Okay, let’s start today by reading from the book of Matthew chapter 9 verses 9 to 13. Reading from New Living translation, it records, “As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow Me and be My disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed Him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and His disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” New King James Bible version says, “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
I would also like to share another Bible passage and story, and you will understand later why I shared both stories. It is a story of Abraham, how God tested his faith, and Abraham passed the test. To this day Abraham is called the “Father of Faith.” Let’s learn from this interesting story. I thank God, we don’t need to be tested to sacrifice any of our loved ones like Abraham was, because Jesus has already been made a perfect sacrifice for us. Ibrahim’s test to sacrifice his son Isaac was the prophecy of what God was going to do, to sacrifice His son Jesus for the salvation of all mankind. Human beings do not have to depend on their self-righteousness based on their performance anymore, because through Jesus’s righteousness, God’s Seed, all the people who believe in Him and receive the gift of salvation, will be made righteous by faith, and received everlasting permanent blessings. By believing on what Jesus, the Messiah has done, they can claim all God’s promises, by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives, and accepting His finished work of salvation by faith.
The Bible records in the book of Genesis chapter 22, verses 1 to 19 that, “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.”
When I was young one day there was a thief caught stealing in one of our neighbor’s houses. I mean, you would think that they could have caught him and take the thief to the police station to report of what he did. But unfortunately that isn’t what happened. The people surrounded him; some faces were not even familiar faces in the neighborhood, just strangers who happened to passed by. But because people were screaming, they also decided to join and pour out their anger on the thief. The thief died there that day because they beat and stoned him to death. I was one of the people who passed by, I couldn’t do anything to help him; I was young about ten I think. But later on I heard one of the neighborhood kids saying that man died that day. And you would think that he stole a lot of possessions, but no. What was stolen that day wouldn’t even be compared to the value of his life. It must have been his bad luck day. Because there are people who steal thousands, millions, and very highly expensive possessions, in our workplaces, in government, and so on, and still go free, but this man that day died for something less than a thousand dollars.
In our societies there are laws to deal with people to correct them. When you caught a thief, the correct way is to report that thief or the misconduct thing to right authorities, maybe to the police station, or call 911, or run, hahaha. After that they will take the matters from there, and deal with the situations properly by following the correct procedures. In the Kingdom of God, it is the same thing. God corrects us to repentance. But He uses a different kind approach and method of correcting us. In the book of 1John chapter 1 verse 9 it says, “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
When Abraham was tested of his faith, even though he passed the test, God wanted to teach him something else. Even though God was so pleased of Abraham’s obedience, the Bible says, ‘then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.’ Therefore, he called the name of the place “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” So it was like God was telling Abraham, that’s wonderful but here is another thing I want you to learn from Me; I desire mercy, your job Abraham is to obey and believe Me and My Words, and leave the rest to Me. I have a plan Abraham for the Salvation of all human kinds, and My Son will be the perfect sacrifice for them. From now on people will not depend on their own righteousness by using their own efforts and sacrifices, but on God’s righteousness through the one-time sacrifice and work of salvation to all human kinds of His Son Jesus Christ.
God is merciful; His truly desire is to show mercy. In the book of Matthew chapter 5 verse 45 it says, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” He will unconditional love us, but yet still discipline us as His Children because He wants the best for us. He has a way to correct and teach us things, and it is called pruning.
I checked the definition of pruning, one definition said ‘to cut off some of the branches of (a tree or bush) so that it will grow better or look better,’ and another definition said ‘to reduce (something) by removing parts that are not necessary or wanted.’
In one of my podcast’s episodes, “Your Season Will Come” I discussed that life has seasons and cycles. I shared that God will allow things and situations in our lives not to destroy us, but for a purpose. Sometimes God uses problems to draw us closer to Himself. Often we learn things about God in suffering or through our problems that we can’t learn any other way. God will use life experiences to prune us. Some of them may feel like we are put in jail or something, but things will end up turning for our good. In the book of Romans chapter 8 verse 28, it says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” So if God is in your circumstances and issues, then be sure, He’ll be using those circumstances and issues to prune you so that you can bear more fruit.
In the book of John Chapter 15 verse 1 to 8, it records, “Then Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of My branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit. “You are already clean because of what I have told you. Live in Me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in Me. “I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in Me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me. Whoever doesn’t live in Me is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Branches like this are gathered, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you live in Me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours. You give glory to My Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are My disciples.”
Many of us become bitter rather than better during the pruning process. But when we choose to respond well and learn from our circumstances the way Jesus would for instance, and ask ourselves a question “WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?” and yield to the prompting of The Holy Spirit of God, the pruning process can transform us to become better and build spiritual muscles in us. Just as we need Breath of Life to Live, we need The Vine to produce the Vine fruit. In order to have Christ-like character, in order to bear much fruit that please God in all aspects of life, in order to bear fruit of The Holy Spirit of God, and live godly, in order to inherit eternal life, we need to abide in Jesus Christ, to abide in God’s Word, to make Him and His teachings the center of our lives.
I am going to be honest with you, for a while now God has been dealing with me in the issue of holding resentment and unforgiveness. Since I got born-again ten years ago to this day God has been molding me to be an on-going forgiving person. In some days I mess up, you know. By the time I realize it, I have already reacted the way I shouldn’t have reacted, say something I shouldn’t have said, you know…fist by fist, I will show you, the revenge thing. But then I have to repent later because God is not pleased by those characters. In some days by His Grace I yield to The Holy Spirit of God promptings, and I respond well and choose to resist the devil, let go, and forgive. But I can say, I’m better now than I used to be. I get better each time as I yield to The Holy Spirit of God promptings and His Word, and trust Him to help me do things right, to follow His teachings, and cast all my cares upon Him. To me I think pruning process is a lifetime thing and God uses pruning process as an opportunity to build a Christ-like character in us. I have gone through various trials and tests before, some of them they have brought me down to my knees that made me humble than I used to be. Today I am more dependable and rely on God in my life than I used to be. Through my walk and fellowship with God through His Holy Spirit and the learning of His Word, through my own experiences I can say I know few things about God that I never did ten years ago.
Another thing I have noticed is that God uses broken people to do big things for Him. It is those who have been through tests and trials can be able to accomplish big things. God used what they experienced to prepare them for the great things ahead He had in mind for them. Through their lives experiences they have learned to build their muscles and dependency on God and trusting the process that things will work out. If you asked some of them, they say it is the favor of God that helped them become successful and do great things without them putting much effort on their sides. Everything was just ordered for them, and they just follow their intuitions and promptings of The Holy Spirit of God. They trusted that God was guiding their steps and by His Grace they accomplished great things.
Through the seasons and periods of attack, testing, and trying of our faith, God can use all those experiences to prune us. Maybe we have an issue of pride and boastfulness; God will use circumstance to prune us to remove and take away the pride in us and help us to be humble so that we can walk blameless before Him. He is able to remove self-centeredness from us to be able to love others as we love our selves. Through our circumstances God can teach us to depend on Him only, know Him and His desires for us. Through the pruning process we are able to learn; to resist the devil, to trust God and hang onto His promises, to live godly by His Grace, and we learn how to align in His Will for our lives.
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