Theme Of The Year - 2016
V2H2 - Vertical Vitality and Horizontal Health
Why has this theme been chosen?
This year’s theme is V2H2 which stands for Vertical Vitality and Horizontal health.
We are called to raise disciples for Christ and our target is 500 in our Westminster and 200 in the Edgware congregations.
As part of helping us to develop spiritual disciplines, This year we are consolidating the previous four spiritual disciplines by ensuring we are not doing these spiritual disciplines into a form of mechanical mode of just do, do and do but rather are being invigorated by these disciplines to be a more effective soldier.
If we are healthy, we will not be finding the disciplines as a chore but a joy. The four spiritual disciplines are walk in step with the Holy Spirit, meditate and study the Word of God, Fast and pray, Evangelism as a lifestyle. We are looking for the external expressions of an inner belief.
John 15:1–17, 26-27 (ESV)
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Jesus says in verse 7, if you abide in me and my Words abide in you. If you are connected and not just in contact with Jesus, you have greatest intimacy.
By asking us to abide in Him, and He abiding in us, Jesus is inviting us to be part of His life. There can be nothing that is as intimate as that when it comes to bearing fruit. If you look into the case of human relationships in bearing fruits, you are a fruit of your parents. And that process of you being born fruit in a sexual union unless you are a test tube baby is a relatively very brief encounter of physical intimacy. Yet in this description, we are so intimately linked to the vine that constantly the life and power of God flows into each one of us, the branch to bring about organic growth, transformation and fruit bearing. Every moment, every day and night, the nutrients of the vine are brought in. We cannot make ourselves to be the person God wants us to be on our own. We need His life. Verse 5 says, without Me (that is Jesus) you can do nothing.
Secondly, Jesus also said that we are no longer His servants but His friends. 15No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Christianity is more than a religion – it is a relationship. The start of a friendship is something we don’t actively pursue unlike a romantic relationship between a boy and a girl. Friendship just formed naturally and just clicked and so it is easy for us to take for granted. We don’t get offered friendship and so we can speed read through this verse. But if you were to stop and think, Jesus is offering you friendship. Back in the days when they were slaves, they are considered by Aristotle as inanimate objects. They were not even treated as sub-humans. But here Jesus is saying. You are my friend because all that Jesus heard from the Father, He will tell them. What makes someone a friend? A friendship is built because we have common aspirations. Because of that, we can encourage one another when we are wounded or lonely, be there for one another when we are going through hard times, be vulnerable and share our secrets with one another, without fear that our confidence can be violated. A friend is there for you and there is a shoulder you can cry on. Very often, friends are closer than our own brothers and sisters. Jesus’ friendship leads Him to be willing to be totally self-sacrificial. Greater love has no man than this that he lays down his life for his friends. That is the friendship that Jesus offered to His followers.
And so Jesus says, abide in Me in this connectedness and in this friendship. Remain in Me.
So the question is, how can we abide? How can we stay connected and abiding. How do we remain to have vertical vitality? There are 2 things we need to do.
a) Let His words abide in You. Jesus means that you keep His commandments. V7 If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you. In short, we obey. And to abide in His words mean we need to know His commandments and His commandments are found in the Bible. And so we read the bible with the help of the HS.
You want to remain CONNECTED to Him.
The longest bridge in the world today is not the Chingdao Haiwan bridge in China; the longest bridge is the 18 inches that between the head and the heart. Knowing is one thing, obeying is another. And Jesus says that if we are really in love with Him and responding to what He has shown us His love on the cross, then we would obey Him.
b) Abide in His love. V9 As the Father has loved Me, so have I love you. Abide in My love.
When we abide in the love of Jesus, we can face trials, rejection, loss of face and all those injurious acts to our faith. His love can bring healing when we are misunderstood or felt judged by others. His love can help us to take the initiative to mend broken bridges with our brothers and sisters. His love gives us the motivation to press on in our growth and service for God. When we go through life’s storms and get battered by them, as we abide in His love, we can stand on God’s promises.
And we need to hang on to these promises. In short, to abide in His love is to TRUST. And you will know that the devil will try to put doubt in, and pressure through sending persecutions to prise away your connectedness with God’s love. The devil will lure your love away in God with the wares of the world.
So our perseverance against the lies of the devil and the love for idols are to OBEY God’s Commands and to TRUST in God’s promises of LOVE.
Finally, we are warned about the contradictions of life. There is a promise of painful pruning. Every fruitful branch will be pruned. If you talk to any vineyard grower, pruning is essential. That is when we start to bleed and feel the pain. Jesus said He appointed us to bear fruit, much fruit and fruit that will last. Pruning helps us to reach our maximum potential. We may not like the pain but it is a necessary step for fruit bearing.
So trust and obey for there is no other way, goes the hymn. To be happy in Jesus but to TRUST and OBEY.
And if you have Vertical Vitality, it is inevitable you will have Horizontal health.
Jesus says in v7 that if you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. When God’s Word so filled you and guide you, you are inevitably in the will of God. You will have a dynamic and potent prayer life. Being connected with Jesus is full of life and resources. Perhaps that is why so many of our prayers are not answered because we are not praying over the fruits we are to bear that glorify God but to spend on our desires. V16 I appointed you to bear fruit so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. So orientate our prayers towards fruit bearing. And an outcome of bearing fruits will be joy.
Each branch is destined to bear fruit. It is not dependent on your giftings, intellectual prowess or eloquence. And it is not just fruit but more fruit and fruit that will last.
Fruits are the expression of your abiding in Christ.
What are these fruits? They are fruits of Christlike character shown in the fruit of the Spirit Gal 5:22, prayer, insocial justice and righteousness Isaiah 5:7 and working with the HS to make converts and disciples. Other spiritual disciplines to come include good works, giving and making disciples.
This is the call of God on each of our lives and that is to go and bear fruit.
The key is to have Vertical Vitality so that we have Horizontal Health. Jesus said that we are to love one another. It is very easy for us because of the deceitfulness of our hearts that we say we love God Whom we cannot see but hate our brother whom we can see.
We don’t have to strive to bear fruits but we need to strive to stay connected to the Vine and abide (stay there) and not wander off.
We should tell ourselves that if Jesus is a friend of mine, then His friends are my friends. We all have a common interest and purpose and we all want to see one another succeed. We want to celebrate one another’s fruits rather than to become envious and insecure. We want to encourage one another in our services rather than to tear down. We speak good of one another rather than to speak evil. Then we have horizontal health. Let us believe that as Emmanuel church continues to grow in love and we should do so if we abide in the vine.
And when we have horizontal health, we can fulfill another aspect of fruit bearing and that is to win others for Christ. After all in verse 15, we are to GO and bear fruit. This GO is not to leave our abiding with the vine but go and be a witness for Jesus as shown in verse 27.. And you also will bear witness. Earlier on, in John 13, Jesus reminded them of this new commandment.
John 13:34–35 (ESV)
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
There is an attractiveness to non Christians when Christians love one another. We cannot attract non Christians with our welcome programme when compared with Hollywood. But there is one thing unique to the Christians and that is we can love one another because of the divine nature that is at work in us. How many came to church because you were attracted to the warmth and love lived out among God’s people?
There once was a young girl who lived with her parents. The dad was a man of few words and they lived in a very remote part up in the mountains north of Seoul, the capital city. As this young girl grew to be a woman, she went to work in Seoul and soon fell in love with a divorcee who already has a daughter. Despite the objection from her parents, she insisted on marrying him. As a result she fell out with the parents and never returned home to visit them, not even when her mum died. But one day, she caught him womanising and she was so heart broken that she left him. She was wondering where to go to and remembered her dad’s place up in the mountains. She took with her 2 daughters. The elder one was actually her step daughter, one from her husband’s former wife but she loved her just as much as her own. So the three of them went up the mountains to stay with her dad. While the granddad plays with the younger granddaughter who was very chatty, the elder granddaughter often looked on. When the grandparent sits down, the elder granddaughter would ask him, “ Grandpa do you want a cup of tea?” And when the granddad was tired from working in the farm, she would ask, “Grandpa, do you want to lie down in the sofa?” So one day, the granddad could not stand it and asked, “Why are you always trying to do things for me when I don’t ask you?” Then older granddaughter looked down on the floor and said, I know I am not really your grand daughter by birth and so I asked you what can I do so that I can earn your love.
The granddad took the hand of this granddaughter and took her up into the forest. And there before a tree, he pointed out for the granddaughter. “Can you see that branch on the right hand side of that tree which looks different?” he asked. He said, is it strong and healthy? The granddaughter replied, Yes. He said, Do you know some years ago I grafted that branch onto this tree? And it has grown strong and well in the tree. You are like the branch grafted. You don’t have to do anything for me to earn my love. I love you just the same as I do with the sister. Just stay close by me.
There is a lot of similarity to the imagery of the vine and the branches. Very often we can go into the mode of what can I do more in order to earn the love of the Father. And even on our spiritual disciplines, we want to do, do and do. But the key is that Jesus wants us to abide in Him.
For 2016, let us bear in mind that we are branches connected to the vine to bear fruit. While doing the disciplines, remember it is not the form but the substance. Remember it not just the information but transformation. And it is not contact but connect. And it is always striving to abide in Christ rather than abandoning Him because of temptations of various kinds. And as we practice the spiritual disciplines, they have to come out of a desire in our connecting with Christ. We do this because of the love of the Saviour demonstrated by Him making this friendship and abiding possible because of His willingness to die for our sins and so bring us back to fellowship from separation from God.