Shortcuts (10/22/2017)

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Our congregation just concluded its Annual Apple Butter Boil. We cleaned, cored and prepared 45 bushels of apples during the past week. We spend Saturday slowly cooking them down in ten kettles to make over 600 quarts. As I think about this process, I realize there’s a much faster way to do it. Now, don’t get me wrong. The apple butter we made is delicious. We just need to speed up the process. After putting a lot of thought into it, I have the perfect way to make instant apple butter.

Start by preparing the apples. Don’t worry about coring and peeling them. It’s ok if the stems and some leaves are still attached. Simply cut the apples into pieces and place them in a pan.

This was the hard part. Now add some sugar. Don’t worry about measuring it. Just dump in what you think you’ll need.

Last of all, cook the apple and sugar mixture by holding a lighter under the pan. A few seconds should be enough. If some chunks of apple still remain after cooking, dump the mixture in a blender and pulverize it.

Pour the mixture into a jar. Now you’re done. You have instant apple butter.

Or, is this apple butter? The answer is obvious.

What’s wrong with this process? There’s many things wrong with it. The unusable parts of the apple aren’t removed. Ingredients are mixed together in the wrong proportions. The process of cooking it wasn’t right. The simple truth is there are no substitutions for doing it the right way if we want to get the right product.

How is this like being a disciple of Jesus? We need to remove the hard, unusable parts of our lives that keeps us from being all God wants us to be. There’s no substitutions for following the recipe God gives us in the Bible and doing it the right way. We have to go through the fires of life that come our way if we want to be the product God wants us to be. Shortcuts simply won’t work.

Romans 5:1-11 says,Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

We have salvation because of God’s mercy and grace. He sent Jesus to redeem us from the consequences of sin. But spiritual maturity and Godly wisdom only develop by going through the process of life and living it according to Jesus’ teachings. Sometimes it’s easy. Other times the fires seem overwhelming.

Going through this process isn’t easy at times. Life isn’t fair. God tests us to see if we’ll remain faithful and to stretch us beyond where we think we can go. When the trials of life come our way, we must persevere if we’re going to become the product God wants us to be. Taking shortcuts and always looking for the easy way out won’t develop Godly character and hope.

But, just as the Bible tells us we need to persevere, it also tells us Jesus is the one who gives us the strength we need to endure life’s challenges. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:13I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Yes, life is hard at times. Yes, the conditions Jesus lays out to be his disciple are stringent. The great news is Jesus will be the source of our strength to be faithful if we let him.

Whenever the trials of life come your way or you find yourself falling into sin, ask Jesus give you strength you need to faithfully persevere.

May you be far more in Jesus than you are without him!