Saturday, February 22, 2014

I am the true vine

A teaching on the Gospel of John chapter 15.
To understand this passage, you must understand Jesus' “I am" statements.  The end the book of John Jesus made the following" I am" statements: I am the bread of life, I am the bread came down from heaven I am the living bread, I am the light of the world, I am, I am the door, I am the good Shepherd, I am the resurrection and life, I am he, I am the way the truth in the life.
In each of these statements Jesus is stating that he is the source of true spiritual and everlasting life .  In John Chapter 15 this “I am” statements is no exception.
If you read the previous three chapters you will see that this passage is similar in teaching.
John 15
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Meet the two primary movers in this passage.  Jesus is the true Vine.  Jesus the true vine stands in opposition to the false vines.  As Jesus made his way down to the garden of Gethsemane he would have passed the gates to the temple.  What Jesus was saying is that he was the way to God.  Not through the temple, no more through sacrifice, and ultimately no more through the Jewish nation only.

The Greek word for true which is found 23 times in John's writings means in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name real true and genuine opposite to what is facetious counterfeit imaginary simulated or pretended.  Which means if Jesus is the true vine then there must be false vines.  The false vines of religious observance, the false vine of hypocrisy,the  of false vine of legalism. All of these vines would not and will not get you eternal life.

False vines are still alive today.  The obvious ones are other religions such as Hinduism and Islam.  Cults such as Mormonism and the Jehovah's Witness are easy to spot.  Other false vines may not be intentional false vines.  A vine is a source of nourishment and there are plenty of people who receive all of their nourishment from other sources.  Christian TV, Christian books, if they take the place of the Bible and gathering together corporately can become false vines.

Now meet the vinedresser our heavenly Father.  The vine dresser's job is to coax as many pounds of fruit at each branch as possible.

There is about a three-year waiting time for branches to mature.  It is during this time that the vinedresser cuts back, ties back, trains protects with the purpose of producing viable branches.

Luke 13:6-9
6 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.
7 “And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’
8 “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;
9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’ ”

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.

This is simplistic teaching.  This is Jesus' last night.  He is not trying to hide things.  He even said I'll speak you in no more parables.  People have argued the meaning of this scripture.  I see it as black-and-white intellectual Faith versus saving faith. Either you are in Christ producing fruit or you're not

Matthew 7 .
21    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
22    “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
23    “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

John 15:3
 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Verse 3 is the key.  You are already clean.  The word “clean” is a vine keeping term referring to the process of pruning, training and tying back.  It is not discipline.  It is the word of God or as Jesus said “the word which I have spoken to you.”
John 15

4 “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.
5 “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.
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.
7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

It's not about producing fruit.  It's about abiding in Jesus.  Fruit is a product.  It is the end of a process.  Jesus did not command us to bear fruit but rather to abide in him.  Fruit production is important but less important than abiding or remaining in Christ.
But what does it mean to abide in Christ?  I believe the answer is twofold and it is found in this scripture.  Abide in me and I in you.  How does Christ abide in us?  Through The Holy Spirit.  The word abide is the same word used earlier in the beginning of the Gospel of John Chapter 1 verse 30 --31

John 1:32-33
32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.
33 “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the  Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’

John 14:17
17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
You see when we walked or abide in Jesus in the Holy Spirit we will be fruitful and it is in our daily walk with Jesus that we produce fruit.  And fruit is not salvations.  It is love.  Look in verse nine.  Look in verse 10

9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
Jesus has been speaking about love since the Passover feast.

10 “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.

And the commandment that he spoke of was to love one another.

11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Golden Opportunities and Copper Thinking

1 Kings 19:1–18 (NASB95)
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” 3 And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” 5 He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” 6 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18 “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Ahab recounts Mount Carmel to Jezebel

Jezebel sends a messenger to Elijah threatening him

Elijah becomes afraid and runs.  Leaves his servant at Beersheba.  In time of trouble and fear why leave your companion and head out into the wilderness alone?

Kill me now Lord.  Ever pray a rash prayer?  Aren't you glad God doesn't honor all of our prayers.  But rather God allowed him to rest.  And then sent an angel with what he needed.  Not once but twice.  This is a picture of God's provision.

I think the first visitation was to restore Elijah's body.  I think the second visitation was to prepare Elijah's body for the great journey.

It says that he went forward for 40 days and 40 nights in the strength of that food.  Definitely a better fare than he would receive at the hands of a Raven.

At Mount Horeb Elijah is ready to hear from God.  What happened in that 40 days?  Why didn't God speak at Beersheba?  Why didn't God speak after the meal?  Perhaps it's the journey that prepares us to hear from God.

God asking a question, isn't it funny.  God being omniscience could have told Elijah why he was there and what he was feeling.  But being relational God engages Elijah in conversation.  And Elijah seizes upon the opportunity and whines.  How often do we squander a golden opportunity with copper questions?

God doesn't answer but sends Elijah out because the Lord is passing by.  Leave your complaints in the cave and who let the Lord pass by you.  God is not found in the whirlwind perhaps this was made because His presence pass by.  Then the earth shook and  God is not in that, perhaps this was His foot fall on Mount Horeb.  And then a fire, perhaps this was what is unclean being burned by His presence.  But all these are only the reactions to God's presence.

God came in a still small voice.  And he asked the same question, "What are you doing here Elijah?"

Elijah blows it again by whining about his perceptions.  God doesn't immediately answer the question but rather gives direction.  And when he does give direction Elijah follows.

God does react and answer the Elijah's question or complaint with the facts.  7000 have not bowed to a knee.  Sometimes being in the middle of the problem blocks us from seeing what the reality of the situation is.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Retreat and Revival

I've been through a revival and a vacation since my last post. I have felt like I need a vacation to get over those two events! Which is the topic of today's post Retreat and Revival. These are concepts that need to go hand in hand.

Like many in my profession I don't know when to take a vacation. Usually it is when my wife picks up the phone and makes the arrangements and tells me we are leaving town. Quite often I am on the verge of exhaustion which she can see but I can't. As believers we need to follow the example of Jesus in all things, this includes time off.

Matthew 14:23 (NASB95)
23After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

If Jesus took off time then what makes us think that we don't have to? I believe that it was part of his regular discipline.  John 6:15b [Jesus], withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. Not just a day off but to be alone with God in prayer as the scripture tells us. I think that we have to schedule this time or it won't happen.

As I can attest to, without retreat revival won't happen. Without retreat the weight of ministry or work builds up to the overwhelming point. Take time to get alone with God and enjoy His presence.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

I need your help

I have a question for you today; What can be done to increase the faithfulness of the flock during the lazy days of summer? All of my pastor friends have the same problem of summer lethargy. I know that this is vacation time but I don't think that a vacation should include vacating God's house.

Hebrews 10:24–25 (NASB95)
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

So I am open for suggestion how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Anyone? 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Holy Ground

God told Joshua to take off his shoes bcause he was standing on holy ground. Which to my mind brings two questions: 1) Why take off shoes and 2) What makes it holy ground? The answers are related. God was there and what God touches is holy. Reverence is due to God when He is there.

The ground was holy before the shoes came off or the command to do so was given. Taking off the shoes didn't make it holy but reverence for what is holy is commanded. Where am I going with this? God is calling us into His presence and we need to respond to His invitation. God is ALREADY there and we need to acknowledge that fact with our actions.
Our action do not usher us into God's presence but God presence is there and we need to respond. Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize it. S Some times we mistake our actions as inviting God's presence into our mists when in fact God's presence is there waiting for us to appropriately respond.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hate the sin not the sinner?

Have you heard "hate sin not the sinner"? How does one do that? People have wrestled with this concept since the awareness of sin. I feel that too many see this as a paradox or worse a cop out to persecute a particular group of "sinners". I am going to propose 3 scriptural ways to work out this sticky concept.

Luke 6:27–28 But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Real simple to break down. Love those who don't love you by doing good to them. Pray for those who are actively maligning you. Simple to breakdown hard to do.

Forgive those who are sinning against you. Jesus said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Stephen said "Lay not this sin to their charge." If you forgive the sin you can minister to the "sinner". Don't hold a grudge, it makes makes it hard to serve them.

Jude 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

If you continue in love of the Lord and all men, you will be able then to separate the man form the sin. Mercy on them with fear of the Lord for the judgement to come. Know that without Jesus the sinner will stand before the White throne on which whom He who which earth and sky flee from in the day of His judgement. 

Our goal should be that we demonstrate love to the sinner with the purpose of "snatching them out of the fire". We don't cosign their junk or excuse their sin. Our goal is not to convict them of sin, that is the Holy Spirit's job. If we keep the goal in mind separating sin and sinner should be much easier. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If you don't systematically study the Bible you develop a patchwork of belief

Not much on titles, just ask my congregation! Our country is in a catastrophic moral and religious crisis. It stems from basic ignorance of God's word. And unfortunately the consequences are progressive.

Isaiah 5:13a (NASB95)
Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge...

First we are exiled or castaway in a sea of moral relativism. No absolute truth makes for a stormy existence. The Bible is supposed to be our moral compass and our guide for everyday life. But if truth is viewed as subjective then what is there to guide our life? Only one-third (34%) of Americans believe in absolute moral truth. The writer of Judges gives this chilling and familiar statement, "and each man did what was right in his own eyes." 

What is the cure?  Systematic study and application of the Bible. I applaud Bible reading and scripture memorization but it needs to be purposeful. Too many of us stick to the stuff we like. It's time to strike out into the unfamiliar. We are to take the WHOLE counsel of God's word, not just the scripture out of context that makes us feel good or justifies what we think is right.

Here is a guide for study:
1.  What does this passage teach me about man?
2.  What does this teach me about God?
3.  What do I like about this?
4.  What do I dislike or find confusing?
5.  What changes or applications do I need to make to my life in view of this passage?
6.  Who can I tell?

Go through the Bible a book at a time, analyzing it a paragraph at a time with these 6 simple questions. Here are two resources to help:
biblegateway. Gives reminders along with a reading plan.
biblestudytools lets you personalize your reading plan.
Or choose a simple a book at a time. Now quit wasting your time and go read.