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Sanctification & Growth

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Grapes

Jesus gives us our purpose in today’s Bible reading: bear fruit. He is the true Vine. And Believers are branches attached to the True Vine. The responsibilities of the branches are to stay connected with the Vine and let the life of the Vine flow through them. Union and Communion.

As long as a Believer stays in Union and Communion with the Vine, the life of the Vine produces fruit. Notice that the Vine produces the fruit through the branches. The branches bear fruit produced by the Vine.

Branches that are not attached to the Vine are gathered up and burned (John 15:6) because they take up space in the vineyard. But branches that are attached to the Vine, but aren’t bearing fruit are lifted up[1] (John 15:2) and given special attention so they can bear fruit. By raising up those branches, they are taken off the ground where the fruit was stepped on or stolen by a rodent or some other hungry animal.

Application?

How’s your fruit bearing? Do you bear the fruit produced by Jesus in your life?

Have you felt discouraged, just waiting for Jesus to come along and remove you from the vineyard? Rest assured that if you are still in union and communion with the Vine, you can never be cast aside. Instead, the Master Gardener will deal with you so that you can bear fruit.

Check your connection. Draw your life from the True Vine. And bear the fruit.

[1] Most modern English translations miss this key point, leading to some amount of confusion about the destiny of non-fruit-bearing branches that are still attached to the Vine. The Greek word means to raise up or to lift up, not to take away or to remove.

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Join Us!

Sometimes you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like. Something that doesn’t sound right. Something that doesn’t seem to go with how you always heard it in church. Such is the case with today’s Bible reading.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 (CSB)

He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” John 6:65 (CSB)

Many of us who grew up in church find it not just a little strange that Jesus would say — not once, but twice — that not just anyone can come to God. Does that mean that God will turn away people who sincerely want to come to Him? In other words, can someone come to Jesus on their own initiative?

I don’t have the space here to fully answering these questions. Some theologians have dedicated books to answering them. All I have is what Jesus says: only those who have been invited may come. Add to that what Paul says in Romans 3:10–12 and what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 17:9 and I think it’s clear that no one is capable of sincerely coming to God on their own initiative. And even if they could, they wouldn’t.

Now, Jesus doesn’t say just that only those who are invited may come. But He adds that all those who are invited will come (John 6:37a) and all of those who respond to the invitation can never be turned away. (John 6:37b) And for Jesus to lose a any of those who were invited would be for Him to not do His Father’s will. (John 6:39)

Those are tremendous truths! Think about that!

If a child of God could lose his/her salvation,
it would mean that Jesus failed to do God’s will!

Application

In other words, the security of your salvation isn’t your responsibility! It’s Jesus’ responsibility! Now, that isn’t to say that you can come to Jesus and kick back and never do anything else.

No, if you truly come to Him, you will continue to come to Him and grow closer to Him. But the responsibility for maintaining the relationship is His. And Jesus will always hold to His responsibilities!

So when you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like, something that doesn’t sound right, something that doesn’t go along with what you’ve always heard in church, it might just be that God wants to show you something about His character you’ve never seen before. And it might just be an opportunity for worship.

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The intersection of Truth and Love

John is often called “John the Beloved”; he refers to himself as “The disciple Jesus loved”. (John 20:2)

In today’s Bible reading, John emphasizes the two-pronged approach to pleasing God: Love and Truth. (2 John 1:4-6, 9) If you’re going to walk with Jesus, you can’t have one without the other.

Each day, as I read my Facebook Newsfeed, I see a lot of posts about the importance of Truth. I also see a lot of posts about the importance of Love. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of posts that intersect Truth and Love.

Sometimes it’s very discouraging to see truth spoken so harshly by Believers. I often scratch my head asking how these people can be so harsh when they claim to preach grace. It’s also discouraging to see posts by Believers who have little-to-no regard for the Truth as revealed in Scripture, and only promote Love.

But John says we need both Truth and Love.

Application

If you look at the street signs above, you’ll see that we’re standing at the intersection of Truth and Love. Truth and Love aren’t the opposite ends of one street. They actually are two separate streets. Truth Street has Truth at one end and Error at the other end. Love Street has Love at one end and either Hate or Apathy at the other end.

Perhaps I need to be more judicious with the Facebook Groups I read. How about you? Do you tend to lean more toward Truth-Centered or Love-Centered?

As I typed this devotional, I had to go back and correct an easy, but completely wrong conclusion. I originally suggested that we think about how we can be more balanced between Truth and Love.

And then I realized that you don’t have to choose one over the other! Instead, we should look for the intersection of Truth and Love.

Paul tells us we need both Truth and Love to be mature Believers.

But speaking the truth in love,
let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.

(Ephesians 4:15 CSB)

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Sales

Did you know that the antichrist is already here? John says he’s already in the world. And he wrote that during the last half of the First Century.

John begins 1 John 4 in today’s Bible reading with a warning to test the Spirits. (1 John 4:1) So how do you know which spirits to believe? John answers that question for us.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3 (CSB)

One scholar says, “To test the spirits is ‘Put them to the acid test of truth as the metallurgist does his metals. If it stands the test like a coin, it is acceptable , 2 Cor. 10:18), otherwise it is rejected.'”[1]

It’s so easy to turn on the TV to a “Christian” program, or tune into a “Christian” radio station and hear all kinds of teachings from all kinds of Bible teachers. And not all of the Bible teachers are teaching Biblically-sound teachings. Oh, they may quote the Bible. They may throw around some Greek or Hebrew words. But how do you know if what you’re hearing is right?

The early church struggled with this question. The Apostles’ warnings are laid out in their letters to the young churches and their leaders. And back then, there was a higher level of accountability than there is today. Back then, all you’d have to do is call out the false teachers in a letter and the local pastors confronted them. But today with 24/7 “Christian” TV and radio — not to mention the Internet — there is little to no accountability of the false teachers and their false teachings. Don’t believe me? Call the teacher/preacher/writer and ask the receptionist to let you speak with him/her. Trust me, you won’t be able to talk with him/her. They have more important things to do.

Application

Regardless of the times and the technology, each of us is responsible to make sure that the preachers/teachers/writers we learn from are teaching consistently with the Bible. And that means Believers must test the spirits for themselves. Your pastor can help to point you in the right direction. And that’s one very good reason to be plugged into a good, Bible-believing church. But even your pastor may not know if a particular preacher/teacher/writer is teaching God’s Word legitimately.

Applying John’s counsel, look at what the Bible teacher/preacher/writer says about Jesus. Is the Jesus he/she teaches the Jesus revealed in the Bible? Just talking about “Jesus” doesn’t mean it’s the Jesus of the Bible. What does the teacher/preacher/writer have to say about the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Does what he/she say line up with all of Scripture? Does he/she say that God’s Word is our ultimate authority on Who Jesus is? Does listening to him/her make you feel uncomfortable about sin? Does listening to him/her make you want to live more of a God-centered life?

Yes, it’s very important to put Bible teachers/preachers/writers to the acid test. And just because they passed the test ten years ago doesn’t necessarily mean they would pass the test today. Don’t let down your guard. Your walk with Jesus is impacted by who you watch, listen to, and read. Be careful. Test the spirits.

[1] Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.

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Man looking in the mirror

In today’s Bible reading, Paul continues with similar topics as we saw in his letter to Timothy. He tells Titus, “Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8 CSB)

Paul puts a lot of pressure on these young pastors. He holds them to a high standard. But it isn’t a standard that they aren’t able to live up to as they live in dependence on the Holy Spirit. Oh, on their own, they’re in deep weeds! But leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit living through them, it’s a day-by-day experience of seeing God work through them. Paul knows they’ll never “arrive”. They’ll always have to live one day at a time, taking up their cross to follow Jesus. It’s a daily choice that every Believer must make. (Luke 9:23)

For Paul, you can’t say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Paul knows that a life of integrity flows out of a close walk with Jesus.

Application

There are inconsistencies in our lives. If you think you don’t have any, just ask God and listen. Spend time in His Word and He’ll tell you. When He shows you things that don’t look like Jesus, thank Him for the forgiveness that He gave His children through Jesus’ death on the cross.

The entire Christian life is one of daily cross-taking. It’s a life of daily self-denial. It’s a daily reflection, looking for Jesus and asking God to bring out the character of Jesus in your life. And it’s asking God to take away the things that don’t look like Jesus.

It’s true for young pastors like Titus and Timothy. And it’s true for you, too.

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