Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Are You Fruitful?

John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. (2) Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

All my life I have been a city dweller. I now own a farm that I dabble at, but I am certainly not a farmer. However, even with that understood, there are certain principles that anyone can understand about Jesus’ use of farming imagery.

Farmer’s go through the process of plowing, disking, planting, fertilizing, watering and harvesting for one simple purpose: To Harvest a crop worthy of a profit! They do not do it just to see plants growing. Those plants have to PRODUCE a product that is marketable and profitable! Regardless of what the crop is, there needs to be more “fruit” harvested at the end than the cost of producing it, or the farmer would have to quit.

Jesus uses this principle in our text today. Jesus paints for us a mental picture that we need to understand. First Jesus says that he is the vine. Most likely the imagery that he is trying to create is that of a grape vine. This word vine, we might better understand to be the “trunk” of the plant. Like a tree, it is that main trunk that is attached to the roots that absorb nutrients and moisture from the ground. It is the trunk from which every other branch, limb or stem comes. Each branch, limb or stem then gets its nutrients and moisture that it needs from being connected to the trunk. Jesus says that he is the trunk, from which we get all of our spiritual blessings.

Next, Jesus assigns the role of being the farmer or husbandman to his Father in heaven. It is the farmer that decides which plants are healthy. It is the farmer that decides which plants will produce fruit and make a profit or will just absorb vital nutrients, take up space and ultimately be a dud.

It is each individual Christian that is the branches of this plant (John 15:5). So the question is: “Are you producing any Fruit?” Again, as we have said before, it is not the purpose of a farm plant just to look pretty! If those plants do not produce fruit, then the farmer will lose money. According to verse 2, God the farmer, evaluates each branch of that plant and decides which one is being productive and which one is not. If a branch is not being productive, then the farmer has to prune it off so that it does not continue to drain the rest of the plant of vital nutrients. And for those branches that do produce fruit, he continues to trim and prune them that they might produce more and more.

If you are a branch in God’s Vine...Are you producing fruit or are you draining valuable resources from other branches? We need to....We MUST be fruitful, or God will simply cut us off and throw us into the fire (John 15:6)

Monday, January 30, 2012

You Shall Live Also!

John 14:19-20 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. (20) At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

I love the way Jesus uses the physical world to teach a spiritual lesson. That is precisely what Jesus does in these two verses.

First, let us refresh our memories of the context of this passage. Jesus has gathered the apostles together to observe the Passover. This Passover, however, will be his last because this is the evening that Jesus is arrested and he will be crucified the next day. At this gathering, Jesus institutes the church’s observance of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19-20). Also during this last gathering, Jesus is giving his apostles final instruction and encouragement before his death. Although Jesus has been trying to inform the followers that he was going to be put to death, they have not yet fully understood it. The text today is yet another attempt.

In verse 19 Jesus alludes to the fact that he soon will be put to death and that he would be resurrected and go back to his Father in Heaven (Acts 1:9). In and of itself, that is an interesting fact. The the power of that fact comes in next statement...

John 14:19 ... because I live, ye shall live also.

This is the real hope and purpose of the Gospel Of Jesus: That we might LIVE! But our prospect of living eternally is only possible because Jesus first cheated death and was raised from the dead. Because he blazed that trail, we too have the possibility and hope to do so as well.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (56) The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we do not need to fear death any longer because we have victory over the grave THROUGH Jesus. However, if we are not Christians, we have much to fear. Paul says in verse 56 that the Sting of Death is Sin. If we have never dealt with the problem of sin in our lives by having it washed away by the blood of Jesus, death still has a sting. Death will still be victorious.

May we all do what it takes to follow Jesus into the pathway of Victory over our own death by Living Also!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jesus Said...If You Love Me...!

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

I would love some day to go to a public place, with lots of people and do a poll asking passers by to fill in this blank ... “Jesus said ‘If You Love Me ______’”. I would love to see the answers to that poll. Based upon what I see from modern day religion, I think the answers would be very selfish or silly in nature.

So, after thinking that thought, I took a quick poll on-line and this is what I got.

"If you Love me, represent my message accurately". – Bill (Being judgmental and divisive rather than accepting and loving is the main criticism I have of many Christians.)

I only got the one answer but it is telling. I think it is interesting that they did not recognize that Jesus did make this statement. But when he answered it, he filled in the answer with his own view of things instead of God’s.

So what is Jesus’ test for Loving him? Faith? Nope? Tolerance? No, not hardly. Condemnation of Judging others? No way.

Jesus Says that if you love me .... KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS. Huh? Obedience? That is what Jesus says. Obedience is Essential to pleasing Him! They are not called the 10 Suggestions. They are called the 10 Commandments.

I have heard some “religious” folks criticize others that stress the importance of obedience as being “legalistic” and “pharisaical”. That’s funny. Because Jesus calls in Love in action. If you want to Please God, Learn what he wants from you and do everything in your power to be obedient to it.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jesus...The ONLY Way!

John 14:1-6 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (4) And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. (5) Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? (6) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Yesterday we examined the first 3 verses as Jesus gives us HOPE about our heavenly home. In the latter part of verse 2, Jesus gives yet another subtle hint that about his appending death. Specifically he says ...”I GO to prepare a place...” Up until now, the apostles have been at Jesus’ side. Everywhere that he goes, they follow along, watching and learning.

In verse 5 then, it is natural for Thomas to ask the question... (and I am paraphrasing) “Where are you going and how can we know the way? Of course, the apostles have not been listening because Jesus has consistently warned them of this day, and especially during this conversation.

Although the apostles did not understand the proper context of what Jesus is talking about, Jesus then takes that opening to teach an essential truth in verse 6 about how to get to where he is going .... heaven. Jesus, what is the way?

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

There is a simple, but non-popular characteristic about the truth that Jesus teaches here. And that characteristic is Exclusivity!

Jesus says there is only one way to get to heaven. We see this in his use of the word “THE”, Jesus isn’t just a Way .... He is THE Way! The ONLY Way. Jesus is not just a Truth .... he is THE Truth. The ONLY Truth. He is not just a life .... He is THE Life! The only Life!

When we understand the power of this it should change our focus. Instead of thinking that “religion” in general is adequate to accessing God, we should clearly see that we must seek the will of God as he has given it to us. Therefore the religions of the world has NO value to our Creator. Because Jesus is THE Way. Our opinions are insignificant. Because Jesus is the Truth!

May we all seek God’s will that we might go where Jesus is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Hope of Heaven!

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Jesus starts out this chapter by stating .... “Let not your heart be troubled...”. Why would his disciples be troubled? Keep in mind that Jesus is giving essentially, his final instructions to his disciples before his arrest later on in that evening. Not only that, he has already made some troubling statements during the passover observance and Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper memorial....

John 13:21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

John 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.

John 13:38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

Jesus is giving hints that he is not going to be around very much longer. For them, that was very troubling. However, Jesus sensed that and tried to calm their fears. He calmed their fears, in part, by giving them Hope. Hope of a better life. Hope of better things to come. A hope of escaping from the burden of this life.

While most people focus on the beginning of verse 2 ... that he is preparing a mansion, I think there is something much better to look forward to. In the end of verse 3, he tells us about a characteristic of heaven that I look forward to the most....

John 14:3 ... that where I am, there ye may be also.

If you are in heaven, and you have a chance to spend time with Jesus or spend time in a house, even if it is a MANSION .... which would you choose? I would choose Jesus!

This past weekend, I had some friends that had the opportunity to meet John Calipari, the basketball coach for the University of Kentucky. I too would like to meet him because I have been a huge fan of KY most of my life. But, meeting John Calipari, or the president of the United States ... or any other human, does not hold a candle to being able to meet the man that left heaven, to come down to earth, and died on the cross for MY sins.

In my opinion, the greatest hope of heaven is the opportunity to be in the presence of the Creator; my Father in Heaven and he amazing, loving sacrificing Son that went to the cross of Calvary so that I would have that very opportunity. You can have your mansion. I want to spend time with my Father and my Savior!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Ultimate Command!

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

What’s so new about this? Jesus has commanded that we love one another several times ... right? Yes, but not like this!

Notice the manner in which we are to love one another here ... as Jesus has loved us!

Jesus didn’t just talk about love. He didn’t just preach about love. Jesus put his money where his mouth was. He loved like no other.

His love was SACRIFICING! Not just the giving of his life on the cross, but also, the giving up of heaven, to come down to earth. When he could have lived like a king, he instead lived like a pauper. His life ... and death is the epitome of sacrifice

His Love was BENEVOLENT! Jesus went around looking for folks to help. He healed the sick. He made the blind to see. He made the deaf to hear, the mute to speak, He made the demon possessed to be free. He fed the hungry. He visited the lonely and the list can go on and on.

His love was ACTIVE! Everyday of his life was about serving and helping others,

Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

If we are going to love like Jesus, we too need to love in a sacrificing, benevolent and active manner.