< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Jesus' Prayer for His Followers

The next and last chapter is where Jesus prays for His own. To understand this prayer, you must re-read John 16: 32-33 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So, in His last conversation with the disciples He told them times of trial would come. Repeatedly He had warned them of the awfulness of this particular time that was now immediately before them. And also about the future.

But this warning was not the last word. He continued by promising them that, just as He had peace in the midst of trial, so in Him they would also experience peace. And His VERY last words were triumphant “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

He spoke in faith (which sees God’s promise as already accomplished) because actually He still had the cross before Him. We must remember that although Jesus was and is God’s Son, He overcame as the Son of Man on a human level by His personal faith in God’s promises. He therefore encourages the disciples to experience peace in the midst of trouble, to overcome the world, and to rejoice in the assurance of the outcome with the same faith that He would demonstrate for them as a human being.

He exercised this human faith when “for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He believed God would glorify Him after the cross and He would bring many to God.

This is the faith we are called to exercise today. It is the kind of human trust in God His Father that Jesus chose to exercise on the cross when as man He must have been tempted to not go. He was coming up to the point where He would struggle with the devil. The pressure would be so great that the blood would somehow force itself out through the pores of His skin.

It was a determined choice He made and that’s the kind of choice we must make in our faith. We choose to believe God’s promises!

John 17 is sometimes called the “Holy of Holies” of the entire Bible. In this prayer the disciples who represent believers of all ages, are admitted to the most intimate circle of Jesus’ friends. The disciples are even allowed to hear the words of the communion of the Son to His Father on their behalf.

There was a reason He did this. Jesus, as God, had no reason to pray for Himself. Therefore, it is Jesus as representative of man who prays here. As God, Jesus had glory with the Father before this world came into being. The added glory that would be His at His ascension would be the glory of the first man of the new humanity in heaven. Jesus is now in heaven for men, seated at the right hand of God, enthroned in glory. Even when the prayer seems to be for Himself only “Father….Glorify Your Son” it actually includes those who believe; for it was only after Jesus was glorified that the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers permanently.

This prayer is often called “Christ’s High Priestly Prayer.” Just as the high priest of the Old Testament carried the names of all the tribes of Israel upon his heart when he entered God’s presence, so Jesus here carries all who believed then, who believe now, and all who are yet to believe, on His heart in His prayer for those He calls His own, whom God has given Him.

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that “Jesus always lives to intercede.” He is our High Priest today, in Heaven continually praying for each one of us.

But it is in this prayer more than any other that we see Jesus’ desires for us. As we choose to cooperate with Him and pray this prayer after Him from our heart, nothing can hinder the complete fulfillment of His purpose, for Jesus has been given “authority over all people”.

Several words and phrases are repeated so often in John 17 that they clearly denote themes that are uppermost in Jesus’ mind as He prays for us.

Glory.  The word glory or glorify is used seven times in the prayer. Sometimes this word means the manifestation of perfected character. Sometimes it means the praise and open approval of God. Sometimes it points to being raised to an exalted position of honor and authority. It often means honoring (glorifying) another by one’s actions or words. And the word glory is sometimes used to indicate the place of heaven itself.

The deepest desire of the Lord was to glorify His Father. His mission on earth was first to reveal the glory of the Person of God. In other words, the perfection of His character, for God’s glory is the manifestation of what God is. Jesus revealed this glory in Himself by being a perfect man.

Secondly His mission was to cause people to participate in the divine nature (through the Cross and the sending of the Holy Spirit) so that believers themselves could be conformed to Christ’s glorious image. So, God is glorified by men who are transformed into Christ’s likeness. This is the deep prayer of Jesus from which all other desires proceed.

Another word that shows up often in the prayer is world. 19 times. It’s used as a place: earth. Or as a society of fallen people who reject or ignore Christ.
He calls us out of the world (to be different), but also into the world (to share the good news.)

And it’s also used in the thought that the world is the enemy of believers. Christ prays in this prayer for God’s supernatural keeping power over us.

A phrase used more than once in the prayer is “those whom you gave me.” He is stating that every one of us who believes and belongs to Him was actually given to Him by His Father. Jesus cherishes believers as the greatest proof of His Father’s love to Him, even as the Holy Spirit teaches us to value the gift of Christ as the greatest proof of our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

This is a great phrase! It guarantees God’s love for us, our value in His sight, His keeping power, and our future inheritance in Christ and with Him.

The word one is used four times and gives the thought of unity or oneness. And there are three kinds of oneness: Christ’s oneness with His Father, the believer’s oneness with Christ and God, and the believer’s oneness with other believers.

And lastly the phrase “I gave them”. The thought of Jesus giving to His disciples what God has given Him is repeated throughout this prayer. Along with the main emphasis upon the oneness of Jesus with His own, who are God’s love gift to Himself, we find in this prayer that Jesus gives gifts to His own. These disciples whom Jesus called His friends are also said to be “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”.

Some of the things Jesus gives His followers are: eternal life, God’s revelation, His Words, His joy, His separation from the world, his commission to the world, His sanctification, His glory and His love.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, December 28, 2017

John 16:5-33

Just as God sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus sent His disciples into the world to redeem people from its power and from the power of its prince. They, and we, are called to overcome the world through the witness of the Holy Spirit, the witness of their own transformed lives, and the witness of their words. And God will continue to call out from the world a people for Himself. And that’s the theme for this next section.

John 16:5-15 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

The Holy Spirit has a threefold ministry.

1. To comfort the disciples after the Ascension of Jesus. They were depressed because He told them He was leaving them. He tells them here they will be much better off. And the Holy Spirit couldn’t come unless Christ left. While Jesus was on earth He was confined to His human body and could only help people He was near. But as the Holy Spirit He would fulfill His promise from Matthew 28:20 which says, “And surely, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The Holy Spirit would also help them understand Jesus’ Glory and who He is.

2. To empower the disciples to witness to the world. Jesus told them that in themselves they could neither convict the world of its sin as sin, nor could they hope to convince the intellectual (as well as the ordinary man) that the Man Jesus is the unique Son of God and that to reject Him as the Lord results in judgment. Therefore, Jesus deliberately told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem to witness of Him until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Under this part there are 3 points to notice about the Holy Spirit’s work toward the world when He indwells believers. He convicts the world of sin (in people), of righteousness (in Jesus) and of the fact of God’s judgment of the world and its prince.

A. He convicts the world of sin –

When the world (the Jews and the Romans) crucified Jesus, the Jews refused to believe they were sinning. Instead, they rationalized that they served God by seeking to eliminate the people’s delusion (that He was the Son of God) by eliminating Jesus Himself. However, after Jesus ascended into Heaven and the disciples prayerfully had waited God’s appointed time, the promised Holy Spirit came. When He indwelt Peter, he was transformed. From denying Christ to a little servant girl to boldly preaching to the Jewish leaders. He accused them of crucifying Jesus, the Messiah! And he did it so powerfully that over 3000 were saved that day. They were cut to the quick with guilt when they heard him speak. And it is only the Holy Spirit that can convict us about what we believe about Jesus and that God holds us personally responsible for our attitude toward His Son whom God sent into the world for the sinner’s sake.

B. He convinces the world of righteousness –

He convicts the world also on the grounds of the complete righteousness of Christ because Jesus is no longer where we can see Him. Jesus lived the perfect life that God intended for all of us to live. However, the proof of His perfect righteousness is seen in His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation at God’s right hand. This means if He is perfectly righteous and died for my sins as the unique Son of God and is now exalted by God to power, this means that God accepted His sacrifice made on Calvary on our behalf. This means that God counts us as righteous by His sacrifice. Because He bore our sins on His body on the cross means we can be delivered from both the guilt and the power of them. It’s the Holy Spirit who also convicts us that our good works and any attempt at our own righteousness are like filthy rags in comparison with the spotless linen of God’s required righteousness.

C. He convicts the world of judgment –

The judgment of the prince of this world is also the judgment of the person who chooses to follow his directions and opinions. Satan is called the prince of this world because the world of fallen humanity is under his control. We can’t be neutral. We are either governed by the prince of this world or by Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Satan was judged at the cross and because he was judged we are free from his power. And then the Holy Spirit begins to transform believers into the image of the Son. And the Holy Spirit witnesses to the world by the personal honesty, business integrity and loving family life of the believer. He witnesses to the world when the believer loses his life for the sake of the needy, the socially rejected. It’s the poured-out life that convicts the world of its selfishness of what true righteousness is and of God’s judgment upon social indifference and selfishness.

3. To teach the disciples –

This refers to verses 12 and 13 - “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

Jesus was pointing to the future, when the disciples would need to explain the meaning of many of His words that could only be understood in the light of His death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation to supreme power as the Son of Man, as well as the Son of God.

Only when the Holy Spirit is free to work in us to illumine our minds with God’s thoughts and move our emotions to desire His truth do we truly understand God’s truth, delight in this truth and receive it as from God with power to communicate it to others. The Bible becomes clearer to us! We wonder why we never saw these things before!

The Holy Spirit also showed the disciples and Paul the future. Paul wrote about the rapture for one thing! John the book of Revelation.

John 16:16-33 16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There are many symbolic expressions in this last conversation of Jesus with His disciples as He speaks of going and coming, of grief and joy, or asking and receiving, of parables and open speech, of faith and unbelief and of tribulation and peace.

He talks about both immediate fulfillment and later more complete fulfillment. Immediate being the brief time Jesus was buried and the disciples didn’t see Him. This was followed by His resurrection and seeing Him and great joy.

But later during His ascension “a cloud hid Him from their sight”. Then at the day of Pentecost they saw Him, by means of the Holy Spirit.

Even later a “little while” is also descriptive of the present age. Jesus is up in Heaven right now, but soon the day will come when we see Him face to face.

The disciples told Him they believed. And Jesus accepted their belief. However, He knew that they did not realize the horror of the fire in which that faith was to be tried. Therefore, His last words were a mixture of warning, prophecy, encouragement and a promise of victory.

“You will be scattered…and will leave me alone.”

Their boasted faith in Him would fail at the test of the Cross, but it would be reborn at the Resurrection.

“I am not alone, for my Father is with me..”

This is a comfort for them and us. So long as we have Christ we are never alone. God is with us.
“In me you will have peace.”

In spite of tribulation, in spite of world upheavals, nothing can touch the peace that Christ gives His own.

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

To be in Christ is to overcome as He overcame. Later John would write in 1 John “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them because the one wo is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 15, 2017

Love One Another

John 15: 12-17 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 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. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

We are commanded to love! And love like Jesus loved US! Sacrificially! To lay down our lives for others. Meaning to put them first and give up our rights and plans and wishes.

Then Jesus changed the status of His disciples from servants to friends. We are His friends! And He promises eternal fruit to His own who remain in Him. “I chose you…to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.”

John 15:18-25 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 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. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.”

That last part is from Psalms 69:4 Those who hate me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
    those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
    what I did not steal.

John uses the word “world” 77 times in his Gospel. And a lot in his letters. Because Scripture uses this word in several different ways, you have to determine its meaning based on the context it’s used in. So, in this verse it has four aspects: fallen humanity as a whole, the system of life as it is lived by the majority of people who ignore God, the short term as opposed to what lasts forever and the sphere in which fallen humanity finds its satisfaction apart from God.

The people who choose to reject Christ also reject His followers. We’re different then they are. They don’t want to be like us. His words and works condemn the world’s manner of life. And if we are like HIM, OUR lives condemn them too. So, take it as a compliment! 😊 The closer we are to Him, the more we are like Him, the more they will reject us.

Jesus also tells us we are CHOSEN by God.

And we’re not to retreat from the world. Jesus sent us into the world to make disciples. Invite them into your homes so they see you saying grace. Live a holy life so they can see what one looks like! Show them what it’s like to have joy in trials because of God.

John 15:26- 16:4  “When the Advocate 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. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
16 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you,

Jesus didn’t leave them unwarned or unprepared. The Holy Spirit would be with them and they would have Jesus’ words.

If we continually come to the Bible the Holy Spirit will apply God’s Word to our changing life experiences.

Labels: , ,

Abide in Christ

John 14:27-31 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away, and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.

The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, means more than tranquility or safety. It points to all the good God pours on His people – health, contentment, security, friendship with people and with God. Jesus was giving them a blessing and comfort.

The disciples would not have trouble-free lives after the Holy Spirit indwelt them. The full weight of the world system that opposes God’s rule would try to destroy the infant church. Jesus gave a command that they and we are to obey. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The gift of peace Jesus gives through the Holy Spirit is not a matter of pretending trouble doesn’t exist. Jesus’ peace is like an oxygen mask that supplies us with His own atmosphere in the midst of poisonous pollution. He is able to give us His peace no matter what we are going through.

Behind this world system is the “prince of this world.” Or Satan. He’s powerful, but no match for Christ. And Jesus has promised us the resources to stand against him. At the cross Jesus broke the power of Satan over God’s people forever.

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

The last of Jesus’ seven great “I am” statements opens this chapter. Jesus uses the picture of the vine to impress upon His disciples His identity as well as help them understand what it means to be united in Him.

The disciples would have understood the symbolism of the fruitful vine. From Israel’s earliest days, Scripture used this as a picture of God’s people and His tender care for them. Psalm 80 describes how God delivered His people from Egypt and lavished His love on them: “You transplanted a vine from Egypt…You cleared the ground for it and it took root and filled the land.”

The prophet Isaiah also spoke of God as a gardener who “planted the choicest vines.” And “the vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines He delighted in.”

The vine became the symbol of spiritual Israel. When the Maccabees heroically freed Israel from Greek rule in the second century B.C. they minted coins engraved with a picture of a vine. Later, Herod’s temple was famous for the great golden vine on its door.

Sometimes the picture of a vine pointed to Israel’s failure. They were supposed to be God’s representatives on earth and failed. God accused His beloved vine, “I had planted you like a choice vine…How then did you turn against me in to a corrupt, wild vine?”

God expects much fruit from all who are united in His Son.

What does it mean to live a fruitful life? A life that matters?

You know, the world encourages you to chart your own course, to make a name for yourself, to accumulate enough money to live comfortably and, possibly to provide for others.
The life of following Jesus, however, follows a course that is different than the world’s. and it is one that bears abundant and eternal fruit. It’s to bring people to Christ for one thing. And, to have the fruits of the spirit. We can always ask our selves if we are more patient than we were, more kind, more peaceful, more loving, more self-controlled, more gentle, more joyful, more faithful, more good!

In His last hours with the disciples, Jesus knew how fearful and vulnerable they would be after he left them. In this Upper Room Discourse (which is covered from John chapter 13 to chapter 17) Jesus had already told them He would die. That He would be betrayed (by Judas) and denied (by Peter) and He would prepare a place for them in His eternal Kingdom. But until then, they should not let their hearts be troubled, the Holy Spirit would soon enter them, giving them a constant presence and power to live faithfully for Him.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, followers of Jesus “remain” in Jesus- like a branch to a vine – in faith. Through our loving obedience we are empowered to “bear fruit” as we show the world the love and truth of God, Love others, make disciples and withstand the persecution of the unbelieving world.

As the true vine, Jesus fulfilled what Israel failed to do. In His perfectly righteous human life, the Lord represented the new humanity that delights to do God’s will. For this reason, the New Testament calls Jesus the last Adam. The first Adam’s failure brought catastrophe to all humanity, but all who are joined to Jesus share his life-giving victory.

Jesus’ relationship with His people is like the relationship of the root and stem of a vine to its branches. All who receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior are “baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body.” This means the Holy Spirit joins each believer forever to Christ, the true vine.

John 15:2-6 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, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

The true vine produces good fruit. Dead branches harm the fruitfulness of the good branches, so for the sake of the vine, the gardener cuts off the fruitless branches.

It’s thought that the branches He cuts off which aren’t baring fruit are counterfeit Christens. Interested listeners who only have an external association with Jesus.

The fruitful branches are also pruned. The branch can’t produce more, bigger, better fruit, unless it’s pruned. God, our gardener, sovereignly places His people in situations that will lead to the most fruitfulness. He cleanses us of wrong emotions, thoughts, careless words and fruitless deeds of our fallen nature. These obstruct the created within by the Holy Spirit.

God’s pruning may be painful, but afterwards it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace in each “pruned” Christian.

Where Jesus said they were already clean because of the word He spoke to them…when the disciples believed in Christ’s words, God saw them as “clean” or “washed’ because of Jesus’ coming work on the cross.

Every true believer. Every true follower of Jesus, bears fruit. Even the thief on the cross who was saved at the last minute did. In his few remaining hours of life, he rebuked unbelief and gave public witness to Jesus.

And to remain in Jesus is to lean on Him, listen to Him, follow Him, depend on Him and live by His words.

Little eternal fruit is a warning. At the very least, it indicates a person is neglecting priceless opportunities to grow in grace and bring God glory.

The only life capable of producing spiritual life is the life of Christ. On their own, the disciples could not influence others for Christ, nor can we. To try by self-effort to fulfill God’s high standards and witness to unbelievers is a hopeless burden and impossible task. Jesus gave this secret to His disciples to deliver them from this futility. When you choose to remain in Christ, you will find you produce, spontaneously and often unconsciously the fruit of Christlike character and influence. It means to live by faith. We don’t do anything by ourselves.

John 15:7-11 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Jesus gave some characteristics that belong to fruit-bearing branches. These characteristics are conditional on communion with Jesus: prayer, glorifying God, being assured of God’s love, obedience and joy.

First, prayer. Believers have the privilege and responsibility to ask God in prayer for our specific needs. When we remain in Christ and His words remain in us, His thoughts and words begin to fill our subconscious thoughts and deepest emotions. So, we will be asking in God’s will.

Glorifying God. Jesus glorified God with His human life. Nothing satisfies God and causes others to praise Him as much as when we bear fruit, becoming increasingly like His Son.

Assured of God’s love. When we come to faith, we are taken into God’s family. And we are loved by God just as He loves His Son. We are loved because of our faith, not our works.

Obedience. God’s Word teaches us His will and strengthens us to do it. If we don’t read His Word daily, we will find it hard to know and obey Him. We reveal our faith through our obedience.

Joy. Jesus was sometimes called the “Man of Sorrows”. Yet He possessed a greater joy than any person has ever experienced. Part of His joy was His love relationship with His Father. This was what enabled Him to fulfill His life work. And He promises to share that joy with all believers.

A good question to ask ourselves is, “Do our friends and family see our joy because of our relationship with Christ and God?”

Labels: , , ,

Christ promises the Holy Spirit

John 14:15-17 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."

After He promised answered prayer, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” He spoke of the motive for obedience, not the method of salvation. If you are a believer, your salvation is secure in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Our obedience can not make us more justified, but it does make us more like Jesus. It was His obedience, even to death on the cross, that saved us from our sins.

In this passage Jesus begins to speak of the Holy Spirit, the One whose indwelling presence gives believers a new ability to love and obey. Jesus said He would “ask the Father and He will give you” ….so the Spirit is the Father’s gift through His Son. This is a good place to show the complete union of the three, but also the distinction. Jesus asked the Father who gave the Spirit.

They are not three gods, with different wills and qualities. They are one God in three persons, with one mind and will, determined to save and restore broken people and a broken world.

And Christ says the Spirit is ANOTHER advocate. Just like Himself. As Jesus lived with, counseled and helped the disciples, the Spirit does the same for us.
And Jesus said this Spirit would be with us forever.

And the Spirit would help the disciples understand what Jesus had been telling them. The deeper meanings.

After His resurrection Jesus showed the disciples how the Old Testament and its sacrifices pointed to Him. The Holy Spirit would teach them the full significance of Jesus’ life, words and ministry. To understand the difference, we just look at the Gospels and the Epistles.

The Gospels show us Jesus and the Epistles develop the spiritual significance of gospel truth.

For us today, the Spirit takes God’s revelation in Scripture and makes it alive and personally meaningful to believers. The Spirit assures us we are God’s children and gives us hearts that cry out to Him.

Jesus also said, “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” Just like the world didn’t accept Jesus. “The world did not recognize Him.”
Once we believe in and accept Christ, we begin to understand.

John 14:18-20 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

So, He promised He wouldn’t leave them as orphans. He’d send the Holy Spirit. He promised that while the world wouldn’t see Him anymore they would. And for 40 days between His resurrection and when He ascended into Heaven, the disciples and 500 people physically saw Jesus.

John 14:21-26 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

To have and keep Jesus’ commands means to hold on to them, treasure them and make them a part of your life. It means you do not change or soften or add on to His Word, trying to make your life easier. It means you accept all Scripture as truth.

No one who neglects a personal and private daily reading of God’s words can fully keep God’s Word.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review of Living the Spirit-Formed Life

This book, 'Living the Spirit-Formed Life' is so practical!

The author, Jack Hayford, says that living the Spirit-formed life is when we allow the Holy Spirit to set the structure for our lives and get our lives organized, under control and disciplined. To bring fullness to ourselves. To get maturity under Christ's Lordship by linking our souls to timeless practices and principles set forth in Scripture and proven valid.

He says we are to learn God's grace, but live Christ's laws.

And to do this he says first we have to have faith. And it doesn't have to be a lot of faith; only a basic, foundational trust in Jesus. Faith in who He is and confidence in what He has done for us as man-kind's only Savior.

We are to be a strong support to others also. A faithful church worker, a dependable employee, loving spouse, wise parent, good pastor, considerate boss, helpful neighbor, etc. When we put our faith in Jesus, HE makes us dependable disciples who work for the Kingdom.

Next we are to spend time in God's Word. And every time we read it we are to listen. Listen to what He wants us to do. And then do it! God's Word has been given to increase growth, fruitfulness and blessing both in and through our lives. So we should listen with a heart ready to be taught and to obey. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice and they FOLLOW me."

God's Word is essential to everything in our lives. Every issue is covered by the truth and wisdom contained in His Book. And simply giving the Word a place in your life every day is taking the oath of allegiance. This invites His direction.  "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." He is a lamp today and a light for tomorrow. Details for today, discernment for tomorrow. Daily reading keeps us pure.

I liked what the author said about communion too: "Communion is a celebration of victory won! Our salvation is complete, our sins are forgiven and we are justified by His death. So we give thanks! We are proclaiming His coming back!

These are just a few of the golden nuggets in the book. I recommend it highly.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father, except through Me"

John 13:18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.”

In Middle Easter culture there was no treachery worse that to eat at a person’s table and then betray him, because to eat together shows true friendship.

Jesus knew Judas completely: his mind, his desires and disappointments. And Judas had witnessed the miracles, heard all the teachings and Christ’s promises, prophecies and warnings.

But he wasn’t satisfied, and he succumbed to the devil’s influence. But Jesus washed his feet along with the other disciples. But when He spoke of them being clean and promised blessing for following His command, He continued, I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. 

And Jesus not only knew Judas completely, He knew His betrayal would fulfill prophecy from the words and the life of His human ancestor King David. David wrote in Psalm 41:9 Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.

John 13:19-30 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me. After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
The table around which they gathered was a low, solid block, with couches grouped around it in a half-circle. As host, Jesus would have been in the center with a disciple on each side. Each man reclined on his left side with his left arm on a cushion for support, leaving his right arm free for eating. They stretched their feet out behind them. This meant the head of each person was near his neighbor’s chest on the left.
During the Passover meal, it was customary for the father of the family to give the honored guests pieces of bread or meat dipped in a juice made from fruit boiled in wine, a symbol of the fruits of the Promised Land.
Jesus gave this to Judas. This should have really touched Judas. But now Satan had entered him. Matthew 27 records Judas regretted his decision to betray Jesus and tried to return the 30 pieces of silver the chief priest paid him. But remorse isn’t the same as repentance. Remorse is wishing you hadn’t done something, usually because of the consequences, but refusing to confess and ask for forgiveness. Repentance is a deliberate change in mind, spirit and life direction following the receiving of forgiveness. Judas didn’t ask for forgiveness from Jesus or God. In fact, in choosing to take his own life he shut the door to reconciliation with Christ.
John 13: 31-38 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
The disciples needed to understand that Jesus was not a victim. He willingly laid down His life. And the cross would bring Jesus glory.

Jesus made four statements about His glorification. He spoke of divine glory as well as human glory.

1.     How the Son of Man is glorified. Son of Man was Jesus’ most-used title for Himself. Jesus’ perfect human life fulfilled all God’s purpose in creating people in His own image.

2.     God is glorified in Him. Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension brought lasting glory to God the Father through His triumph over Satan, sin and death. The cross displays the perfection of God’s mercy, justice and wisdom.

3.     God will glorify the Son in Himself. Jesus was preparing to return to Heaven as Son of God in a glorified body.

4.     God will glorify Him at once. Jesus’ hour had come. God glorified his Son as man by His bodily resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven in His human body.
Jesus calls His disciples “my children” here. God’s children are those who trust in His Son. Brought into His family forever by faith in Him. This seems to have made an impression on John because he often called his readers my children.

He tells the disciples (and us) to love one another as He has loved them (and us!): selflessly, humbly and sacrificially.  We may not feel Jesus’ loving look or touch, but we can feel it when another believer does it. Believers now put the skin on Jesus!

John 14:1-7 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Everyone knows this passage. It’s quoted ALL the time. We love to hear that Jesus is preparing a home for us and he’s coming back to get us, don’t we?

And Jesus meant for it to be a comfort. His disciples were worried. They didn’t know what was happening. So, Jesus told them. But He started out by commanding them to not let their hearts be troubled. He is showing us that worry is a choice! He told them to stop worrying and replace worry with trust in God.

After that He told them His purpose for leaving – to prepare a place for them where they would live with Him forever. When He returns for us we’ll never be separated again.

Some translations say, “many mansions” instead of houses. That doesn’t mean large houses like we would picture now. Back then a “mansion” referred to a permanent dwelling place.

Jesus pictured a king’s son, his father’s heir and the ruler of his kingdom returning to His Father’s house and to His proper place on His throne. And the Father welcomes all His Son’s friends. Within the king’s home is room for all who trust Him. In Christ, the Father adopts each believer as His child.

Jesus talked about His coming back a lot. 1 out of every 20 verses in the New Testament relates to His return. He will return personally, physically, visibly and in the same way he went up into Heaven.

When He returns He will: judge and bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. He will evaluate the character, personal relationships, thoughts, motivations, words and work of every day of each person who has ever lived. But he will never accuse any who repent and trust Him. Everyone who trusts in Christ can be confident the Father has laid on His beloved Son all our punishment. The book of Romans says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And His righteous judgment will vindicate His people and end all questions about the seeming victories of wrong over right or the suffering of the innocent.

Where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He didn’t say, He knew, taught or revealed the way the truth or the life. He didn’t say He was one way among a bunch of other good choices. He said NO ONE else can lead us to God.

John 14:8-14 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus reveals God perfectly to us. To see Jesus is to see God.

Twice each day, Jesus, Philip and the other disciples would have recited the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

That’s why the Jewish leaders were trying to kill Him. Because He was claiming equality with God. They sort of got it, but apparently Philip still didn’t.

Jesus is the only one who came from Heaven to tell us about Heaven.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Review of Choosing A Life That Matters

Author Dennis Rainey came up for the idea for "Choosing A Life That Matters" after being asked to speak at the commencement ceremony for a prominent divinity school. He wondered what he could say to a group of folks who had studied the world’s great theologians.

After much prayer, he realized that each student would be stepping out of the spiritual incubator of the classroom into the real world. And all the challenges that entailed.

His goal for his talk (and later this book) was to give, in one message, the essence of what the Bible teaches us about what who God is, what God expects of us and how to relate to Him. How to live a life that matters.

He came up with 7 decisions we should make. To seek God, not sin; fear God, not men; love God, not the world; believe God, not the deceiver; obey God, not your feelings; worship God, not comfort; and serve God, not self.

Dennis makes each of these a chapter in his book, giving us Biblical viewpoint, a life story and then a bit of “homework” or “challenge”.

I received this book from Bethany House for my honest review.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

John 13: 1-9 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Look at the first verse again: Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus loved His people since the beginning of time. He loves us intensely and will love us forever.
Jesus, the Savior of the world who held infinite power, undertook the task of the lowest-ranking servant to train His disciples. He would soon be leaving them, completing the mission for which He came. He wanted them to know His love and His provision for joyful, productive lives in the face of a hostile world.

To appreciate the depth of Jesus’ humility, we must recognize the height of his greatness. First, He is one with God. Everything in the universe was created by Him and for Him. He knew who He was and where He was returning to. He knew He would die on a cross and that He would rise again and ascend back into Heaven.

But instead of showing pride about who He was and what He had accomplished, He humbled Himself and took the form and demeanor of a servant. You know, a lot of “high up” people feel too important to do menial tasks. Even the disciples had argued about who would be greater in Jesus’ kingdom.

In a world in which seeking power, prestige and renown is the priority, Jesus gives this God-ordained example of humble leadership in loving service.

At the same time the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.

And of course Jesus knew that too.

The disciples were probably uncomfortable as Jesus worked His way around the group. Finally, when He came to Peter, the disciple said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus, at first, didn’t explain. He just said, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Peter probably intended to honor Jesus with his next remark, “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” but really he was refusing to submit in obedience to Jesus.

Jesus’ reply, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” broke Peter’s resistance. Above all, Peter wanted to be with Jesus. So retracking his never comment he said, “Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Whatever Jesus was offering, Peter wanted it all!

John 13:10-17 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus was of course talking about spiritual cleansing here, and that was something only He could accomplish. And He was also setting the example for His disciples for the way they should serve each other. Humbly meeting the needs of others.

We must embrace opportunities to take a lower position of service rather than desiring and competing for higher positions of leadership. If we ARE called into leadership we are still to be humble, not acting like we’re better than anyone else.

The disciples were clean because they had completely submitted their lives to belief in Jesus. In God’s sight they were already washed, in view of Jesus’ work on the cross, soon to be accomplished. However, they also continuously needed cleansing from the specific sins of daily life. Maybe one of their sins was lack of humbleness to serve one another!

If you are a believer you are clean through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. You are cleansed from sin, forgiven and justified in God’s sight. You are declared righteous by God and accepted by Him because you are covered by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

But we must also recognize sin when it appears in our lives. The more we mature in Christ, the more we perceive attitudes and habits of speech and behavior that violate God’s perfect standard. As we become aware of them, we confess them and again know we are cleansed and forgiven.

The Bible says if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

So how can we wash the feet of others?

First, we can show genuine love for others in practical ways. 1 John 3:16-18 says: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Next, put others first. The Bible tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others.

We can also forgive each other. Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Strengthen one another to overcome sin and bear one another’s burdens. Galatians 6: 1-3 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

Surrender your rights for the sake of others.  Romans 14:15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.

Pray for one another. James 5: 13-14  Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.

And finally, encourage one another to live for Christ. Hebrews 10: 23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching

Labels: , , , ,