn’t bear that kind of fruit.

I think the worst thing about social media is not even what it puts into your mind. It’s what it keeps us from doing.

We don’t engage in community or intimate relationships.

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So I am going to ask you to do something radical. I am going to challenge us to engage in the spiritual discipline of withdrawing from social media.

Either for a day, or several days, or a week, or a month.

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The writers of scripture call us to a number of practices of abstaining from things. Often the followers of Christ withdrew for a season. Often Jesus would withdraw from society to practice solitude; from noise to practice silence; and from food to practice fasting.

Again, this is not a guilt kind of deal, but I firmly do believe that it will bear fruit in your life.

if you commit to do this, my guess is that it will be fairly humbling.

Some of you will find that you get tremendously bored. You’ll think, “I don’t know if I can make it through today. I don’t think I want to make it through today.”

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Let’s make this week an adventure in abiding. Talk, read, get enough sleep, meditate or think about Scripture.

Make the decision right now.

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Those are just a couple of things.

What I really want to plead with you about is filling your mind with Scripture and abstaining from things that are going to be barriers. Guard your roots.

Jesus said:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

You will be in such close relationship with God and your desires will be so compatible with God’s… that he gives you complete access.

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There are two ways to live.

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Understand that being rooted is not a passive thing. It really does involve doing stuff.

Sometimes it involves doing hard stuff.
Sometimes it involves not doing stuff, and that’s hard.

You can live a fruitful life.
You can be a delight to God and bless the earth.

Or you can live a whole life, and the result of it will be chaff — just dust in the wind.

Jesus says, “Remain in me. Bear much fruit.”

Psalm 1…

“Oh, how very happy are those whose delight is in the law of the Lord. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield fruit in their season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.”

Alright, let me pray for you.

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