Where Do You Hang Out? By Kay K. Peebles

20150331_115734It was the first case of its kind in the State of Texas. Several years ago I was appointed to serve a six month term on a Grand Jury in Rockwall County, Texas. The Grand Jury was used by the state to present possible criminal cases which occurred in the local County. The prosecuting attorney and his private investigators would spend months researching evidence to build a criminal case. If they believed they had a solid case, they presented their evidence to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury would then determine if their case was strong enough to bring criminal charges or an indictment against the suspect.

One of the most interesting cases presented to our Grand Jury was for voter fraud. A man who had family in our local community voted in our local election. In the State of Texas, it was against the law to vote in an election in a community where you did not reside (abide). This man claimed he resided in our community where he had grown up, and his father had a law office. The case was completely based on proving where he lived the majority of the time.

Our Grand Jury gave permission for the prosecuting attorney to subpoena the man’s telephone (land line), electric, rent, and dry cleaning bills, as well as gasoline credit card charges. The next month we met with the attorney to learn the results. All the suspect’s bills proved that his primary residence was in Dallas County and not ours. We released the prosecuting attorney to indict the suspect. That case was the first one in the state of Texas to prosecute a person for voter fraud. The strength of the case was based on proof of the suspect’s abiding place. The man had claimed to abide in our community, but the “fruit” of his life provided overwhelming evidence he did not abide there.

In John 15:4-5 Jesus told His disciples, “Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you, [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” (AMP)

The Lord gave a wonderful promise to His children in the above verse. If we abide in Him, we will not only bear fruit, our fruit will yield an abundant harvest. We are all fruit bearers of one kind or another. When John the Baptist was baptizing the people preparing them for Jesus’ ministry, many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to observe him. He rebuked them by saying, “Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart]; And do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham for our forefather; for I tell you, God is able to raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones! And already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:8-10 (AMP)

Paul listed the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].” (AMP)

Before I gave my heart to Jesus, when people would ask me if I was a Christian, I would get angry and would reply by listing all the offices I had held in the church, committees I had been on and the fact that I was a regular church attender. I did not know at the time, my activities in the church were not my list of the “fruit” (or evidence) of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.

By abiding in Christ and making His presence our dwelling place, our whole countenance and character will change. There will be indicators of His Spirit in our personality. The more time we spend with the Lord, the more sin we see in ourselves. His presence causes us to recognize hidden motives and self-centeredness. Through our repentance, His character becomes infused into ours. The closer we are to Him the more humble we become as the Fear of the Lord brings us the Wisdom to discern in our heart between good fruit and bad.

The picture the Lord gave us of being a branch connected to a tree is very powerful. My father grew pecan trees. There were times when some of the branches would become infested with a worm that would weave webs around large clusters of leaves. These webs would choke off the supply of nourishment the branch required. They would also destroy the branch’s ability to produce fruit. The weakened branch would eventually wither, requiring the removal of the branch from the tree. It was necessary for the branch to be cut off from the tree to protect the rest of the tree’s health and its harvest of fruit.

When we do not abide in the Vine, we too, are susceptible to spiritual contamination which will limit our fruit production and possibly destroy it entirely. It is imperative that we stay vitally connected to Him, because He is our only source of sustenance, protection and healing.

Current research of western Christianity reveals that much of the church is producing the “fruit” of the world instead of Christlikeness. Pressure from the world and sin within has caused so much compromise, for many “Christians”, there is not enough evidence for their claims to be a Christian. Because of this, our Christian influence has diminished as we have sought to be politically correct instead of shining His light. The warning of Christ is as powerful today as it was when He spoke it. If we do not choose to abide in Him, producing the fruit of righteousness, we will be cut off.

John 15:5-6 “I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.”

Romans 11:21-22 “For if God did not spare the natural branches [because of unbelief], neither will He spare you [if you are guilty of the same offense]. Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you-provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away).” (AMP) (See also John 15:7 & 16 and Romans 11:17-23)

Abiding in the Vine waters and feeds our branch. It also protects us from spiritual “parasites”. If we find ourselves lacking in the production of spiritual fruit, repentance will reconnect us to the Vine. By abiding continually in Him, we will find the joy and peace we long for. We will also be empowered with the patience to persevere and the self-control to navigate difficult times. Our love will increase, multiplying our influence because our focus will be to do His will, not ours. If we choose to abide in Him, we will never lack good, abundant fruit.

If a prosecuting attorney was tracing your steps, investigating your life and amassing the evidence you have left behind, would he find evidence to prove you to be a Christian? If not, I have good news for you, the invitation to abide in Him is given to us all.

So, where do you hang out?

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