Archive for July, 2018

John 17:1-8

In John 17:1-8 Jesus has finally reached the point He’s ready to reveal it all to the world.  He’s been under the radar and while bits and pieces of God’s plan and the reality of who He was had been shared, His public ministry is now in full swing.  “When Jesus had finished saying all these things he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Reveal the glory of your Son so that he can give the glory back to you.”  Jesus has always had authority over all things, but now He is proclaiming and making it clear.  Jesus is not a normal leader.  He is God’s Son.  “For you have given him authority over every man and woman in all the earth.”

His authority is not only over things of the earth, but over all things including eternity. “He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.” Jesus is the only way to have eternal life.  No other options exist.  There is no Plan B, only Jesus. “And this is the way to have eternal life—by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth!” God put that plan in motion when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, and now Jesus is completing that plan as He prepares to go to the Cross with the sins of mankind on His shoulders where He will take those things and defeat death and make a way for us to be forgiven of our sin and given eternal life through God’s grace delivered by His Son.

Jesus has done all that God asked and required. “I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to.” And that obedience, even to death on the Cross, is the foundation of the grace God offers freely to you and me.  Our opportunity for eternal life has nothing to do with who we are or what we do.  It is entirely based on what Jesus did as He stepped off the throne at God’s right hand and came to earth to defeat death and provide us the offer of eternal life. “And now, Father, reveal my glory as I stand in your presence, the glory we shared before the world began.

Jesus has invested deeply in the disciples.“I have told these men all about you. They were in the world, but then you gave them to me. Actually, they were always yours, and you gave them to me; and they have obeyed you.” He was their caretaker, just as the Holy Spirit is our caretaker today. He has been preparing them for the change that is coming very soon, when He would go to the Cross and they would be left behind. “Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the commands you gave me; and they accepted them and know of a certainty that I came down to earth from you, and they believe you sent me.”  He has been preparing them, and soon the baton will be passed.

John 16:26-33

In John 16:26-33 Jesus makes clear that the disciples were empowered because of His place with the Father.  There is a transfer of power to Christ Followers through His name.  God not only hears our prayers, but grants them.  “Then you will present your petitions over my signature! And I won’t need to ask the Father to grant you these requests, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from the Father.”  It happens because of faith in Jesus, and believing that He was sent from the Father to take care of our sin problem through His death on the Cross.

Jesus makes it plain exactly how this all transpired. “Yes, I came from the Father into the world and will leave the world and return to the Father.” He stepped off His place at the right hand of God and came down to earth as a child in a manger who grew up and carried the sin of mankind to the Cross to have victory over death.  For once, the disciples are starting to understand what Jesus is saying.“At last you are speaking plainly,” his disciples said, “and not in riddles.” During much of His time with the disciples, they had only seen things partially, but now as He approaches the culmination of His life on earth, He is revealing much more.

“Now we understand that you know everything and don’t need anyone to tell you anything. From this we believe that you came from God.” The faith of the disciples is growing rapidly as Jesus clarifies more and more about God’s plan.  They have always believed in Him, but didn’t really have a firm grasp on what the plan was.  Now they are starting to see it more clearly. “Do you finally believe this?” Jesus asked.”  Jesus wants to be sure they get it, because the world is going to be after them after Jesus is crucified.  “But the time is coming—in fact, it is here—when you will be scattered, each one returning to his own home, leaving me alone.”

Jesus predicts the reaction the disciples will have when the religious leaders arrest Him and then take Him to the Cross.  They are going to run from Jesus and protect their own lives.  But Jesus knows even if those closest on earth desert Him, God won’t. “Yet I will not be alone, for the Father is with me.”  We’ll see later that Jesus feels a bit abandoned by God, but in fact God never leaves us nor did He leave Jesus.  The point of all these words from Jesus was to prepare the disciples for what is coming.  It’s going to be hard in the short term, but victory will result. “I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.”

John 16:20-25

In John 16:20-25 Jesus continues the preparation of His disciples for what is rapidly coming.  “The world will greatly rejoice over what is going to happen to me, and you will weep. But your weeping shall suddenly be turned to wonderful joy when you see me again.”  Most of the world will be ecstatic with Jesus crucifixion, but Jesus knows His disciples will be sorrowful.  He encourages them to realize that the sorrow won’t be long lasting. Jesus knew they would be plunged into deep and dark sorrow in the next few hours. He also knew that God would, by His power and grace, turn their sorrow into joy.

In what ways will this sorrow stike?  Guzik writes the disciples were:

  • · Sorrowful at the loss of relationship
  • · Sorrowful at the humiliation of their Master and Messiah
  • · Sorrowful at the seeming victory of His enemies
  • · Sorrowful because all they hoped for was taken away

But Jesus tries to explain that it won’t be long lasting at all. “It will be the same joy as that of a woman in labor when her child is born—her anguish gives place to rapturous joy and the pain is forgotten.” The sorrow is extreme and intense for a short period, but then transforms to joy.

That’s the picture Jesus paints for His disciples. “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and then you will rejoice; and no one can rob you of that joy.” Joy is something that we choose – no one can take it from us – not even the religious leaders who made the decision to crucify our Savior.  The disciples had no idea how Jesus’ death would impact them.  But Jesus gives them a promise – a direct line to God – for their needs. “At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything, for you can go directly to the Father and ask him, and he will give you what you ask for because you use my name.” When Jesus returned, the disciples would be so overjoyed the last thing they would be focused on was asking Him for things.

But Jesus promises answers to their prayers. “You haven’t tried this before, but begin now. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and your cup of joy will overflow.” Because of Jesus’ great work, the disciples have unlimited, undeniable access to God through Him. The disciples had yet to really pray in the name of Jesus, but He would teach them very soon how to do that. “I have spoken of these matters very guardedly, but the time will come when this will not be necessary and I will tell you plainly all about the Father.”  Jesus has been spoon feeding them to this point, but their eyes and ears will soon be opened to the truth of God’s Kingdom and plans for eternity.

John 16:13-19

In John 16:13-19 Jesus explains the role of the Holy Spirit to His disciples, and to you and me. “When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” In one sense, this was fulfilled when the New Testament writings, divinely inspired by God, were completed. In another sense the Holy Spirit continues today to personally lead us into truth, but never in opposition to the Scripture, because God’s supreme authority is closed with the New Testament.  The Holy Spirit isn’t ‘making things up’ but rather teaching what God has already ordained as truth.

Jesus makes it clear that the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity will glorify Him. “He shall praise me and bring me great honor by showing you my glory.” People may speak of dreams, visions, experiences, revelations and say they came from the Holy Spirit, but many of those supposed revelations of the Spirit say nothing or almost nothing about Jesus Himself.  That isn’t how the Trinity works.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three, but they are first and foremost One.  “All the Father’s glory is mine; this is what I mean when I say that he will show you my glory.” Jesus isn’t showboating on His own, and neither will the Holy Spirit.

The time is quickly approaching when Jesus will be gone and go to the Cross.  The disciples don’t understand the path Jesus will take, but are now discovering that He’ll be coming back. “In just a little while I will be gone, and you will see me no more; but just a little while after that, and you will see me again!”  The disciples didn’t understand that the arrest of Jesus was only an hour or two away, and then His crucifixion would follow soon thereafter. Yet because He must go to the Father, they would see Him again as He rose from the dead.  They have no idea of what’s coming, but Jesus is giving them the details so they can look back and know it is as it was to be.

It is obvious they don’t comprehend His words.  “Whatever is he saying?” some of his disciples asked. “What is this about ‘going to the Father’? We don’t know what he means.”  The disciples were both troubled and confused. They probably thought Jesus spoke with unnecessary mystery about where He was going and what He would do. They didn’t understand what He meant about not seeing Him and then seeing Him. “Jesus realized they wanted to ask him so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I mean?” Jesus understood that the disciples wanted more clarity; but He also knew that they needed more than information. They needed their hearts and minds prepared to endure the coming crisis.  We have to be prepared for how the world treats us as Christ Followers as well.

John 16:8-12

In John 16:8-12 Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for the coming storm. Jesus work won’t end, it will just be handed over to the Holy Spirit. “And when he has come he will convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God’s goodness, and of deliverance from judgment.” The job of convincing the world that it has a sin problem, and that God is the only answer to that problem continues to this day. It is a pretty simple truth:

  • Man has a problem called sin
  • Sin will prevent us from being with God
  • God created a way to solve our sin problem through grace
  • Jesus was that solution through going to the cross to die for our sin
  • Man has to receive that gift of grace through faith in Christ to receive deliverance from judgment

There are no other options – no Plan B.  The Holy Spirit has come and is working to convince and convict the world of sin.  That is the root problem.  Jesus is the only solution.

Jesus had a plan, but they couldn’t understand it. With 2,000 years of hindsight we see that when Jesus went away He then sent the Holy Spirit, which had and has a broader and more effective ministry in the entire world.  The problem is no different today than it was then. “The world’s sin is unbelief in me; there is righteousness available because I go to the Father and you shall see me no more; there is deliverance from judgment because the prince of this world has already been judged.” Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples when He departed. This is what would make it to their advantage that He departed from them. Jesus meant that the presence and work of the Holy Spirit would actually be better for believers than the physical, bodily presence of Jesus.  Hard for the disciples to grasp, but clear to us today.

Tenney wrote: “The essence of sin is unbelief, which is not simply a casual incredulity nor a difference of opinion; rather, it is a total rejection of God’s messenger and message.” That is really what the problem is with man and sin.  We just completely blow off the truth that sin has one outcome as described by Scripture – death – which is eternal separation from God.  This is no small matter. Eternity is a very long time. Morris said: “The basic sin is the sin which puts self at the center of things and consequently refused to believe in Him.” The real problem is that we elevate ourselves to be equal with God – the master of our own lives – rather than realizing that God alone is in charge.

Jesus has much to share with His disciples, but He didn’t want to completely overwhelm them. “Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t understand it now.” Jesus frankly admitted that His own teaching was incomplete, and anticipated the further instruction of the church by the Holy Spirit. We need to be learners in our walk as Christ Followers.  While salvation is a somewhat simple act of faith – believing in Jesus as God’s Son and the redeemer of our soul from sin – the Lordship of Jesus is a life long process that we need to invest time and effort into learning more of the Master’s ways so we can walk with Him in obedience!

John 16:1-7

In John 16:1-7 Jesus continues to school the disciples on what is coming.  “I have told you these things so that you won’t be staggered by all that lies ahead.” Jesus warned His disciples of coming opposition because He did not want them to be surprised and caught off guard by it. “For you will be excommunicated from the synagogues, and indeed the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing God a service.”

He also did not expect that His disciples would immediately leave the synagogues, or leave them by their own choice. They would be forced out of the synagogues for Jesus’ sake. So He wanted to give a heads up on that too, so they would be prepared.

Why will the religious leaders react that way?  “This is because they have never known the Father or me.” You would think that the religious folks would know God and the One He sent to save them.  But they weren’t looking or listening, and were focused on their own power.  So Jesus has to prepare His disciples for what is coming. “Yes, I’m telling you these things now so that when they happen you will remember I warned you. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.”  He didn’t tell them at first, as there was no reason to do so, but now as His time is ending, He is in preparation mode to help them be ready for what lies ahead.

Jesus is leaving, and is somewhat amazed that the disciples aren’t trying to understand why. “But now I am going away to the one who sent me; and none of you seems interested in the purpose of my going; none wonders why.” Peter had asked this question earlier and Thomas asked a similar question as well. Therefore Jesus must mean not only the words of the question, but the heart of it.  The disciples are just focused on their loss, not the reason behind it. “Instead you are only filled with sorrow.”  But Jesus wants them to understand how important this is. “But the fact of the matter is that it is best for you that I go away, for if I don’t, the Comforter won’t come. If I do, he will—for I will send him to you.”

Guzik points out that while Jesus is making to case that it is to the advantage of the disciples that He go away, they likely don’t see it that way.  Was what was coming really to their advantage?  Put yourself in their shoes and ask if it was…..

  • To your advantage that Jesus is arrested?
  • To your advantage that Jesus’ ministry of teaching and miracles is stopped?
  • To your advantage that Jesus is beaten?
  • To your advantage that Jesus is mocked?
  • To your advantage that Jesus is sentenced for execution?
  • To your advantage that Jesus is nailed to a cross?
  • To your advantage that Jesus dies in the company of notorious criminals?
  • To your advantage that His lifeless body is laid in a cold grave?

There are some big things coming and Jesus is all about getting His disciples ready for what lies ahead!

John 15:20-27

In John 15:20-27 Jesus reminds the disciples of the response they will get in the world.  He has been persecuted, so they will be too. He is preparing them for the reality of what life will be like as a Christ Follower.  It’s not all roses.  “Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave isn’t greater than his master!’ So since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you!”  We have to be prepared and ready to make the choice of continuing to follow Him.  If not ready, the world very well may pull us away.  “The people of the world will persecute you because you belong to me, for they don’t know God who sent me.”

Why does the world hate Jesus?  Because His life and the truth of His Word has exposed the reality of their heart and life.  In a word, it is SIN.  None of us like to be guilty of sin, yet all of us are.  Jesus pointed that out loud and clear.  “They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.” But even worse, He made it clear that there is no pass, no way to escape the consequence, short of believing in God’s grace through Him. “Anyone hating me is also hating my Father. If I hadn’t done such mighty miracles among them they would not be counted guilty. But as it is, they saw these miracles and yet they hated both of us—me and my Father.”

That hatred of the truth will spill on the disciples, and ultimately us as Christ Followers.  People really dislike being shown as sinners.  The scriptures prophesied what would happen, and it is exactly what did and continues to today. “This has fulfilled what the prophets said concerning the Messiah, They hated me without reason.” The Lord who was personally persecuted on earth continued to be persecuted, even in his exultation, and now in the person of his persecuted followers.  We don’t really experience that persecution like Christians in other parts of the world, but it is ongoing even today.

Jesus has made it clear that He is leaving, but He gives them good news.  “But I will send you the Comforter—the Holy Spirit, the source of all truth. He will come to you from the Father and will tell you all about me.” Jesus knew the disciples would need the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to face the opposition the world would bring.  The Holy Spirit will continue the teaching work of Jesus.  He leaves the disciples with a charge however: “And you also must tell everyone about me because you have been with me from the beginning.”  We are the messengers of truth and need to tell those in our patch about Jesus.  The disciples (nor you or I) were not left in the world merely to endure the world’s hatred. We have a story to tell!

John 15:12-19

In John 15:12-19 Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for His departure.  His main focus was that they learn to truly love one another. “I demand that you love each other as much as I love you”. They are commanded to love in a particular way, according to the way Jesus loved which is a pretty tall order since Jesus loved them, and us, enough to go to the Cross.  Jesus went on to give them the measuring stick, which He Himself lived by and died by. “And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends; and you are my friends if you obey me.”

Jesus defined the measure for love, but also the measure for friendship.  A person loves another when they will give their life.  Friendship is demonstrated by a willingness to serve and obey.  He contrasts friends with slaves.  “I no longer call you slaves, for a master doesn’t confide in his slaves; now you are my friends, proved by the fact that I have told you everything the Father told me.” The difference between a servant and a friend is not between diligent obedience and disobedience. The difference is between understanding and not understanding. Because friends have a close relationship, they understand while servants do not.

Then Jesus makes a powerful statement about their relationship. “You didn’t choose me! I chose you! I appointed you to go and produce lovely fruit always, so that no matter what you ask for from the Father, using my name, he will give it to you.” It is love based on Divine election; love that takes the initiative. Jesus introduced this thought right at the point where the disciples might feel proud that they are the friends of Jesus, bearing great fruit for God. But any fruit that is produced happens because of God and we are merely instruments in His hands.  Because of our relationship, we have the right to ask Him through prayer for His action, and if we are walking with Him in obedience, He shows love to us through hearing and answering those prayers.

But walking with Jesus isn’t without some challenge.  Those around us may not like what they see. “I demand that you love each other, for you get enough hate from the world! But then, it hated me before it hated you.” We need each other and must lift each other up in the face of the world’s hate. As Christians, we can face the worst, recognize that Jesus has been there first, and then press on ahead. “The world would love you if you belonged to it; but you don’t—for I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you”. There is no just cause for the world to hate Jesus and His followers the way they do. Instead the world hates because its sin is exposed, and because they know not the Father or the Son.  We need to respond as the martyred missionary William Borden did: ‘No reserve; no retreat; no regrets.’

John 15:5-11

In John 15:5-11 Jesus continues His teaching on abiding.  We have to abide in order to bear fruit.  It doesn’t happen any other way. “Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.” Real fruitfulness is only determined over an extended period of time.  Jesus tells us that not only will be bear fruit if we stay connected, but it will be a large crop.  If we don’t stay connected, we produce nothing.  It’s pretty clear and simple. “If anyone separates from me, he is thrown away like a useless branch, withers, and is gathered into a pile with all the others and burned.”

There is not much middle ground here.  There is an easy way to avoid being one of the cast out branches. They are the ones who do not abide in Me, said Jesus. If we abide in Jesus, we have full confidence and assurance, and we will bear fruit.  But what does that really look like?  In a word it is obedience. “But if you stay in me and obey my commands, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!” And obedience provides a great outcome – answered prayer is a privilege of close abiding; we find our prayers in tune with Jesus’ will.  And when that happens, they are answered.  Prayer is not convincing Jesus to align with our requests.  Prayer is aligning our desires in obedience to His will.

If we are abiding, we’ll yield much. “My true disciples produce bountiful harvests. This brings great glory to my Father.” We must not lose sight of why it is so important to bear fruit. The purpose of fruit-bearing is to bring glory to God, not man, so not me. If people look at our live and praise us for the glorious fruit, something is wrong. The whole purpose is the glorify God.  The focus is not on us, but on God’s work in and through us.  Jesus provides the environment that makes it possible to bear fruit. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love.” He is the source of our ability to bear fruit, but only as we abide in His love.

It all boils down to obedience. “When you obey me you are living in my love, just as I obey my Father and live in his love.” We know that we abide in God’s love by obedience, not by our mystical experiences or miracles.  It happens when we obey.  When we fail to abide in Jesus’ love, and thereby fail to keep His commandments, then we do not have the fullness of joy He promises to those who do abide in His love and obedience. “I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow!” The joy of Jesus is not the pleasure of a life of ease; it is the exhilaration of being right with God, and consciously walking in His love and care. We can have that joy, and have it as an abiding presence.

John 15:1-4

In John 15:1-4 Jesus is preparing His disciples for life after He is no longer with them.  But He is also talking to you and me and how we can life successfully as Christ Followers.  “I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener”. This was a familiar symbol that the disciples certainly understood. There were grapevines everywhere in ancient Israel. God repeatedly used a vine as a symbol of His people in the Scriptures.  Jesus is the TRUE vine. In fact, He’s the only vine that matters.  And God is the One in control – He is the Gardener that determines the course of life and history.  Jesus is clear about that.

Jesus is the true vine. We must be rooted in Him if we will bear fruit for God.  It isn’t something we can do on our own.  And God is serious about us bearing fruit.  “He lops off every branch that doesn’t produce”. The vine and branch picture emphasizes complete dependence and the need for constant connection.  We can’t bear fruit on our own.  The branches that are failing to bear fruit were never properly abiding in the vine, demonstrated by the fact that they did not bear fruit.  But the word translated ‘lops off’ here may have a different meaning. Many scholars believe it means that the Father lifts up unproductive vines off of the ground and puts them in a position to be able to truly begin to bear fruit.  The Gardener changes the growing conditions so there is an environment that causes branches that are connected to being to bear fruit.

But there is even more required than just bearing fruit.  We need to bear maximum fruit – to live up to the potential we have.  “And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops”.  Left to itself a vine will produce a good deal of unproductive growth and very little fruit. For maximum yield, extensive pruning is essential.  The vine master has to continually prune the branches so they will produce. Dead wood is worse than fruitlessness, for dead wood can harbor disease and decay…God removes the dead wood from his church and disciplines the life of the believer so that it is directed into fruitful activity.  Without pruning, all branches will eventually fall into decay and fail to bear fruit.

That work had already began in the disciples. “He has already tended you by pruning you back for greater strength and usefulness by means of the commands I gave you.” The work of pruning, of cleansing, had already begun in the eleven disciples Jesus spoke to. They had heard and received much of His teaching and were in some sense already clean because of the word. It is an ongoing process, and Jesus reminds them they have to stay connected. “Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me.”  The secret to living as a Christ Follower is to stay connected – plugged into Jesus.  If we don’t, we will become unfruitful.  We only achieve His plan for our life when we are connected to Him!

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