Deep within me it lies Breathless, motionless yet always there. No eyes, yet it sees all. No brain, yet it is omniscient. It finds its way to the surface sometimes Anger so bitter, becoming a rage, lashing out as if fighting to live. Darkness provides its cold embrace though the blinding light of madness at times threatens to consume me. Uncreated, yet formed in a moment Growing larger and more powerful by the years of indifference and unguardedness. If it were to be amputated, the void would be too great. And so it lives on, sometimes hidden, other times open to the criticism of strangers. It wants all of me, but cannot contain itself. There is no apothecarial cure for this malaise. Only a shadow of hopeful expectation that one day it will cease striving and breathe its last. Then, I will be free.
The Blessings of Abiding in the Vine (John 15:1-11)
Our Lord Jesus gave His disciples (and us) the secret of growing in Christlikeness. It is simply this: abide in Him. But what does it mean to “abide in” Him? What happens when we do?
In numerous places throughout the Old Testament, Israel was called a vine (Psa. 80:8; Isa. 5:1, 7; Jer. 2:21; Hos. 10:1). Jesus is, however, “the true vine” (v. 1). He is our only source of life and nourishment. Therefore, we must stay connected at all times to Him. When we do, we will find amazing blessings await us. Here are some of these blessings:
We are made clean (vv. 2, 3). Sin covers us in filth and shame, but when we abide in Christ, we are made clean. The same word for “purgeth” in v. 2 is used for “clean” in v. 3. What the husbandman (God the Father) is doing is removing anything that keeps us from growing and bearing fruit. He may need to prune some things that need to go. He may need to clean certain areas of our lives that require forgiveness. When we abide in the vine, purity is ours.
We keep His presence (v. 4). We cannot produce any fruit on our own. Our sinfulness and weakness of the flesh prevent growth. But, when we abide in Him, He promises His continual presence. With His Spirit within us, we will produce fruit. His presence is the greatest blessing of all. That brings us to the next blessing:
We bear fruit (vv. 4-6). As long as we stay connected to the Lord Jesus, we will bear fruit. No fruit means no life and no future! What is the fruit we bear? The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). Ultimately this fruit makes us more like Christ.
Our prayers are answered (v. 7). If you’ve ever wondered why your prayers aren’t answered, maybe you should check your relationship with Him. If we remain in Him and keep His words in us, we can ask and receive. The keys here are staying in connection with Him and obeying His word.
We glorify the Father (v. 8). When we abide in the vine, we bear fruit. The more we abide in Him, the more fruit we produce. When we produce much fruit, the Father is glorified. This proves that we are His disciples.
We remain in His love (vv. 9, 10). We can so easily feel at times as if we are not loved by Jesus anymore. This does not have to be! He tells us very clearly here that if we keep His commandments, we will remain in His love. And this love is the same type of love that the Father has for the Son.
We will know complete joy (v. 11). There seems to be very little joy in many believers today. Why not? Jesus has told us these things so that we might have joy that remains. It is His joy in us that makes our joy complete. Jesus could have joy even with the cross before Him because He knew the outcome. We too know the outcome of our lives in Christ; victory!
These are by far not all of the blessings of abiding in the vine, but oh how great these are! So what are you waiting for? Start abiding in Him now! You can know the great blessings He offers through the vine!
The Cedars of Lebanon
“And Solomon determined to build a house for the name of the Lord” (1 Chron. 2:1). This was the motivation behind Solomon’s request of King Huram (Hiram) for wood. Solomon was a type of Christ, being the son of David and King of Israel with great wisdom. He desired to build a structure to house the presence of God in Jerusalem so that all his subjects and people throughout the world could come to worship the Lord. So the request was sent to King Hiram who received it with gladness. He immediately responded by acknowledging “the Lord God of Israel” as the Maker of “heaven and earth” (v. 12). He considered it a privilege to be playing a part in the construction of God’s house. He is a type of John the Baptist and all ministers of the Gospel since, preparing the way for the Lord and doing their part to build the church of God.
The process of preparing and delivering the timber for use in building is also a type of the new birth and discipleship. The cedars of Lebanon were known for their strength and beauty, but as long as they remained where they were and in that condition, they could not be used. They had to be hewn down, stripped of their limbs and bark, and then removed from their natural habitat. Does this not picture sinful man being brought to Christ? We are strong, and are the beautiful creation of God, but how useless we are until our sin and pride are stripped away! And how were these logs to be transported to Jerusalem? They would be floated on rafts by sea, then carried up to Jerusalem (v. 16). What a picture of the new believer’s baptism and consecration for service! There are times when our weakness causes us to feel hopeless. In these times, others must carry us onward and upward.
It is amazing that King Hiram should say to Solomon, “thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem.” As a type of Christ, he was to bear the load of the timber. Jesus bore His cross of wood through Jerusalem and up to Golgotha for us. Now when we are weak, He has His servants to carry us (in prayer) so that we can continue on the path of service. As king, Solomon would have had his servants do the burden-bearing. Our Lord, however, bears the load for us.
Once the logs were in Jerusalem, they were used to construct the Lord’s temple. The logs did not have the ability to choose where they would be placed; only the builder was given that right. We do not choose where or how we will serve the Lord. God has already prepared us for works of service that He has chosen (Eph. 2:10). Once all the timber was in place, the Lord’s house was finished and consecrated. This pictures the believer, in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, as the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). One last observation must be made: only after all the work of building was finished did the glory of God fall on the place (1 Chron. 5:13, 14). The glory falls once the work is finished, not before! Dedication comes before glorification! Then the temple (your body) is fully ready and equipped for service.
I serve as a pastor of a small church. As a pastor, I have hopes and dreams of producing Christlikeness in the people I serve. I also desire to see others lives transformed by the power of Christ and His Word. These are the things I strive for, pray for, and hope for. Yet there comes a time when even a pastor, a “man of God,” just gets sick of things the way they are. Here’s my list of things I’m sick of:
- I’m sick of people who call themselves Christians but act nothing like Christ.
- I’m sick of Christians who won’t make worship a priority in their lives.
- I’m sick of believers who don’t think serving others is necessary.
- I’m sick of people who say they know Christ but aren’t concerned about others knowing Him.
- I’m sick of praying for God’s will to be done while His people live like He’s not even there.
- I’m sick of begging the Lord to change people’s hearts when they don’t seem to care if they will have to answer to Him one day.
- I’m sick of working, praying, serving, struggling with all that I am and all that I have for people who don’t seem to care whether I live or die.
- I’m sick of serving a church that doesn’t seem to realize that Jesus is more important than your personal needs.
- I’m sick of fighting against sin and selfishness in all its ugly forms.
- I’m sick of the Enemy, the Devil, who keeps on doing his best to knock me down every day so I won’t keep battling on.
Most of all, I’m sick of myself, my sin, my weaknesses, and my groaning and complaining. I’m sick of me! I’m sick of Jesus not having first place in my life! I’m sick of Jesus not being glorified through everything I say and do! I hope you’re as sick of these things as I am. Maybe then Jesus will heal our sickness!
“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” -Hosea 4:6
How true this statement is today! God’s people are falling away by the thousands to the worldly desires and beliefs that are being taught to them. How can this be? They do not seek God through His Word. There is no understanding, because true knowledge and wisdom come only from God and His Law. There is a famine in the land. A famine of the Word of God. This famine has been brought on not because of a lack of Bibles or teachers, but because God’s people have chosen it for themselves! The cares of life have become more important than the Word and commandments of God. Everything is accepted as truth. Everything is tolerated. Even though there is more preaching and teaching being done now than ever before because of TV and the internet, God’s people are led astray and deceived. How can this be? Because the ones who should be heard are refused due to their abrasive messages. Only those who have the message of health, wealth, and ease are heard. “Prosperity is the key to happiness, and prosperity comes from God,” they say. And this message they sell at a very high price! Isn’t this what the Pharisees also believed and taught? And yet Jesus called them “white-washed tombs full of dead-men’s bones.” The “lack of knowledge” that is destroying God’s people is being brought on by Satan himself. No wonder so many of God’s people are being deceived! This must stop! But how? Those of God’s people who truly see and understand must first get right with God. We must renounce the world and its attractions and state with passionate voices, “Take this whole world, but give me Jesus!” Then we must beg God to open the eyes and the hearts of His people so that they will see and understand the Devil’s deceptions and turn away from them. Truly, revival must come! It will only come when God’s people quit listening to the Devil’s lies, repent of their sins, and recommit themselves to reaching the lost world for Christ. Until these things happen, change in this world for good will not take place. We can idly sit by and watch as the Devil has his way with us and those around us, or we can do something about it. It’s not too late! Recommit yourself today!
Why is it that so many people no longer attend church services on a regular basis? Some have said that it’s just a sign of the times, that it was prophesied in Scripture that there would be a great “falling away” before the end. Though this may be somewhat true, I believe it is much more than that. People aren’t leaving church because it is irrelevant. The church will always be relevant in every time and culture. They aren’t leaving because they’re bored with church. God is not boring, and His people are not boring either if they are truly worshiping and serving Him. So many other reasons have been given by pundits recently for the church’s demise, but these are just not acceptable to me. I believe the real reason is found in the heart of worshipers. It’s not that they’re just disobedient by refusing to attend service. They’re just not seeing the need because they have replaced God with numerous idols. The reason for the exodus from church today is not a problem of choice, boredom, or even disobedience. It’s really a heart problem. It comes down to this: if your heart is right with God and you desire to worship and serve Him, you will do so with other believers in His house. Choosing to do differently shows signs of greater problems in your heart. God has chosen His church as the people who encourage, train, equip, pray, and worship together in community. As it’s been said many times, “There are no lone ranger Christians.” The problem is that too many today think they don’t need anyone else because their Christianity has become too familiar. They have grown to used to the holy and have forgotten just how amazing a privilege it is to come into the presence of Almighty God. This is a dangerous place to be spiritually, but sadly is where most American Christians are today. If once we would receive a new vision of what God really desires from us (our hearts), we would never question the importance of the church again. I ask you; are you currently active in your church? If not, why not? Before you begin to give your list of excuses, search your own heart. I’m not here to criticize or condemn you. I’m concerned about your relationship with Christ, as I am a pastor and long for all God’s people to serve Him faithfully. So aside from all of your homemade reasons, why are you not in church? I challenge all who read these words to prayerfully consider the church again. It’s God’s Plan A for reaching the world for Christ, and He has no Plan B. Our society can be changed, but not through individuals who are unwilling to work together. God blesses unity, not schism. Will you join with me as I seek God’s will and ways? Will you be part of the church again?
Matthew 14:13 says that after Jesus had heard that John the Baptist had been killed, He went alone to a solitary place. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m in that lonely place, pondering all that has been lost but at the same time remaining hopeful of future gain. It’s difficult following this “Man of sorrows.” We seem to pass from a day of Blessing so quickly into a week (year?) of cursing. We wonder in these lonely places if He is still there, if He still cares. Ancient mystics called this “The Dark Night of the Soul.” They learned in these times that great blessing awaits those who survive this “dark night.” They experience a closeness of fellowship with Christ they had never known before. So, I too will go with Jesus to that lonely place, even if we just sit in silence. In that place, at least I am near my Lord.