Welcome back everyone to our first conversation of 2024 called The God Questions.  We are diving into questions we have about our Spiritual Lives.  These are popular questions that so many of us ask internally and out loud about our faith and all this God stuff.  So, in many ways, this could be called a conversation on the Frequently Asked Questions of our Faith.  I’m telling you, investigating this FAQ, or list of popular questions will give us a chance to hit some important topics.  You probably started to truly grasp this last week, as Ken dove into a question I think we all have about our lives.  The question was,

Is there more to life than this?

I don’t know a person on this planet who at one time or another hasn’t picked their head up, looked around, and asked this question about their lives.  Is this my life?  Is there more to life than this?  Ken explained something really important to us last week, it meant a lot to me to listen to him point us to the issue, the core issue of this feeling, and the only way to the true answer to this question.  Do you remember the two realities Ken spoke of last week?

He said, there are two realities of life.

  • Reality #1 is that Life is never enough. 
  • Reality #2 is that only Jesus can give you what you are looking for.

You can ignore reality or surrender to it.  This means the most important part of your life is your relationship with Jesus.  If you remember last year, we walked through a series on The Soul, and we learned that we are spiritual beings with a soul, and so much of the inner turmoil we face is our soul, crying out for what we truly need, which is God.  Ken kept pointing us to that last week, and this word from Jesus.

John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” NIV

Jesus is saying, your soul is empty, hungry, and thirsty.  Your soul needs healing, rest, passion, and meaning.  And only I can give you what your soul is looking for!  That’s why Ken was showing you superstars, and millionaires who still feel so empty in their lives, they are trying to feed their souls, with everything, and anything but the thing that fully satisfies our souls, which is Him…it’s Jesus, The Bread of Life.  Whoever comes to Him will be fully satisfied in Him.  It’s amazing how many of us say we know that, yet never choose to go to Him to find satisfaction.  We live our lives trying to feed that hunger and thirst with things that just won’t ever satisfy it.  We know the truth, but we just keep doing it.  What a massive question Ken had last week!  There is a reason it had to be the first one, and it ties into and leads us to another very popular God question that we are tackling today.

How Do I Make The Most of My Life?  

This is an awesome question.  Now, if you engage the Alpha Video on this, it focuses this conversation on Paul’s teaching in Romans 12, which is fantastic.  If you take the time to read through Romans 12 and watch the video you will get a lot of steps that can help us maximize our lives but from the moment I saw that this was going to be my topic, two things struck me.  First, for most of us people we have an idea of what making the most of our lives looks like.  That vision is typically a very worldly view of success, with us gaining wealth, material possessions, and popularity.  It’s a life of luxury and ease.  It’s what we would call making it, here in this world.  It’s interesting because last week we realized that stuff just won’t get it done for our hearts, minds, and souls…but it continues to be what we visualize as we picture maximizing our lives!  Because this is how so many of us define making the most of our lives, we set out on the wrong journey right from the start and live those unsatisfied lives that Ken was showing us last week.  The second thing that I couldn’t get out of my heart and mind was this.  I just can’t dress this up and make this fancier for you. There is only one way to make the most of your life…and that is in and through Jesus.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. NIV

Jesus explains that He is The Way, The Truth, The Life, and that He is the only way to God.  We will come back to that, but for now, I want to talk to you about something before we dive into Scripture and begin tying a few thoughts together.

You know over the years, I have realized something about teaching God’s Word, and that is just how important it is to ask questions.  Personal questions that we must answer for ourselves.  When we ask and answer questions for ourselves it gives us a chance to do something, that is such a struggle for so many of us, and that is to take ownership of God’s Word and personalize it for ourselves!  Many of us grew up being told the answers we should know, but because of that, we don’t own thoughts for ourselves.  Asking and answering questions is important, so important that I wrote a book, intentionally built to get you diving deeper than so many of us are willing to go, and we go deeper by asking a very important question.  “Why?”  Asking questions is so important, and if you notice Jesus asked a lot of questions of people, most of which He never answers for them.  Asking questions and answering them honestly and personally is such a big deal, and I’m pumped that we are doing that with these 15 God Questions, and guess what!  Our summer Bible Study is on the questions Jesus asked all through the Gospels which is going to be awesome…so I love questions.  Questions are so important to our development…but it got me thinking about the question, “WHY?”

My children are getting older now, but I find it funny how much I love that “why question” today…because when the kids were little, they all seemed to go through this stage, where they asked that question about everything and it drove me CRAZY! Have you ever got caught in that circular conversation with your kids? LOL, we start so patiently answering the “why questions” at first but eventually, you just can’t do it anymore!  Parents, have you ever been in this one?  “Dad, why are you putting your shoes on?”  I’m going to work.  “Why are you going to work?”  Well, we need money.  “Why do we need money?”  So that we can have food and pay our bills.  Why do we need food and to pay our bills?  Well, agh, ask your mom, I have to go! LOL, it’s so interesting, but when kids are little that “Why Question” really matters…it’s almost instinctive and helps them learn and grow, but then that question fades.  But you know what I’m realizing, that “why question” is probably the first question we have entering this planet, and it’s the question asked as we live it too.  For me these days, being around loved ones and family who are getting older, and for me firmly in midlife, that “why question” has made a big comeback.  It’s becoming very important again.  So, as we come into this world and look ahead, that question is important…and then toward the end of our lives, as we look back over our lives, that question truly is the only question that matters, isn’t it?  It’s like we know it as we enter this world, we lose track of it as we plow through the middle of our lives if we aren’t careful, and then back it comes as we look back over our lives at the end.  It’s like we know, deep down in our souls that we were created for something, that we have a purpose, for a life of meaning, we want to answer that “why question” of our lives!  We want to know our lives matter, and we must understand that every one of us does matter, and every one of us is on this planet for a reason.  We have a divine purpose and it’s found through Jesus with God which is why we have to start with the words of Jesus…

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. NIV

Jesus says I am The Way to God. We are His creation, His design, and don’t we all walk through life just knowing there is something more out there for us?  It’s your soul looking for something, and Jesus is saying I am The Way to what you need.  Jesus says, He is The Truth, so we aren’t finding truth anywhere else but in Him and Jesus says I am The Life.  Most of us want a life, and we have some version of a life, but Jesus says He is The Life, and it’s through Him that we come fully alive in and with God.

So, you may think I have drifted a bit on you today.  Because I’m supposed to be answering the question: how do you make the most of your life?  Well, I would love to give you some incredible steps and inspirations and a fancy 5 step plan to experiencing your best life, but the reality is you can only find it with God, your creator, living out His purpose for your life, and the only way to Him is through Jesus.  He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. That’s it.  I can’t dress it up and make it fancier.  It’s all found in Him, nowhere else.  As we connect to God, we can live as we were created and designed to live, and that is how and when we come fully alive and make the most of our lives.  It’s as we live in Him that we can finally answer our “why question.”  You know it’s funny, but Jesus tells us this often, I’m just not sure we truly see it or understand what He is saying!  If we did, we wouldn’t need to ask this question.  Let’s go to a Scripture we share with you often here at MRC, just one chapter after He explains He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, He calls himself, something else…The True Vine.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is 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 given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. NIV

Ok so this isn’t the first time you have heard this section of Scripture, but let’s take a walk through it here.  Jesus says that He is the True Vine, and His Father is the gardener, and we see something that comes up, on repeat through this Scripture…and what do I tell you about Scripture on repeat in our Bibles?  It’s very important and here He repeatedly talks about the fact that we branches should be doing something.  We should be bearing fruit.  Did you pick up on that?  It comes up over and over again in these 8 verses, the branches are to produce fruit.  He talks about what happens to branches that do not produce fruit, and how those who do produce fruit are cared for so they can produce even more fruit, this culminates in verse 8…

John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. NIV

John 15:8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. NLT

Ok, let’s stop and talk for a moment.  We want to make the most of our lives and to do that we need to be able to answer the “why question” of our lives.  We are on this planet for a reason.  God created us on purpose for a divine purpose, a calling, and Jesus is explaining it to us here.  Now here is what is interesting, we read this and think the calling is to produce fruit, but that isn’t it…the fruit we bear (which is love by the way) isn’t what we are told to do, it’s what happens when we do it. What are we told to do?

John 15:4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” NIV

Jesus isn’t commanding or instructing us to bear fruit, he is instructing us to remain in Him.  The English Standard Version uses the word ‘Abide’ there, to live in Him.  What happens when we abide or remain in Him is a natural thing, when we are connected to Him, we will bear fruit, we will love, and live our best lives. So, this is something we need to understand as we start working our way toward making the most of our lives.  Just as a vine is created to produce fruit, so are you.  A Christian life is seen, felt, and heard; and just to be crystal clear, the fruit is love.  So many people find Christ, love God, and set out to live a Christian life and they set out working really hard on the things they think a Christian should be.  They hear that a Christian should serve, so they work hard on serving.  Ever seen someone who serves and it seems easy?  Ever seen someone who serves and it is clear that it is really hard on them?  This is why!  Or maybe they hear that a Christian should rest and experience the Sabbath, so they work really, really hard on resting!  Something I have always found fascinating, just not sure working hard on resting is very, well restful.  They hear that a Christian should read and pray and obey and they work so hard on those things, but it all feels like a burden, it is troublesome, it’s like work!  It’s not the free and light experience that Jesus says it should be, and here’s why.  It’s because they aren’t doing what Jesus says here.  They aren’t focused on remaining connected to the True Vine.  When you do, all that other stuff comes together in a new way.  Do you know why?  It’s because you are living the life you were created to live, a life with God.  When you are outside of your design, living how you think you should, well, that is a chaotic and challenging life that so many of us experience.  None of this is hard if we are connected to the one true vine.  This leads to one more thing I want to point out from this passage before we move on.  Jesus said something pretty interesting in verse one.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” NIV

Jesus says that he is The True Vine.  That implies that there are other vines out there, doesn’t it?  I want you to see this.  For so many of us, we have to look at which vine we are connecting to.  So many of us are trying to obtain life through other vines and it just doesn’t work.  We look to our loved ones and people, or material possessions, or wealth, and things the world values, and try to find life there.  We pour into our jobs or even into religious activities and try to find life there…but in the end, there is only one way to our best lives, and this is through Jesus, the True Vine.  Are you tracking with me today?  Do you want to make the most of your life?  Do you want to look back over your life at the end of your life and know with confidence your answer to your “why question?”  It’s about finding and connecting to Jesus, The True Vine.  When you come fully alive, your life produces things you simply can’t produce any other way.  So before we move on with another teaching of Jesus I want you to slow down right now and think about this.

When you think about making the most of your life or living your best life, what do you picture in your head?  Is it a life spent centered on Christ?  Why or why not?  If you were honest, right now as you look at your life would you say that you are connected to The True Vine?  If the answer is yes that is great.  If the answer is no, what Vines of this world are you connecting to that just can’t give you what The True Vine can?  If your answer is I’m not sure what vine I’m connected to, well, I can show you an easy way to know.  If you are truly living for Jesus, connected to The True Vine, you are living a life of love.  You are producing that fruit in your life.  So, if you aren’t sure, ask yourself, do I love God and love others well?  If the answer is I don’t see this fruit in my life, well, now you know you aren’t connected to The True Vine. But listen, that shouldn’t discourage you, that should be a hopeful moment for you because you have identified the issue, and now you can do something about it!

So many of us wonder how we can make the most of our lives, but we spend our lives looking in all the wrong places for our best lives possible.  The reality is Jesus tells us that it can only be found in one place, and one way and that is in and through Him.  It’s hard to dress it up any fancier than this.  It’s found in Jesus.  There are so many traps and tricks along the way that keep us from Him, but in the end, there is a clear way of knowing if you are living the Christian life.  It’s seen, felt, and heard in how you live your life.  So, ask yourself, are you experiencing the life-giving love of Christ in you?  Is it flowing out of you into others?  The reality of our lives on this planet is that just like a vine or a tree is put on this planet to do something, so are you. When we live outside of that, we are dead, and lifeless, and we don’t produce the fruit of love that is a natural result of living as God created.  It starts with Jesus, when you connect and live this way you will experience your best life, and you will maximize your time on this Earth.  Do you see it?  Are you hearing me today?

I wanted to end today with one of Jesus’ Parables, quite frankly it’s where my heart went when I realized what we would be talking about today…

Luke 13:6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'” NIV

In so many moments Jesus points to how we live our lives, what we do, and the fruit that is coming out of our lives.  He reminds us often that when it’s all said and done, we will be judged on what we did, and how we lived, not on what we say we are or on what we know and once again we see another illustration that brings up producing fruit or the lack thereof and I want you to see this.  First, this fig tree exists for a purpose.  Do you know what its purpose is?  It’s to produce fruit, specifically figs. That is why it exists, but this fig tree isn’t fulfilling its purpose.  It isn’t producing figs, and the owner of the vineyard doesn’t like that, and says, “Hey, this thing is taking up room in the vineyard and soaking up the nutrients and soil of my vineyard without doing anything, so cut it down!”  And the guy tending to the vineyard replies let’s give it one more year.  I will care for it, and if it continues to not bear fruit, then we will cut it down.  So, there are a couple of things we need to see here in this story.  First, the fig tree has a purpose that it isn’t living out.  It isn’t producing figs.  This represents so many people who proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but they aren’t walking in a life-giving relationship with Him, we know this because they aren’t producing anything from their lives, there is no love, no serving, no engagement, which are all byproducts of being connected to the True Vine.  If you are a Christian, you can’t help but produce fruit.  Yet so many claim they are Christians and don’t produce fruit.  They look like this fig tree.  They are not living in their purpose of love, there is no fruit being produced.  They will gladly take the nutrients, soil, and space for themselves, but they aren’t sharing anything from it…there is no love, so according to Jesus, they aren’t connected to the True Vine.  I know this can get a little rough to think about but Jesus tells us there is a day when we will all be judged on the way we live our lives and in another parable he explains that there are two types of people and they are exposed on that day. (Judgement Day) Those who take and live for themselves and those who give, share, and love.  Time and time again in Scripture, we are told that a disciple of Christ lives out their faith.  They produce a life of love…this happens because they are standing in their calling, and connected to the True Vine, so life and love flow out of them into others.  It’s a natural part of their lives, because Jesus has transformed their lives.  Listen, we don’t want to get to that last day and realize we answered our “why question” all wrong, and frankly, many people do.  Which is intense, and terrifying to think about, especially when it all comes down to that decision to surrender our lives and live for Jesus or not.  If we live for Him, we connect to the True Vine, and none of this other stuff is hard.  If we don’t, whew, Jesus’ teaching and the way He asks us to live will always stay a burden to us…it will be hard.

So, if you are sitting here today, and personalizing this and are feeling a little convicted about what your life may be producing at this particular moment, there is a hopeful moment in this parable.  Jesus makes sure we see that our God is a God of love and will give us another chance.  We have grace and forgiveness on our side, as seen in the teaching here in verse 8…

Luke 13:8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'” NIV

Our God is a God of love and second chances, which we are so grateful for, but it would be irresponsible of me not to point out verse 9 which explains that there is also a last chance and a final judgment on how you live your life. Will you be a giver or a taker?  Will you share or will you keep?  Will you take up room in the vineyard for yourself, or will you bring life to those around you?  Do you see it?

My job today was to answer the question how do I make the most of my life?  And I want you to understand it’s the simplest, yet most challenging thing you will ever do.  You want to live out your best life, you have to stand in who and what you were created for, and that is to love and be loved by God.  You embrace that and life gets fun, how?  Well, this happens as you connect to The True Vine.  That’s what you do, that is why you exist, and what comes of that, well that is where it gets fun as you live out the very life you were called to live, and it only happens through Jesus.  I can’t dress it up any fancier than this.  If you want to get to the end of your life and look back thankful for how you answered the “Why Question” of your life, it can only happen one way.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Him.  You know, when you were little that “why question” just mattered to you and you didn’t know why it mattered so much.  At the end of your life, it will matter greatly.  Right now, you may be somewhere in the in-between stages of life, and that “why question” may not be that big of a deal to you, but it will matter greatly someday.  And you don’t want to get to that last day and realize you never did the very thing Jesus so clearly tells us we need to do.  It’s on that day that so many of us will feel like God is unfair, or that we have been shut out of something, and we will point to our exemplary lives, and all we did, and Jesus will point to the love we didn’t have or share…and we will feel like it’s unfair or that He closed us off to Him but the reality is he gives us chance after chance, time and time again to engage in Him.  The reality is He didn’t shut us out, we did that to Him by deliberately choosing to live our lives for ourselves, never producing the fruit that comes from a true life-giving connection with Him.

We make Christianity so complicated but if we could just do the first thing, and remain in or abide in Him, everything else would come together!   Please don’t leave here today, without thinking this through. Are you connected to The True Vine?  If yes, that is great, but if not, what vine are you connected to?  Not sure if it’s yes or no, there is an easy way to find out.  Just look at your life, are you producing the fruit of love in your life or not?  If you aren’t happy with your answer, please take that to Jesus today, and connect to The True Vine, it’s the only way to make the most of your life and it’s as simple as giving your entire life over to Him.  He handles the rest.