Sunday September 27th
I’m sure most of you have heard of the psychological concept known as denial.
I hear a story about a man who went into a psychologist’s office and told the receptionist that he believed he was invisible. So the receptionist buzzed the doctor over the intercom and said, “There’s a patient here to see you who thinks he’s invisible.”
The doctor replied, “I’m too busy. Tell him I can’t see him right now!”
Here in John chapter 18 we will see another kind of denial – Peter’s denial of even knowing Jesus.
But before we get to that, we will take a look at Jesus’ arrest but the Romans and the Temple guards:
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.
This chapter has three sections. The arrest of Jesus is recorded in verses 1–18, the trial in front of the Jewish leaders is found in verses 19–27, and the trial before Pilate is in verses 28–40.
In the first two verses we see that Jesus is in a garden, which we know as the Garden of Gethsemane, with most of His disciples, except for Judas, who then arrives with some uninvited guests:
3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
In verses 5 and 6 we read Jesus response as “I am He”. But the word “he” is added to the English translation, so Jesus’ real response uses the actual name for God, which is “I am”.
And there are two things of note here:
Verse 9 is referring to something that Jesus said in His prayer to the Father back in chapter 17, where He stated that “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, (Judas) so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”
Now the action starts, with Peter, who will later act like a coward, leading the charge to defend Jesus:
10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
One commentary described the scene this way:
“Peter attacks the high priest’s servant in an impulsive and futile act of resistance.”
Only the Gospel of John says that Peter was the one who used the sword. The other gospels just say “one of the disciples.” And only John’s gospel tells us that Malchus was the name of the servant. But only the Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus healed the man’s ear.
Jesus’ rebuke of Peter doesn’t mean that we are never allowed to defend ourselves. The point is that Jesus has come to give His life a ransom for sin, and He was committed to fulfilling this task.
The “cup” that Jesus says He is prepared to drink is the cup of God’s wrath upon the sin of all mankind. That’s why Jesus was praying “let this cup pass away from me”. But Jesus chose to drink the cup not only of death, but the wrath of God for us all.
12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.
Annas was one of the most influential Jewish leaders of that time. Although he had been removed from the role of the high priesthood by the Romans and replaced by his son-in-law, he was still called by this title among the Jews. Judging from the description of rules for trials found in Jewish writings, the proceedings here were marked by serious irregularities and violations of Jewish law. Just for a few examples - the Sanhedrin was not supposed to meet at night; the death penalty could not be declared on the day of the trial; false evidence, and false witnesses were presented; Jesus was exposed to physical attack from the guards during the trial, and in addition to all this, it was illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet for a capital case on the eve of a Sabbath or a feast day. To put it simply, Jesus’ condemnation by the Jewish authorities was a travesty of justice.
But let’s get back to our friend Peter for a moment. As the line from our Easter play would say, “Ah yes, Peter. You remember him?”
15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.
Most people believe that the “other disciple” was John since of the three closest disciples to Jesus (Peter, James, and John), he is the only one not mentioned by name in this entire Gospel. For some reason he was “known to the high priest” and was therefore admitted into the palace, and was even allowed to invite Peter in as a guest.
That’s where things start to get a bit awkward for Peter:
17 Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.
So that’s the first denial. There’s apparently a lot of commotion going on, with a people coming and going and warming themselves by a fire. All four Gospels agree that the first denial was in response to a question of a “servant girl,” in other words, a harmless person. That should tell us right away how scared Peter was. He’s even afraid of her!
Now let’s go back to the “trial”:
19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. 21 Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” 22 When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” 24 So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
The high priest who questioned Jesus here was probably Annas, not Caiaphas, since Annas then sends Jesus to the current High Priest. The mood in the room is obviously hostile towards Jesus, so much so that one of the High Priest’s guard hauls off and slaps Jesus because he doesn’t like Jesus’ answer.
Keep in mind that Peter may be seeing all of this from afar, which would drive up his fear factor!
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” 27 Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.
Think about this fact - the man who made the third accusation was a relative of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter cut off. An accusation by this man might have scared Peter more than the previous ones, since this guy might have wanted revenge for the attack.
But whether it was a servant girl, a bystander, or the relative of a man that he had stabbed, Peter was denying everything! I don’t know the man. I’ve never known the man. You must be thinking of someone else.
And then the rooster crowed.
To quote Paul Mooney from the Easter play: “No, No, NOOOOOOOO!”
28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
The Praetorium was the governor’s headquarters. It’s pretty ironic that these leaders didn’t want to defile themselves by entering into the Roman governor’s palace, but they didn’t seem to realize that killing God’s son might also defile them! This Roman trial of Jesus had three phases: here before Pilate; followed by an appearance before Herod (which is described in Luke 23:5–12); and then a second appearance before Pilate. John leaves out the visit to Herod and focuses on Pilate:
29 Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” 30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.” 31 So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,” 32 to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.
When Pilate asks them, “What accusation do you bring?” it meant, “What Roman accusation do you bring?” The Jewish leaders actually had no charges that would be recognized in a Roman court, so they would have to make something up.
When Pilate says, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law”, his point is that if they were not willing to specify Roman charges, they should not expect a trial.
Their answer is that they aren’t allowed to put anyone to death. The Jews were not always so obedient to that law, particularly in the stoning to death of Stephen in Acts 7. But Jesus had to be crucified, something only the Romans could do.
Crucifixion was what was meant by the words “lifted up”, which is how Jesus said that He would die, and that was form of death penalty that was used by the Romans. Pilate seems surprised that they want such a severe punishment, so he brings Jesus inside to question Him:
33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”
Since the Jewish leaders can’t seem to explain what Jesus has done wrong, Pilate asks Jesus, “what have you done?” It really doesn’t matter to Pilate whether Jesus considers Himself the Jewish king or not. He asks Him about it more out of curiosity.
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
This answer catches Pilate’s attention:
37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
That’s an interesting question. What is truth? Truth happens to be standing right in front of Pilate, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but Pilate has no way of knowing it.
Many people in our world today actually believe that there is no such thing as objective truth. They are more likely to say that “your truth” might be different from “my truth”, but they can both be true!
And that’s really not true!
There is only one truth, and that’s God’s truth.
Pilate is just as confused after questioning Jesus as he was before questioning Him, but he is smart enough to know that Jesus hasn’t committed any crimes that would deserve the death penalty:
And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.
Pilate knows that no crime has been committed by Jesus and he is therefore understandably reluctant to put Him to death. It’s kind of ironic that this pagan Roman governor is trying to release Jesus, while the leaders of “his own” people want Him to die.
So Pilate tries to use the custom of pardoning a criminal at Passover as a way of setting Jesus free.
But the people ask for Barabbas to be set free instead. So, in some ways, Barabbas becomes the first person who is set free from the penalty of his sin by Jesus taking his place.
What’s fascinating is that the name Barabbas means “son of the father.” Instead of him, the true Son of the Father died.
In the same way, you and me became sons and daughters of the Father because the one and only begotten Son of the Father took our place, just like Jesus took Barabbas’ place.
Jesus went to the cross. Barabbas went free.
Jesus went to the cross. You and I went free.
Do you remember when Jesus said to Peter back in verse 11, “the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
The cup that He drank was the cup of judgment for our sins. Barabbas’ sins. Peter’s sins. Your sins. My sins.
Thank God that He drank it for us all.
LET US MAKE ROOM FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT THROUGH PRAYER!
Sunday September 13th
You never know what you might stumble across when you’re out taking a walk.
I heard a story about a man who was walking through the woods when he stumbled upon a suitcase. And when he opened the suitcase he was surprised to find some puppies inside it.
So he called up the local veterinarian to ask for advice.
He said, "Hi, I was just walking through the woods and I found an old suitcase, and when I opened it I saw that there were these five little puppies inside it."
"Oh no, that's horrible. Are they moving?" Asked the receptionist.
"Actually, I'm not sure" replied the man "but that would explain the suitcase!"
As we take a look at John Chapter 16 this morning we will see that Jesus is trying to make sure that His disciples WON’T stumble after He has returned to heaven!
He starts out by giving them some encouragement and a warning:
“These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
The tricky thing about getting an encouraging word about not stumbling is that the person wouldn’t be saying it if there wasn’t a possibility that you might stumble!
Nobody says “Watch out for that rock” if there’s no rock.
In this case, Jesus’ warning was very real, because these disciples would indeed be thrown out of the synagogues, and hunted down by people who wanted to kill them. In fact, ten of the eleven disciples other than Judas were martyred. Only John was spared, and he was sent to prison on a remote island.
So it was kind of encouraging for them to hear this, but not really. And Jesus has more of this combination of encouraging/upsetting news to tell them:
5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Jesus had already told them about the promise of the Holy Spirit, who He has referred to as the Comforter, or Helper. He is trying to explain that the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s presence can’t dwell within them until He has ascended back to heaven. Now He is giving them even greater detail about the Holy Spirit’s mission.
8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
I think it’s very significant that the Holy Spirit will convict our hearts concerning sin and righteousness. It has been explained this way – That when we are unsaved, we need to be convicted of sin so that we will repent and turn to God. After we are saved we need to be convicted of righteousness to remind us that we are now righteous before God because of what Jesus has done for us. And we need to be reminded to think that and act that way!
In verse 12 Jesus tells them that He knows this is a lot for them to take in, but He gives them just a little bit more insight about the Holy Spirit to ponder:
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
This language really highlights the concept of the Trinity. Jesus has everything that the Father has, and the Holy Spirit will only take the truth that the Father has given to Jesus and use it to guide our lives. That’s why one of the surest ways to test whether something is truly from the Holy Spirit is to see if it lines up with what the Bible teaches. The Holy Spirit isn’t creating some new version of the truth. He is only bringing forth biblical truth!
Now Jesus is going to say another comforting/confusing thing:
16 “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” 17 Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”
19 Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. 21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.
The first “little while” refers to the upcoming crucifixion and burial that will take Jesus away from the disciples, something that He knew was going to unfold quickly. The second “little while” refers to the Resurrection, which would happen after three days, but would probably feel like an eternity for them, not knowing what was coming.
Imagine what it would have been like to have been one the disciples and hear Jesus say “in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a while you will see me”! Because we have the gift of hindsight, these words aren’t disturbing to us, because we know how it all turned out, but to the disciples these were confusing and probably frightening words! Jesus had made several prophetic statements about His coming crucifixion before.
But if the time had come for these prophecies to be fulfilled, then their leader would not only be put to death but they would be left alone to face the hatred of a world that would be rejoicing over His death!
Jesus reassures them by saying that it would be similar to a woman giving birth. They would feel intense pain for a short while but upon His return their grief would be turned into great joy that would last forever!
Then Jesus gives them even more hopeful news about the joy of His return:
23 In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
After the resurrection of Jesus, we are taught to direct our prayers to the Father in Jesus’s name. And this doesn’t just mean tacking His name on to the end of our prayers. It means that we should be praying in complete agreement with the will and teachings of Jesus.
Jesus goes into a little more detail about this in verses 25-28
25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.
26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
In verse 26, when Jesus says, “I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf”, Jesus isn’t saying that He will ever stop praying for us. In fact, Hebrews 7:25 says:
“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
What I think Jesus means is that, because of the Holy Spirit living within us, we can reach a maturity level in prayer where we will know to pray properly on our own.
Apparently, the disciples seem to get this point, or at least they think they do, because they reply this way:
29 His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.”
One thing they definitely get right is when they say, “We know that you know all things.” By saying this, the disciples are finally acknowledging the deity of Jesus.
But here comes another word of warning:
31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
These disciples, especially Peter, have sworn to stay with Jesus through thick and thin. But Jesus knows the truth - That they will all abandon Him at His arrest, and only John will show up at the cross. Jesus tries to reassure them by saying that, even when they leave Him all alone, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
That’s a bit of a comfort to this group of men who are about to desert the man that they have pledged to follow to the ends of the earth. And Jesus closes this chapter with a few more words of encouragement, for them and for us:
33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Even though Jesus’ words were originally meant to comfort the disciples, they were also meant to comfort any of us who are facing sorrows of our own. We will all face tribulation in this world, but Jesus has overcome all of the tribulation that this world can throw at us!
Let’s examine what that means in our lives today.
The disciples would have to face ridicule from the Scribes and Pharisees, who told them that they were “foolish fanatics” whose leader was a nothing more than a misguided man who was cursed to hang upon a tree.
Nowadays we face skeptics, atheists and followers of other religions that see us as nothing more than simple-minded idiots for believing in the God of the Bible.
While it is thankfully unlikely that we will ever face the same kind of persecution they faced – things like being torn apart by lions in a Roman coliseum, the fact is that according to 1 Peter 5:8 we still have an enemy who is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour our lives and our testimony. So, in many ways we can also know what it is like to suffer for righteousness sake, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:10!
Indeed, like the first disciples we can truly know what it is like to suffer injustice in the face of wickedness. If the jeering of skeptics, atheists and all sorts of other attackers was not enough, we also have to deal with the harsh realities of living in fallen world where unrighteousness is all around us, in the forms of violence, prejudice, and an unending array of ungodliness.
But that’s why we must always remember that Jesus told us to “take courage” or “be of good cheer”.
Let’s always be mindful of what someone has referred to as the “three eternal sources of unspeakable joy of every Christian”.
Let’s start by remembering that, after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples looked upon His crucifixion not as an act of great tragedy but one of great joy because by this atoning act Jesus had freed them from the power of Satan and had purchased their salvation!
In the same way, when we are born again we too participate in Christ’s death and resurrection and as such we can live our lives in unspeakable joy because we have eternal fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This doesn’t mean that we as Christians are to pretend that sorrow doesn’t exist, but we are to view all suffering on this earth as nothing in comparison to the spiritual blessings we already have and are going to receive when our Lord comes to take us home! The fact that Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and is reigning at the right hand of the Father is one reason why our deepest sorrows can be turned into unspeakable joy!
Another source of our joy can actually be found in the midst our tribulations. Because it is precisely in our weeping and lamenting, in our brokenness and sorrow, that these jars of clay come to realize their frailty and utter dependence upon their Creator. That’s a good thing.
One writer put it this way:
“It is not on the mountaintops of blessings but in the deep valleys of affliction that in drawing nearer to God we feel an unspeakable joy of His love and deliverance!”
Christians are able to be joyful, not because we lack tribulation in our lives but because in the midst of those tribulations we can clearly see how they are leading us towards spiritual maturity. As believers, we can have peace in the storms of life because He who was despised and rejected by men and acquainted with grief far more excessive than ours is alive and promises that He will not allow us to suffer any tribulation without being by right by our side.
The moment we realize this to be true is the moment when, like the disciples, our grief will be transformed into eternal and glorious joy!
The final and possibly the most exciting source of joy for a believer is the promise that in “a little while” the Lord Jesus will take us to our eternal home that He has prepared for us! If our only experience of life was in this present world, the Apostle Paul says, how wretched and miserable, and pitiful our lives would be!
But as immortal beings we live with unspeakable joy because the longest that all of our earthly sorrows can last is a lifetime!
In the book of Revelation John says that when we get to heaven God will “wipe every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain for the old order of things will have all passed away (21:4).”
Surely as we navigate through the trials and tribulations of this world that is “not our home”, we can find unspeakable joy in knowing that nothing, “not death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither present or future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of our God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)!
It should give us great hope to think about the fact that in “just a little while” we are going to experience the greatest joy of all – going home to live in paradise with our Lord forever!
That’s because Jesus has truly overcome this world!
The story of Cinderella is about a beautiful woman who has a jealous stepmother and stepdaughters who treat her cruelly. The Prince in the land holds a ball with the hope of finding a woman to marry. Cinderella is not allowed to go, but after everyone left, a fairy showed up and granted Cinderella the wish to go to the ball, she used her wand to create a beautiful ball gown with beautiful slippers and a carriage with a driver. The only issue is that when the clock turns twelve she needed to be home as everything the fairy created would be gone. When she went to the ballroom all eyes were on her especially the Prince who fell in love with her. The Prince danced with Cinderella and they had an unforgettable time, suddenly she realized it was close to midnight and she ran, while doing so, one of her shoes fell. The Prince found the glass shoe and told his servants to find the girl who owns the shoe. Yet, the shoe never fit any of the feet that tried them. Cinderella's stepmother locked her in the room and she cried. A mouse snuck into the stepmothers pocket got the keys to the door and placed it under the door to Cinderella, she ran down and tried the shoe on, and it was a perfect fit. The Prince had her escorted to the palace where they married and lived happily ever after.
What does this story have to do with Intimacy with God? Everything! The beautiful bride represented by Cinderella can easily get ensnared under the bondage of the Devil (wicked stepmother) and his demons (the stepdaughters), yet as we cry out to God, He sends help, Angels (mice), and the Fairy (Holy Spirit), who prepares us and makes a way for us to get out of bondage and to meet our Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. He is our perfect fit! We are the ones He has chosen to be intimate with and serve alongside Him in His Kingdom.
One thing I always tell my wife is she is my perfect fit. We may not feel perfect but He is perfect and in Him, we are perfected. He wants us to grow in a deep intimate relationship with Him, and enjoy the goodness of His Kingdom as a member of His royal family. The key to this life is found in this chapter and it can be summarized with the word "ABIDE." We must not allow our wicked stepmother, the Devil, to keep us in bondage anymore, it is time to break out of Lo-Debar and come into the Palace of God's love.
We read in John 15:1-2 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit."
The perfecting comes through the pruning, and the pruning is continual because we are called to produce more and more fruit. We are in a time of Global pruning, problems have come to the surface so we can first acknowledge them and then secondly to receive direction from God how to remove them. We are not to ignore or blame but solve! What are some of these current issues, health, systemic racism, education, police brutality, domestic violence, community disparities, elitism, spiritual immaturity, just to name a few?
As it says in John 15:5 the only way we can bear fruit is by remaining in Him, apart from Him we can do nothing and anything in our life that is not of Him needs to be cut off. Just because we do something in His name doesn't mean it is in Him. Bearing fruit means carrying His nature. If what we do doesn't reflect Him it is deadwood, and the only place it is in the fire to be burned. The pruning God is doing is removing dead works from His church many of the things we have stopped doing because of COVID 19 we are to never return too. God is simplifying His church, bringing us back to a place of intimacy. As we go back to the garden we will also regain our authority. Intimacy and authority go hand in hand. Knowledge of God without intimacy with God produces nothing but dead works. Intimacy with God produces abundant fruit.
Growing pains is a term used to describe the discomfort children go through when they are getting bigger. For God to get bigger we must allow Him to slice and dice the areas of our life that He is not pleased with. What brings glory to God as it says in John 15:8 is bearing fruit which actually proves that we are disciples. People can claim this or claim that but it is not believed unless proven. If we are truly children of God then we bear the fruit of our Father.
During this time of testing, you see how people can be so fickle, so easily moved, attitudes can shift so quickly. Throughout John 15 it says we are called to remain, to abide. In verse 10 it tells us how, "by obeying the Father's commands." The church as stressed grace so long that obedience seems to be forgotten. Grace is not the gift to get out of trouble for our disobedience. Grace is the gift to empower us to be obedient. The greatest command and the ultimate expression of love are laying down one's life (John 15:13). Jesus' death on the cross is love defined, and we are to pick up our cross daily, dying to ourselves and serving those God has placed before us which is the cross-lifestyle. Wearing a cross looks good but carrying a cross is what transforms our world.
As we grow in an abiding relationship with God, learning to remain in Him. We step into a place of deep intimate friendship where God, the Father speaks to us His hidden mysteries. There is nothing better than being a friend of God! To co-laboring with Him to see His will done. To know as it says in verse 16 that we are chosen and appointed to bear the fruit of loving others.
Yet, we must understand that this walk is not easy, and walking with the Lord will bring suffering. The world hates God and therefore hates His followers. As it says in verse 20 if He was persecuted we will too. We can not win everyone over, but one thing we are to do is give nobody an excuse for not knowing the way to salvation, for our life speaks for it in the fruit that we bear. He is our perfect Fit!