I and my Father are one

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A big part of knowing you are saved is knowing persecution for your faith is about the Father, Son and Spirit in you. 

How often are we stereotyped as Christians? How often is that stereotyping negative. How often are Christians labeled as misogynists, homophobes and chauvinists. Christians are often considered less intellectually astute because we believe in a young earth, creation and the flood. As we consider how the world attempts to marginalize and discredit Christians, we should always remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 15:23-24 – all affronts to individual believers is an affront to Jesus and an affront to the Father as well. 1 John 2:23 makes this more clear where the scripture teaches whoever denies the Jesus also denies God the Father.

Christian, take heart. If you are persecuted for your faith, if you are derided because you proclaim Christ, if your character is impugned because you live differently than those around you, your mental acuity is considered discredited because you trust in the Bible take heart; you are in good company. In my book starting on page 117 we find these reflections:

Biblical belief is based not just in an intellectual affirmation and agreement as our form of the word indicates. Biblical belief carries the connotation that communicates, a resting in or a dependence upon the object of belief. The biblical definition expresses a complete trusting in or reliance upon for sustenance, existence and life. Our belief is therefore laying our dependence for our eternal life upon the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. In this, you have salvation. In this, you admit Jesus is living with God the Father in Heaven. In this, we acknowledge the virgin birth; in this, we acknowledge His vicarious atonement for our sin. In this, we confess His resurrection to defeat death and Hell. In confessing that there is an existing Son of God, you confess that He lives, has the power to save you from sin and that He did exactly that at Calvary. (Knowing you are saved, pp 117-118)

The biblical belief required for salvation through Christ also gives us direct access to the Father in Heaven. For instance, when we pray we pray to the Father through the Son, there is no other way to reach His heavenly throne. When we request wisdom, we request it from the Father and our request goes through the Son. When we ask God to forgive us our sins, we ask the Father’s forgiveness through the Son (1 Jhn 1:9).

When we read John 10:30, we also recognize that every action we take through Christ then is through the Father, every request we make to the Father is to the Son. Every prayer answered, every strength bolstered, every miracle performed by the Father is performed by the Son. We should also add that the Holy Spirit is equally one with the Father and Son. When we receive more faith through prayer, it is provided by and through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Luk 17:5). Since the three are one, denying any one, denies all. Believe in the three in one, or you believe in nothing. That is why you will equally suffer persecutions as Jesus suffered them. Natural man does not want God in his life and will fight vehemently to deny Him.

Jesus Chose You

Don’t take this as a boo-hoo moment or anything but, I remember being that kid that was last or next to last being selected for a team. We’d all stand there, a team leader would be picked (never me) and then the teams would begin to be selected. If there was someone that was heavy, I’d be second to last. It wasn’t that I was slow, I was a fast runner as a kid. On my block, only one guy could beat me and that was just who got off the line first, and he was quicker at that. I was a small kid. You’d never know that by seeing me now! Still, I never was one of those kids that was picked up first or seen as a great asset to the team. To all you out there that were the, shall we say reluctantly chosen, I’m with you.

All the more, when I think about John 15:16, 19; I consider my responsibilities in 1 Peter 2:9, look at the wonderful promises and blessings in Ephesians 1:4-5 and so many other verses that say Jesus chose me. I know some of my shortcomings, they are many and God knows more of them that I do. Yet, He chose me! It is not simply that He chose me for His Kingdom, that would be enough, more than enough, an eternity of enough. But He chose me to minister in His name! To this day, I still wonder at that. I wonder why and how and every other question you could ask. He chose me! I am astonished every day at His grace, mercy and love in His choice.

I am humbled. As I look over my life, I’m a little (very little) like John Newton as much as he was a sailor in his past. I was not a ship captain, but I traveled the high seas for years before coming to the foot of the cross and asked His forgiveness, His salvation and accepted His lordship in my life. Looking back at the beginning of a serious relationship with God I know He chose me and this choice was nothing but grace filled selfless love.

I think we often miss the idea of grace and how it works with respect to God’s goodness. Today our liberal ideas often focus on our freedoms and liberty tied to salvation. All too often we look at God’s grace and salvation providing us liberty in His sovereignty – God knows us, knows our sins, knows the sins we will commit and yet He chose us. Therefore, we surmise, sin is no big deal. That is the nonsense Paul addresses in Romans 6:15.

Think instead of God’s grace given because He sees so much more potential in your life, that you will change to become a child of the Kingdom right here on earth. Further, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will work together to engineer these changes in your life. We are drawn into God’s kingdom not to remain our sinful selves, but to mature spiritually to as sinless a state as we can possibly achieve.

Are you seeking sinlessness for Christ’s kingdom, or are you happy to remain in your sin and not change. God expects you to change to emulate His Son.  (2 Cor 3:18)

Separation

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (2 For 6:17).

Why would someone saved from the condemnation of the world want to stay in that darkness? There are many reasons but the most common one is sin’s grip. Can an individual be saved in Christ and still sin. It is what we all suffer and that is not the point of salvation, to be sinless..There is a great bit more to that doctrine and we should not distort it here. Suffice it to say believers and heathens alike sin throughout their lives on earth; one is forgiven, one is not. Part of the continuing sin in the believer is their continuing in darkness as if it is still the norm in their lives. The believer should grow separate from the world, grow in holiness and godliness, grow in God’s grace to be perfected (Rom 12:2).

The world’s reaction to separated and sanctified christians has always been negative. While this is true, in it lies an irony that is somewhat baffling. People of the world claim independence from God, and from one another. Popular today is a wicked lie known as relative truth or relativism. It purports to be the height of freedom for life in the world. Everyone has their own truth, believes what they desire and lives as though those things are true. This philosophy may sound exciting and interesting, but as with all things man is perverting it toward greater and greater wickedness. The Christian is called out of this chaos to an immutable God, an unchanging deity of unlimited power, grace, mercy, love and forgiveness.

Why would one saved from the opposite of our glorious God seek to remain in that chaos? Ironically, as much as man says he wants to be independent, he actually wants to be accepted and a contemporary of his peers. Man does not naturally desire adversity with other men. Evidence of this is the wide difference between public persona which is acceptable if congenial, cooperative, and humble in appearance and the true heart displayed which is often angry, narcissistic and very self-willed.

The truth is that individuals whom act and live contrary to the masses acceptable norms are often marginalized or vilified. We have laws and prisons for the most unacceptable. From the beginning with Cain believers were treated with greater derision and disdain. God’s people separate themselves unto Him and have always suffered from the world’s people whom out number them, are more vicious and certainly cruel.

Separation unto God means we must face Satan’s children’s shortcomings, their tendency to be who they are. John 8:44 says the worldly are murderers and liars. As believers live more in the light of God’s truth and life, the worldly persecute them more and more harshly. Christian, Jesus prepared us through His word and the examples in His life. Take heart Christian, Jesus knows what you are going through. He’s been there, and He’s with you.

The Greatest Father

We often sing dad’s praises on Father’s day from the pulpit. It is an honor of mine to be a father and to receive praises from my children. I know many fathers that are by far better qualified than I, and that have done far greater things with and for their children than I. The scriptures certainly have much to say concerning fatherhood, how we should lead, what we should do to encourage our children to greater heights of godliness and christlikeness. There are many wonderful and encouraging lessons that will be taught by pulpits everywhere. However, we often neglect the one perfect and greatest Father.

There is one Father above all fathers.This Father created a perfect living environment, food, comfort, daily activities and regular personal time with His children (Gen 1). This Father loved His children enough to chastise them when they disobeyed (Gen 3). This Father protected His children by placing a great pillar of cloud and fire before an entire army (Exo 14:19, 24). He guided His children from behind that pillar’s protection by making a path through the Red Sea on dry ground (Exo 14:21). He ensured their safety by decimating an entire army, folding that very same sea over upon them (Exo 14:27-28).

This, of course, is our Father in Heaven. We should be clear, no father on earth can match our Father in Heaven. God does not expect that either. What we should do is strive to emulate Him, work hard to pattern our love, protection, involvement, guidance, leadership and example for our families and especially our children.

God has, since the beginning planned to provide another living example. This example would not be a father, but He would certainly emulate the Father in Heaven. He said if you see the Father, you see Me. Some might say Jesus could not be a pattern for fatherhood because He was not a father. This is nonsence because being God, He knows and lives co-equal with the Father. All the perfection of our Father in Heaven’s compassion, life, relationships, etc exists in Jesus.

Fathers, strive to emulate our Father in Heaven. He is our guide, our pattern, the only one worthy of our wholehearted dedication. He loves us above all love we can fathom.

God’s perfect love

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The whole of God’s love is summed in the cross. Though love drove the Savior from His home, through an unforgiving and arduous life; though His love healed many, and gave life to others, it is the cross at Calvary where we see God’s love on complete display.

In John 15:9-17 Jesus is still giving His final encouragements and instructions to the disciples before His crucifixion. He has just a few minutes, the short trek to Gethsemane, to encapsulate His entire ministry on earth and loving faith to the Father. Jesus chooses a number of metaphoric examples beginning with grape vines. But no earthly metaphor can exactly describe God. Therefore, Jesus breaks from a life giving example to one based in pure, perfect heavenly compassion.

There is one prominent theme in the Bible concerning the relationship God wants with all of His creation, love. Love is the reason, the beginning impetus, the motivation that drove God to send the Son on His atoning mission.

Exemplifying perfect love began on a dark night in Bethlehem were God chose to leave His home in Heaven and come to earth as a babe born to a destitute family, a simple carpenter and his wife. Love is manifest in Christ as He ministered to the least of all the saints, women with debilitating feminine issues. Love is on display as Jesus great compassion reached out to Zacchaeus and called him down from the tree. Love is projected as Jesus ministered to lepers, healed the lame gave the blind sight. There are many other examples. However, love is perfected in the events immediately before and especially at the cross.

All of this truth comes to bare upon the disciples in the final hours of the Savior’s ministry on earth. We find that they are certainly not completely cognizant of the entirety of His words, but we certainly find in retrospect that we recognize the totality of this message. Jesus displayed perfect love both as He stayed dedicated to the Father and perfectly carried out His ministry on earth, and as He ministered to the world through His benevolence.

Jesus points back further in this passage to Abraham and the Father where Abraham was called a friend of God (Jhn 15:15; Jas 2:23).  His love extends to press the disciples, and all those that follow in faith into a new relationship, a new friendship.

Are you a friend of Jesus. Do you believe in His loving atonement, His death, burial and resurrection. Do you trust Him with your whole life, your life on earth, your life eternal. There is no other life for us except that which glorifies God. Jesus was the pattern for that dedicated life on earth. Follow Jesus loving pattern, become a friend of God through the salvation in Christ Jesus.

Our Vine

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John 15:5 – I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

In John 15:1-8 we find Jesus moving to the garden where His final night on earth begins. On the way, Jesus shares some final thoughts with His disciples. We find his encouragement of the vine and branches. As we look at this metaphoric example of life in Christ and as a disciple of Christ, we should appreciate what Jesus is using as His example.

A vibrant vineyard, in the first century, represented a successful home, a prosperous endeavor and a studious husbandman. When one established a vine and maintained it well they were sure to produce a succulent fruit.

We might ask why Jesus did not say He was the root, but the vine. The vine  grown in the middle east is a hardy one and long lived. It’s roots extend deep into the ground. The roots deliver water and nutrients to the vine. Why wouldn’t Jesus, being the giver of life, identify more with the root. There are two reasons, first, in his position as man, purposefully humbling himself to our limitations, He stated many times in His ministry that He was dependent upon the Father. (Jhn 5:19) The Father is more the root, Jesus is the conduit to all the branches.

There is a second reason. The grape vine we suspect most likely referenced is a very hardy vine. To trim the vine, not the branches, but the vine itself, one should cut it off at the ground just above the root. In a season, that vine will return to production. This is very much a picture of the Lord being cut off at the crucifixion and in a very short time, three days, He returns to full productivity and even more. The vines He produces are also more hardy.

We find the Savior again encouraging His disciples that He must depart, but He will come back stronger. In his position now, He is weakened, disciples are challenged to follow Him. Even the 12 core disciples do not wholly believe in His resurrection, His atoning sacrifice, His whole ministry. They do not understand either. Jesus is saying that just as the husbandman must take drastic action to excise a weak vine, the Father will take the exact same action to excise Jesus in His weakened human condition. In return in three days the vine will grow back to produce abundant fruit.

This is also a testimony to the branches. They do not see it now, but they are weak and producing very little fruit. The branches attached to this human vine are not worthy of the appellation “disciple of Christ.” Once the vine is restored from the eternal root of the Father, the branches produced will also be greatly strengthened.

Christian, draw from your faith in the resurrected Jesus just as the disciples did in that first week. Pull from that vine the nourishment of faith and spiritual growth, liberty and eternal life. Trust the Messiah. Abide in the vine.

I Pray you have listened

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In John 14:29-31 Jesus tells His disciples that He will be departing very soon. He says there will be very few times for Him to be with them any more. Those few times are very poignant. In Chapter 15 we have the vine and branches exhortation, the very striking “the world hates you” rhetoric and another introduction to the Comforter. In Chapter 16 Jesus opens explaining He means no offense, but there will be many fraudulent ministers and ministries  that claim to know God, but ostracize those who truly do understand and worship God. Jesus shares the Spirit of Truth with His disciples. He continued to warn them concerning the challenges in their future. He encourages them about their access to Him that what they may ask, they shall receive. He directly challenges their faith. In chapter 17 we have His prayer for the disciples and for all believers.

Through all this, Jesus stays on task, true to the Father, is steadfast to the passion in His heart to give himself for the salvation of all mankind. Through all this Jesus exemplifies perfect patience, meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith and temperance. We see our Lord living out the fruits of the Spirit as the Spirit lives in and through Him.

Through all these efforts and His teaching, Jesus honors not only the Father, but the Spirit of God as well. Through these passages Jesus teaches what the Father is doing for mankind by guiding Jesus through these extremely difficult periods of time. We find the Comforter being promised and supportive with our Lord. We find all three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together carefully and closely coordinating their ministries all focused on one event, the crucifixion. They are all focused upon providing salvation for mankind.

The crucifixion is not only a passion of the Son, but is equally a passion of the Father and Spirit. Jesus prays for His disciples to see the Father’s plan and understand the Son’s part. He prays for those who will be given to Him in the future. He prays for those He has talked to and that the words He has spoken will be heard and understood.

Jesus has worked hard to prepare His disciples. He has spoken not only words of comfort and love, He has not only chosen to send the perfect Comforter; Jesus has spoken in very difficult and tough terms directly to His disciples. He is calling for a dedication to faith in the real, true and only God of Heaven, His Son and the Holy Spirit that will scare all of mankind. When unbelievers are fearful, their father the devil encourages their hearts to more aggression, persecution and destruction. Jesus knows this.

The Savior puts the tools in place. He teaches His disciples how to use them. He takes the action to show how they are to be used. He is the perfect prophet, priest and teacher. Trust Him; He has accomplished a great work for you.

A Picture of Heaven

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When we consider the tome of the scriptures, we see a picture of Heaven and the inhabitants there that concerns itself with the souls on earth. It is amazing the amount of attention we on earth receive from angelic beings, messages by them, singing from them, rejoicing with them and from them. We see pictures of their attentiveness to our lives as angels even marvel at our devotion and activity to glorify our God in Heaven. (1 Pet 1:12)

In John 14:25-28, we find another picture of this. Jesus, after the last supper, after the betrayal of Judas, after Peters foot is deeply planted in his mouth. As Jesus contemplates the fact that within 12 hours His body on this earth would endure three trials filled with false accusations, conviction out of populace calls for His murder and  the most horrid torture man could perpetrate. All of this is clearly on His mind, yet His concern is the comfort and reassurance of the disciples. (vv26-27)

When I see this picture, I see the great peace and grace projected from the Godman to His people. I see a Savior projecting peace under the most strenuous conditions. I see a Savior encouraging us to move past the present stresses and discomforts and look to the eternal things. Further, Jesus is providing tools and people to promote our tranquility, again regardless the challenges we face day to day.

Christian, upon your acceptance of the gift of salvation, the very moment you bow your spirit to God’s Son and accept the Savior you have God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit living in you. Accepting the Savior provides for the peace and comfort of God’s eternal life. Jesus is again encouraging the disciples to look past the horrid life they will endure on earth and be at peace with their heavenly future.

You too can live in this peace, rest in this comfort. It is not just a perspective, it is literally an existence born from the heart and soul within an individual that is being changed into the image of God from the glory of salvation to the glory of glorification by the spirit of the living God. (2 Cor 3:18)

Let God change you, turn over your life to Him. It is not easy, but the act will result in the ultimate of rewards

Love makes the Father manifest

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When God appeared to Moses He appeared as a pillar of smoke in the day and a pillar of fire at night.

God is opposite the world. Everything you see in the world, every comparison you make, every way you might try to understand God through the world falls short of His magnificent and supernatural glory. It is hard to understand at times when we see even animals giving themselves for those they love. there are great examples of altruism in the animal kingdom. Man has no explanation for this.

In 2008, a bottlenose dolphin rescued two beached whales in New Zealand by leding them out to deeper water. The whales surely would have died had it not been for the dolphin. In New Zealand, a group of swimmers were surprised when dolphins began circling around them, tighter and tighter, splashing in the water. The swimmers initially thought the dolphins were displaying aggressive behavior. It turned out that they were warding off sharks.

When you consider the lessons in John 14:22-24, we see Jesus talking We want to better understand God through these natural acts of selflessness. However, if we use the things of the world to make God manifest, they will always fall short of His supernatural reality. This is why only Jesus’ love, and our love for Him, can make the Father manifest.

God’s love given to us through His Son Jesus activates the reality of the Father and Holy Spirit in your life. Your eyes are opened. You can see Him in His word, through your prayer time, in your life’s activity, through your times of meditation and devotion. Your ability to see God is expanded through true heartfelt worship, the penitent heart of a believer. God is more visible to us as our hearts are shattered under the pressure of our sin such that Jesus can pick up the pieces and glue it back together through His act of salvation.

Activate the Father’s love in your life simply by growing in love for Jesus. As your love for Jesus grows, your love for the Father grows. As this divine love grows in you, the world sees Him in you. This makes God manifest through you.

Let God be visible in your life. Love Him. He already loves you. Let that perfect selfless love shine through you.