Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How Connected Are You?

by Nicky Smith

In this day and age we are very concerned with how connected we are. We have smartphones and laptops to keep us connected with others and the world. We want news and information in an instant and those devices help us stay connected. While we are so well connected with the world around us, few of us focus on our connection with God. 

In John 15 Jesus compared Himself to the vine and us to the branches of the vine. When we are connected to God it is like being a living, growing branch. While those who are not connected to God are like withered branches that aren't growing. Jesus said:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:5-6)
Being connected to God entails having a relationship with Him. It means we speak to Him and He speaks back to us. We can ask questions and He answers. We express our thoughts and feelings to Him and He responds. Many of us think we are have such a relationship with God, but our connection is weak. In other words, the branches are still alive, but only barely. 

Being connected to God is essential to spiritual progression. Although, being connected does not automatically mean we are progressing. That is to say, a connection to God is necessary for progression, but not sufficient for progression. 

Many of us may look like this vine, with little growth and life. This is equivalent to someone who receives infrequent revelation and the content of that revelation has little to with progress. How often do you hear God's voice? How often do you obtain His mind? Does God tell you how you can repent and develop His attributes? 

Instead we need to look like this, where there is a lot of life and we bear fruit. This represents someone who is deeply connected to God, receiving frequent daily revelation, enabling them to progress to become just like Jesus.

If you desire to be like the flourishing, fruitful vine, consider what your current connection to God is like and how you can improve that connection. Revelation is the key to a strong connection with GodWhen I am receiving the mind and will of God directly from Him, I feel connected to God (as opposed to receiving the mind of God through another person). One way of evaluating your current relationship with God is to examine both the frequency and the content of the revelation God gives you. 

Content of God's Revelations to Me
Too often the revelation we focus on receiving has little to do with spiritual progression. Having the Spirit tell us where our lost keys are or what we suppose are the mysteries of God is wonderful, but that kind of revelation is not helping us become more like Jesus. If you recognize that you are not receiving the kind of revelation that will help you progress, plead with God for it. 

When God is speaking to me, giving me instructions on how to repent, how I can develop more love for others, how He wants me spend my time, how to increase my faith, and so on, God is helping me become more like Jesus. Yesterday as I was pondering all day on some of my struggles, the Spirit said to me that I need to have more trust in the promises God has made to me. This instruction filled my soul with joy, even though it was God's way of saying I have not been trusting Him as I should. This revelation will help me become more like Jesus. It is key to my progress.

Now consider, is God teaching you new things or is He simply reminding you of things you know already? For example, you were told to read the scriptures daily but you haven't been doing it consistently and so the Spirit keeps reminding you to do so. This is not new truth which you are receiving. We cannot receive new truth unless we are obeying the previous truth. If you are receiving new truth regularly, you can know that you are progressing (whether fast or slow). God isn't just rehashing stuff you have been told before. How can you be progressing unless God is revealing new light and truth to your mind and heart? I feel connected to God when he tells me of my sins and weaknesses and how to repent and much of the time He tells me things I was completely unaware of in myself.

If you know of a sin that you need to repent of, that God has been prodding you about for years and that you have been procrastinating, realize that it is unlikely that you will receive more revelation until you act on what you have already been given. It is sobering to consider the years I have lost in receiving new light and truth because of my slothfulness in obeying God's commandments to me. We can only receive more truth based on our heed and diligence to what we have previously received. 
9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12; emphasis added)
Frequency of God's Revelation to Me
How often do you receive revelation? If you are receiving revelation infrequently, you have work to do in order to create a stronger connection with the Lord. We ought to be receiving revelation about our spiritual progression daily. We should be open enough and know His voice enough to be able to understand His will for us daily. If all of Jesus' words and actions were the Father's will, consider how connected He was to the Father. We cannot perfectly do the Father's will without knowing His will continually. That is what we are striving for! 

While the content of your revelation gives an indication if you are progressing, the frequency of your revelation determines your rate of progression. Those who are not being told of new ways in which they ought to repent and become more like Jesus may not be progressing. Those who are being shown ways to repent, but obtain that revelation slowly, are likely to be progressing slowly. Your hunger and thirst for repentance and your obedience to the revelation you receive are a large determining factor in what  and how often you are receiving revelation from God.

As I reflect on my connection with God, I can see how there have been large spans of time where my connection with Him was almost non-existent. However, as I began to desire to become sanctified, I sought more to understand the mind of God and tried to obey it immediately, I found that God spoke more often to me, giving me new understanding on both myself, my journey, and the scriptures. I know as I continue to seek truth and obey what I receive, my connection to God will continue to grow. John wrote,
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1 John 3:24)
As you obey the revelation you have previously received and continue begging for more, you will receive more and eventually become a thriving, fruitful vine. Those who do the Father's will bear fruit. Jesus said that those who bear much fruit are His disciples and obtain the power of God. 
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15)

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