Better Off

John 16:7
“It is to your advantage that I go away; . . .”

Much of what Jesus said was shocking to the ears of the disciples. He spoke with a wisdom that was otherworldly. They may have become used to the fact that Jesus was going to say things that surprised them, but I do not think anything could prepare them for the statement Jesus made here. Earlier, He had been speaking about His betrayal and death, He now declares they will be better off without Him. For over three years, these men have been with Jesus. They have watched as He transformed lives, and listened as He declared truths about the Kingdom of God. Now He is speaking about leaving, and declaring they will be more effective with Him out of the way. I know Peter is the one who is known for objecting to Jesus, but I find myself objecting on His behalf. I cannot think of a single scenario where it would not be better to have Jesus around. If I were fishing, boating, preaching, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry or facing the Pharisees, I think it would always be better to have Jesus there, than to be by myself. How could Jesus say such things? What conditions could make it better to have Jesus absent, rather than present?

First off, things are better because of the way Jesus will depart. No one could take His life, He would instead, lay it down as a sacrifice to provide the cure for man’s sin problem. His death makes it possible for each of us to have eternal life, and gives us a message to declare to the world. The message that, they too, can have their sins forgiven, and receive eternal life in Christ. Beyond that, Jesus goes on to explain why things are better for us if He departs to the Father.

“Nevertheless 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 depart, I will send Him to you.” 

When Jesus departed to the Father, He sent forth the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third “Person” of the Godhead, He is described as the Helper, the Comforter, and the One who empowers the Christian. Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came, He would convince the world of its need for a Savior, by convicting it of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Ministry is impossible. We are natural beings with natural abilities. We are sent forth to impact people spiritually. We can tell moving stories that effect people’s emotions, but only the Spirit of God can penetrate the heart of man, and convince Him of His need for Christ. Praise the Lord, Jesus did not leave us alone, but sent forth the Holy Spirit who will enable each of us to be involved in furthering the work of God in the World.

Father, baptize us afresh with Your Holy Spirit today!

Pastor Jim

Questions for John 16

  1. Chapters 13-16 give us tremendous insight into what Jesus was teaching His disciples on the last night that He was with them before His crucifixion. These chapters contain some amazing lessons that He has not taught before, and in this chapter we are told some of the reasons that He is teaching these lessons. Look at verse 1, 4, 33, and John 15:11. What are the reasons that Jesus is teaching them these things?
  2. Read verses 6 and 12. Are Jesus’ words immediately producing joy in the disciples? Will His words ultimately produce those results?
  3. Consider verse 7. Is it better to have Jesus with me in the flesh, or to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in my heart?
  4. In verse 4 Jesus says “these things I did not say to you at the beginning because I was with you…”, but now that He is leaving, it is time for Him to tell them of who will be with them instead. The Holy Spirit is being introduced to them in a brand new way. Read verses 7-15. List some of the things that Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would do.
  5. Will the Holy Spirit behave or cause us to behave in a way that draws attention to Him or to us? On whom will He put attention? (verse 14)
  6. Read verses 18-22. The disciples clearly are perplexed. But Jesus has a perspective that they do not (in the same way that a woman after having a child has a different perspective on the pain of labor). Have you had any times in your walk with the Lord where nothing seemed to make sense, but in hindsight you see perfectly what He was doing? Are you going through any of those times now? Take time to pray for God to give you His perspective.
  7. Verses 23-27 reveal that in as we walk with Jesus we can come directly before the Father with our prayers, and that He will give us what we ask. Read James 4:3 for a balance to this verse.
  8. In verse 32, Jesus tells the disciples that they will abandon Him in His trial, but who does He stay will stand with Him? Read 2 Timothy 4:16-17.

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 13- Walk This Way
Deuteronomy 14- Good Mourning

Fruit-Filled Life

John 15:8
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”


God desires that we live fruit-filled lives. When we do, He is glorified and we are blessed. A fruit-filled life is marked by the characteristics of Christ. In Galatians 5, Paul listed many of the “fruits” that God desires us to bear. These are inward qualities that are a result of being transformed by Jesus.

 

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,   self -control. Against such there is no law.”

When our lives are filled with these qualities, God is glorified, others are drawn to Him, and we are blessed. Think about it. Don’t you want to be filled with love, joy and peace? Isn’t life better when you are patient and kind? Jeremiah contrasted two lives. He spoke of the one who departs from the Lord, being like a shrub in the desert; while the one who trusts in the Lord is like a tree by the waters bringing forth fruit (Jeremiah 17:5-8). I don’t speak “tree”, but if I did, I think I would hear the trees longing to be by the water’s edge where life is better, and fruit is abundant.

The key to living a fruit-filled life is abiding in Christ. The word ‘abide’ speaks more of a condition, than an action. We abide in Christ when we believe Him and receive Him. At that moment, a miracle happens. Our sins are forgiven, we come alive to God, and we are placed in Christ; where the life of Christ begins to flow into our lives. Jesus contrasts the branches that are in Him, with the branches that do not abide. He tells us the branches that are not abiding, or not connected, are cast out, withered and burned; while the branches that are in Him, are lifted up and pruned, in order to bear more and more fruit (John 15:4-6).

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are attached to the life-giving vine. The more time you spend with Him, the more His life will be produced in you. Take some time today allowing the vinedresser to lift you up, that you may become more fruitful.

Pastor Jim

Questions for John 15

  1. Jesus gives the analogy of the vine and the branches to describe our relationship with Him.  Fruit can only come when the branches are attached to the vine or tree.  How many times is fruit mentioned in this chapter?
  2. List all of the things that this chapter teaches us about spiritual fruit?
  3. What will clean us from the inside out? (verse 3)  Look up Psalm 119:9
  4. How did Jesus love His disciples? (verse 9)
  5. Although the warning about branches that do not bear fruit can be frightening, what was Jesus’ purpose in telling us these things? (verse 11)
  6. Read verses 12-15. How is Jesus relationship with the disciples changing?  How do you think they felt about this change?  Read 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8.
  7. Read verse 18-20.  Why would Jesus be telling this to His disciples?  What advantage might it be to know these things?  Read 1 Peter 4:12-13, and compare with these verses.
  8. When the Holy Spirit comes what will He do? (verse 26)
  9. Consider verse 16.  What are some of the things that God does for us?

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 11- What Did You See?
Deuteronomy 12- Right In His Own Eyes

Promises

John 14:1
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”

We live in troublesome times. Many face the fear of cancer or some other illness. The economy has shattered the comforts we once thought we had, or would enjoy. And after thousands of years of written history, the heart of man has not improved. We read of nations on the brink of war, violent crime haunting even the most peaceful communities, and global acts of terrorism on the rise. All this, and sadly much more, cause us to fear for our own safety, and for the future for our children and grandchildren.

In the midst of this, Jesus gives us His great and precious promises. This chapter begins with a simple exhortation that is followed up with promise after promise, which makes the exhortation possible. Jesus says,

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”

A troubled heart is one of the most common ailments men face. When our hearts fail, it is next to impossible to press on. We find ourselves weakened and filled with fear. The promises of Jesus are the cure for the troubled heart.

“I go to prepare a place for you.”

“I will come again and receive you to Myself”

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father”

“If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth”

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Cling to the promises of God and watch Him replace fear and worry with confident obedience. John said:

“Greater is He that is in you than He who is in the world”

Pastor Jim

Questions for John 14 

  1. This is Jesus’ last night before the Crucifixion. He has spent the last few years with these guys, and just told them in chapter 13 that He is leaving.  They are understandably upset, and so Jesus begins to comfort them.  Jesus promises to prepare a place for them, and makes another promise concerning that place. What is that promise?
  2. What makes heaven so special?  (end of verse 3)
  3. Read verses 4-6.  Jesus has made Himself the subject of His teaching.  What three things does He claim to be?  Can anyone else be these things?
  4. Read John 1:18, 1Tim 6:16, and consider verses 14:7-11.  God is Spirit, He is infinite, and He lives in heaven.  In contrast we are flesh and blood, finite, and live on earth.  It would seem impossible that we could ever know God.  How did Jesus tell us that we could know the Father?
  5. In verses 12 -14, Jesus says that we as His church will do greater works than He did in his brief ministry.  How will these works be accomplished?  What is the goal of these works?
  6. Look at verses 15, and 21-24.  If we claim to love Jesus, what should we do?
  7. One of the greatest comforts that Jesus leaves His disciples is that He is sending someone just like Him to take up the role of Teacher, Helper, and Comforter that He had in their life.  Who is this Person?
  8. Read verses 16, 17 and 26.  What are some of the things these verses tell us that the Holy Spirit will do?
  9. Jesus promises a different type of peace than can ever be experienced by someone in the world who does not know Him.  What are some ways that this peace is different?
  10. Read verse 31.  Why did Jesus obey His Father’s commandments in everything?

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 9- Game Day
Deuteronomy 10- Timeless

Foot Washing

John 13:10
“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;…”

Living in Israel at the time of Christ, it was impossible to walk the streets of Jerusalem without getting dirty. Open-toed sandals in a desert climate made for dirty streets and dirty feet. One solution was the custom of foot washing. Whenever a guest entered a home, the host was responsible for ensuring that the feet of the guest were washed. When Jesus gathered with the disciples for the Passover meal, he took on the role of the host, and began to wash their feet. As expected, Peter had something to say about the actions of Jesus. First he resisted, to which Jesus explained,

“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

In response, Peter replied,

“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

To which Jesus said,

“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;…”

The washing of the disciples’ feet serves as a great example of serving one another, but it also illustrates something about the Christian walk. Just as it was impossible to walk the streets of Jerusalem and not get dirty feet, so it is impossible to live in our world and not get a little dirty. Even when we determine to live committed to Christ, we come into contact with things that defile us, and even trigger the desires of the flesh. It might happen sitting in a waiting room, glancing down at a magazine with a seductive photo on the cover; or in the break room at work, when someone decides to share a crude or off-color joke. One way or another, we get the mud of the world on us.

The solution is not to isolate ourselves completely from the world. After all, Jesus sent us into the world as witnesses of the resurrection. No, the solution is foot washing. I am not speaking of reinstating the custom of washing feet, but of what I believe it represents in our walk with God. Paul spoke to the Ephesians about “The washing of water by the Word of God” (Ephesians 5:26). God’s Word has a cleansing effect in our lives. When we get the muck of the world splattered on us, the solution is to sit down and let God’s Word wash it away. How refreshing it is to sit with our Bibles, and allow him to give our minds a cleansing.

Just as there is no better way to start the day than with God’s Word, there is also no better way to end the day.

Pastor Jim

Questions for John 13

  1. This is the last night of Jesus life before He is murdered. How committed has He been to the apostles? Did what He was about to face cause Him to waver in His commitment to them?
  2. Consider verses 3-5. What was Jesus past? What was His future? Knowing these two things what was He able to do in the present?
  3. How did Peter respond to his Master taking the position of a servant? At this point would Peter have been a good servant-leader?
  4. Do you have a hard time taking the “low place”? Is putting others needs before your own something you have embraced?
  5. Read verse 13-17. Why was Jesus doing this? How are we to respond to it? What is the result if we respond rightly to this lesson?
  6. In the invisible, spiritual realm, what happened to Judas at the dinner table?
  7. What is the new commandment that Jesus has given? Who is our example on how we are to do this command? (Verse 34)
  8. What will the result of obeying this command be? (Verse 35)
  9. Remember the earlier parts of this chapter and read verses how is Peter handling his graduation course from the school of ministry? Consider how gracious Jesus is with Peter, and how much He loves him. Take time to thank God for His love for you, in spite of your failures.

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 7- Winning Daily Battles
Deuteronomy 8- Testophobia

Spiritual Accounting

John 12:11
“On account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.”

The word “account” means “by reason of”. It means, Lazarus was the reason many put their trust in Christ. His life and his experiences with Christ were having a magnetic effect; drawing others to consider Christ for themselves.

We use the word account in another way. We refer to our bank account. At the end of every month we receive a statement reminding us of both deposits and withdrawals. Those statements reveal a lot to us about the way we live, and the things that are most important to us. In some ways, our life is like a financial statement. At the end of the month we can look back and see how we have spent our time.

Lazarus was a man who spent his time following Jesus. As a result, his life became a testimony of the goodness of God. We know Him to have been a follower and friend of Jesus. We know His home was a place where the disciples often gathered, and where Jesus was welcomed, worshipped, and served. We also know his life was a walking miracle. The result of his living for Christ, was a spiritual bank account filled with many who believed in Christ.

The miracle of Lazarus’ life was the work of God in him. He did not raise himself from the dead, but he did determine that he would be a follower of Christ; putting himself in a place where Christ could work in him. God desires to give life. We read in John 10:10, Jesus promised abundant life; and in John 1:4, His life was the light that drew men to Himself. The more of our life we allow Jesus to have, the more of His life we will experience, and the greater impact we will have on others for the kingdom of Heaven.

What is on your spiritual spreadsheet? If we were given a glimpse into your spiritual bank account, what would we find? What treasures are you storing up? Have you determined to live your life in a way that affects others for the Kingdom of God? Very few things are more valuable than living to have an impact upon others for eternity. It strikes me, that without ever preaching a sermon, going on a mission trip, or leading a praise band, Lazarus was able to impact the lives of so many for the kingdom of God.

Wouldn’t it be great to read that many believed in Jesus on account of you?

Pastor Jim

Questions for John 12

  1. Jesus sits down to have a meal with a family He loves very much and one of the guys at the table has been raised from the dead! What do you think this meal was like? What might they have talked about? How do you think this family felt about Jesus?
  2. How did Mary demonstrate her love for Jesus? How can you show your love for Him with more than just words?
  3. Why was Judas upset about Mary pouring out the oil on Jesus? What was his excuse for being upset?
  4. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, He was fulfilling prophecy from Zechariah. According to verse 16, were the disciples completely aware of what was happening? Do you sometimes not see what the Lord is doing until afterward?
  5. Where will the servant of Jesus be (verse 26)? What will the Father do for the one who serves His Son?
  6. In this chapter Jesus is just a few days away from the cross. Read verses 31-33. What are some of the results of the work of the cross going to be?
  7. Ultimately it is faith (trust, believing) that pleases God (see Hebrews 11:6). Note verse 37. What did not produce faith in these people? Look up Romans 10:17 to see what does produce faith.
  8. Read verse 42-43. Among the Pharisees, some actually believed in Jesus, but what stopped them from going all out for Him? Read the parable of the sower in Luke 8:5-18 and take particular note of verse 14. Is there anything choking out your fruitfulness?
  9. Read verse 47-50. Why did Jesus come?
  10. According to Jesus, He came with His Father’s agenda, and spoke only what the Father commanded. What was that command?

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 5- 10 Commandments
Deuteronomy 6- Teach Them Diligently

Difficulties

John 11:3
“Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

One of the great struggles of life is how to reconcile a loving God with the difficulties of life. Every day, all over the world, people are confronted with tragedies. Difficulties hit like a storm and wreak havoc on their lives. It is not until we find ourself facing one of these trying times, that we are undone by it. It is at that point, we begin to ask, “How could a loving God allow my brother to suffer like that?” or “If God loved me, He would not have taken him from me.”

There is no question we face difficulties, and the illness or loss of a loved one is one of the greatest trials we will ever face. However, these trials are not without purpose. Notice the response of Jesus to the situation His loved ones were facing,

John 11:4
“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Death is not the ultimate purpose of life. We are not here to simply live, work, pay taxes and die. The trials of life have a purpose, and that purpose is the glory of God. One of the most freeing thoughts is realizing that our lives belong to God. He created us, redeemed us, and did so with a distinct purpose in mind. The things we face that are beyond our control, have been designed by God to bring Him glory. If we will stop in the midst of the tragedy, and seek the Lord for His purpose, we will find that our life, like that of Lazarus and his sisters, will be used for the glory of God. Later we read concerning him,

John 12:9-11
“Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

How cool is that! The hardship they faced led many to  believe in Christ. We know the result of a person believing in Christ is that their sins are forever forgiven, God takes up residence in their lives, begins to transform them from the inside out, and gives them eternal life. There is no greater reward in life than to be used by God to positively effect someone’s eternity.

Together, let’s live for the glory of God, even in the midst of our difficulties. Life is short, eternity is forever.

Pastor Jim

Question for John 11

  1. Who is Lazarus related to?  Read Luke 10:38-42, and Luke 7:36-50 to learn a little more about Lazarus’s sisters.
  2. How did Jesus feel about this family?
  3. Did Jesus immediately respond to the need?  How long did Jesus wait until He left where he was?  Once he arrives, how long has Lazarus been in the tomb?
  4. Read verse 21, 32, and 37.  What was people’s reaction concerning Jesus timing?
  5. When Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will rise again, does she understand what He means?  Recall John 10:10. Now read Romans 6:4.  Are there dead areas in your life that you have given up on?  Present these to the Lord and ask Him to be the Resurrection to you in those areas.
  6. Even though Jesus was about to resurrect Lazarus (which would be joyful), He still felt very deeply about Lazarus’ death.  What are some indications of how He felt?  Is it wrong to be sad sometimes?
  7. Jesus prays out loud to His Father about Lazarus.  But He did not do this to draw attention to Himself in a carnal way (Read Matt 6:5-6); He did it to model His relationship with the Father.  Do you pray out loud when the situation calls for it (it will bring honor to God, and help people in their walk with Him)?
  8. Read verses 45-48.  How did people respond to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead?
  9. Read verses 49-54.  Caiaphas the High Priest says that it would be better if one man died for the people than if the whole nation died.  What did he mean by that?  God, honoring the office of high priest, was speaking prophetically through Caiaphas, and had a different meaning.  What was that?

 

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 3- Attack
Deuteronomy 4- This Is Wisdom

His Word

John 10:21
“Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”

Those struggling to determine if Jesus is truly the Son of God and Savior of man, are influenced by both His words, and the lives of those who believe in Him. Certainly, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but the believer is the light of the world, casting light upon the Gospel of God. Jesus exhorts us to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:16).

It has been my experience that people are most often drawn to the Lord by the lives of others. One family member, co-worker, or friend influences another, and that influence creates a willingness to listen to the Word of God. The more we allow Jesus to impact our life, the greater influence we will have on lives around us. Many of the great works Jesus did in the lives of individuals, were the result of their exercising extreme faith. They believed God to do the impossible in their lives, and the result was impossible things were accomplished. Maybe today it is time to trust that God will do in you what cannot be done any other way. Perhaps you have been struggling with drinking, smoking, pornography, gossip, or some other sin that is holding you back. If that is the case, why not exercise extreme faith; trust God to help you overcome. Not only will you find victory in your personal life, but you will have a testimony that will draw others to the Words of Christ, the very Words that are capable of saving the soul.

Let’s live out loud!

Pastor Jim

Question for John 10

  1. Jesus talks extensively about shepherding and sheep in this chapter. What terms does He use to describe those who are not the shepherd? (verses 1, 5, 12)
  2. What things does the shepherd do for the sheep?
  3. How do sheep respond to their shepherd?
  4. Jesus refers to Himself as the door of the sheep in verses 7 and 9. Compare this with John 14:6.
  5. According to verse 10, why did Jesus come? What is the difference between receiving life and receiving it abundantly?
  6. In verse 11, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. Read Psalm 23. Who is Jesus claiming to be?
  7. What are some differences between a shepherd and a hireling?
  8. Note every time in the passage that the Father is mentioned. What is the relationship between the Father and the Son like?
  9. What things has the Father done? What things does the Son do?

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 1- Walking In Circles
Deuteronomy 2- Victory In Battles