Archives

How to Abide in Christ

As I’ve been reading Abide in Christ: A 21-Day Devotional For Fellowship with Jesus each day this week, my eyes have been opened to an important truth. Abiding is Christ is primarily a decision to surrender.

84E7E7F9-FA8F-4C01-AA50-4FBA76FAC7F0

When we come to Jesus Christ, we come with open arms, to be received by the open arms of our Savior. Abiding in Christ is not some great thing we do. It isn’t a discipline we perfect. It is simply recognizing my own weakness and entrusting myself to the One who is absolutely trustworthy. As Andrew Murray wrote:

“Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for us, and in us, and through us. It is a work He does for us,—the fruit and the power of His redeeming love. Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform.”

Abiding in Jesus begins with acknowledging, apart from the Lord, I have no good thing (Psalm ‭16:2‬).‬ As Paul said in Romans 7, when I lean on my own strength I end up doing exactly what I don’t want to do.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans‬ ‭7:15‬ ‭

But I am “in Christ” so I don’t have to lean on my own strength. Through the indwelling power of Christ, I can do everything that is the will of God – and that includes abiding in Christ.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭

A second truth has stood out as I’ve read this week’s devotionals. Jesus first mentioned abiding in connection with the parable of the Vine.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:4-5‬

As we study this parable, we learn that the union between the branch and the Vine is a living union. Life flows from the Vine, Jesus Christ, into us, the branches. If anything happens to stop the flow, the branch will eventually die and be thrown into the fire to be burned.

Second, Andrew Murray describes the union between the branch and the Vine as a complete union. The words mutually beneficial come to my mind. Without the Vine, the branch can do nothing. It will literally dry up and die. But without the branch, the Vine is also unable to fulfill its purpose. A vine without branches can bear no fruit. God has called us to be His fruit bearers, bringing glory to Him as we demonstrate His character and fulfill His purposes in our lives.

Abiding begins with acknowledging my weakness and inability to please God in my own strength. It happens when I make the decision to entrust my life to Jesus Christ, and surrender to His loving hands. Do you want to live a fruitful life? Stay attached to the Vine so His life can flow through you to those He has allowed your life to touch. This is the key to abiding, to having a life worth living.

18C9D3FF-3447-4B67-97A8-1832A8CA055B.png

 

 

 

 

Never Alone: Three Benefits of Being Jesus’ Sheep

Today’s I Am Not Alone Scripture, John 10:27-30, has special meaning to me during this difficult season I’ve been walking through. In the midst of some of the biggest health challenges I’ve faced in several years, I’ve experienced the ability to hear the voice of God as clearly as I ever recall during my nearly fifty years as a believer in Christ. Yes, there have been times when God was silent. But overall, as I’ve spent time daily in God’s Word and seeking understanding of the path He is taking me down, His clear direction has given comfort that He is with me in all that I have been and still am walking through.f

Another important truth in these verses: No one is able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand! If we have repented of our sin, received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we have been given eternal life and that’s not going to change.

Protection from the attack of wolves and other predators is one of the responsibilities of the shepherd, and our Good Shepherd will never fail to fulfill this responsibility for His sheep. We are safe and secure in Him. He will lead us by His voice, provide the Spiritual nourishment we need to keep growing through His Word, and protect us from the attacks of the enemy as we grow in our knowledge of Him.

What are you needing today from your Good Shepherd? First, make sure He truly is your Shepherd, that you are one of His sheep. And if you are secure in this truth, remember the benefits of being His sheep.

  • You are able to hear His voice. The main way He speaks to us is through His written Word, but sometimes He also uses other Christians, the still small voice of His Spirit within, and even circumstances to make His voice heard. Just be sure what you are hearing lines up with His written Word, because He never contradicts Himself. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” (John 8:47a)
  • He will lead you and you have the freedom to decide to be led. God doesn’t force us to follow Him. But if we have truly made Jesus both Savior and Lord, one of the fruits in our lives will be a desire to do what is pleasing in His eyes. “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians‬ ‭5:8-10‬)‬‬
  • He will protect us when the enemy comes against us. We have a part in this too, but by putting on the full armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18), we will be empowered to stand and keep on standing in the victory our Good Shepherd has already won on our behalf. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬)‬‬

Exploring Our Theme, Part 3: Walking in the Light

During the month of December, I have been doing a Bible reading plan by Rachel Wojo entitled The Light. As I prepared to write this final post exploring the theme of my blog, Hope & Light, I realized my idea of what it means to walk in the light has changed during this study as my understanding of why Jesus came to earth has grown.

Here are some key things I learned this month from my daily reading plan about Jesus as the Light.

  • Jesus came to earth, God in human flesh, to bring light to a world of great darkness.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

  • He came as the Light that would draw not only Israel but also the Gentile nations to Himself.

“See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Isaiah‬ ‭60:2-3‬ ‭NIV‬

  • As a light to the nations, Jesus has the power to open blind eyes and to bring freedom to those held captive, whether their captivity is by physical chains and bars or by sin.

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” Isaiah‬ ‭42:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬

The Gospel of John confirms that Jesus is the One spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, clearly identifying Jesus Christ as the Light.

  • Jesus is the Light of men, the Light that darkness is not able to overcome.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John‬ ‭1:4-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

  • By believing in Jesus, the Light, we become children of light.

“Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” John‬ ‭12:35-36a‬ ‭NIV‬

  • He came into this world as light, so those who believe in Him no longer need to walk in darkness. Walking in spiritual darkness is no longer our lifestyle.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John‬ ‭12:46‬ ‭NIV‬

So now to get back to the theme of walking in the light, the main thing God spoke to my heart from this study is this simply means walking with Jesus, who is the Light. To learn how to walk in the light, we do what He instructed us to do, as recorded in Matthew 11. We yield to Him, come into His yoke and walk through life at His side, allowing Him to carry the bigger part of the burden.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The most familiar Scripture about walking in the light is found in the first chapter of the epistle of 1 John. Before my recent study on Jesus as The Light, 1 John 1:7 was the main verse I had in mind when I chose the second half of the name of my blog.

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John‬ ‭1:6-10‬ ‭NIV


Yes, this is still an important verse in understanding what it means to walk in the light. Knowing how to scripturally deal with sin is an important part of walking in the light. But I believe it is only a small part of the meaning of the phrase.

To walk in the light in its fullness is to walk with the Light, our Lord Jesus Christ, to walk as He walked when He walked on this earth and to allow Him to lead us in everything we say and do as we walk on the earth.

Jesus, the Indescribable Gift

,

A86D0A5A-F233-4960-A66C-00A256EEB5AF

In this final post on the names of Jesus Christ, I have an impossible task: to describe what God’s Word itself calls Indescribable. But I know better than to try.  Jesus is the Gift that surpasses the descriptive power of words!

Since I’ve already done all I can to describe Jesus in the past twenty-four days, on this Christmas Day I’m reflecting on where the tradition of gift giving at Christmas came from. Scripture describes some Magi from the east who came to worship the one born to be king of the Jews. They came bearing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Frankincense was a perfume used in Jewish worship, brought to One who deserves our worship. Gold a gift associated with kings, was given to One who would be the King of an eternal heavenly kingdom. Myrrh was a perfume put on dead bodies to prepare them for burial, given to the One who would die for our sins and be buried in a borrowed tomb, then raised for the dead.

Unlike most retellings of the Christmas story assume, this event did not occur immediately after the birth of the Holy Child. Mary, Joseph and the young Jesus were now living in a house. Jesus was probably close to two years old, since Matthew 2:16 says, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”

‭‭As you are giving gifts on this Christmas Day, remember the origin of this tradition. And more importantly, recognize and accept God’s indescribable gift, the gift of His Son.

Jesus is the Gift above all gifts!

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

Jesus, King Over All the Earth

During Advent and the Christmas season, we celebrate Jesus’ birth as Immanuel, God with us. He came as a baby, grew to be a man, and walked among men spreading the good news of the kingdom of God.

During Lent and Easter, we reflect on the price Jesus paid for our sins through His suffering and death for our sins. And we rejoice that He is no longer in the grave. He was resurrected and is alive.

We have no official holiday to celebrate the next event in Jesus’ life – it is still in the future. But as the prophets foretold the events we celebrate at Christmas and Easter, this coming event, the second coming of Jesus to earth to gather His people to be a part of His eternal kingdom, has also been foretold in both the Old and New Testaments.

One prophetic Scripture that speaks of both Jesus’ coming as an infant and of His second coming to reign as King is Isaiah 9:6-7.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus Himself spoke of His return to earth.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Luke‬ ‭21:25-27‬ ‭NIV‬

And the apostle Paul spoke of this still future event.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” ‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus’ first coming was to make a way for our salvation, and that work was accomplished on the cross. Jesus’ body was laid in a borrowed tomb, but that tomb is now empty because Jesus is alive, ascended back to heaven, and now stands at the right hand of the throne of God. The signs of His second coming now sound like things we see on our daily news reports. His second coming is near.

This time, when Jesus returns to heaven, He will be crowned as King of kings and Lord of Lords. And we will be at His side as His bride, if we are now a living stone in His true Church.

I’m so grateful for this promise of Jesus’ return for His people. I have set my hope on the future coming of the Lord Jesus, and it strengthens me for the trials of life on this earth corrupted by sin.

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:13‬ ‭NIV

Jesus Christ, Our Advocate with the Father

The Greek word paraklētos, translated Advocate in today’s Scripture passage, is used five times in the New Testament, once by the apostle John to refer to Jesus Christ, and four times by Jesus Himself of “another Advocate,” the Holy Spirit.

Advocate is another title for a lawyer, someone who pleads your case before the bar of justice. In modern terms, an advocate is like a defense attorney who pleads the case for a defendant before a judge. The Greek word literally means called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid.

When John calls Jesus our Advocate,” it means that our Savior is standing before the heavenly throne of God, pleading our case before the Father. He is interceding on our behalf because we belong to Him.

It’s important to point out one important distinction between Jesus Christ our heavenly Advocate and an earthly advocate for someone accused of a crime. Jesus’ case as He represents us before the Father isn’t based on our righteousness or good works. His case for us is grounded in the work He has already done to secure God’s favorable verdict.

Even though we are guilty of sin and unable to meet the righteous standards God has set, Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. Or as 1 John 2:2 says,

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭NIV‬

But we still have a part in the process. We have to accept this atoning sacrifice as our own through faith in the work Jesus has done. When we do this, the perfect righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is imputed to us. This means Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us by faith and counted as our own. As Matthew Henry wrote:

“The clients are guilty; their innocence and legal righteousness cannot be pleaded. It is the advocate’s own righteousness that he must plead for the criminals.”

I am grateful that, even now, Jesus is pleading with the Father on my behalf, interceding for me to be forgiven. Because I am in Christ, God is no longer the judge who condemns me but rather the Father who has adopted me into His family.

Jesus, the Bridegroom

 

The name Bridegroom is used often in the Bible as a metaphor for God, specifically for Jesus Christ. The Church is likened to a Bride with Christ as her Bridegroom, painting a clear picture of the special relationship we are privileged to have with Him. We are bound together by a covenant of grace that cannot be broken.

In our current culture, marriage is not known for permanency. But this was not God’s original plan. God’s guidelines for marriage were explicit. Marriage was meant to be ‘til death do us part’, as the traditional Protestant marriage vow states.

“’Haven’t you read… that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew‬ ‭19:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With this understanding in mind, the bride-groom imagery of the Bible is a wonderful picture of the security of the children of God in their relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Once we have made a true commitment of our lives to Jesus, we can have assurance that we belong to Him. Yes, we still sin, we’re far from perfect. But we never again need to fear we are lost eternally.

Whether or not you are now happily married, if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord you will be a part of the Bride of Christ at the Wedding of the Lamb. In his gospel, John said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom” (John‬ ‭3:29a‬ ‭NIV). If you belong to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, you will be a part of the Bride of Christ.

At the culmination of human history, Christ will come for His Bride, the Church.

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

The Bride, made up of all those who have believed in Jesus Christ as their Messiah through the ages, has made herself ready. Dressed in Christ’s own righteousness, she has grown in purity.

But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John‬ ‭3:2b-3‬ ‭NIV‬

Now, she has seen her Bridegroom face-to-face, and she is pure as He is pure. She is ready for her heavenly wedding. It’s time for the Wedding of the Lamb!

As I reflect on this name of Jesus Christ, I look forward to this day in the future. As part of the true Church, I know I will be included in the Bride. If you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior, you can have the same confidence.