Worship In Spirit and Truth

John 4:24 (NIV)

God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in Truth.

I love our Verse of the Day (yesterday) because it addresses two great points about worship.  Jesus taught that our worship of God must be specific and intentional Specific addresses that worship must be spiritual.  Intentional addresses that worship must be sincere.  To explain spiritual matters in practical terms, I usually turn to the Apostle Paul for his insight:

Romans 12:1 (New International Version)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1 (English Standard Version)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your (rational) spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 (New American Standard Bible)

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

Romans 12:1 (New King James Version)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational) service.

I reprinted several translations of Romans 12:1 because I want you to get a sense of how diverse the Greek is translated in this passage.  Regardless of how the relationship to worship is presented (i.e., true and proper worship; rational or reasonable; or spiritual worship), all the passages agree that acceptable worship to God is the presentation of yourself … your body as a living and holy sacrifice.  In other words, true and reasonable worship through our physical beings is how spiritual worship is manifested. And Paul indicates to us that true worship is sacrificial in nature and holy in motivation.  Acceptable worship means we have set ourselves apart (think consecration or sanctification) to serve God and His Kingdom in these vessels He has given us – that is our human bodies.

Perhaps easier said than done, but spiritual worship … true worship is ultimately manifested through a sacrificial offering of “surrendered” selves to God.  It means everything we are in our inner being is focused on pleasing Him and doing His will.  That requires submission, but not to religious rites or human rules; rather, it requires a reverent fear of our Holy Father – who saved us and called us to be holy just as He is holy. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:16) It means that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. (Cf. Luke 9:23) It means to do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than what animal sacrifices were to represent. (Cf. Proverbs 21:3)

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NIV)

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore, once more, I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish; the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

My friends, worship is not something we can pretend.  Worship is specific … it is intentional. It is not following a prescribed set of rules or ritual taught by organized denominations or hierarchies.  Worship is the sincere, rational expression of the intimacy between you and the Father through Jesus Christ. The closer you draw to Him … the more you submit to Him … the more you will abide in Him (and He in you). (Cf. John 15:4-10) Worship becomes a natural expression of your physical life in Christ. Everything you do in your body, as a living sacrifice, becomes Spirit led and will bear the fruit of the Spirit. As such, worship will never be contrived; rather, it will be an outpouring of the wellspring of life within you…. 

Indeed, God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him both in the Spirit and in Truth.  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” ~ Matthew 4:10

Walk By The Spirit…

Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

So, I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

In Leviticus 11, Moses has been instructing on the practices of consecration … separation from the world in order to be a distinct people for service to God. In the context, Moses is revealing dietary ordinances distinguishing between clean and unclean animals – what is acceptable for consumption and what has been deemed detestable. And for our purpose today, the issue is not what foods we can eat or avoid; rather, the issue is discerning between clean and unclean … between holiness and unrighteousness. Thus, we see warnings and admonitions as Moses proclaimed the Word of God and wrote: “Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them.I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground.I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. Leviticus 11:43-45)

Notice the phrases: “Do not ….” Do not defile yourselves. Do not make yourselves unclean. These speak to our own conduct … our own behaviors … the fulfillment of our own desires as opposed to what God has ordained and purposed for us. And this issue of holiness has been the challenge for humans since the beginning. In Genesis 6:5, we read: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” His displeasure with humans was so great that God caused a Great Flood of the earth to eliminate its wickedness – sparing only Noah, his family, and a remnant of the animals. Yet, what do we read afterwards as Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices in worship? “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Cf. Genesis 8:21) Interesting that despite the rainbow and the revealed mercy of God, the condition of the human heart still remains unchanged….

It is clear from Scripture (and personal experience) that humans have a sinful nature … a propensity and capacity (human will) to separate ourselves from God rather than drawing ourselves to God. Sin separates us from God. Sanctification draws us to God. So, if we intend to respond to this command from God; if we want to be holy (set apart) because our Father and Creator is holy, then we need a solution to our innate inclination towards evil within our hearts. And this concern brings me to what Paul exhorts in our Verse of the Day: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Let’s look at our verse in its surrounding context:

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

From this passage, we can readily understand that the acts of the flesh stem from every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart. Such behaviors … such human conduct … define the sin which separates us from intimacy with God. And so, to walk in the Spirit … to live under His perpetual influence … it is necessary to be filled with His abiding presence. The Holy Spirit must indwell you in order for the process of holiness to be ignited in your heart. And this leads me to Jesus! Jesus sends the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell the one who believes in Him … and receives Him. This is the abiding, personal relationship that Jesus taught His disciples … and teaches us even now in our generation:

John 15:1-12 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes (cleans) 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. 7 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. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Powerful words … powerful affirmation! God in His mercy, to address sin within the human heart and to remove its deception and corruption of our souls, sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth to rescue us … to redeem us … to deliver us from the power of sin and its penalty: Death! (Cf. Romans 6:23) Christ paid the ultimate penalty of sin for us on the cross! Every drop of His precious blood was poured out for us. He was the Lamb of God slain to atone for our sin. (Cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10) Why? Because God is Holy! And to be in relationship with Him, we must be holy according to His command. And Jesus is the One who consecrates and sanctifies us before God. When we are in Christ, when we belong to Him, we receive His power over sin. As the Apostle Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

My friends, God is calling His people … His children to holiness! Yes, the Father is calling all who desire to intimately know Him … who want to become His children … to sanctification and holiness through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Because He has said, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Holiness begins when a person places his or her faith in Jesus Christ; and it is manifested through the fruit of the Spirit. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Indeed, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. ~ 1 John 1:6-8

A Child of God…

Galatians 3:26-28 (NIV)

So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our Verse of the Day has some theological implications that should not be ignored … nor is the text ambiguous. Simply stated, for a person to be a child of God, he or she must be in Christ Jesus through faith in Him. Compare this assertion from Paul with the declaration of John:

John 1:10-13 (NIV)

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (authority or power) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.

Our “right” to become children of God was GIVEN by Jesus Christ through receiving and believing in Him! We do not have the right to claim that we are children of God except that it has been given us through the authority of the Son. In addition, John records of the teachings of Jesus regarding how those who reject Him are not “legitimate” children:

John 8:31-47 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God Himself.42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Wow! Being physical children of Abraham does not in itself confer the right to become children of God. Jesus said, IF you were Abraham’s children, then you would do what Abraham did. So, what did Abraham do? What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Cf. Romans 4:3) A person has to believe God at His Word to become His child through the adoption of sonship (as we have seen in previous studies). Even John the Baptist said to some in the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Cf. Luke 3:7-9)

It follows that a true child of Abraham is one who believes God. And to believe God means to believe in the Son that He has sent – Jesus! As the Apostle John wrote:

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

What we see in these passages of Scripture is the understanding that humans have the opportunity or capacity to become “children of God” through the “transformation” that comes from receiving Jesus … from believing in His name and through abiding in Him. When we are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; there is a spiritual birth or transformation (rebirth process) that occurs within our inner beings that produces a “child of God”.  Thus, we are born-again through the Spirit of God when we receive Jesus and believe in Him! Indeed, a child of God is something that we become through Christ alone! We are “adopted” by the Father because we abide in His Son. There is no alternative … no other “process” offered in Scripture for us to become “children” of God. Paul was given the ability to articulate this theological concept in practical terms for us:

Romans 8:14-17 (NIV)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory….

My friends, I pray that as you begin your day, you will be encouraged to better understand your relationship with God the Father as His child.  No one will ever love you with the depth or passion of love that God has for you through Jesus Christ. Receive His love this morning! Believe in His love for you this morning! It will change your thoughts about who you are in Him.  You are His beloved child … and there is no greater feeling than knowing you are loved by God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure. ~ 1 John 3:1-3

Hate Evil … Love Good

Amos 5:14-15 (NIV)

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Our Verse of the Day continues the call to repentance and to righteousness. In Amos 5 we read his lament about what is going on in Israel at that time in history. There is injustice occurring. The rulers and authorities are oppressing the poor while they maintain exorbitant standards of living for themselves at the expense of the people. In their piety, these self-righteous religious leaders think they have close relationships with God. However, Amos calls them out. He said, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. THEN, the Lord God Almighty will (in truth) be with you … just as YOU say He is. These self-deceived religious leaders think God is with them, yet Amos exposes their hypocrisy. Said another way, “You say that God is with you, but in truth, He is not and will not be with you unless you seek good and not evil.” In essence, their conduct is labeled evil and religious self-deception has overtaken them….

If you read the remainder of the chapter, God pronounces His judgment of their sinful conduct … just as God has carried out His judgments upon Israel throughout its history. Why? Because of their rebellion and disobedience … because of their hypocrisy. God does not delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices that are nothing more than token worship. God is not with those who merely give Him lip service. God is not with those who offer blemished and defective sacrifices. God is not with those who commit injustice … who oppress the poor or do evil. David said, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) We cannot pretend anything before God and then believe that He is with us. “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in TRUTH.” (John 4:24) So Amos is calling out religious hypocrisy for what it is. You cannot serve yourself and think that you are serving God….

The application of this Word to our hearts should be evident, but I will state it: God has and will always judge sinful conduct. Rebellion, disobedience, and evil conduct has no place or inheritance in the Kingdom of God … you can be sure! (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:8-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5) And even James wrote: “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” (Cf. James 2:5) These verses we have been receiving are wake up calls! They are sent to confront us … to challenge us … to direct us into the way of love. “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:10)

So, I pray we will think deeply about the implications of this prophetic word spoken to Israel because it applies to us today as well … in this moment of history. As the Prophet Micah affirmed: “The Lord does not change!” (Cf. Malachi 3:6) Therefore, let us examine our hearts as God urged His people of old to do. “Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. (Cf. Zechariah 1:4)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!


Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. ~ Psalm 97:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is to hate what is sinful. I hate pride, self-love, the way of sin, and lies. ~ Proverbs 8:13 (NLV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. ~ Romans 12:9

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Our Verse of the Day brings a challenge to us as believers in response to having placed our faith in Jesus. We have been born again of the Holy Spirit; and we have been GIVEN the right (authority) to become children of God and to receive “adoption to sonship”. (Cf. John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) And because we love the Son, we love the Father who sent Him. This is why we are dearly loved children of God. But this love did not originate with us; rather, it is our response to His love for us. (Cf. 1 John 4:19) And so we are called to walk in the way of love – in the same manner as Christ loved. Then, Paul goes on here to briefly summarize how His love was demonstrated: “He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This theme reverberates throughout the New Testament writings of the apostles. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Indeed, it is central to our response to the grace of God and a commandment of Jesus Himself. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Likewise, in John 15:12, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” There is no ambiguity here. His command does not require theological research or debate. But maybe the guidance of Paul to give us descriptive and practical ways of demonstrating love to one another would be helpful….

As I thought about the many passages in which Paul addresses the demonstration of love, I kept coming back to the guiding principle where he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-3) You see, love is rooted in mercy. It is in the light of mercy that we see love manifested. Think of a new born baby. It is completely helpless and defenseless upon entrance into the world. Yet mercy demands that care and nurture to be provided – behaviors we would consider a profound demonstration of love. The “living sacrifice” of parents becomes evident from the moment of birth. So, in the same way, God cares for us. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)

Paul will continue through Romans 12:3-21 to bring full definition to love in action; but I think the conclusion for us is that love in its highest expression is sacrificial. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Love begins with sacrifice. It means to give something of higher value in return for something of lesser value. It means to suffer loss. This was the principle of the sacrificial system of the temple – where the people would present a highly valued animal (first born, unblemished) to be slaughtered as a sin offering to God according to the Law. Yet, incredibly, in His mercy for our helpless sinful human condition, God decided to sacrifice His best … His all … His only begotten Son as a sin offering for us … to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. (Cf. Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus is God’s example of love.  His love is merciful … it is gentle … it is kind and considerate … it is compassionate … it is forgiving.  Paul explained the excellence of His love in this manner: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) And Jesus explained: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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.” (Cf. John 15:9-10) And so we see that our love for Jesus is rooted in our obedience to Him … just as He was obedient to the Father.

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 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. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

So, what is the application? If you want to love others as God in Christ Jesus has loved you, then your life too must be sacrificial. And, further, your sacrifice must be your very best! Love must be sincere … not half-hearted. Love is the most excellent way! Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, I believe this is what God is calling us to do in our generation … at this appointed time in history … as His remnant church! We are called to be “living sacrifices” to those who are helpless; to those who are defenseless; to those who are orphans and widows; to those who are abused and mistreated; to those who are prodigal; those who are lost and without God. Yes, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (Cf. 1 John 4:17)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. ~ 1 John 4:20

Set Your Hope on Jesus…

1 Peter 1:13 (NIV)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.

Our Verse of the Day comes from quite an interesting passage. Let’s put it in the context:

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Citing Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2)

What a profound statement of theology that Peter has presented here. I see several key points in this passage; and I think the best approach is to simply outline those points for us to consider:

1.         First of all, praise is to be given to God the Father! Indeed, we should always come before the Father in reverence and honor and adoration – to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! (Cf. John 4:24)

2.         His mercy has afforded us a new birth. (Cf. John 3:3)

3.         The result of this new birth is a living hope … brought into existence through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:9-10)

4.         This new birth provides us access to an inheritance that is everlasting and reserved in heaven for believers. (Cf. Ephesians 1:13-14, 18-19)

5.         Our faith in Jesus Christ is protected by the power of God until that salvation is ultimately revealed. (Cf. Colossians 1:11-12; Ephesians 4:30)

6.         This is cause for great rejoicing even though we are afflicted with the trials and tribulations of the world. (Cf. James 1:2-3)

7.         But God allows challenges and hardships to shape us … to prove the authenticity of our faith toward Him. (Cf. James 1:12; Hebrews 10:22-23)

8.         Your genuine faith will be rewarded at the time of His revelation. (Cf. Hebrews 10:35)

9.         Though we have not physically seen Jesus, the Son of Man, we are convinced of His Being and presence in the Spirit. (Cf. John 16:28)

10.       This “knowing” Jesus through faith … abiding in His Presence … fills us with a joy unspeakable that is filled by His glory. (Cf. John 16:19-22; John 17:13)

11.       You experience this joy because faith in Jesus Christ will be rewarded with the salvation of your soul. (Cf. Isaiah 25:9; 61:10)

12.       This salvation through the Messiah was prophesied by holy men of old … prophets who foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and His resurrection. (Cf. Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21)

13.       They prophesied by the Spirit of God for the benefit of those who would live after them.

14.       The prophesies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ … of which the Apostles (anointed by the Holy Spirit) have fully preached to us. (Cf. Acts 8:40; Acts 14:6-7, 20-21; Acts 26:19-20; Romans 15:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:17)

15.       In this context, we are admonished to pay attention to the Word of God … to respond to it … and to set our hope on it. (Cf. Colossians 1:3-6)

16.       Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ will give birth to a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)

17.       The new creation … the new being … will no longer continue in the evil desires and old behaviors of a sinful person. (Cf. Romans 6:12; Colossians 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Peter 1:4)

18.       And such were all of us at one point in our lives. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 6:11: Ephesians 4:24)

19.       Since we have been created in Christ Jesus (Cf. Ephesians 2:10), we are called to be holy people … set apart for the work of God.

20.       Holiness, or sanctification by the Spirit, is a process … that will lead us into greater intimacy with Christ. (Cf. John 15:1-12)

Well, I hope this little breakdown of the passage will help you think through all that Peter is sharing with us. His theology and admonition are wonderful; and his message is corroborated by the writings of other apostles as the references (links) were provided to show. In light of the prayer and fasting we have undertaken to focus on and exercise self-discipline, I think this call to holiness is quite timely. I pray that each of us will seek greater intimacy with Christ with minds that are prepared for action and exercise self-control; setting our hope fully on the gracious salvation we will receive when Christ Jesus is revealed at His Coming. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. ~ 1 John 2:27-28

A New Year … A New Creation…

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

As I read our Verse of the Day, I thought, “Wow!” What a great message to share with anyone who does not know Christ Jesus! It is a New Year! What a great time to become a New Creation! The old has gone … the new is here! It is a great time for Second Chance Church … to be a light to those in live in darkness … to be the Body of Christ we were called to be. It is a great time to affirm that we are God’s handiwork … created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And the ministry we have been called to do is bring the message of hope … of healing … of deliverance and freedom to those who are in the captivity of sin. Indeed, Jesus is the light we need for this dark and deceived world….

But then I thought, this New Year will be a great opportunity for each of us to examine our own devotion to the Lord Jesus … to renew our hearts in Him. This thought led me to the Letter to the Church in Ephesus:

Revelation 2:1-7 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Christ Jesus commended the believers at this church for their hard work, perseverance, and enduring hardships for His Name. Still, He said, “I hold this against you … you have left your first love.” If nothing else, I challenge myself and each of us to consider whether we have drifted or left the love for Jesus that we had at first … when we were first born-again of the Spirit. Have we too become wearied, burdened, or heavy laden such that we have lost our passion … our direction … our genuine love for God? Have we begun to settle for less than what Jesus has called us to do for His Kingdom? Jesus said, “Repent and do the things you did at first.” He said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28) The Year of the Healing and Deliverance is not just for those outside of the Church … it is for those within the Church as well. We all need to self-examine and turn our hearts to the Lord Jesus as we did at first! We need to read Psalm 139 and let it penetrate our quiet time in prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me to the way everlasting.”

I believe this is what the call to participate in the “Daniel Fast” is about! It is a focused time of deep reflection … a time of self-denial … a time of repentance … a time for us to return to our first love. This is what the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart for the next 21 days. How I pray we will all spend intentional time before the Lord during our corporate fast to find out what He desires for each of us as His servants … so that we might fulfill the Great Commission … so that we might love others as Jesus has loved us … so that we might worship Him in Spirit and in Truth … so that we might reach those who are in the captivity of sin and shine as a light in the midst of darkness.

I am excited about the call on Second Chance Church to be a “deliverance” church … to be a spiritual hospital for the sick … to minister to those who need healing of the brokenness they are suffering. This vision … this mission … is something that has been resonating in my heart for the past few weeks. It can mean many things, of course; but the context for me is to reach those in bondage with the life-giving truth of the Word of God. This is nothing new for sure; but if we are going to be the church that we have been called by God to be in these latter days, then we are going to have to be intentional in our approach. This is the purpose of this blog … to be a constant reminder to return to our first love….

Our generation has been given a “second chance” to become the church Jesus first commissioned His followers to form. So, I believe we need to revisit the lives of the first Apostles … their transformations … their teachings … their courage … and their approach to ministry and discipleship. There is a call to renewal … to reformation … within the Universal Church itself to rediscover how to function and to be effective. We need to return to the organizational structures developed to minister to the lost. We need to afford believers freedom to exercise the spiritual gifts Christ has given each of them for the benefit of the church. Yes, we need to embrace and embody the apostolic example we have been given in Scripture.

The message of the Gospel is powerful and rests upon the teaching of Jesus Himself when He explained to a man named Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (from above) he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As Nicodemus questioned Jesus about this teaching, Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Cf. John 3:1-8)

When we are born-again of the Spirit, we become new creations through the Spirit! And I believe this is the foundation of New Covenant … when the Lord puts His law within our minds, and write His law on our hearts. (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus once shared a metaphor that I think is quite relevant to this point:

Luke 5:36-38 (NIV)

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

We are called into the “new” through Jesus!  He wants us to have a new faith … a new perspective … a new purpose … and a new anointing to enter the Kingdom of God that He establishes within us!  Perhaps His parable was even prophetic when His disciples were gathered on the Day of Pentecost, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In response to this outpouring, the text states: “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Cf. Acts 2:1-13)

My friends, as we begin a new year with a renewed resolve to be more disciplined in our walk with the Lord Jesus, I pray that we will keep in mind how our born-again experience has transformed us into new creations … being conformed to the image of Christ. I think the Apostle Paul does an excellent job giving us insight into this process:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free (justified) from sin.

Romans 7:4-6 (NIV)

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:5-10 (NIV)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

And so, I pray that we will begin this New Year with the convictions of faith deeply rooted in our hearts.  May we find within us the discipline to stay in prayer … to study the Word … to fast for healing and deliverance … and to labor with boldness in the harvest field this year. The new creation has come! The old has gone, the new is here! This speaks not only to each of us as individuals … it speaks to the Body of Christ itself. Yes, let us return to our first love … let passion and compassion overtake us in our mission.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. And, write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” ~ Revelation 21:5-6

I Have Told You…

John 16:33 (NIV)

“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.”

When I read our Verse of the Day, I thought that it might be good to get some context. “I have told you these things….” What things? I want us to go back and look at what Jesus told His disciples that we might need in order to better understand the peace we can have in Him. When you read through the Gospel of John, you will find a great emphasis on the things that Jesus told His disciples. The Apostle John brings the words and teachings of Jesus to life in a way that draws us closer to Him … that makes Him personal and relatable. The intermittent commentary of John explains what is happening as Jesus speaks with heavenly wisdom and earthly conviction. And near the end of His ministry, as He prepared Himself and His followers for the cross, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (Cf. John 8:28) And we have further affirmation of this testimony when John recorded:

John 12:44-50 (NIV)

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the One who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the One who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So, whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Indeed, there are many things Jesus told His disciples which were recorded in prior chapters of this Gospel. Although I have reprinted some excerpts for us below, I encourage you to read Chapters 13-16 to view the entirety of what Jesus imparted in order to better understand His assurance of peace in the midst of the tribulation and persecution that will come to us who follow Him….

In John 13, we read about the Last Supper and Jesus preparing His disciples for the imminent events that were about to occur and would culminate in His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. He forewarned the disciples of what would take place, especially after He was gone; and He wanted to give them comfort and hope when afterwards they would eventually become scattered and lost in the confusion caused by His horrific death. Jesus began with these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

John 14:1-4 (NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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? 3 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:15-18 (NIV)

15 “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. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:25-29 (NIV)

25All 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. 27 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.

John 15:9-11 (NIV)

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.

John 15:18-21 (NIV)

18 “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.

John 16:1-5a (NIV)

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, 5 but now I am going to Him who sent me.

John 16:19-20 (NIV)

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.

John 16:33 – Verse of the Day

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 is more that could have been included from these chapters, but I believe these excerpts will afford you the context of the prophetic words Jesus is sharing with His disciples … and with us as well. Jesus poured out His heart … His love and concern … knowing what the disciples would soon be facing. He wanted them (and us) to know that they can have peace in Him … even after He is no longer physically presence on earth. Jesus forewarns that we will have trouble in this world because of our faith and devotion to Him. But He adds, “Be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.” We can take heart in His victory and comfort in His provision of grace to us. It is our intimacy with Jesus that will ultimately manifest itself as peace.

And so, as we face the physical troubles and spiritual challenges of the new year ahead, I pray that we will remember what Jesus told us: “In Him we can experience peace.” No matter what the trial or hardship might be, Jesus will give the grace to endure it … the power to overcome it … and the assurance of peace while we are in it … if we will but wholly trust Him at His word. Indeed, to experience peace in this world of tribulation, believers must cling to every word spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ. For there is nothing Jesus said, shared, or taught that did not come from the Father. And I am reminded that Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (Cf. John 6:63)

My friends, let Jesus speak into your heart today! I am confident you will find the peace you need for the coming year and the inspiration to know Him with a greater passion! I will close with these final thoughts:

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Come To Me and Rest…

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

As the New Year approaches … a year declared to be a time for deliverance and healing, I believe our Verse of the Day aligns our thoughts with this mission of the Church.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28-30) Yes, what every soul needs the most is to rest in Jesus!  He will lift the burdens of life from our shoulders. His yoke is easy; and Jesus will exert the greater strength when pulling that wearisome load with you.  You do not have to carry the burdens of life alone….  He is Healer! He is Deliverer! He is Redemption! He is Salvation! He is Restoration! He is Peace! He is Resurrection! He is Rest!  Indeed, the true compassion and love of God for you and I will not be found anywhere else other than Jesus!

Is this not the most perfect verse for the Church to summon those who have grown tired, burdened, and weary? Is that not the state of the unbeliever? Is that not the state of every prodigal? Herein lies the message of the Church to a lost world … the message we should declare to everyone who has wandered … to every lost and scattered sheep! Our Great Shepherd … the Good Shepherd … is calling His sheep to come home. Jesus says to each one: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….

This brought to mind the Prophet Isaiah and his prophetic invitation to reconciliation with God:

Isaiah 55:1-4 (NIV)

1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

And this is the message Isaiah foretold us to take to the unbeliever, the lost, and the wayward:

Isaiah 55:6-11 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

This is the word that God has sent for us to declare to those who are burdened and wearied and captive to thoughts of futility … to thoughts of unworthiness … to overwhelming thoughts of guilt and shame. God declares that His thoughts are not those thoughts. God declares He will have mercy on them … and will freely pardon! God declares His ability to overcome our inability. And His Word will not return void of accomplishment. Behold, we ourselves are fruit of the Gospel! For Isaiah foretold this great hope of healing:

Isaiah 57:15-19 (NIV)

For this is what the high and exalted One says— He who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19 creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

God knows all. There is nothing hidden from His sight! God has seen their ways, but He will heal them. He saw us and healed us! The Lord abides with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit. He will revive! He will restore! Yes, He will heal the brokenness in each of us! He will remove the deception and disillusion of sin! He will provide salvation! He will give eternal life! All these benefits – all these blessings are found in Christ Jesus! (Cf. Psalm 103) These are the messages of hope we must speak to those who are lost, isolated, and in need of His unfailing love….

It all starts with an invitation! Jesus said, “Come!” He was sent to seek and to save that which was lost. That is you and me. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) It is the open invitation God has ordained for us to share with the poor in spirit … the broken-hearted … the spiritually blind … and the weak in faith. We are commanded to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find the wayward … the lost and scattered sheep who are weary and burdened and seeking rest for their souls. There is no rest apart from Jesus. There is no reconciliation except through Him. This is the appointed message we need to share. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (Cf. John 3:16-18)

So, I pray that we will be faithful in our resolve and relentless in our mission to bring hope to those who are without hope. I pray that as healing and deliverance become our focus for the coming year, we will discipline ourselves to be studying the Word of God … growing in the knowledge of His will. Indeed, His will is for us to rest in the finished work that Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Oh, may we help others to experience the rest that we enjoy as believers…. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM the Vine…

John 15:5,8 (NIV)

“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. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Our Verse of the Day provides one more “I AM” declaration to us to ponder: I AM the Vine!  It is a great metaphor to communicate to us our absolute dependence upon Jesus for life itself!  What Jesus is teaching is that we are simply branches … an extension of Him who is the root … the foundation … the core being of the vine that God (the sole Gardener) planted for Himself.  Branches do not sustain the root or the structure of the plant; rather, they are an expression of the internal seed … of its DNA if you will. Branches arise out of the vine … extend its breadth and height … and provide positions where fruit can be formed and harvested. Indeed, a grapevine is the perfect picture of our relationship with Christ Jesus and reflects how we are to abide and function through that relationship….

John 15:1-12 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain (abide) in me, as I also (abide) in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain (abide) in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain (abide) in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain (abide) in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothingIf you do not remain (abide) in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain (abide) in me and my words remain (abide) in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain (abide) in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain (abide) in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain (abide) in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

I see some key concepts for us to consider from this teaching. One is that we must abide or remain in Jesus. We must live in Him and He in us through His Spirit. And how do we know if He is living in us?  We will be bearing fruit … much fruit. If you or I are not bearing the fruit of His Spirit … I believe it can be concluded that we are not abiding in Him. Fruit bearing is not a decision or an option; rather, righteousness and bearing fruit is the outcome of abiding in Jesus. We cannot help but bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives when we abide in Jesus and He in us. As Paul in his experience affirmed: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Cf. Romans 8:9) Just as Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

So, what is the fruit of the Spirit we will bear as branches of the vine?  Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22-23 the following: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And though this fruit will be manifested in different varieties, each unique fruit derives its expression from its seed which bears the image of Christ Jesus. The Apostle John exhorted: “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:3-6)

Question?  Do we live as Jesus did? Well, if we obey His Word and abide in Him, we are empowered to do so. The Apostle Peter affirmed: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And to receive that divine power (the Holy Spirit), we must come to Jesus and abide in Him … in order to bear much fruit as He appointed us to do … as we were created in Him to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Remember, it is for the Father’s glory that we bear much fruit and show ourselves to be disciples of Christ. So, let each of us take delight in being a branch in the vine! You and I are in ordained positions to be nurtured and nourished … to grow and spread out … and to bear fruit!

Another thought that came to mind is that these I AM claims reveal an emphasis that I had not really considered; namely, each I AM statement requires an interactive response on our part. Let me explain. Here Jesus chooses the metaphor of a vine. He is the “true” vine and we are the branches. There is a connection … an intimate relationship between us. What is the invitation or response? Abiding – in order to bear fruit. We cannot produce any fruit except that we abide in Him. It provides great word imagery; and I thought that perhaps I should apply this same idea to the other “I AM” declarations we have studied.

For example, John 6:35 reads: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” What is the invitation or response? Eating – in order to be filled! For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. In John 6:51, Jesus stated, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world.” What is the invitation or response? Following – in order to leave the darkness! In John 8:12 we read: When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus declared, “I am the gate.” What is the invitation or response? Entering – in order to receive salvation. In John 10:9 we read: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Jesus declared, “I am the Good Shepherd.” What is the invitation or response? Knowing – in order to hear HIS voice. In John 10:14-15 we read: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What is the invitation or response? Believing – in order to experience eternal life! In John 11:25-26 we read: “Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

I believe you get the point. And I am excited that these patterns were shown to me in my study. I encourage you to consider each “I AM” claim Jesus made and to consider your own personal response in order for His declarations to have application for your life. Can you anticipate a response for “I AM the way and the truth and the life?(Cf. John 14:6) What is the invitation or response? And what about “I AM the Alpha and the Omega?(Cf. Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13) What is the invitation or response? Indeed, I believe you will find this exercise both enlightening and faith building…. If you have the time, please send me your responses to the study exercise.  I would be interested in your thoughts….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!