Friday, March 7, 2014

John 15:18-25

Please read John 15:18-25 before continuing

   One of the things that I love about this verse is that it is Jesus telling us one way it will cost us to follow Him. He isn't keeping any secrets or lying to gain followers, He's telling us point blank that people will hate us because of Him. We know the risk and cost of following Jesus because He told us Himself.
   Jesus is always honest with us, and not just by telling half truths because those are deceiving and since the definition of a lie is 'a statement meant to decieve' they are lies. Jesus tells us the whole truth. Jesus doesn't say, the world will hate you and that's all their is to it. He says the world will hate you because of me but if you were to abandon me and become part of the world it would love you. He gives us this option to turn away from Him just as God gave Adam the option to sin against Him because He is the perfect gentleman, never forcing His way. 
    So, we know that the world will hate us because it hated Jesus but this is actually a two way statement, those who love and listen to Jesus will do the same for us. 
    And lastly, verse 25 quotes the Old testament which is Psalm 69:4 for those who are curious.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Cross: Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone

 My pastor, Dr. Edington, preached a wonderful sermon on Sunday that I'm going to recap here. We're doing a sermon series that focus on the message of different hymns and yesterday's was 'The Old Rugged Cross.' This hymn is one of the most powerful hymns because it clearly shows that our only hope in life is to cling to the cross of Christ. (disclaimer: I'm going to write this like I came up with it but just know that it's all God and Dr. Edington not me.)

   Many people think of the cross as a nice symbol to put on jewelry or bags or signs but in reality, without Jesus it is an awful symbol. The cross is probably the worst method of torture and execution humans ever came up with! (Criminals (and Jesus and martyrs) where whipped and then nails where driven through them to hang them on splintery wood that dug into the deep cuts. And there's a lot more gruesome details you can look up if you feel so inclined). We can't imagine kneeling down and worshiping at the bottom of gallows nor clinging to a noose in our time of need. We would think it insane if someone where to where a chain with a tiny, gold electric chair around their neck yet that is what we do with the cross. You see, without Jesus, the cross is simply the tool of an executioner. But because of Jesus, the cross has been transformed from an object of stark horror to profound adoration.
   When Jesus sacrificed Himself for us on the cross (Matthew 27:45-50) He did so out of love and in order to provide us with hope. Because Jesus is the only one not to cause sin, only He could cure sin and He choose to do so, for our sakes, despite the cost. I was saved on Good Friday at 3:00 about 2,000 years ago by Jesus on the cross.
   With those facts in mind, I'm going to tell a story. One day a little boy went to church for the first time in his life with his nanny. They sat down in the pews and the preacher began to tell a story about a innocent, young man who had been tortured and killed to save everyone in that room and the world. He learned that that man wanted His people to go and share the news of salvation with the rest of the world. The little boy looked around, expecting everyone to get up and go share the Good News but everyone else seemed quite unaffected by the news of Jesus. Stunned by the people's reaction the boy began to cry. At this point his nanny leaned over and whispered to him, "Don't take it so seriously, people will think you strange."
   Well, I don't think His reaction is strange at all. What I think is strange is that people can curse at a golf ball or scream at a TV screen and be normal but if one was to cry when they think of Jesus sacrifice on the cross it is odd. The cross is the most transformative event in history but not many people allow it to transform them or even give it much thought. This is not okay. We must all claim the cross of Jesus Christ because you cannot rightly live and cannot rightly die unless you make His cross your own.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

John 15:1-11 (abide, apart, and ask)

*Please read John 15:1-11 before continuing.*

   Last night in Bible Study, God taught us through John 15:1-11. First we talked about abiding in Jesus. John 15:1 and 15:5 are the "casting" verses. They explain that in this analogy Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, and God is the vinedresser (gardener). For a branch to live it must be securely attached to the vine. It gets its water/nutrients from the vine and stays anchored due to the vines roots. When something abides somewhere it is permanently living there. When we abide in Jesus we are trusting Him to be the one to meet all our needs and all of our time is occupied in His word and will. Abiding in Jesus results in glorifying God, being fruitful, and being full of joy (15:5; 8;11). Some ways to abide in Jesus include fellowship, sprayer, study, memorization, reading the Bible, serving others, and continuously checking our priorities. 
   When we abide in Jesus we produce fruit (fulfill our purpose) but to do this we must allow the gardener (God) to prune us. There are three different ways to prune. The first, also called dead heading, is simply cutting of the parts that are dead and useless (think of this as our sin; Ephesians 2:5). The second is used when a plant gets really long, the gardener will often cut off a chunk from one end even though that chunk is healthy. He does this so that the plants energy is more compact as can be used for producing more fruit rather than keeping an over abundance of cells alive. In our lives, God often tells us to let go of things that are good so that our energy can be focused in a more specific area and cause us to bear more fruit.
   These first two methods involve part of ourself being cut off and thrown away and will be undoubtably painful. God cuts away the thoughts and intentions that aren't serving Him. Hebrews 4:12 confirms that as well as informing us that God can cut through even the joints and marrow. Clearly God's word and discernment is insanely precise. While He does all of this tough "surgery" (or pruning), it becomes our job to hold still for Him (Psalm 46:10). This makes the process quicker and cleaner and allows more of it to get done. In order to hold still we must know that God is Lord and praise and trust Him through our pain.
   The third way of pruning also involves trusting God but doesn't involve cutting. Prune comes from the word catharse which means clean. In Bible times, when a vine got so heavy that it began to drag on the ground, the gardener would wash it off and then tie it to a trellis so it could continue to grow bigger and produce more fruit while staying clean. This makes me think of how I often get complacent when I have been following God. This complacency and pride results in me dragging on the ground and getting dirty. Only God can lift me back up from there, clean me up, and point in a new direction. This type of pruning requires a trust that God knows where you belong and where to put you (on the trellis). So in conclusion, to abide in Him, He must be number one and we must trust in Him. 
   The opposite of abiding is to be apart from Him. Just as a branch is dead, useless, and ends up in the fire when it is not attached to the vine, we are dead in sin, without purpose, and end up in the fire without Jesus. If we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5), then the only meaningful things in life, the only things worth doing are the ones we do with and for Him. 
    To close I will point out that many people use John 15:16 as an reason to pray for material items or personal success and expect it when in fact the verse says IF. It is only when we abide in Jesus that we will get what we want because when we abide in Him our will aligns with His.