1″I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful.”

John 15:1-2

This has been the anthem over my life the past few weeks. It has been equally as painful as it has been freeing in Christ. Over the past month God has slowly revealed the sinful natures of my heart to me and it has not been a walk in the park. Some of these sinful habits are things that I have carried around with myself since I was a child and others are things that I assumed were right. It’s pretty tough hearing one day that the cynicism I had always had was not “just who Efrain was” but rather something that does not bear fruit and is apart from Christ. Or to hear that my lack of effort that I put into every relationship with family, friends, and co-workers is not “just part of Efrain’s personality” but rather something that takes a much deeper root than personality.

This all shook me up at first and had me really contemplating that this was something I  rather live with since I have done it my whole life up to now. I mean, why not just fit in with the culture and stereotype that society has for most guys these days? Why is this barley coming up now and never addressed before? The only true answer for me; the sovereignty of God and his perfect timing. I know that God has intentionally chosen now to reveal these things to me, that he has placed me within a community and church of believers that live out the Gospel and pursue after Jesus like no other individual, church or family I have ever been apart of. It has been so freeing in Christ to see even the smallest darkest corners of my heart be brought to light by people who love me and are after the same goal as I am.

As odd as it sounds, I have enjoyed being called out and lovingly rebuked for the things that did not reflect Christ in me. It is so easy to see loving an individual as “letting them down easy” or wanting to not tell the truth because it would “hurt them more than help them”. That’s total crap.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Proverbs 27:6

If there is anything that I have learned from this season when it comes to discipleship it is that to love an individual and truly care for their soul both now and eternally means to hold them accountable in a loving posture about anything that does not reflect God and His character. The most impactful individuals and friends that I have had in my life have been the ones that have been honest with me and helped me to look more like Jesus, not everybody else.

A question that I still face and I’m sure you all do to is; “Do you love them or love yourself?” Are you not calling out your buddy about sleeping with his girlfriend because you want him to like you or do you love him enough to be maybe be the one voice of truth that says “hey man, I love you and what you have going on is not right. Let’s fight this together”.

This isn’t something that can easily be done and it has taken some really solid believers around me to help me to continue to fight through this battle and help others. Not only has accountability been a huge part of this season God has me through currently but the Holy Spirit has played such a crucial part! He has empowered me and giving me discernment to open the eyes of my heart to the things that are not just lethal to my eternal health but also the sins and things that break HIS heart. In this same chapter it goes on to say “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. (John 15:5)” This means apart from not only God, not only Jesus, but also the Holy Spirit we can do nothing and thank God for this! The Spirit has convicted me and strengthened me in ways I could not do for myself in times where I have felt so numb to the gospel and times I have felt so far entrenched into the depths of my sin. He is there, near, and moving in ways I could not possible understand or see now.

As God continues to walk with me through this season I am anxious more than ever to see how alike my faith, character, and heart will be to God’s. And what’s even more exciting is to know that God is always good, faithful and works all things for the good of those who love him ACCORDING to HIS will. Amen.

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