God's Promises

How Exactly Do We Abide? {John 15}

11:00 PM

By Sue Desmarais 

Many of us are at an advantage today as we read John, chapter 15, for all of us in the northern hemisphere are experiencing spring just now; when the promise of new life is bursting forth all around us! It was this same time of the year when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples.

Their dinner had ended and they were walking past flowering gardens and orchards, heading towards the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Have you ever walked past orchards when they’re in full bloom? The blossom’s scents can be over powering and are always more fragrant in the evening as life settles down. I believe Jesus, knowing He has only a few hours left before He will be arrested, tried and crucified once more takes something very familiar to all of them to drive home something terribly, terribly important; 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:1-7(emphasis mine)

It was verse seven that grabbed my attention and sent me on my detective mission this week, for that’s an awfully bold statement, don’t you think? Surely, Jesus doesn’t expect us to think of Him as a genie in a magic lamp. There had to be a catch, which could only be found in the word “abide”.  What exactly does He mean by “abide in Me, and My word abide in you”?

My first stop was to the dictionary where I discovered abide meant, “to accept without objection”, to "await," "remain," "lodge," "sojourn," "dwell," "continue," "endure”. Hmm.. I still wasn’t sure, for how does His word dwell, sojourn or continue in us? Some might say it’s through memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. Here are eight reasons John Piper came up with as to why we should be memorizing Scripture:

1.      Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when I can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway of deeper understanding.
2.      Memorizing Scripture strengthens my faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, and that happens when I am hearing the word in my head.
3.      Memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint.
4.      Memorizing Scripture makes God’s word more readily accessible for overcoming temptation to sin, because God’s warnings and promises are the way we conquer the deceitful promises of sin.
5.      Memorizing Scripture guards my mind by making it easier to detect error—and the world is filled with error, since the god of this world is a liar.
6.      Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist, and so protect myself and my family from his assaults.
7.      Memorizing Scripture provides the strongest and sweetest words for ministering to others in need.
8.      Memorizing Scripture provides the matrix for fellowship with Jesus because he talks to me through his word, and I talk to him in prayer.

He has made a very good case, but I still wasn’t convince it was simply memorizing Scripture, for even the devil himself could quote Scripture when tempting Jesus in the wilderness, and the Pharisees had spent most of their lives memorizing Scriptures and just look what Jesus said to them in John 5:38, “You do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.”

Therefore, if the word is to abide in us, we must believe in the word and the one who spoke it, right? Somehow the words of Jesus must take root within, germinate in each us and bear the fruits of faith and holiness. In other words, they must find a home within not only our minds, but our hearts. Look what else Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.” (John 8:37). It was in their heads, but it had not settled in and taken root in their hearts.

So, how does God’s word find a home in some of us and not in others even though all are working to memorize the Scriptures?

I believe that answer is found in Jesus analogy of the true Vine and the branches. John 15:1-3 is our position in Jesus, the Vine. God the Father or Vinedresser grafts us in and also removes any branches that aren’t rooted and bearing fruit. Our responsibility comes in verse 4a, “Abide in me, and I in you” and the key to abiding is found in the verses that follow, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Abiding then must be believing, depending, and truly surrendering to His lordship in our lives. We’ve got to come to the point where we understand we are wholly dependent on Him for everything!

Mjr. W. Ian Thomas in his book, The Saving Life of Christ gave a great example using a glove. (We are the glove and Jesus the hand within the glove). Left alone the glove can do nothing but lie there, but when filled and controlled by the hand, the glove can do all the things the hand can do! However, each finger of the glove must also be surrendered for the hand to function properly. I’ve discovered over time, that abiding, depending, surrendering; whatever you’d like to call it is a moment, but moment occurrence. I can think I’m wholly surrendered one minute and then suddenly pride rears up and I’m seeking my way and will the next.  For example, I can offer my time, rights and all my possessions to the Lord and then suddenly I’m asked to host a party for all these families of unruly children and instantly my mind can start searching for a way to decline gracefully. The truth being, I hadn’t really surrendered to the Lord at all!

I’ve begun using this picture of my hand each morning as I sit before Him consciously surrendering each area and inviting Him to come fill me up completely and show me throughout the day areas I haven’t wholly surrendered to Him.

I’m finding there is a constant daily battle between my desire to be wholly surrendered and abiding in Him in order to be used by God, and my desire to have things my way, but I’m confident all of us will get there one day. However, it’s going to take a constant effort on our part to surrender or abide; which is why I believe Jesus exhorted us here in verse 7 to ask Him for anything we need along the way and He will supply it. It’s as simple as that!

O Father, You are holy, and o so worthy! All I am and all I have are gifts from You! Thank You, Father a thousand times- Thank You! My heart longs to abide; to leave all that I am and all that You've given me in Your omnipotent hands. I so much want to give You all my time, my talents, my loved ones, my rights, will, and reputation, my money and possessions, but You and I know I will quickly grab some back given the chance. So, may I grow more deeply and intimately in love with You each day in order to trust You with everything! O Father, may I become wholly Yours and abide in Your Son each moment of each day! Amen.


The Way, The Truth and the Life {John 14}

11:00 PM

By Lisa Thayer

“I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (v. 6)

What is truth?  In the gospel of John, there are almost 50 references to truth – 13 in chapter 8!  I don’t want to get into a political debate because there’s a very fine line in politics about what is the truth.  We are surrounded by so many injections of what the truth is, we need a standard.  What do you use as a standard?  Do you follow a certain political platform?  Or person?  Perhaps you have a certain public figure.  Who do you follow?

I’ve brought up several times my personal interest in music.  I am not a professional musician in any way, shape or form, but at any performance or rehearsal, someone always begins the session by playing a note and everyone else tunes their instrument to that pitch.  Most of us do not have perfect pitch, so we have to listen and adjust our instruments to the pitch of the first player.  If we do not, then the music we play would be in discord.

In our world today the concept of absolute truth or a standard of truth has been discarded.  I often hear, “that’s your opinion”, or “everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, and we have to respect their opinion.”  And now we have a culture which is in chaos and confusion.  We find it difficult to convince people that Jesus is “The Truth.”  That He is our absolute truth, that He is what He claimed to be in John 14:6.

In the Old Testament when you see the word true or truth, it’s the Hebrew word Emeth, which means firmness or stability.  It’s not shakable.  It stands for faithfulness, sureness, reliability.  Truth is a key attribute of God.

“Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  Psalm 51:6

“Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?  You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction.”  Jeremiah 5:3

God is looking for truth.  He is where you are right now, in your home, in your car, at your job, at your school.  He is looking for anyone who wants to have fellowship with Him.

“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?  The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart.”  Psalm 15:1-2

How do we live in truth in our world today?  We are a fallen and sinful people.  Scripture tells us over and over that we don’t meet the standard.  Psalm 5:9 says, “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice.”  Isaiah 59:14-15 says, “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance, truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.  Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.”  Jeremiah 9:3, 5 says, “They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies, it is not by truth that they triumph in the land.  They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me.  Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth.  They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.” 

We are so out of tune!  What is the problem?  We are all liars, we twist the truth, we reject the truth, and we make up the truth.  Sometimes we even think we’re being truthful and in our hearts we are not.  We lie to ourselves, to others and to God.  We lie about ourselves, about others and about God.  We cannot fulfill the commands.  We do not and cannot tell the truth because from our hearts we are liars.  We are deceivers. 

Now don’t get discouraged here.  John 1:9 says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” 

Jesus says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

Jesus is the only person who has ever perfectly fulfilled God’s standard of truth.  In John 8:13- 32, Jesus introduced us to the fact that not only does He speak the truth, but that He IS the Truth.  Truth is a person – Jesus is Truth!

“Here in John 14:6, Jesus is saying He is exclusive.  He is not ‘a’ truth for some, any and everybody else can have their own truth.  Anything that is not of Jesus is not the truth.  Anything that is contrary to Him is not truth no matter how true you think it to be.  Jesus is the Truth and any belief, any religion, any worldview that does not embrace Jesus for who He says He is and what He said He came to do, then that is false.  There is no truth apart from Jesus who is the truth.” (Nancy Leigh DeMoss)

We have free-will and we can reject the Truth or we can receive the Truth.  Those who are godly love the Truth.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:8 that truth comes from the heart.

Where do we fit in as believers?  Our culture considers it intolerant to insist on a standard that everything and everyone has to adhere to.  We hear, “it’s okay for you to believe that, but how dare you say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.”  We have a great intolerance today until it comes to people who believe in the exclusivity of Jesus, then all of a sudden that tolerance becomes intolerant.  There’s even a tendency in evangelical circles that pit truth against qualities such as love and mercy and grace.  We tend to exalt one over the other.  Some it is love exalted over truth, grace over truth, mercy over truth.  And truth always loses.

 And then there’s some Christians who claim to love truth, but show little love, little grace, little mercy.  Truth is not incompatible with love and mercy and grace.  God’s truth is never at the expense of mercy, and His mercy is never at the expense of truth.

Both are necessary.  Proverbs 16:6 says, “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for, through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.”  Do you have forgiveness from your sins?  It takes mercy and truth.  Psalm 85 gives us a picture of anticipating Christ.  God expressed His love and His heart for sinners by sending Jesus, the Truth to live among us.  Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful.” 

We have so many distractors in the world in which we live.  We need a standard, a way to tune ourselves.  Jesus is going to outlive all the distractors.  We need to stay in tune and stay in the Word of God to know what is true.  All the other books, on the shelves are just distractors.  When you accept the truth, does your life look differently than before?  Do the people you surround yourself with see the difference in you because you speak and live by the Truth?  Can you handle the Truth? 


Loving One Another {John 13}

12:00 AM

By Lisa Moore

When you think of Jesus what is the first thing that pops into your head?  For me it is His love.  His love that He so freely and joyfully gives to me.  A love that is so strong, He laid down His life to call me His own.  And I in return love Him.  But that isn't enough.  For Jesus wants more than my love, He wants me to love others with the same passion that I reserve for Him.  

John Chapter 13 begins with a humbling and beautiful example of the importance of love to Jesus.  As one of His last acts before His sacrifice on the Cross, the Lord knelt and began to cleanse the feet of the disciples.  Now some might think that what Jesus did wasn't a big deal.  He loved these men and called them friends.  Wouldn't you do the same for those you love?  But these were also the same men that Jesus knew would hurt, betray, and disappoint Him.  Knowing this, He still performed the task usually reserved for the lowliest slave in the house as an act of His love, and as an example of loving and serving others.

Throughout His life on earth, everything Jesus did He did in love.  And He made it perfectly clear that we are to do the same.  Especially when it comes to others.  In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus responds to the question of which is the greatest commandment.  "You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  On these two commandments depend the whole law and the Prophets."  Love is the foundation of the Law.  Loving God means loving all that God created.  Especially those created in His image.  This is the message echoed throughout the Bible and especially in the teachings of Jesus.  And no more is our love for the Lord evident than when we are loving others.

In vs. 34-35 Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you will also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  When we demonstrate Christian love, it distinguishes us from the rest of the world.  It is not through our doctrines, our big beautiful churches, our posts on Facebook, or our Cross necklaces that we are known as His disciples.  It is through our actions, and our love for others.  We are the ambassadors of the Lord and should reflect His character of love as told in 1 John 4:16.   "God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him."   

What Jesus is calling us to do isn't easy.  And undoubtedly as soon as you make a commitment to love others, along a person will come as a test to your resolve.  But God never calls us to go it alone, nor to do what He asks in our own strength.  Our strength comes from the power of the Holy Spirt.  And through this power we can follow the example of Jesus and serve others joyfully, and without the expectation of anything in return.  Even those who hurt, betray, and disappoint us.

The goal of the Christian walk is to become transformed into the image of Christ.  To mirror His unconditional love and to,  "....love one another, just as I have loved you.", (John 15:12)  Loving Jesus means humbling serving and loving others.  1 John 4:9-11 powerfully reminds us, "...God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another."  

I love this explanation of what Christian love should look like by Rick Ezell.  "Love entails a cost.  It's gets its hands dirty.  It takes a chance.  It goes out on a limb.  It takes a gamble.  Love makes a statement and leaves a legacy.  It does the unexpected, surprising, and stirring.  It performs acts that steal the heart and leaves an impression on the soul."  That's the kind of Christlike love for others I want to have!  A joyful, humble, foot washing kind of love.  And not because I love Him, but because He loved me first