John 15 – The Vine

Here we learn of the cultivation of vineyards and how important it was to the life and economy of Israel (vs. 1-11). And, as Jesus teaches, he uses things that the people could relate to. So, he speaks of the vine. And, if ever a nation had everything it needed to be successful, it was Israel. But, the vine produced wild grapes. Instead of justice, they oppressed. Instead of righteousness, it produced unrighteousness and so, God had to deal with the nation Israel and chasten it, but even that did not produce lasting results. So, when God’s own Son came to the vineyard, they cast Him out and killed Him (Matt. 21:33-46).

Now, the present Vine is our Lord Jesus Christ, and, of course, the vine includes the branches. He is the “true Vine,” that is, “the original of which all other vines are a copy” and Christians are the branches meaning, we have a living relationship to Christ and belong to Him so that we may bear fruit. For, by itself, a branch is weak and useless. It is good for either bearing or burning, but not for building. The branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw that life from the vine. And so again. it is our communion with Christ that makes possible the bearing of the fruit. And, the sooner Christians realize that we are but branches, the better we will relate to the Lord. Thus, we must abide in Him, serve and sacrifice to Him.

Now, the vinedresser is in charge of caring for the vines, and Jesus said, this is the work of His Father. It is He who “purges” or prunes the branches so they will produce more fruit. And, it is ironic that Christians pray to bear more fruit but they do not enjoy the pruning process that follows. Still, the vinedresser prunes the branches by cutting away dead wood that can breed disease and insects, and by cutting away living tissue so that the life of the vine will not be so dissipated that the quality of the crop will be jeopardized. This shows us that God does not let the believer alone to have his own way. Instead, because God loves us, He “prunes” us and encourages us to bear more fruit for His glory.

But, how does the Father prune us? Sometimes He simply uses the Word to convict and cleanse us. (Jn. 13:10; Eph. 5:26-27.) Sometimes He must chasten us (Heb. 12:1-11). At the time, it hurts when He removes something precious from us; but as the “spiritual crop” is produced, we see that the Father knew what He was doing. Thus, the more we abide in Christ, the more fruit we bear; and the more fruit we bear, the more the Father has to prune us so God is glorified by a bigger crop that is also a better crop.

As for the fruit, we are not producing fruit to please ourselves but to serve others. Thus, we should be the kind of people who “feed” others by our words and our works (Prov. 10:21). For, we bear fruit when we win others to Christ (Rom. 1:13). and, since we are a part of the harvest (Jn. 4:35-38), as we grow in holiness and obedience, we are bearing fruit (Rom. 6:22) of a dedicated life (Gal. 5:22-23). This is why it is such a terrible shame for a once fruitful believer to fall from grace and lose his/her privilege of fellowship with the Savior. But, our abiding in Christ certainly ought to produce His love, joy, and peace in our hearts. So, as branches in the Vine, we have the privilege of abiding and the responsibility of bearing fruit.

But now, we turn to the second picture Jesus shows and that is a picture of friends. Most of us have many acquaintances but very few friends, and even some of our friends may prove unfriendly or even unfaithful. What about Judas. (Ps. 41:9)? Even a devoted friend may fail us when we need him most. Peter, James, and John went to sleep in the Garden when they should have been praying; and Peter even denied the Lord three times. So, our friendship to each other and to the Lord is not perfect, but His friendship to us is perfect.

However, we must not interpret this word friend in a limited way, because the Greek word means “a friend at court.” It describes that “inner circle” around a king or emperor. It is this kind of a relationship that Jesus described when He called His disciples “friends.” It was certainly a relationship of love, both for Him and for each other. And, these friends could not compete with each other for attention or promotion because they did not promote themselves, but to serve their King. What a rebuke this must have been to the selfish disciples who often argued over who was the greatest!

Yet, our friendship with Christ involves love and obedience as well as knowledge: He “lets us in on” His plans. Indeed, He is our Master (John 13:13, 16), but He does not treat us as servants. He treats us as friends, if we do what He commands. And, it is interesting to note that, in John’s account, it was the servants who knew what was going on! The servants at the wedding feast in Cana knew where the wine came from (Jn. 2:9), and the nobleman’s servants knew when the son was healed (Jn. 4:51-53). Thus, one of the greatest privileges we have as His friends is that of learning to know God better. And so, as branches, we share His life and bear fruit; and as friends, we share His love and bear fruit. As branches, we are pruned by the Father; as friends, we are instructed by the Son, and His Word controls our lives.

Now, in vs. 15-16, it summarizes for us what it means to be a friend of the King of kings. It is a humbling experience, for He chose us and we keep our ears open and listen to what He says to us so that we might obey Him and get His work done. Next, Jesus closed this part of His message by reminding them (and us) of the most important commandment of all: Love one another. This command was repeated twice and will be told many more times in the New Testament letters. Thus, the friends of the King must not only love Him, but also one another. What joy it brings to His heart when He sees His friends loving one another and working together to obey His commands. So, if we are not abiding as branches and obeying as friends, we will never be able to face the opposition of the world. And, if we do not love one another, how can we ever hope to love lost men and women in the world? If we are not marching together as the friends of the King, we will never present a united front to the enemy. Remember, Jesus said, “Without Me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). But if we abide in Him, if we stay close to the throne, we can do anything that He commands us to do!

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Life with Meaning and Purpose

Life with Meaning and Purpose

Most people do not stop and consider the days of their lives in a very serious fashion. Many people just live for today without giving consideration for the past and the future. In the past few years, it has finally dawned on me that my life is still viable here in this world because God has blessed me. God has blessed me to understand that life is not a succession of ups and downs with no real meaning. I remember about 1957 or 58 that it occurred to me that perhaps my father and grandfather knew more about living than I did. I understood that it is not in man that walks on earth to direct his own steps (Jer. 10:23). This awakening brought back to me that in my youth I had attended services of the church of Christ with dad and grandpa in Lothair (Perry County), KY. This caused me to consider for several days and perhaps a few weeks that it was time that I got my life settled so that I could live with some dignity in society.

Since that time 52+ years have passed and I am still pursuing the promises of God and His Son; Jesus Christ … HAVE YOU READ THESE SCRIPTURES RECENTLY?

NOTE:

Matt. 11:28-30 – 28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matt. 16:24-26 – 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? KJV

John 5:24-29 – 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 for as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. KJV

As we [i.e. Barbara and me] contemplate the future; we will surely continue to do the work for God as much as we are able and capable of doing. There are days when we sit and discuss the past for joy and for strength to pursue tomorrow, While we are still here we will heed the Lord’s statement in – cf. John 9:4, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh , when no man can work.” (KJV)  Only God knows what will transpire tomorrow yet we are set for the defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ with our whole heart; as the apostle Paul so clearly put it in – cf. Phil. 1:15-17 – 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. (KJV)

WILL WE LIVE OUR LIVES WITH PURPOSE?

The days, weeks, months, and years that lay behind us are testimony to our faithfulness and dedication to God and the future will continue to determine in the mind of God whether or not we have successfully traveled the “narrow path” – cf. Matt. 7:13-14 – 13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. KJV

My dear friends and brethren as Moses said to his father-in-law many centuries ago – cf. Num. 10:29 – 29 And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law , We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel. KJV

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Peace

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Peace is a word that depends upon a relationship.  A rock is at peace until someone picks it up and throws it.  We often speak of the dead being at “peace,” because their bodies are no longer racked with the pain of physical suffering.  We speak of a peaceful society being one where we and our neighbors agree to abide by the rule of law.  Those who are stopped from operating outside of that law are often said to be pacified.  We also speak of peace in relationship to our own thoughts, emotions, and conscience—inner peace, it is called.  Most importantly, there is peace with God and all that entails.

In the context of Galatians 5:22-23, the apostle Paul is comparing and contrasting the works of the flesh with the fruit of the spirit.  Fleshly works are, by definition, carnal.  They originate in and come out of physical/carnal desires.  The root of all fleshly works is selfishness—the fundamental desire for carnally-minded self preservation and illicit self love (2 Timothy 3:2).  When this desire is not kept under control by the spirit, it breaks out into the variety of sins that Paul discusses as the works of the flesh.  All of the works of the flesh oppose peace because they destroy relationships with God and our fellow man.

Peace is a fruit of the spirit because the desire for peace does not originate within the flesh, but rather within the realm of spiritual things.  If we look at the animal world around us, we do not find peace, but rather a constant struggle for survival.  This same struggle would swallow us up were it not for a God-informed spirit’s desire against it.  God commanded the Israelites to offer peace offerings to show that peace does not come without sacrifice.  True peace demands that we sacrifice something.  Paul is calling Christians to sacrifice the flesh, die to self, and live for Christ (Galatians 2:20).  In so doing, we may have true peace both with God and with our neighbor.

Peace begins with God’s informing us that there is a problem between us and Him, and that we are not at peace (Isaiah 59:1-2).  God then informs us that He has provided a plan whereby we may be at peace with Him through His Son’s intermediary sacrifice (Romans 5:8).  Because Jesus died on the cross for man’s sins, God has given Him all authority to pronounce forgiveness of sins (Matthew 28:18-20), and Christ has determined that those who this message and obey it will be forgiven (Luke 24:47).  In brief, when we hear the gospel, believe it, repent of our sins, confess Jesus as the Christ, and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins, we are reconciled to God through Christ and gain peace with Him and with one another (Ephesians 2:13-19).  It is then our prerogative to pursue peace (1 Peter 3:11).

Pursuing peace is not an easy process.  The fact that we must pursue it implies that there are existing enmities.  Others are at enmity with God, at enmity with one another, and at enmity with self.  The Christian’s responsibility in pursuing peace is to aid with each of these circumstances and situations.  We must first be at peace with God, then we may have peace with our fellow man based upon God’s standards of right and wrong; subsequently, we will have peace with self.  This is what Paul describes in Philippians 4:7 when he says, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Peace is worth pursuing and fighting for, but we must pursue it and fight for it in a godly way.  Employing the works of the flesh in an effort to attain peace (as many seek to do today through ungodly practices and lifestyles) will not result in peace.  True peace only comes through personal self-sacrifice, obedience to God, and in fulfilling man’s purpose of loving both God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).  Let us seek to employ the spirits that God gave us to exercise peace and so conquer the flesh!

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