Jesus Sighed

 Jesus wept. – John 11:35

That is a very well-known verse in John, and a favorite of those who want a quick and easy Bible memory verse. I am sure many have done as I have and have pictured Jesus weeping here, or lamenting for Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-39, possibly with tears in His eyes. These are fairly easy to picture reactions we see from Jesus as He deals with the sorrow of the rejection and unbelief all around Him. These reactions are not what I want to focus on today, but rather a response He gave as seen in a short passage from the Gospel of Mark:

Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” – Mark 8:11-12

Jesus sighed deeply in His Spirit. Jesus had taught and healing, disputing with and debating the scribes and Pharisees, those dubious and doubtful religious leaders who questioned Him while in their sins they lead others further away from God. He had fed the 5,000. He had fed the 4,000. Still the Pharisees came at Him, testing Him. The Greek word for sighed, anastenazō, comes from the words ana (which denotes upwards or again), and stenazō (to groan). It presents to me an interesting mental image for as Jesus is questioned, yet again, He gives a deep sigh or groan, possibly looking heavenwards as if to draw strength from His Father’s will, and answers, yet again, with love and patience. I only found stenazō one other time in the Gospel accounts, in Mark 7 as He is about to heal a deaf man. Not a word used often to describe the reaction of Jesus to a situation or set of circumstances He was in.

Going back to Mark 8, the fact that Jesus sighed made me think of what He endured for us, how none of us truly understood that sacrifice until after we had a saving faith in Him, yet He endured it so an unappreciative and unbelieving world would have the possibility and hope of coming to Him for true, eternal salvation. And I think of those of us in the body of Christ today, His True Church, and His Remnant Church, and I think of two questions we all need to think about.

Are you making Jesus sigh? Are you questioning Him, testing Him, or accepting Him as Lord and Savior and seeking to do His will in your life? The truth is that Jesus has shown each of us enough in our lives that we have no reason to question Him, other than we are still struggling with our own sinful natures. Struggling in fear, doubt or possibly defiance on some point of our lives. So, we struggle while Jesus sighs deeply over us. His death on the Cross was sufficient to give us life. His last sigh for us should have been when He sighed His last breath upon the Cross and gave up His life in His finished work.

Are you sighing for the lost or wayward like Jesus did? Jesus showed a love and patience with the lost that none can mirror perfectly. Jesus is patient with us as we so struggle in our faith walk, seeking that we walk alongside Him, as He always walks alongside us. Are you showing that love and patience to others, spreading the good news of His Gospel to the unbelieving world around you? Are you showing love and patience to others, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to wayward believers, seeking to bring them in repentance and restoration to a right relationship with Jesus, and with His Church? Are you walking with Christ as you walk alongside a nonbeliever, showing Christ’s love even if it is not returned, and possibly is scorned or spurned?

A loving God would have us do no less than to love one another within the body of Christ. A loving God would have us do no less than have a heart that despairs for the lost and seeks to bring Christ to them. Not just our loved ones, family and friends. But a passing stranger in a chance but opportune encounter, or to the person down the street you really don’t like (and who probably feels the same about you). We are to be better than the world would treat us, because we do have Christ and are in Christ.

You may have cause and justification to sigh deeply at times, to groan and look up for strength and guidance. But the key is whether you groan and go on; or do you just sigh and stand still?

What Tomorrow May Bring

 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:34

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  – James 4:14

I feel both of these verses are strong calls to faith, not advice to live an unplanned life with a “Don’t worry, be happy” attitude. The Bible doesn’t speak out against prudence, against proper stewardship or the using of gifts and talents in a God honoring way. To live your life day to day without any planning seems wrong: we have responsibilities to take care of ourselves and others in our care. Spouses, children, parents, neighbors, others in our local body (or in the body around the world) who are in need. Without planning and stewardship we would never have the resources, the time, the talent and the treasure to meet those needs and fulfill those responsibilities because we would have wasted all three, leaving nothing left with which to provide. The provision God makes in our lives we are to use prudently and obediently, following His will and showing the love of Christ to others, especially to family and our church family.

Those two verses are a strong call to faith because they are calls to not worry about the future. The Lord has it in hand, and the Lord provides for His children. As a faithful child of God, there is nothing to worry about. If you have read the Book of Revelation, you know things gets very bad but that the body of Christ is protected from the worst and anyway, we win in the end because we will be standing by Christ and He wins.

But remember that the Lord has given you abundant provision today, and He expects you to use it wisely. Planning for the future is not an unwise use of resources as long as you are not ignoring today. The advice of those two verses is not to worry about the future, not to obsess on it or paralyze yourself in the present. In the total scheme of things, our lifespans on earth are an insignificant passage of time in regards to eternity, without Jesus to bring us into eternity in God’s presence we are nothing more than a wisp, a vapor or a mist passing quickly. It is an abiding faith in Jesus now that allows us to trust in Him and not worry about the future.

Plan to marry? Sure go ahead. Want to start and raise a family? Nothing wrong with that. Build a career that allows you to provide for that family? OK by me. But what if you marry and your spouse and you do not have a relationship centered in Christ? Should you raise children without teaching them about Jesus so they one day they hopefully will seek a life following Him as well? Why build a career if not done in a God honoring way so that what He does through you glorifies His name? Outside of Christ, all you do is reserved for fire and will burn up leaving nothing but smoke and ash, nothing precious and enduring in the eyes of the Lord. These things require some level of planning ahead but only make sense if you are a Christ follower and using what He has given you to glory the name of God. And if that is what you are doing, the worry about the future fades into the background because your eyes, your heart, soul and mind are focused on Jesus. Loving Jesus and living for Him leaves no time for worry but plenty to serve and worship Him, using the gifts and provision He has placed into your life.

To a follower of Jesus, tomorrow is not a worry because it becomes the time when you are one day closer to spending eternity in the physical presence of God.

The Result of Abiding in Christ, An Examination of John 15:1-8

John 15:1-8

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Our Excerpt today is from F.B. Hole’s “Commentary on John” published in 1947.

The surest proof that we are in Christ is that we abide in Christ; and the surest proof that we abide in Christ is that we produce fruit in life and service, the very character and ways of Christ coming out in us. Without Him we can do nothing. Abiding in Him there is much fruit; we are brought into communion with His mind so that we ask with liberty and have our desires granted, the Father is glorified, and our discipleship is proved genuine beyond all question.

It is a great privilege, as well as a great responsibility, to be left on earth to bear fruit; it is even a greater privilege to know ourselves to be the objects of Divine Love. The love of Jesus rested upon these disciples—and upon us also—just as the Father’s love rested upon Himself. In the knowledge, the consciousness, the enjoyment of His love we are to abide. This abiding is maintained by obedience to His commandments.

Words of Grace for Strength

The idea of “abiding in Christ” that we find in this passage is explained by the understanding that it is the Word of God (Jesus is the Word, See John 1:1-5), that is being spoken of. Abiding in the Word means living by the truths and doctrines of the Word. This takes place when the Word has taken deep root in the life of the disciple of Jesus Christ. He has a true affection for the Word, the Word is truly food for his soul. When the disciple of Jesus abides in the Word, he is able to know it, understand it, teach it, and stand fast in it.

This passage establishes this truth, abiding in Christ ensures fruitfulness. There is a general truth stated here when Christ says; “I am the vine.” But, it becomes personal to the disciple when Christ says; “you are the branches” because it brings each individual disciple into a connection with Christ. So now, the truth is made definite and becomes a personal application when we continue to examine His statement in verse 5; “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”

Jesus is not merely setting forth a law here, but instead is giving a promise that will be completed in the disciple by the action of Jesus Christ Himself. Notice when Christ is speaking of bearing fruit here, He says “much fruit.” The inference here is that as disciples we are not to be satisfied with a little fruit or immature fruit or shriveled up fruit. Instead, by abiding in Christ, the fruit we bear is plentiful, lush, sweet, and mature. In other words, abiding in Christ will produce in the disciple, a character rich in the manifold graces of God which bears fruit. Indeed, those branches that are fruitless are taken away by the Father as the vinedresser in order to preserve the health of the fruitful vine, those that bear fruit are pruned, tended with loving care, so as to allow even more fruit bearing as one grows more fruitful in Christ in one’s walking in faith with Him as a growing disciple.

So this union of the disciple with Christ as he abides in Christ produces fruitfulness which in the end glorifies God and increases growth in the disciple. Christ’s life is all about glorifying God, our lives also should be all about glorifying God. For our lives are not our own if we have truly given them to God when we accepted His gift of Salvation. A mature, fruitful branch within the vine is now part of the vine, no distinction can be made of it as separate and apart from the vine itself, they grow as one.

Abiding in Christ means we are “In Christ” becoming every day more like Christ as His disciples. This discipleship will only be completed at the point in time we are ushered into the physical presence of Jesus Christ. As we live here in our earthly bodies we are in the continual process of becoming, His true disciples and servants.

If we bear much fruit because we are abiding in Him, the bearing of fruit will cause us to grow closer to him and be more of a disciple, which in turn will cause us to bear more fruit. Discipleship in Christ produces character, and character produces conduct which rests not on the character of the disciple, but in the character of Jesus Christ. When Christ’s Word abides in us it is more than intellectual understanding or acceptance of His Word, it means the whole consciousness of our very being is saturated with His desires, His affections, His understanding, in other words we have surrendered our will to His Will.

This brings us then to verse 7. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” This must be understood not of temporal things, such as riches or honors, profit, pleasure, or anything that the natural man might desire, but of things spiritual which are limited by the restriction that what is promised, is as according to the Will of God. Christ in His earthly ministry cared little for physical comforts as long as physical needs were met. The true focus was on the spiritual needs and growth of those who had chosen to follow Him, for God is spirit, and will be with us in spirit and in love.

When we look back to verse 3, we find the phrase “because of the word” which tells us how the working of the word is what has made us clean. Verse 4 then says “abide in Me, and I in you” and warns that we cannot bear fruit unless the disciple will “abide in Me.” Now in verse 7, again we read; “if you abide in Me, My words abide in you” which is significant in that it illustrates a position of obedience in the life of the disciple. “I in you” demonstrates that we are possessed of Christ, while “my words abide in you” demonstrates action on the part of the disciple to be a disciple.

In other words, the disciple has completely given his will to the Will of God. In doing so, the disciple’s will is no longer his own, but instead is God’s Will, what the disciple desires, or asks for is what God desires for the disciple to receive. In Verse 8 we are given the key to understanding this whole passage; “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” It is all about the fruit! Our prayers should always reflect God’s Will for us. What we should desire, what we should ask for, is to bear “much fruit” and in doings so we are accomplishing the Will of God in our lives, and are becoming His disciples. A fruitful branch grows deeper into the vine (the Son), is tended carefully by the vinedresser (the Father) and lives to produce fruit by the indwelling of God within us (the Spirit).

Become His disciple and bear fruit!

Enough is Enough

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” – Luke 12:15

 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5

 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”  – Exodus 20:17

The Bible has plenty to say on the topic of covetousness, the above are a few verses. The biblical concept of covetousness centers in not only on the desire to have things you do not possess, but the desire for things others possess, and especially things possessed by those close to you. It ties up greed and envy in an ugly little package and it is a package sitting on your front doorstep. We want things, and since we see them most often, we especially want those things our friends have, our neighbors have, or others in our family have. What makes covetousness especially harmful is not only the greed for things, but the hurt it would cause if you were to try to satisfy the desire by taking something away from someone close to you. The issue of covetousness is addressed in the tenth commandment. I think the Lord put it there in the event someone (like any of us) were working through the list and feeling pretty good that you got through nine and were doing fine. I think the tenth one is almost like an umbrella statement for when someone thinks they have pretty much lined up with and are behaving as the Lord would want them. If you are honest with yourself (and you know you cannot fool the Lord), you know you are not going to get through the tenth commandment unscathed, most likely you will be pretty banged up before you are done reading it.

 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?  And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. – Luke 12:22-31

The real tragedy of covetousness comes through in the above passage out of Luke. It is the behavior of the world, not of a child of God. The Lord is abundant in His provision of our needs, even if He is ignoring our wants. We get enough to get by in this world as the Lord would have us live in it if we only trust in Him. The Lord’s provision is enough for it is what He would have for us. How could one of His children want more? I am not saying there isn’t hunger or pain or need; a trial of such nature may be in the Lord’s will for us as He molds us and teaches us, or uses us to minister to and reach others. But by faith we need walk as though the Lord has provided enough for us, for in His perfect will He has.

If you are trying to satisfy your wants and desires, you are in for a world of hurt as you enter a world filled with covetousness. It is filled with your covetousness, and that of those around you seeking to slake their own worldly thirsts and satisfy their earthly hungers. A bunch of highly motivated and completely unsatisfied people seeking out that which counters the Lord’s purposes and openly defies His will. A circular life for you are not going to get anywhere but you will spend much time and effort going round and round. The only way out of that rut is to meet the Lord on His terms and follow His path.

Living a life of faith that is satisfied with the provision of the Lord may not necessarily protect you from the covetousness of others. But you have what others cannot take away. Your salvation. Your personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior. Your knowledge, steeped in your faith, that the Lord will provide for you allowing you to prevail through the trials of this earthly journey.

Enough is enough when it comes from the Lord.  Seek Him out and pray for the wisdom and discernment to see that in your life. Learn that enough is enough. For those who seek out their wants, and chase futilely after them will one day try the Lord’s patience to the point at which He may well say “Enough is enough!”

Then they may well learn that context is everything.

 

Discipleship: Fully Committed to Christ

In Luke 14:25-33 we find a passage that describes what is required to truly be a disciple of Christ.

“Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘”If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”’

Many would consider this passage as some of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. At the point in His ministry at which He made these statements, He had been attracting great crowds which followed Him everywhere to hear His teaching. Yet many of them were following Him expecting temporal reward or at the very least, reflected glory for themselves. And so, Jesus delivers to them this message in order for them to understand what truly would be required of anyone who desired to be His disciple. Additionally, He shared with them examples of counting the cost of being His disciple.

When Jesus spoke to them in verse 26; “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” the implication was not that they would truly hate their own family or themselves, but in fact, that as much as they loved their families, they must love Jesus infinitely more. And in verse 27; “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” He is saying, in order to be His disciple, not only should one be willing to face unspeakable persecution and suffering, but one willingly commits to following Christ even if it means his death. In verse 33 Jesus said; “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Again, the inference is that if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to put our love and service to Him above all of our material possessions. My friends this is a total commitment that He is requiring. You must follow Him completely or not at all. It is all or nothing. Jesus Christ is either Lord over everything in your life, including your life itself, or He is not Lord at all.

To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ one must count the cost. One must realize that sacrifice is required, suffering and persecution is to be expected, and we very well may be required to forfeit our very lives. In teaching on discipleship I often say it is not for the weak at heart. Again, remember Jesus told us in John 15:20; “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,” and they crucified Him.

So, we have looked at what Christ says is required to be a disciple, but how does that relate to being a Christian? Let’s look at Acts 11:28; “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” In this passage, which is telling about Barnabas taking Paul to Antioch, disciple is synonymous with Christian. I’m wondering if that puts a whole new light on your understanding of your relationship to Christ. Let’s look again at the words of Christ, this time in Mark 8:34; ‘“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”’ There are three imperatives here:

  • First, is self-denial. This again is putting Christ before anything, anyone, and everything in your life;
  • Second, is self-sacrifice. Again, being willing to suffer and lay down your very life for Jesus Christ if so required;
  • Third, Jesus said “follow me” and there have been volumes written about the meaning of those two words, but the short version is this, having embraced self-denial and self-sacrifice,
    • commit to the life of a disciple by studying the Word of God,
    • grow more Christ-like by living by the Word of God,
    • share the Word of God with others,
    • and defend the Word of God without fail.

Here then is the bottom line. Jesus, the very Son of God, was born into this world to become the Christ. At Calvary He took on the sin debt owed by all humanity, paid it with His own life, was buried, and resurrected Himself into life. By His victory over sin and death, He has offered to all mankind the free gift of salvation and eternal life for all who will believe in His finished work at the cross and recognize Him as their Savior, and Lord of their life. In understanding this, we comprehend that discipleship as a Christian is voluntary. In accepting Christ’s gift we willingly are giving over our will to His Will. In that respect, becoming a Christian and a disciple is intentional.

Unfortunately, there are many who call themselves Christian, yet have not counted the cost. They never really surrendered their will to His Will. If you take an honest look at your life, can you truly say that you have surrendered your will to Christ? If not, you must seriously question your commitment. Are you truly following Christ? Are you His disciple? Again, if not, there is no better time than now, no better day than today to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and surrender your life and your will to Him.

True discipleship begins at the cross of Christ. It requires sacrificial devotion to Christ without compromise, it requires putting the needs of others ahead of one’s self for the sake of the gospel, it is an absolute commitment to God’s Will in the disciple’s life.

Are you a disciple of Jesus?