Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are John 15:5–8, where Jesus says,
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.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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
THE FRUIT-PRODUCING POWER OF FAITH IN CHRIST FOR LIFE!
Many people come to Washington D.C. because they want to make a difference. They want their lives to matter, to mean something. Who doesn’t? Unfortunately, politics tends to promise what it can’t deliver. In fact, a truly meaningful life is more than politics, more than the accumulation of wealth or influence, and more than one’s vocational skills and abilities can produce. Ironically, the key to a purposeful life isn’t primarily about your works at all. It’s not about “who” you are or what you do, but about “whose” you are. Jesus reminds us that He is the Vine, the source for real, lasting life. We are like branches. To really live means to be connected to the power, the perspective, and the purpose for which the very God of heaven created and redeemed you. Purposeful, meaningful life depends on being connected to Jesus through the power of His Word and the gift-giving grace of His sacraments. Disconnected from Him, even our best efforts amount to nothing in the end.
Being connected to Jesus by grace through faith changes everything. Wow! In my 33 years of ministry, I’ve seen the power of the Gospel change lives. One of the most radical transformations that I’ve witnessed involves that of the inmates in Angola Prison. You can read about it in the book, Cain’s Redemption: A Story of Hope and Transformation in America’s Bloodiest Prison. But even more personal to me was the testimony of one of the inmates himself. “John” was one of the first inmates who became a pastor inside the prison. That was Warden Cain’s miracle. He brought the Gospel inside the prison and allowed its transforming power to change the lives of inmates who became students of the Word who then eventually changed the prison itself. What was once the bloodiest place in the country changed radically through transformed-transformers serving their fellow inmates.
The “fruit-producing” power of faith came to Angola Prison in a very deliberate way. It didn't come just through an occasional visiting preacher or teacher. It didn't come through “hit and miss” connections to the Word of God. No, it came in the form of intense study of the Bible, a four-year, in-depth seminary degree behind bars for prisoners who earned the right to study GOD'S WORD. These men started abiding in Christ, really digging into His LIFE-GIVING WORD, and things changed. It wasn't just repentance and forgiveness for their sake alone. It was changed lives that stopped “taking” and started “giving back” in service to others in the way of Christ, EVEN BEHIND BARS.