Monday, October 25, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 15:1-12

““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 so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will 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. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given 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 in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. ” (John 15:1–12, NIV)
“I am the true vine...remain in me.” What a profound statement! When Jesus says He is the true vine, what He is proclaiming is that there is no life outside of Him. In fact, He clearly states that “apart from Him, we can do nothing”.
But yet, we often try to attach ourselves to different vines don’t we. We try to find life in religious systems. For the Jews, it was Judaism. In our culture, Christians attach to denominations and ritual church routine. We look for the meaning of life in science or the way of life in politics. We seek security in relationships. And we find satisfaction and contentment in our hobbies, or our possessions, or our wealth.

How’s that working for you?

Jesus says that every option we choose apart from Him will leave us empty inside - like a disconnected branch that withers and dies. Oh, we can choose to attach ourselves to many things… but only one will give us life.
“Remain in me,” Jesus says, “and I will remain in you.”
Take some time to look at your life and examine the fruit of the vine. Do you see evidence of life in healthy relationships, peace during difficult times, and hope in something bigger than yourself. Or has the branch become heavy with the decay of a failing marriage, an uncontrollable habit or an unfulfilling job. Jesus is the only true vine. There is no life outside of Him. You can try….but you will find that apart from Him, you can do nothing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 14:15-31

““If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 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. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, 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. 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. “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. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave.” (John 14:15–31, NIV)

Now, if you’re one of the disciples and you’re listening to Jesus, even though you may not understand everything He just said, what you do know is that Jesus is not going to abandon you. His departure is temporary. And when you see Him again, He has something to give you that will change your life forever.
Trust me… the disciples could not comprehend everything Jesus was telling them. But Jesus didn’t expect them to. He is just keeping His promise of letting them know things ahead of time so that when they do happen, they will understand. The light will come on…their faith will be confirmed and they will say, “Surely this is the Son of God!”
Is it not amazing that Jesus spoke about things before they actually happened so that when they did occur, it would validate who He is as the promised Messiah? Is it not equally amazing that these very accounts have been preserved in such a way that 2000 years later you are still reading them in order to fulfill the very same purpose – so that you may believe?
That tells us something about Jesus, doesn’t it! He wants you to believe… and to follow Him in faith… and to be strengthened in your faith.
You see, when these things unfolded for the disciples, it served to confirm their convictions and ignite their passion to the point that most every one of them would be martyred for their faith. These guys hit the tape running. The distractions of the world would not slow them down and convince them to pull over and park. No compromises…they were all in!
What about you? Does His truth still confirm your convictions and ignite your passion? Are you willing to lay down your life, your dreams, your desires for His sake? Are you all in?
Know that you don’t get there by taking control. You get there by relinquishing control. The Spirit is given, not gotten. Did you notice that Jesus did not give the disciples a list of requirements to meet in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? The fact is, the disciples were mostly confused and had no idea what was going to happen.
So, it’s not a reward for good behavior is it? It’s not a second blessing. It is THE blessing as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of His promise not to leave us as orphans but to continue to guide us in truth and love. Your submission is the only limiting factor for your experience of His resurrection power. The Spirit is given, not gotten. Are you all in?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 14:1-14

““Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. ” (John 14:1–14, NIV)

Betrayal, denial and now departure. This is the news the disciples have received from Jesus in the past few minutes of conversation. One of them would betray Jesus, one would deny Him, and in the end, Jesus would be going to a place they could not go. To suggest that the disciples were confused and troubled would be an accurate understatement.
And the words of Jesus were intended to bring comfort to their troubled hearts. Although His disciples could not follow Jesus right away, they would eventually go to where He was going and in the meantime, Jesus was making the necessary preparations.
As you and I read this, we probably have the same mental image as the disciples. We picture a physical place… maybe a mansion. It is found at a specific location and it is furnished and prepared for lots of guests. So the question Philip asks is logical, “How do we get there?”
Great question! “Can you at least give us a map Jesus? We definitely want to meet you there, but having never been to this place, we need some directions.”
But Jesus explains, “The destination is a person, not a place. It is not a list of things to do, it is a person to follow. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life.”
What Jesus would accomplish through the cross was not limited to a heavenly mansion. It was life giving relationship with God that would begin at the moment of faith. We don’t need directions to get to this place because we have a guide who has shown us the way and unless we follow him, we will never find what we are looking for.
Jesus then explains to His disciples the unique relationship He has had with the Father, who was living in Him and doing His work. “If you have faith in Me, you will do what I have been doing,” Jesus said.
Amazing! This is the reality of those who have found life in Jesus - His Spirit lives within those who believe in Him so that we may do what He demonstrated in His life and ministry. He made disciples, and we are called to go and do the same. The work He does through us is greater than anything we could ever do on our own. Each day He is still leading us. He is offering to be our guide.
Not through a map or a set of directions, but through a relationship. His Spirit guides us in all truth and life. Are you following Him?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 13:31-38

“When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! ” (John 13:31–38, NIV)

“Love one another as I have loved you…”
Now that’s a tall order! How many examples of that do you see around you?
The honest truth is that not many of us have loved someone else to the point that we have been falsely accused, tortured and cruelly crucified on their behalf. For that matter, I don’t know that many of us have even lowered ourselves to the point of washing another person’s feet as an expression of humble devotion. Is it really possible to love others like Jesus loved us?
If the picture you have in your mind is our personal commitment to mirror the life of Jesus by following the example of His love for others, then I would say that we are setting ourselves up for failure. Asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” is a great question, but the fact of the matter is, nobody has the ability to match the pattern of His life. His ways are not our ways and the depth of His love is humanly incomprehensible. The example of Peter’s denial seems to illustrate this point.
Peter was a courageous man whose faith stood out boldly in the landscape of the disciples. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter who replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” His confession is one of the great professions of faith in all of scripture. And yet, Peter would not risk ridicule for the sake of following Jesus, much less give His own life.
At least not yet…
In just days, Peter would stand before the people and boldly proclaim Jesus as the promised Messiah. It was a step of faith that could (and eventually did) end his life. So what is the difference between the Peter who fearfully denied Jesus and the Peter that stood up on Pentecost and fearlessly proclaimed salvation in Christ alone?
The difference is the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without it, following the example of Jesus is only wishful thinking. It’s an admirable effort to live a good life, but it will always fall short of what is necessary to be a child of God.
Following Jesus, loving as He loved, is based on the power of the Holy Spirit and not the power of the human will. It is accomplished not by valiant effort but by willing surrender. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life by trusting Jesus will find it.
Each day, every one of us has to make the choice of who will be in control. Choose today to surrender to God so that He can do in you what you cannot do for yourself. Your life literally depends on it.