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Archive for Righteousness

I Am the True Vine

April 3, 2015

One oGrape_Vine02f the oldest productive grapevines in the world is said to be located at Valentines Park in Essex, England. It is thought to have been planted around 1768. In 1800 its girth was approximately one foot. The crop of grapes is usually harvested in September and it takes the vine keeper around three weeks to remove all the grapes – about 500 to 700 pounds. Incredibly, the branches extend out over 120 feet. Life has to flow a long way through the vine to the small branches in order to make the fruit.

In like manner for Christians, life has to flow from the source to the branches in order to produce fruit pleasing to God. Jesus declared himself to be the True Vine (John 15:1-8). God referred to Israel as the vine (Psa. 80:7; Isa. 5:1-7), but Israel failed to produce the fruit that God intended. The Lord Jesus is succeeding where Israel failed. The Father is presented as the vinedresser. He is the ultimate giver of life. Unless the disciples misunderstand the metaphor, Jesus gave them comfort by quickly affirming their never ending connection to the vine (John 15:3).

Jesus refers to Himself as the Vine and His followers as branches. The symbolism is clear. Christ’s disciples are like branches connected to the life-giving vine, Christ. Unless the branch abides in the Vine, the life from the branch will not flow through it. His spiritual life flows from Him then out through those who belong to Him. We cannot produce anything of spiritual value to others without the life of Jesus Christ flowing through us (John 15:5).

The Father removes every branch that is not productive. This would indicate that the branch is dead (Judas Iscariot comes to mind). He then prunes the branches that are productive so that they will be even more productive. This pruning involves chastening and scourging every son whom He receives (Heb. 12:5-10). This process ends by producing the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

Fruitfulness is the big idea of this metaphor. The quality and quantity of the fruit is not the issue here. Fruit will come from the flow of life coming from the vine (Christ), then out through the branches (disciples). Therefore, the branches must abide in the vine. Abiding involves maintaining a close, personal, private, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (vs. 9). Jesus said that if His words abide in them (the disciples), their prayer life will also be enhanced. I take this literally. It is a good idea to spend time memorizing the words of Christ, filling our minds with them.

The metaphor crescendos by teaching that “much fruit” produced glorifies the Father. The word “glorify” means to shed light upon. The spiritual fruit that disciples produce by abiding in the vine sheds light upon the invisible God so that others may come to know Him. So shall we be His disciples.

Come and See

December 7, 2013

Continuing with the series on the the spoken words of Jesus Christ, the words written in red……

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had at their fingertips much information on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  At issue for each of them was what to include in the books we know as the Gospels. Directed by the Holy Spirit, Matthew assembled facts concerning Christ as King.  Christ’s words written in red in Matthew reflect that He is the sovereign one.  Mark emphasized Christ’s role as a suffering servant. The words of Christ in Mark bear this out.  Luke gathered info concerning Christ as the Son of Man, emphasizing His humanity. Christ’s words in Luke confirm his humanity.  Lastly, John presented our Lord as the Son of God. Christ’ words in the gospel of John highlight the fact that He is God.

We will begin our look at the amazing Bible words written in red by combing through the gospel of John. The second person of the Trinity, the the Lord Jesus Christ, created this universe with His spoken word, fashioned Adam from the clay breathing His own life into him, and took on Himself a physical flesh and blood body.  He was born into this world via the womb of a young virgin named Mary. He grew to manhood and began His public ministry.

The first recorded words of Jesus Christ in John came immediately after John introduced Him as the Lamb of God (John 1:36).  Two potential disciples began to follow. Jesus asked them, “What do you seek?” He was asking them (and us) what they were seeking from Him. We need to ask that same question. What do we want from Christ? They responded by asking, “Where are you staying?” Jesus said simply, “Come and see.” This is His first recorded invitation. He wasn’t asking them to come to the house where He lived, but He was inviting them (and us) to come into His world and see amazing spiritual truths that would forever change their lives (and ours).

One of these followers was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  Andrew quickly went to his brother and told Him that he had found the Messiah. This gives us a simple but insightful way to begin to share our faith. We should take the news of our meeting Jesus Christ to our relatives first – those whom we love most. What an obvious place to start, right!  What are we to say? Our witness should be that we have found the Lord Jesus Christ. The way to do this is by sharing the gospel with them. Note what Andrew did next. Andrew found Peter, and he brought him to Jesus. That’s not complicated! We are likewise to bring our family members to Christ. We cannot make them believe in Him but we can bring them to Him, giving them the opportunity.

When Jesus saw Peter, He said, “You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas,” which is translated “A Stone.”  Christ’s deity immediately shines through. He called Peter by name. Peter must have been thrilled. It was only natural for the God-Man to recognize Peter; He created him. He had also fashioned all of Peter’s days before he was ever born (Psalm 139:16). He named him with the Aramaic name, Cephas, a rock. Peter was destined by the Christ to be one of the foundation blocks of the early church (Matthew 16:18). This should give us great confidence that God knows every believer intimately and has a special purpose for each.

The Lord Jesus spoke these simple words to Phillip: “Follow Me.” I believe that Christ said it simply and softly. In like manner, Jesus Christ calls every believer out from the world by the gospel to follow Him (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  His soft voice-print “Follow Me,” can be heard in the minds of those who heed His gospel and believe it.  Jesus Christ actually calls us to Himself by name (John 10:3).

Phillip thought of a friend – Nathaniel – found him and said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” The targets for our sharing our faith should be first family then friends. Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel knew the history of Nazareth in his day. It was a poor city and no one of any prominence could possibly come from there, surely.  Nathaniel at this point did not realize that Jesus Christ was going to focus in on the poor and helpless of the earth, not the wealthy or the strong.  Paul later would challenge the Corinthian church to take a look at the people sitting around them. They would recognize that the wise, strong, and those of nobility were in short supply. In fact, God has chosen those whom the world thinks are foolish, weak, and nobodies (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). The reason? So that God will receive all the praise for their salvation.

Phillip answered Nathaniel with the now familiar, “Come and see.” And did Nathaniel ever see! When Jesus saw Nathaniel walking up, He said to him, “Behold and Israelite in whom that is no guile.” Or more literally, Behold a son of Jacob (the name means deceiver because Jacob was) in whom there is no deceit (no deceit in Nathaniel). Jesus knew Nathaniel’s character. He knew him intimately. Nathaniel was astonished! He asked Jesus how He could possibly know Him. Jesus then flashed His ID card by saying, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathaniel began immediately connecting the dots. The fig tree was not in the area and yet Jesus had seen him? How was this possible? God is everywhere present, that’s how. Nathaniel responded: Teacher, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel. It’s really you! Wow!

Nathaniel was going to need special motivation to throw caution to the wind and share the gospel. For this reason, our Lord did not stop there. His written in red words continued to flow with amazing power.  “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. . . Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”  Christ is saying, Nathaniel if you thought my reference to Jacob was amazing then listen to this.  You do remember Jacob’s ladder, don’t you? Do you recall when Jacob saw the angels coming down from heaven and going up into heaven? You shall see heaven open and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Jacob’s dream was a beautiful prophecy that one day God was going to come down to man and then go back again. Christ is telling Nathaniel that Jacob’s ladder was speaking of Him (Genesis 28:12). I’m the One, Nathaniel.  I’m that Ladder! Nathaniel – and we – should be sufficiently motivated. What amazing words! The ladder – the Lord Jesus Christ – is the way to heaven (John 14:6).  Allow the word of Christ to richly dwell in you!

Written in Red

November 15, 2013

?????????????????????????I have always been intrigued with the words written in red in my red-letter edition of the New Testament. These are, of course, the recorded words spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ. I realize, Biblically speaking, that His words are no more inspired of God than those written in black and are no more necessary to our Christian growth than those written by Paul, Peter, James, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and all the rest.  But for some unexplained reason, I always slow down when I read the words of Jesus. I guess I unconsciously feel compelled to read them a little more carefully. This became even more pronounced as I grew in my understanding of the true identity of my beloved Savior. He is truly God manifest in human flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). He is the member of the Holy Trinity that created this entire universe, and He is the One who created me (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-16; Heb. 1:1-2). It is understandable that one should be in awe of His creator.

Recently I was teaching once again the miraculous controlling ministry of God the Holy Spirit from Ephesians 5:18: “And do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation (excess) but be (being) filled with the Holy Spirit.” What is the evidence that the Holy Spirit’s ministry is active in us? We will have a song in our heart. We will speak with other Christians in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and we will make melody in our hearts to the Lord. God gives us a song. Singing is followed by a thankful attitude toward God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and a submissive spirit toward one another motivated by an admiration of God (Eph. 5:19-20). The end game is a family relationship marked by submission, love, and respect (Eph. 5:21-6:9).

Colossians is almost a photocopy of Ephesians. A parallel passage to Ephesians 5:18 is Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Christ’s rich indwelling words from this passage produce the same result in us as the control of the Spirit in the previous passage. What are the results of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly? It results in our wisdom and our teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. What follows is a thankful heart to God the Father through Jesus Christ. And, as we would expect, strong family relationships result (Col. 3:17-25). The pattern is a perfect match.

There is no difference in effect between the controlling ministry of the Spirit and the indwelling word of Christ. Both produce exactly the same results in us. Is the “indwelling word of Christ” referring to the God-breathed words written in the entire Bible?  Most commentaries say that it is.  Or does Paul mean by “Christ’s word” that which He communicates to us by His special words written in red? Asked another way, could not the truth contained in what Christ teaches be referred to as “the word of Christ?”

I have memorized many of Christ’s recorded words.  I find myself meditating on them often. When visiting people in the hospital who are struggling with health problems – sometimes life and death issues – or people in nursing homes who are at times lonely, I am compelled by the Spirit of God to pray audibly the powerful words written in red in the Bible. Folks seem to be comforted by hearing them. I sense that these powerful words meet a need in the life of the hearer. I completely agree with the officer’s testimony who heard Jesus speak. “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46).

Just Like Him

September 6, 2011

We recently returned from a quick trip to Indiana to see my oldest son and his family.  I was surprised at how much my little grandson Jacob looks like his dad. When Jacob’s picture is placed alongside a photo of his father at his age, the likeness is astonishing!  I can’t help but ponder what little Jacob is going to be like. I imagine the old saying, “Like father, like son” will play out somewhat. It’s hard to fight genetics.  The same is true with believers. We are all spiritually connected to the Lord Jesus Christ and destined to be like Him.

One of the most fascinating Bible truths is captured by the little phrase “in Christ.” I suppose one could spend a lifetime in study of just this tiny two-word expression and never really begin to plumb its depths. Though we now look through that dim glass, the Bible gives us some small insights into its truth. When the Holy Spirit immerses us into Jesus Christ, incredibly but understandably His qualities become ours. In order to appreciate this character exchange, we must realize some downsides of our position in the first Adam. In Adam all die! Short line but loaded with truth.

We come into this world spiritually connected to the first man’s death. In fact, we are laden with his character traits. We are born physically fallen and spiritually separated from God. But the moment faith is placed into Jesus Christ, we change locations. We are taken out of the old Adam and placed into the new Adam. That’s a remarkable exchange! As a result we are made alive in Christ.

How is this new life received? John said in his gospel that God gives us eternal life and this life is in His Son. The moment we are placed into Him, His life becomes our life. What amazing truth! What kind of life does Christ have? Eternal life,of course! This is why we have eternal life. We have His life because we are in Him.

We also come into this world strapped with the weight of Adam’s spiritual baggage – sin. His sin is attached to us at birth. This means that before we commit our first act of sin, we are already spiritually bankrupt before God. In order to live forever with God, we must have righteousness equal to His. Who has the righteousness we need? There is only one source, God’s sinless Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, when we believe in Christ, we are positioned in Him. At the moment we are found to be in Him, His righteousness is placed on our account. In fact, God made Christ – who knew no sin – to become sin for us. Why? So that being in Him we might have His perfect righteousness credited to our fallen bank account. The necessary righteousness – His righteousness – comes to us the very moment that we are placed in union with Him.

Finally, having been born in Adam, we come into this fallen world as children of the devil. That doesn’t sound very comforting, but it is true nonetheless. We were painfully referred to as the children of darkness living under the power of darkness. What made it even worse is that we were spiritually blind to this fact with no hope of ever finding our way to light. God opened our blind eyes to spiritually understand the gospel and He gave us the faith to place in Jesus Christ. At that very moment the light came in and we were given eyes to see it. We became children of the living God. But how? It is important to recognize that Jesus Christ is the very Son of the living God. What does His identity have to do with us? When we are placed into Him, His identity becomes our identity. We become connected to His heavenly Father just as He is connected to Him. We become children of God. We are all sons of God through faith in Christ. When we are baptized into Christ, we put Him on like a garment. Since we are in Him, His relationship is transferred to us. By being in Him, His life becomes our life, His righteousness is placed on our spiritual account and His relationship to the Father becomes ours. My, what riches we have in Christ!

This truth is evidently what motivated Paul to over and over refer to Christians as those who are – you guessed it – in Christ. We also receive a new heavenly citizenship, the promise of a new body just like our Lord’s and we are some day to reign with Him. We are predestined to be conformed to His very image. It’s simply like father, like son. Wow! God you’re a genius!