Thursday, May 31, 2012

As We are Unified, Expect Hope, Part 1

Scripture: John 15:26-27
"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.  And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

Insights:  So far this week the points have been rather negative in nature.  The points are true, but somewhat of a bummer.  The world hates Christ-followers, and therefore, we ought to expect opposition.  The very message of life and hope we preach and live before a lost world is going to be rejected by most.  If that is all Christianity is, then I am not certain any of us would want to be identified with Christ.  Jesus, however, did not end His teaching with verse 25.  He went on and taught us the verses we are looking at today.  Praise the Lord!  I again say, praise the Lord!  Jesus sends to us the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father.  The Holy Spirit literally enters our lives when we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  He counsels us and teaches us everything we need to know about Jesus and life.  He literally infuses our life with His power and presence.  He births us as new creations.  We are no longer the same person we once were.  We are changed.  When we start to walk the old path of sin, He convicts us until we repent and turn back do the road He is directing us.  When we are supposed to do something He prompts our heart and gives us confirmation as to the action we are supposed to take.  The beautiful part of these promptings and convictions is it is always directed toward our Lord, Jesus.  Everything the Holy Spirit does is to point and magnify Jesus.  Everything He does brings glory and praise to Jesus.  If we are submitting to His leadership in our lives, guess what our lives will do also?  Our lives will point, magnify, praise and bring glory to Jesus as well.  The lost world cannot comprehend the joy and satisfaction that comes from being a Christ-follower; but Beloved, if you are truly born again, then you know exactly what I am writing about this morning.  And you know the hope we have of an eternal day when we will see Jesus face to face because we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Beloved, experience this hope and live a life under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Have you been born again?
  2. Do you daily live under the control of the Holy Spirit? 
Prayer: Lord, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to reside in me and seal me for the day of redemption.  I am so grateful He teaches me about You and empowers me to live a life that honors You.  Help me, Lord, to live a more surrendered life to You through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

As We are Unified, Expect Rejection

Scripture: John 15:21-25
They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates me hates my Father as well.  If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.  But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'

Insights:  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus expresses the sentiment of today’s verses in a more simplistic fashion.  He said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it (7:13-14).”  The point being communicated is the gospel is rejected by many.  The world system is in opposition to the Triune Community and most do not want anything to do with Him.  Some have tried to make today’s verses a kind of loophole for not sharing Jesus.  The faulty argument goes something like this: if they never hear about Jesus then they can’t be held accountable for not receiving Him as Savior.  In the first chapter of Romans, Paul eradicates such a premise in verses 18-32.  Here is a sample of Paul’s words, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (18-21).  One last faulty argument is: well if they are going to reject Him, then why should we waste our time with sharing Jesus at all?  The error is that not all do reject Christ.  It is true most will, but we don’t know who those are that will enter into a life changing relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  So, we share boldly the love of God.  Beloved, share Jesus!

  1. When was the last time you shared your faith?
  2. Has fear of rejection prevented you from sharing the love of Jesus?
Prayer: Lord, the early church prayed for boldness in witnessing.  Grant me that same Spirit so I might share the love of Jesus more courageously.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

As We are Unified, Expect Opposition, Part 2

Scripture: John 15:18-20
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

Insights:  Jesus told us in today’s verses the world hated Him and that the world would also hate us.  I desire to share with you about the deaths of the disciples according to church historians.  James was beheaded by King Herod.  Philip was hung on a cross and while hanging he was stoned to death.  James the lesser was stoned to death.  Peter was crucified upside down after surviving imprisonment in the notorious Mamertine prison.  Matthew was pinned to the ground and beheaded.  Matthias, the disciple selected to take the place of Judas Iscariot was beheaded.  Andrew was crucified for witnessing to Maximilla, the wife of a Roman official.  He hung for three days and preached Christ to everyone who walked by him.  Judas, also known as Thaddaus, was run through with a javelin.  Bartholomew, also known as Nathanial, was flayed and then hung on a cross.  Thomas was speared to death in India.  People can still see his grave in Meliapore, India to this day.  Simon was sawn in half and John after many years in exile was released and died of old age in Ephesus.  The reason I have shared the way these men of God died is because they were either crazy or the gospel is real.  Each one of these men died for their faith.  It was not because they broke a moral law that they were put death.  It was because they preached an offensive message.  Jesus Christ is the ONLY name on which one must call in order to be saved.  These men saw, fellowshipped, and ate with the risen Lord.  They knew firsthand the gospel was not some kind of fabrication.  If Jesus’ resurrection had been some kind of scam, then at least one of these men would have cracked and forsaken their belief before their death.  But not one of them did.  Each one knew and experienced the opposition and hatred of this world toward Christ-followers; and yet, they each still went to their deaths willingly to proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord.  Beloved, we ought to live our lives with such passion and fervency.  The urgency of the gospel is before us.  How are you going to respond to Jesus?

  1. Are you willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our Lord?
  2. Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior? 
Prayer: Lord, You laid down Your life for my sin.  Give me the courage to live my life for Your glory.  Amen.

Monday, May 28, 2012

As We are Unified, Expect Opposition, Part 1

Scripture: John 15:18-20
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

Insights: Jesus modeled God’s perfect standard before the world. As a result, the world was reminded of its evil works and God’s resultant judgment which was eternal damnation in hell. The world hated Jesus because of this constant reminder. They wanted to live their lives however they desired and did not want anyone to dampen their pleasures with the truth of God. One of the saddest commentaries of the modern church is we often times want the same thing these lost people desire. The problem is this kind of “double dipping” life is what James, the brother of Jesus, addressed in his letter. He wrote, “Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.” As a Christ-follower we cannot have it both ways. We cannot have the pleasures of this world and the pleasures of eternity because they are in complete opposition. Jesus said it this way, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Jesus’ life was so heavenly minded that He was actually an earthly good. He pointed people to the salvation the Father was offering them through His Son’s death. He did good to those in pitiable situations. He did not turn a blind eye to the plight of their condition. He was the perfect model of God’s love and He was an affront to the lost world. So, the world hated Jesus and had Him put to death. Fortunately, that was God’s plan all along and in His death He bore the punishment of sin and death. God raised Him on Easter morning and hope has been alive ever since. This verse continues and states that if the world hated Jesus, then it will hate His followers as well. Tomorrow we will look at that aspect of this verse in a little more detail.

  1. How well do you model Jesus before a lost world?
  2. Can anyone tell the difference between their “lost” life and your “saved” life?
Prayer: Lord, the world hated You because You modeled perfectly the standard of God. Your life was an assult on their sensibilities and reminded them of their future judgment. Help me Lord, to live such a life before a lost world. Let Your love shine through me. Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Appointment of a Friend, Part 2

Scripture: John 15:16
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-- fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

Insights:  This fifteenth chapter is such a beautiful passage which points to the whole and complete life in Christ.  Up to this point it has painted this circular portrait that goes something like this:  “I, Jesus, am the Vine, the very source of life for you.  I desire one thing—that you abide IN Me.  If you will abide in Me, then you will know Me and recognize that I chose and appointed you to go on mission with Me.  Because you are working with Me, I no longer treat you as slaves, but as My friends.  Because you are My friends, I know you will desire to obey Me.  As you obey Me, there is only one possible outcome—you will bear fruit.  Your fruit bearing will prove you are My disciples.  And there is one last truth I know to be evident from this relational interchange.  You will be transformed and become like Me.  As this reality happens, you will begin to ask My Father for things and He will give them to you because the things for which you ask, will be things I also want.  In other words, as you grow in Me, you will ask for My will to be done in your life and My Father will answer in the affirmative such requests.  So, what is the key to this full and wonderful life—abide in Me!”  Beloved, do you see the simplicity of Jesus’ teaching found throughout this fifteenth chapter?  And yet, so many find this life to be boring and hard.  As they walk that path they become apathetic toward the things of God and then wonder why their prayers are not being answered when they do pray.  Once again, the answer is simple.  They are NOT abiding in Jesus.  Here, however, is the beautiful part of Christ.  All one has to do in order to begin abiding in Jesus and experience that wonderfully simple life of joy and peace is REPENT!  Ask Jesus to forgive you for your wayward heart and ask Him to restore you to the joy of your salvation, which is Him.  Then, just start abiding with Him.  The circular portrait will soon become your life and it truly is a joy filled life of adventure.

  1. How well do you know the Father?
  2. What kind of requests do you make of Him? 
Prayer: Lord, every aspect to receiving what we pray for has to do with You.  May our love abound and grow in order for me to know Your thoughts and ways better.  Then, I can pray your will and know I am going to be appointed to the right task, right words, right out come for Your glory.  Amen.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Appointment of a Friend, Part 1

Scripture: John 15:16
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-- fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

Insights:  It ought to give you a great deal of comfort to know while you were still an enemy of God He reconciled Himself with you by the death of His Son (Romans 5:10).  Jesus has just declared that He chose us.  We did not choose Him, but by His grace, He chose us.  What an eternal joy and satisfaction there is to know we are loved by the Creator.  Notice, however, He did not choose us to sit in our pews happy and comfortable.  He chose us in order to appoint us to a task.  The end result of that task is fruit that is born out of our obedience to Him.  We do really well quoting Ephesians 2:8-9 in our gospel presentation, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.”  And it is true we cannot work for our salvation.  It truly is a grace gift from God.  If it were based on our merit, we would boast in our goodness; but Jesus reminds us in His conversation with the rich young ruler that no one is good except God.  We do not typically go on to verse 10 of Ephesians 2 which states, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  From the foundations of time, God knew when you were going to live.  He knew He was going to choose you.  He knew you were created to do good works in Christ Jesus.  And He knew those works would produce fruit.  Salvation is not just some pass that we get to wave in the air and say, “I’m in, I got my fire insurance policy, see, I’m saved,” and then walk around as if nothing has really happened to us.  We are born again to serve Him and bear much fruit.  Beloved, we have got to set aside our agenda.  We have to let go of our desires.  We must serve with unashamed abandon the only One worthy of our service.  We must let our petty differences and opinions go and become unified in service to the One King.  After all, He chose us to be His royal priesthood and chosen nation.  Is He your King?  Then serve Him where He has appointed for you to serve!

  1. How well are you serving in the role God placed you?
  2. Are you bearing fruit for Him in that position?
Prayer: Lord, You have ordered my life and I am grateful.  Let me bear much fruit for You where You have me planted.  I desire for my life to bring You glory.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Knowledge of a Friend

Scripture: John 15:14-15
You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Insights:  Language deteriorates over time.  For example Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of over 50,000 words.  The average American today has a working vocabulary around 10,000.  Even differing languages have degradation.  For example, in English we have one word for love, but in Greek there were four.  We use modifiers in English to differentiate our meanings regarding love.  Well, the same is true with today’s verses.  Jesus tells us He calls us friends because He discloses to us everything He has learned from the Father.  In the Greek language the word used for friend is a specific kind of friend.  In English we have to use modifiers to explain what is meant by that single Greek word.  The type of friend Jesus describes is a friend at court.  Think of a kingly court and not a judicial court.  It can also be used in reference to a best man at a wedding.  This meaning for the word friend is found in John 3:29.  In both of these examples the friend is truly a friend, but at the same time, they are servants to the real authority.  The king is still king and whatever he says to his friend the friend must do.  The best man at the wedding is the groom’s closest friend, but his job is to serve the groom however he sees fit.  It is this type of picture of friendship Jesus is describing in today’s verses.  Look at verse fourteen again.  We prove our friendship with Christ by obeying His commands.  J. Oswald Sanders once said, “Each of us is as close to God as we choose to be.”  Jesus calls us friends and shares with us everything the Father has taught Him.  We prove our love, friendship and knowledge of God by obeying Him.  As we learn from Jesus and get to know Him better, we grow in our knowledge of Him.  As we grow, we learn what He wants us to do.  After we know what He wants done, we prove our friendship by doing what He has commanded.  He wants to disclose as much as we are able to handle, but He will not give us new truths about Himself until we have obeyed what He has already told us and proven to Him we really want to be His friend.

  1. How well do you desire to know God?
  2. What is your plan for having a consistently growing and vibrant relationship with the Father?
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You want an intimate relationship with me.  Mold my life into one that deeply desires You.  You have called me friend, let me grow and be a good friend back to You.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Love of a Friend, Part 2

Scripture: John 15:12-13
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Insights:  Think for a moment about the context of these two verses.  In these verses Jesus has just stated that a friend lays down his life for his friends.  It is through this sacrificial offering that true love is proven.  During the preceding eleven verses Jesus has been telling about the Vine and branches.  Now think for a moment about the agricultural truth of planting, growing, and harvesting.  The seed that is planted “dies” in the ground and from its death new life is born.  In other words, the Vine has life after a seed dies.  Now think about who is the true Vine and think about what night it is in His life.  Jesus has just celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples.  He is now teaching them the last truths He wants them to know.  In chapter seventeen He will pray the High Priestly Prayer over His disciples and us.  They will then go to the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus will be betrayed by Judas.  He will go through false trials and finally taken to Pilate and Herod.  After His scourging and beatings, He will be taken to Golgotha where He will be hung on a cross and die for the sins of the world.  In other words, Jesus is in the process of proving the very illustration of the Vine to His disciples in real life.  He is going to prove He is the true friend to us all.  And just as Jesus lived this command perfectly, it is also Him who empowers us to love others as well.  Think again to the first eleven verses of this fifteenth chapter.  Over and over again Jesus tells the branches to abide or remain in the Vine.  The reason for this abiding is because in the abiding one is connected to the Vine.  The life blood of nutrients flows from the Vine to the branches.  If we have witnessed Jesus’ perfection in love and we are connected to Him by His saving grace, then we are able to live a life of love because He enables us to do so.  What we must do is continually submit ourselves to Him and ask Him to let His love flow out of us toward others.  As He gives us His love we are then able to love others in this same sacrificial manner in which He loved us.  Beloved, love one another!

  1. Are you abiding in Jesus so that He can work in your life so that you can love?
  2. Are you proving that abiding relationship by loving sacrificially? 
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You never abandon me.  You are always there guiding my life and strengthening me.  In Your work I am able to love.  Increase my love Lord so that You are glorified.  Amen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Love of a Friend, Part 1

Scripture: John 15:12-13
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Insights:  For those who were present Sunday, hopefully, I will write these sermon points better than I preached them.  Mark uses a technique quite frequently throughout his gospel, but it is not used as often by John.  The style used is known as an inclusio passage.  I like to call it a “sandwich” passage.  In other words, the passage will start with a piece of bread and then have some meat in the middle and will conclude with another piece of bread.  Both pieces of bread say the same things and the meat is the substance in the middle of these end points.  The bread this week is the command of Jesus for us to love each other.  He starts and ends this passage with that statement.  Unfortunately, we as finite humans do not do perform this command perfectly.  All kinds of things happen in our relationships.  Think about King David for a moment.  He had a close friend who was an advisor and even sat at his table for meals.  But something happened and this close friend joins the ranks of David’s enemies.  Read and feel the pain David experienced as he wrote, “Yes, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me (Psalm 41:9).”  Jesus experienced the same thing.  Judas Iscariot was such a friend that Jesus had placed him in charge of the finances of His ministry, but then out of frustration and disappointment he betrayed Jesus.  Even though we sometimes act like David’s friend and Judas Iscariot, we are still commanded to love each other.  At this point Warren Wiersbe’s words are of some assistance.  He wrote, “While emotions are certainly involved, real Christian love is an act of the will.”  The point Wiersbe is making is that our loving others is as simple as a choice.  We make a conscious choice to love others.  Tomorrow, we will discuss what empowers us to follow through after we have made this conscious decision to love others.

  1. Are you striving to be a friend to others like Jesus has been to you?
  2. Or are you only a friend as long as the relationship is going your way? 
Prayer: Father, forgive me for not being a good friend to those around me.  Continue to change my heart make me a friend like You.  Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Benefits from Living in the Vine

Scripture: John 15:7-11
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Insights:  As a child of God we receive all kinds of benefits.  We do not deserve them and we most definitely cannot earn them.  Yet, God graciously bestows them onto us.  This week we have examined four such benefits of abiding in the Vine.  First, we get to pray to God.  We live in such a technological society that we take for granted our ability to speak with anyone anywhere through our computers, cell phones, or even those antiquated land lines.  Well we have an even faster connection with God and that is a benefit we ought to use regularly.  Second, we get the privilege of bearing fruit for God.  In fact it is our fruit bearing that proves we are His disciples.  What better feeling can one receive than leading another person to Jesus Christ?  I promise you there is nothing greater on this side of eternity.  It produces a joy beyond compare.  Third, we get loved by God.  It still boggles my mind that the Creator of the universe wants to have a relationship with me; and that He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die in my place for my sins.  What an amazing love.  Finally, we looked at the joy we receive in Jesus.  And that joy far exceeds anything this earth has to offer.  There are so many other benefits we could have listed, but these are the four present from this week’s passage of Scripture.  Let me encourage you to do as the old hymn states, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.  Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”  The benefits of blessing you receive from the Lord are worth any sacrifice He asks you to make.  Beloved, abide in Him and experience Him to His full and your joy truly will overflow.

  1. What benefits are you personally receiving from the Lord presently?
  2. Are you taking advantage of all God is offering you or are you holding back and not receiving all of His grace? 
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for all of the blessings You bestow on my life.  Help me to cherish them and never take them for granted.  Let me abide in You and grow in grace so that I may display Your mercy to those around me.  Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Branches Get Joy from the Vinedresser

Scripture: John 15:11
"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Insights:  Joy is an outflow of the manifest presence of God in your life.  In other words, as you abide in the Lord and find your satisfaction in Him, joy is experienced.  It is a bi-product of abiding.  In our society we often times get joy and happiness confused.  In fact, many parents believe their role is to make their children happy.  The problem with this line of thought is that happiness is dependent upon external stimuli.  A child gets a toy, they are happy.  A teenager rides a roll-a-coaster, they are happy.  A man and woman walk and isle and get married, they are happy.  Let me use this marriage illustration for a moment.  If they are presently happy, then why do over 50% marriages end in divorce?  It is because we have confused happiness and joy.  Joy is not an external stimulus, but rather, an internal relationship with a holy God.  As one grows in their relationship with Christ the more joy is a constant aspect of their lives.  If they begin to walk away from the Lord, that joy diminishes.  Psalm 16:11 states, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  What the psalmist is confirming is that joy is found in God’s presence only.  John 16:22 informs us, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”  So, no person or spirit can take our joy from us.  Then, Beloved, why do we not always live in joy?  It is because we walk away from the Father’s presence.  In Acts 16 we see the story of Paul and Silas doing amazing work for the Lord and they are arrested for doing good and preaching the gospel.  They are beaten and thrown in to jail naked.  Do you know what the Scriptures tell us these two men were doing at midnight?  They were singing and praising God because their hearts were full of joy.  What in your life takes you away from the presence of God?  Jesus tells us He gives us His joy and that it is full.  All that is required is us abiding in Him.  If we will abide, we will find satisfaction in Jesus and know joy.

  1. Is your life characterized as one of joy?
  2. Are you abiding in Christ and letting His joy be your joy?
Prayer: Jesus, my Savior, You offer me joy and joy to the fullest.  Unfortunately, my life is often times not characterized in this fashion.  Forgive me of my disobedient heart and prune me of anything that would hinder my joy which is found in You.  Let me experience You to the full.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Branches Get Loved by the Vinedresser

Scripture: John 15:9-10
"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

Insights:  As I type these words, I am comforted by the Father’s love.  In the very next chapter of John Jesus said to His disciples, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (vs 33).”  On this side of eternity we are often times not loved properly.  Last night one of our deacon’s said, “We hurt the ones we love the most.”  I am so grateful God does not hurt us with His love.  Now that sentence does not mean that He does not discipline us, which is painful for a time.  This discipline, however, is a different kind of “hurt” than the deacon and I am referencing.  In other words, the Father never says hurtful things to us.  The Father never acts unbecomingly towards us.  The Father never embarrasses us.  He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).  In a world where we face many trials and sorrows it is a comfort to know God loves us in these ways.

  1. Have you experienced the Father’s love for you today?
  2. Are you abiding in His love through obedience to His commands? 
Prayer: Father, thank You that You love me no matter what.  In this world we experience all kinds of pains and hurts, but through them all You are there loving us.  Help me to graciously show Your love to those around me.  Amen.

Branches Get to Bear Fruit for the Vinedresser

Scripture: John 15:8
"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

Insights:  Jamie Pruett preached a revival service at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church last week.  One of his statements went something like this:  The way a lot of churches act regarding visitors and lost people is like this: they might as well put on their marquis, “FULL, THE REST OF YOU CAN GO TO HELL.”  Jamie’s point was that even though are churches are far from being full, or for that matter, even attended by its membership, the church is not actively engaged in the expectation of God regarding us being witnesses for Him.  Now remember, yesterday we learned we receive the benefit of being able to pray to God.  Jesus then says, “My Father is glorified by this.”  The this mentioned is referring back to the prayers prayed by the branches.  As we discussed as we grow in Jesus our prayer life changes.  We begin to pray as the early Christians did in Acts four when they prayed for boldness in their witnessing.  Jesus tells us God is glorified when we pray in this fashion.  Why is God glorified?  Because our activities and motivations will be changed as a result of our prayers.  As we learned last week, there are two kinds of fruit born.  Because of this life change through prayer, our character is changed.  When our character is changed we will want to share the gospel.  When we share the gospel souls are saved.  When souls are saved, fruit is harvested.  When fruit is harvested, we are proving to the world that we really are Jesus’ disciples.  Beloved, my prayer is your life is truly a testimony of fruit bearing.  I pray you are genuinely proving to a lost world that you are Jesus’ disciples.  God is brought glory when we live such a life.  My He receive all praise, honor and glory because of your faithfulness.  Let us not be the type of people Jamie Pruett mentioned.  Let us never give up sharing Jesus with the lost.

  1. Are you sharing your faith?
  2. Are you proving yourself to be Jesus’ disciples? 
Prayer: Lord, I desire to bring You glory.  Make me bold in my witness for You as the early church was.  Amen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Branches Get to Pray to the Vinedresser

Scripture: John 15:7
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Insights:  Last week we looked at our life in the Vine.  This week we turn our attention to benefits we receive as being a part of the Vine.  The first benefit is we get to communicate with the Father.  We call this communication prayer and it is one of the tools God uses in His Vineyard to prune our old nature from our lives.  As a pastor I wish I had a nickel every time someone told me they “prayed all the time.”  The reason I say that is because I then watch, as a fruit inspector, their lives and more often than not, the decisions they make are not godly choices.  If a person truly had been “praying all the time,” then God would have directed their paths differently.  What I think is really happening when people say statements like these is they are telling God what their will and wants are as if God was some kind of Jeannie in the bottle.  After all the last part of verse seven does tell us that if we ask whatever we wish, then God will grant it, right?  Wrong.  That mentality negates the first part of verse seven which tells us we must abide in the Vine and the Words of the Vine must abide in us.  What is happening in our lives through prayer is the pruning we discussed last week.  As we begin to spend time with God and His Word, the Bible, we begin to learn His will and ways.  As we learn His will and ways, we begin to think and act according to His desires and our old selfish nature is becoming more like Jesus.  As the old life is pruned we begin to ask God for things that bring Him glory and as we make request of that nature, God answers our prayers.  Beloved, spend time growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to prune your life to be in obedience to His will and ways.  Enjoy your time with Him in prayer!

  1. When you pray do you treat God like some kind of Jeannie in the bottle?
  2. Is your life characterized by continual communication with God through prayer?
Prayer: Lord, I want to be a dynamic prayer warrior for You.  Continue to mold my life into one of perpetual devotion through prayer.  Amen.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Life in the Vine

Scripture: John 15:1-6
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

Insights:  This week we have looked at God’s sovereign control and authority over all creation.  We next examined how God has not left the world abandoned.  In other words, He is actively involved in the day to day of life.  Nothing happens without His permission or will.  The third truth we uncovered was the expectation God has regarding those of us who born again.  When we entered into that eternally changing life with Jesus, we became attached to the Vine.  As branches growing out of the Vine we are commanded to bear fruit.  We specifically looked at the fruit of character which is cultivated in our lives as we go through the spiritual discipline of sanctification.  The second fruit we concluded was actually souls entering into a relationship with Jesus.  In other words, if our character is being pruned to become more like Jesus, then we will be compelled as a result of such a change to share Jesus with people who do not know Him.  The second part of this third truth really lead to the final thing we learned this week and that is hell is very real place.  Because hell is real, there ought to be urgency in our lives to share the love of Jesus with as many people as possible.  In verse five we are told that if we attempt to do anything apart from the Vine, we will fail.  Specifically, Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing.”  The reciprocal side of this statement is that if we remain in the Vine, we will bear much fruit.  Life in the Vine is not always what we think we need or want, but I can tell you it is always best.  Beloved, let me encourage you to abide with Jesus.  Grow in Him and let Him be Lord of your life.

  1. Are you abiding in the Vine?
  2. Does your life reflect the fruit of one in the Vine? 
Prayer: Lord, I know I am often times sinful.  Prune my life so that I might bear much fruit to Your glory.  Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

God's Equity on the Vineyard

Scripture: John 15:6
"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

Insights:  Juan Carlos Ortiz, an Argentina missionary in the 1970’s wrote, “The gospel which we have in the Bible is the gospel of the Kingdom of God.  It presents Jesus as King, as Lord, as the maximum authority.  Jesus is at the very center. . . .  But in recent centuries we have been hearing another gospel—a man-centered, human gospel. . . .  [In this gospel] we are always appealing to man’s interests. . . .  We take all the verses we like . . . and we make a systematic theology from these verses, while we forget the other verses that present the demands of Jesus Christ.”  One of those demands of Jesus which is being so overlooked in today’s society is the truth regarding hell.  Universalist are preaching an easy-believism gospel in which there is no eternal consequence for not abiding in Christ.  Yet, Jesus, in His final hours told His disciples that if anyone did not abide in Him, they would be thrown into the fire and burned.  In other places we know that they are not burned up, but will for all eternity suffer the painful consequences of not being a citizen of God’s Kingdom and surrendered under Jesus’ authority.  Now keep in mind everything Jesus has been telling these disciples in the previous five verses.  Why do you think Jesus is now telling them about hell and the consequences of those who are not in a relationship with Him?  It is because Jesus wants His disciples to feel the anguish of their not sharing the gospel.  He wants to them to recognize the urgent need to share the gospel.  He wants His disciples to see and feel what He sees and feels regarding lost people.  He wants them to have a compassion toward the lost that is so great that they would not want even their worst enemy to spend a second in that eternal place of pain.  But if we preach a gospel like Ortiz describes, then there is no urgency for us.  All we become then are sales people for Jesus.  Beloved, that is NOT what we are.  We are children of His Kingdom.  We are ambassadors of Christ.  We are a royal priesthood.  We are commissioned by Jesus to be His spokespeople before a lost world.  We are the only ones standing in the gap for their eternal souls.  What kind of gospel are you going to share?

  1. Do you live with urgency regarding the lost world around you?
  2. Are you sharing the gospel with those lost people?
Prayer: Father, just as the New Testament church prayed for boldness in their witness, so now, I pray asking for that same kind of urgency, compassion and burden for the lost that they had.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God's Expectation of the Vineyard

Scripture: John 15:4-5
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Insights:  Remember these words were spoken by Jesus on His final night before His arrest, trail and crucifixion.  These are last words of teaching to His closest and most intimate friends.  He tells them the Father’s expectation of their lives is to bear fruit and that if they attempt to do it alone, they will fail and no fruit will be born.  The power for fruit bearing is to remain in the vine, who is Jesus.  There are two kinds of fruit.  First is the fruit of character.  This fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22).  How does the Father produce that kind of fruit in our lives?  He does it by putting us in situations where we will learn those characteristics by the Holy Spirit’s promptings.  So, if we are needing to show kindness because we lack that characteristic of God, then He may put call us to serve in a soup kitchen, or the like, where we will grow at showing kindness to those in need of it.  As He is pruning out the old branches and allowing these healthy branches to grow bigger the second kind of fruit will be a natural bi-product.  The second fruit is salvation to the lost.  In other words, lost people will see these changes in our lives and begin to be drawn to us because they will want what we have.  At that point we must share the gospel.  Now these last two sentences are the perfect example of fruit bearing.  There are times, more often than not, when the Father calls us to engage the conversation with the lost world.  Again, our ability to start conversations with the intent to share the gospel is a result of abiding in Jesus and letting the Father prune old selfish characteristics out of our lives.  The more we become like Jesus through the sanctification process, the more we are going to want to share Him with those around us.  Sharing Jesus becomes as natural as a grandparent talking about their new born grandchild.  Because we abide in Jesus, we will want to share!

  1. Are you receiving the Lord’s pruning with joy?
  2. Is His pruning stirring you to share the gospel? 
Prayer: Lord, my life is full of the old nature and selfishness.  Prune my desires and make them Yours as You mold me through the process of sanctification.  As I grow through this journey with You, make me sensitive to Your promptings to share the gospel with the lost around me.  My heart desire is to bear more fruit.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

God Engages the Vineyard

Scripture: John 15:2
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

Insights:  In the mid to late 18th century there were a growing number of people who openly expressed their belief as deism.  In some ways today we call that mindset agnostic.  Basically, the belief was God was like a watch builder and the world was the watch.  After He completed the making of the watch, He wound it up, put it on a shelf and then let it go.  From the agnostic perspective, we recognize there had to be a watch Maker, but there is no way we can know Him.  As a result, we don’t even try.  This type of false theology or philosophy flies squarely in opposition to today’s verse.  In today’s verse God is very much actively involved in the world.  He has not just wound it up and let it go, He is pruning branches that bear fruit and He is taking away branches that don’t.  This truth ought to give us a great deal of peace, joy and satisfaction in knowing this very real and personal God.  As we have learned in Henry Blackaby’s material Experiencing God, this activity of God IS His invitation for us to join Him.  The problem is we live in a world that is so fast paced we often times don’t recognize God’s work.  Beloved, I would encourage you to slow down and be intentional about looking for God’s invitation to You.  Take some time today and praise God for His gracious work He is presently doing around you.  Ask Him to open your eyes to see the work.  Ask Him to open your ears to hear His voice.  Ask Him for the courage to join Him in His mission.  Last night at the revival at Mt. Pleasant BC, Jamie Pruett preached out of Isaiah 6:1-9.  He concluded with this point: God is not just giving an invitation to a select group of people.  If we have worshipped Him, He is inviting us to be sent by Him.  At that point Jamie took us to Ephesians 2:8-10 and emphasized verse 10 which states, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Beloved, recognize God’s activity and join Him in His work, because you were created to do.

  1. Have you thanked God lately for His gracious involvement in the world?
  2. Do you slow down enough to recognize God’s activity?
Prayer: Lord, my life is so hectic and fast paced.  In that speed Lord, I often times do not recognize You or hear Your voice.  Forgive me please for this self-centered perspective of life.  Turn my heart to You and open my eyes to see Your work.  Then, Lord, please give me the courage to join You in Your activity.  Amen.

Monday, May 7, 2012

God Establishes the Vineyard

Scripture: John 15:1
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Insights:  In the final week of Jesus’ earthly life He told the parable found in Matthew 21:33-46 about the vineyard owner.  Then after the Lord’s Supper when He was alone with His disciples He told them these words found in John 15.  If Jesus used this imagery twice in His final week of life, it would do us well to invest some of our time to understanding this message.  This first verse of chapter fifteen indicates two truths.  First, God IS the vinedresser.  In other words, He is the One sovereignly ruling over all of creation.  In fact in the Matthew parable, the vineyard owner is the One who laid the walls, planted the fruit, made the trellis’ and did all the preparation work before He rented out the vineyard to workers.  God established the world as He desired and saw fit.  Everything that exists is because of His infinite creativity and grace.  I am emphasizing God’s creative nature because it helps us understand that the second point found in this passage was not some kind of plan B.  Here is the second truth, Jesus in the TRUE vine.  In other words, there are a lot of vines out there in this world.  In today’s “tolerant” minded civilization, the world would have us to believe all these vines are the same or equal.  Universalists would have us to believe that as long as you are on some kind of path you will eventually reach the same final destination.  To state it a little bit more explicitly, the world would have us to believe that Allah and Yahweh are one and the same or at least equal in power.  These “tolerant” minded thoughts are absolutely false.  I write again, Jesus said He was the TRUE vine.  The implications are clear.  Jesus is the only vine where life can be found.  If one is not connected to the life giving vine, then they are dead because they are not receiving any nutrients.  One must be in relationship with Jesus in order to be connected.  The only way to be in relationship is to have received His gift of eternal life.  In other words, one must be born again to be connected to the true vine.  God knew in His sovereign grace that His plan was to send His Son to be the TRUE vine to save a people for Himself.  It was for that explicit purpose He created and orchestrated human history to the climactic point of His Son’s death, burial and resurrection.

  1. Have you thanked God lately for His gracious sovereign rule?
  2. Have you received the eternal life offered by the true vine? 
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your sovereign rule over all creation.  I also praise You for the plan You established before the foundations of the world to redeem a people to Yourself through the atoning sacrifice of Your Son. Amen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Choose to Covenant with the Lord

Scripture: Joshua 24:25
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.

Insights:  Joshua called the children of Israel to enter into a covenant relationship with God.  A covenant is more than just a legal contract.  Especially today, we see legal contracts broken all of the time.  A covenant on the other hand is weightier.  It actually affects the heart and is eternally binding.  Covenants are not to be entered into lightly or haphazardly.  To enter into a covenant with God is always to our best interest.  The reason for that is God NEVER fails to uphold His end of the relationship.  God is offering the children of Israel this great covenant relationship and the best part is His offer still stands today.  Will you enter into a covenant relationship with God?  God is offering you this free gift of eternal life.  A gift you do not deserve and cannot earn.  The reason for your inability to do anything about your eternity is because you are a sinner and you can’t save yourself.  But God IS love and therefore does not want to punish you.  At the same time, however, God is just and must punish sin.  He solves this apparent problem in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He is the infinite God-man.  In other words, He is fully God and fully human at the same time.  Jesus came to this earth and lived among us.  He died on a cross for the payment of your sins.  He was buried, but on the third day He rose again.  And now, by faith, you can receive and enter into a covenant relationship with this merciful God with which Joshua is telling you to covenant.  Faith is not just head knowledge of facts about Jesus.  Faith is not temporary either.  In other words, you can’t let Jesus “fix” your present problem and then walk away from Him and think you really belong to Him.  Faith is an eternal heart change where you trust in Him alone for eternal life.

  1. Have you entered into a covenant relationship with the Lord?
  2. If not, why not today?
Prayer: Lord, I sense You are drawing on my heart to enter a covenant relationship with You.  Thank You for offering me this free gift of eternal life found in Jesus.  Forgive me of my sin because it is impossible for me to save myself.  I am so grateful You are a God of love, but I understand You are a righteous and holy Judge Who must punish sin.  It is for that reason I receive Your Son Jesus by faith into my heart.  He alone can bear the punishment my sin deserves and requires.  Thank You for allowing me to enter into this covenant relationship of new life.  Thank You for forgiving me of my sin.  I am now Your child.  I ask all of this in Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Choose to Understand the Lord

Scripture: Joshua 24:19-20
Then Joshua said to the people, "You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins.  20 "If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you."

Insights:  Last week we looked at choosing to fear the Lord and expressed several reasons for such fear.  In a similar vein our verses today speak to one of those reasons to fear the Lord.  Joshua is addressing our need to understand the Lord and His character.  In these verses we are told God is holy.  His holiness sets Him apart from everything else.  His character is so pure that no sin taints His countenance.  It is from such a perfect position that God is able to judge accurately every case before Him.  Another dynamic Joshua wants us to know about God is that He is jealous.  This type of jealousy is a proper kind.  In modern day vernacular we see jealousy as a bad thing because we associate it with coveting.  With respects to God, however, jealousy is His right to glory.  He is the only One worthy of worship and glory.  Because of God’s jealous nature, He pursues us with the intent for Him to receive glory.  In fact Isaiah 48:11 states, “I will rescue you for my sake— yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols!”  It is for His sake alone that He rescues us.  These verses from Joshua, however, describe a third dynamic to God’s nature we need to understand.  It is this third aspect that refers back to last week’s thoughts regarding our need to fear the Lord.  There are consequences to our sin.  If we choose to walk in rebellion against the Father, He will turn and consume us.  In other words, God is not going to perpetually turn a blind eye to the sins of one of His children and not intervene.  When we as His children choose to walk in rebellion, yet continue to claim we are His, we are robbing Him of glory.  And we have just determined He is jealous for His glory!  Last week when we addressed fearing the Lord, we mentioned that we do not actually fear the Lord today.  If we did, we would understand the consequences would be the result of our sin against God.

  1. Are you making decisions that displease the Lord?
  2. Have you truly considered the cost of such decisions?
Prayer: Lord, You are indeed a jealous God.  You do not share Your glory with anyone or anything.  It is Yours and Yours alone because You alone are holy.  Empower me, Lord, through Your indwelling Spirit, to live a life of obedience to You.  Let my life please You.  Amen.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Choose to Remember the Lord, Part 3

Scripture: Joshua 24:17-18
for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.  "The LORD drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God."
Insights:  Today we are going to look at two more characteristics of Jesus that we need to remember.  First is the peace of Jesus that is ours.  Paul wrote in his letter to the church of Ephesus, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (2:13-14).”  Jesus becomes our peace when we enter into that love relationship with Him.  It is because He desires such a relationship that He broke down the dividing wall of sin by His death.  The second characteristic goes hand in hand with this last sentence.  It is the forgiveness of Jesus.  Hebrews 8:12 states, “For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.”  What an amazing promise and characteristic of our loving Lord.  He will be merciful to our wrongdoings.  He will forget our sins.  Amen!  It is important for us to frequently remember the nature of God just as the Israelites did in the time of Joshua.  These moments of recollection give us the courage to press on and enter new adventures with our Lord and God.  Let me close this morning with just a small list of some of Jesus’ other attributes upon which we would do well to reflect.  Jesus is also our righteousness, deliverer, fellowship, example, companion, brother, guardian, security, sufficiency, fulfillment, and everything.  We could provide scriptural evidence for each and every one of these marvelous attributes of Jesus, but I think the point has been clearly made—we need to remember our Lord regularly.  I encourage you to take some time today and think beyond even this list of Jesus’ nature and attributes.  After you spend some time doing that exercise, I know you will be even more encouraged in your walk with Christ.  To His glory and praise!

  1. Are you experiencing the peace of Jesus?
  2. Are you harboring sin that needs to be forgiven?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your peace is an incredible comfort to my heart.  Even when life seems to painful to go on, there still remains a peace that quiets my spirit.  There is also a sweet refreshing when I repent of sin and turn my heart back to You  Thank You for Your forgiving love.  Amen.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Choose to Remember the Lord, Part 2

Scripture: Joshua 24:17-18
for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.  "The LORD drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God."
Insights:  We mentioned yesterday that the Israelites remembered God’s faithfulness to them and it aided them in choosing to follow after God.  We then mentioned we were going to “remember” different traits of Jesus that we often times take for granted or even over look in our lives.  The first traits and dimensions of Jesus I wish to review is His Lordship.  In Acts 2:36 Peter, in the first sermon of the New Testament Church, said, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Peter is making it abundantly clear in calling Jesus Lord and Christ that Jesus is the anointed One.  He is set apart.  His IS God’s Chosen One, and as such, He IS Lord, and therefore, in control.  Nothing happens outside of His providential hand.  One of the traditions I have observed living in the South is the raising of children to say, “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes, sir.”  I really like this picture of respect and authority.  We as Christ-followers need to get to the place we are saying, “Yes Sir” to Jesus no matter what He tells us.  There is no room for debate.  He IS Lord.  Another characteristic I want us to review is Jesus is our Love.  Jeremiah the prophet foretold of the type of love Jesus would have for us when he wrote, “the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  Jeremiah is using wedding language here.  He is describing the faithful love of a husband to his bride.  Jesus IS our Love and the church is His bride.  If we are born again, we are a part of the church and therefore the recipients of His everlasting love.  Because of our union with Christ and our upcoming wedding we are empowered to love others with the same kind of love we have been given.  Beloved, let Jesus’ love shine through your lives today!

  1. Are you surrendered under the Lordship of Jesus?
  2. Are you allowing Jesus’ love to flow through you?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I humble myself before You and ask for forgiveness for times in which I take the lead in my life.  You are Lord and God and I am not.  Teach me to be submissive to Your will and let Your love permeate my entire life.  Amen.