heart (9)

Teaching the Concept of the Spiritual Heart

A few years agok my wife and I were saddened to learn that the VBS director of my church did not encourage asking children to put their faith in Jesus by asking Him into their heart.  She did not believe children understood the concept of a Spiritual Heart.  She thought most thought of the heart as an organ that pumps blood.  The result was, no one was Saved during that VBS.  SAD.

On hearing this, my wife and I both wanted to find a way to explain the Spiritual Heart.  I looked for a visual way to help a verbal explanation. From my past studies, I decided on using some etymology discipline and my studies of the ancient Hebrew Pictographic letters.  I found that the the ancient Hebrew Pictographic letters in this case were very helpful. 

The attached document are lessons that may be helpful in explaining the Spiritual Heart, both verbally and visually.

In posting these Lessons, I would apprecaite feed back.  

One other consideration--Sunday School attendance is down, and possibly VBS too.  Someone could veryfy if that is correct--but I believe it may well be true.  We have many of our youth leaving church and Christianity.  My heart in sharing this study is to provide a way that can help people and children learn about the Spiritual Heart. Hopefully when they do, they will desire to put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.   

Please, if you take the time to read this, study the lesson provided and let me know some constructive thoughts about how we can encourage leaders to teach about what the Spiritual Heart is.

Thank you very much.

Here is are the Lessons that may help assist a Child's Understanding of the Heart:

A1 Lessons on Prayer for Children---Assisting a Child's Understanding of the 'Heart'-AA.pdf

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This Week’s Question: What are the underlying sins behind prejudice, discrimination, and isms like racism, sexism, and chauvinism?

 

Sin, in the Old Testament, was defined by the law (a series of dos and don’ts), and Israelites could not decide which rule, law, or command they adhered to. James reports, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).” Therefore, one had to follow God’s entire law to be deemed righteous. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, acknowledged He did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17-20), but to fulfill it; and in doing so He established a new covenant by which mankind will be judged: Romans 14:23 teaches, “… for whatever is not from faith is sin.” This New Testament standard differs from the Old Testament in which sin was defined discreetly. Today, those who lack faith in the Godhead, Scripture, or God’s commandment to love – commit one (or more), of the following sins: lust, pride, or fear, which is the basis for this post.

 

I John 2:16-17 describes sin generally, “For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” John, in this passage, identifies three carnal sins: (1) Lust of the flesh; (2) Lust of the eyes; and (3) Pride. The motive behind lust is envy and one commits lust of the eyes when he/she covets (or desires) what does not belong to them. It may be money, power, possessions, or people (like another’s husband or wife). Whenever that which is coveted is dwelt upon (rather than relegating it to a fleeting thought), a sin is committed. Lust's inherent danger is it entices us to act immorally. Therefore, the commission of a lustful act (whether robbery, infidelity, or surrendering to a vice), is the sin John calls lust of the flesh. Unfortunately, strife (which is defined Biblically as “a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts”), regularly accompanies envy in The Bible. James addresses the envy/strife tandem by saying, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (James 3:14-16).” Having a lustful heart, whether it is followed by action or not, is condemned by God.

 

The third sin espoused by John is pride of life which is defined Biblically as “an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights.” Pride, in my opinion, is America’s greatest sin, and is a sin many must answer to when he/she comes before God’s judgment. Pride is the spirit that credits Christopher Columbus with discovering an inhabited land that resulted in Native Americans being decimated on their own soil. Pride is the spirit that initiated the slave-trade and relegates African-Americans to second-class citizenship, despite the fact that America’s foundation was built on the backs of this disenfranchised people! And pride is a pervasive spirit behind trumpism, nationalism, racism, sexism and every other ism that plagues Americans from all walks of life, and others around the world!

 

James 2:6 castigates a person who gives favorable treatment to a rich person because he/she is well dressed and accessorized (James 2:1-3)! James’ argument is the rich are the ones who oppress, sue, and blaspheme God’s Name. So the question is why do people of humble means cater to tormentors? The answer in one word is lust. The poor lust for the crumbs that can be thrown their way, while minimizing the pain inflicted upon them by the rich and powerful. This scenario may explain why poor whites, en masse, do not stand with African-Americans in their fight for civil rights – gains that, rightfully, would benefit them also! Poor whites, despite their poverty, acquiesce because they still command better jobs, better education, better healthcare, better housing, better prospects for rising above their station, etc., than their African-American counterparts. So the sin of lust is a primary motivator for kowtowing to the rich, but another is pride.

 

James 2:2-3 also describes that perpetrator treating a poor person with disdain, while verse 6 unequivocally states that he/she has contempt for that person. This scenario parallels the attitudes of white nationalists, other hate groups, and seems to be of the same ilk behind white privilege. Pride enables “privileged whites” to believe they are superior to non-whites (vis-à-vis, African-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants), and condone inhumane treatment towards these, whom they consider, “pariahs.” Therefore, many rallied to the “make America great again,” campaign slogan, to bolster their power, whether real or perceived! The problem is even that slogan has a prideful undertone! In fact, it sounds very much like the attitude of King Nebuchadnezzar before God changed his heart to that of a beast (Daniel 4:30ff). It is interesting that before Nebuchadnezzar’s transformation, Daniel warned him by saying, “Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity (Daniel 4:27).” That same prideful spirit also caused the death of King Herod in Acts 12:21-23. Hopefully, this knowledge will be a wake-up call for anyone with a prideful heart who wants to do God’s will because “… God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

The sad reality is even poor whites may be tormented by the rich and powerful, but they, too, are tooled with an arsenal that includes torment, and use it against non-whites. The senseless Treyvon Martin killing, the inhumane treatment of border immigrants, and the steady proliferation of white nationalism are further evidences of sin cloaked in white pride and coupled with fear! John 4:18 teaches “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” To reiterate what was said in an earlier post, the sin of fear is a motive behind the inhumane treatment immigrants experience today; it is also a motive behind the hostility and rage African-Americans experienced during slavery which persists today; and is a motive behind the annihilation of America’s indigenous population. It has been projected that whites will become a minority, in America, which is contributing to the unfounded fear some whites in this nation are experiencing.

 

In conclusion, it can be proven that lust, pride, and fear are the sins behind other forms of discrimination like sexism, chauvinism, and homophobia. However, while John effectively described the sin, he also outlined the antidote for overcoming the sin. In I John 4:18 he states, “…But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Love for one’s fellow- man or woman is the perfect antidote for overcoming the sin that so easily besets us: It draws Christ’s Disciples closer to God; It aligns our priorities with God’s priorities; It helps us to see others differently because we understand that we are all in this fight together; and It prepares a home in Gloryland that outshines the sun for Saints who overcome the destructive sins of lust, pride, and fear. James’ summation is this: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” The truth of the matter is love trumps hate!

 

Next Week’s Question: James 2:5 teaches that God has chosen the poor of this world? Why has He done so?

 

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This Week’s Question: What is the fundamental missing element implied in James 2:1-9? And why is it so important?

The first section of this chapter, James 2:1-9, addresses partiality, and included under that topic are discrimination, partisanship, and a host of other divisive ills including racism, sexism, nationalism, chauvinism, jingoism, and a host of other similar beliefs. James criticizes such behaviors, without explicitly stating the root cause. Consequently the question we must consider is what is the fundamental missing element in that passage? It should not be difficult to recognize that love is the missing element (see James 2:8)! As stated in an earlier post, the motives behind partiality are fear, lust, and pride; which, according to the Bible, do not emanate from God since lust and pride are denounced repeatedly in The Bible, and Paul, in II Timothy 1:7, states explicitly, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So the real question is why is love so important? From a Biblical perspective, there are many reasons to justify love, but for this discussion we will focus on three: (1) God commands His followers to do so; (2) Love is the distinguishing characteristic that separates God’s children from satan’s; and (3) From God’s perspective, a person’s motive is more important than one’s deeds.

Let’s start with the commandment. When Jesus was asked, “… which is the great commandment in the law (see Matthew 22:36)?” He stated two. Beginning in Verse 37 “Jesus said, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’" These commandments, according to Jesus, are inseparable and summarizes the entire Bible! The problem is many of Christ’s purported followers are resolved to expend energy building the vertical dimension of love (with respect to God), while ignoring the horizontal dimension, by disdaining one’s neighbor. Once again I John 4:20 brings clarity to this issue, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” The bottom-line is this: There is no optionality with respect to Christ's followers loving one another despite their differences; It is commanded of them by God!

The second reason love is important is it clearly identifies God’s true children according I John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Nicodemus was told by Jesus that no one can either see or enter the Kingdom of God, unless they are born again (see John 3:3, 5). To be “born again” means to be “born of God” and requires transformation, since all are born into sin, and thus, are born as minions of satan. However, once someone surrenders their heart, soul, mind, and strength to The Lord, transformation is realized and that person’s life should forever change according to the following: “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (II Corinthians 5:16-17). Those who have been transformed view others differently, because The Holy Spirit endows them with a lens of love!  The bottom-line is this: God is love, so for anyone to be identified as His child, he/she must have that same impartial love, for others. So how do we know God loves impartially? John 3:16 teaches that God’s love for the world (which is impartial and unconditional), is the motive behind Him sending Jesus to die for our sins, and His example is the one that must be followed!

The third reason love is important is God’s children’s deeds must be motivated by love. Otherwise, one’s actions, no matter how beneficial they seem, are meaningless according to I Corinthians 13:1-3, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” Verse 1 and part of 2 speak of spiritual gifts. Within today’s church community, many rely upon their spiritual gifts as evidence that they are children of God. The problem is many do not realize that vertical love for God, without an unconditional horizontal love for one’s neighbor, renders that gift meaningless to its bearer. Can God can still use that person to fulfill his purposes? Absolutely, but with an improper motive, it yields no benefit to the gift’s bearer!

Verse 2 is interesting because it addresses one’s spiritual walk and ministry, which on the outside appears vibrant, God-centered, and effective according to outward appearances. However God looks into a person’s heart, and if love is missing, then every deed performed in His Name is an exercise in futility because as Paul states, “I am nothing.” Jesus confirmed Paul’s assertion in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Jesus’ prophecy is a sad commentary for many who put self-interests, partisanship, political ideology, or popular or public opinion above God’s Word and His commandment to love. If love is not the motive behind everything we say, think, or do, then our deeds, no matter how effective they may seem to others, are meaningless!

In verse 3 Paul addresses charitable giving and personal sacrifice, which, in the minds of many, should automatically qualify a place in Heaven for the benefactor! Two examples are provided by Paul and both seem commendable. The first is selling all of one’s possessions to feed the poor. But what if that deed, instead of being an act of love, was done to spite someone else; or done just to realize a tax break. Paul declares categorially, “it profits me nothing.” The same can be said for someone who sacrifices their life to save others. What if the person is a suicide bomber, or the act were committed out of vengefulness or hatred towards someone else. If love was not that person’s primary motive, it is a vain exercise from God’s perspective, and will yield the self-sacrificing person no benefit when they come before God’s judgment.

In many ways James 2:1-9 is a reflection of American culture. Many, who have superior attitudes, look down upon, castigate, or harm others who they deem their “lessors.” They also actively fight to keep immigrants out of this country, have no compunction about separating families at the border, and immigrants who are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to enter this country are subjected to inhumane squalor conditions, which has led to several deaths. Also (and this is an unfortunate waste of valuable resources), vast amounts of time, energy, and resources are utilized to keep people of color disproportionately incarcerated, uneducated, financially deprived, and unable to vote. Nevertheless, the hope for those who are poor but rich in faith is found in Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first last...” In summary, if all who claimed to be disciples of Christ lived according to the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), and allowed that to be the motive behind everything they said, thought, and did, then this would be a better world because partiality would be a sin of the past since Christ's Disciples are the salt of the Earth and the light of the world (see Matthew 5:13-16).

Next Week’s Question: Since too many have a romanticized view of love, what is love from a Biblical perspective?

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It's What's Under the Hood That Counts

My 2011 Hyundai Sonata looks exactly the same as it did a month ago. On the surface it’s the same 100,000-mile car as it was then.

Yet here’s the strange story of why my car is worth more now than it was several weeks ago…

I got a big surprise when I took my Sonata to the dealer for some routine recalls. “You need a new engine!” the service rep told me, to my shock.

In the seconds that followed, I groaned at the thought of having to pay around $7,000 for a new engine.

But then came the amazingly good news: “The new engine is at our expense, with absolutely no charge to you,” they assured me.

As one more fortunate outcome, they said it would take about a month to get the new engine to the dealership. In the meantime, I got to drive a free, brand-new Toyota Camry from Hertz. And this was great timing, since I was about to embark on a weeklong ministry trip in Ohio.

When I got my car back, I found myself looking for the spiritual lessons in this story…

My Sonata is still a 2011 model, five years old. The body still has 100,000 miles of wear and tear, but overall is in pretty good shape. With a new engine, the car can be expected to run at least 100,000 miles more, probably a lot farther than that.

I think there are some parallels between my Sonata and the contrast between our outer body and our inner spirit, which is the “engine” or driving force of our lives. Although people tend to dwell on outward appearances, it’s really what’s “under the hood” that counts (1 Samuel 16:7).

The apostle Paul contrasted the aging of our bodies with the renewal of our spirits: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV). In other words, even though we may not be able to keep our body from aging, God can renew our spirit and give us a new “engine” on the inside.

We’ve all met elderly people who are full of youthful joy and vitality on the inside. But there also are many people who have allowed their internal “engine” to age prematurely. Even though their body is still relatively young, they have lost their joy, their creativity, and their zest for life.

Are you a candidate for new engine—a new heart and spirit? If so, God offers a stunning “recall” you should take advantage of: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV).

That’s an offer too good to pass up, don’t you think? But as with my Hyundai Sonata, the new engine is only offered by the manufacturer. The One who made you in the first place is the One who now offers to renew you (Psalm 51:10-12).

And all you have to do is ask.

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Cleanliness is next to Godliness?

“Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, for cleanliness is made an essential and godliness is regarded as an offence.” (G. K. Chesterton)

 

To worship the holy God acceptably, we must prepare our inner being by washing with the holy water of His Word. Meticulous hand washing is meaningless ritual without inside purification. Dirt-free hands are good hygiene, but a pure heart is heaven’s prerequisite for holiness.

 

We are not what we think we are; but what we think, we are. Thought-life is the fountainhead of character, so we should exercise caution in what occupies our mind. We have little control over passing thoughts tinged with evil, but we can refuse to dwell on perversity. Focusing on lust flirts with adultery; lingering on greed’s doorstep produces thieves; concentrating on flaws fuels slander; trying to impress others rationalizes deceit.

 

Gazing prayerfully into the Truth Mirror, we see ourselves as we really are. We can improve our appearance by bringing our life into line with Christ’s perfect image.

 

Cleanliness is not godliness, but it is next to godliness. When Jesus returns in purity, we will finally be like Him. Until then, the wise course of action is to stay as near Him as we can—to the extent we do, we will brightly reflect the beauty of His mirror image.

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“The bronze washbasin and its bronze pedestal were cast from bronze mirrors donated by the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle.”  [Exodus 38:8 NLT]

 

Johnny R. Almond

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

[This devotion based on Day 58 of Gentle Whispers]

Interim Pastor, Nomini Baptist Church; Montross, Virginia

Blog & book info http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com/

               

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Getting My Calluses Back

A few years ago, I shared with a friend how I used to enjoy playing guitar and leading worship in my early days as a Christian.

“Do you still play?” she asked.

“Oh no, I gave that up long ago,” I replied.

Showing her the finger tips on my left hand, I continued, “See, I don’t even have calluses anymore.”

It was a pretty straightforward conversation—or so I thought. But as I was praying later that day, I distinctly heard the Lord tell me, “Jim, if you had more calluses on your fingers, you would have fewer calluses on your heart.”

How convicting! I saw that when I laid down my guitar several decades ago, I also began to drift away from intimacy with the Lord in my private worship times.

Then a few weeks ago, I was sharing this story with a friend named Justin, and he perceptively asked me, “So, Jim, did you get your calluses back after that?”

I was horrified to admit that I’d taken no action at all after God so clearly rebuked me. But I assured my friend that I wouldn’t procrastinate any longer.

“The next time you see me, make sure to ask me about my calluses,” I urged him. “If I still haven’t picked up my guitar and started worshiping the Lord in my personal devotions, tell me I’m a hypocrite!”

Thankfully, I’ve taken action this time. I’m getting my calluses back, ready for my friend to ask me that question.

Both my guitar playing and my worship are very rusty, however. I’ve found that it takes a while to develop calluses on your fingers again—or to remove them from your heart.

Don’t expect to see me leading worship in public anytime soon. I’ve long since recognized that other people are far more gifted.

But I want to make private worship a more intentional part of my life, regularly listening for God’s voice and asking Him to soften my heart.

Quoting Isaiah 6:10, Jesus warned about the danger of allowing calluses to form on our hearts:   (Matthew 13:15). What a tragic condition. Yet all too common, I’m afraid.

Like calluses on our fingers, callused hearts develop gradually, over time. If the condition progresses, we ultimately find ourselves in a situation just as the Bible predicts: spiritually unable to hear or see.

If you notice calluses on your heart today, the key isn’t necessarily to develop calluses on your fingers instead. But the process is working for me.

One thing is for sure: Without regularly experiencing God’s presence, our hearts will inevitably grow hard. Like a desert that seldom experiences rain, we become spiritually dry and emotionally barren.

If you truly want to reverse hardness of heart, here’s a homework assignment: Read Psalm 95 in its entirely and ask the Lord to restore you to a heart of worship…listening…and responding. Write down what He tells you to do, and find a friend like Justin to hold you accountable to do it.

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Learning from Ponce de León's Mistake

According to a popular legend, sixteenth-century Spanish explorer Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth. Many people are still looking for the Fountain of Youth in Florida today, but that’s not the subject of this blog.

Many explanations have been offered for what motivated this wild-goose chase. One historian speculated that the adventurous conquistador mistook the natives’ word “vid” (vine) for “vida” (life), which transformed their “fountain vine” into an imagined “fountain of life.”

In some ways, we probably should give Ponce de León kudos rather than ridicule. If you thought you could experience a Fountain of Youth, wouldn’t you do just about anything to find it?

But the folly of his pursuit was in thinking there’s some kind of external substance that can ensure never-ending youth and vitality. In contrast, Jesus told the woman at the well in Sychar, “The water that I shall give…will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Do you see the difference here? Instead of providing us with a life-giving fountain to swim in, Jesus says the living water will be IN us, springing up into eternal life.

The beauty of the gospel is that it transforms us from the inside out. There’s no need to find an external fountain, whether in Florida or somewhere else. Instead, we can find this fountain anywhere you are. And rather than just being a Fountain of Youth, the fountain Jesus offers is a fountain of eternal life.

However, despite the availability of this amazing eternal transformation, many people today are still making the same mistake as Ponce de León. They’re trying to preserve their youthfulness through external remedies—things like money…sex…power…friends…fitness…and fun. But while the Lord may indeed give us such things, at best they provide only a very limited Fountain of Youth.

Meanwhile, God offers us something much better than outside-in solutions. The Bible describes how we can go from weakness to strength and weariness to renewal through the transforming power of the Spirit:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
(Isaiah 40:28-31).

Youthfulness, like just about any other issue of life, is primarily a matter of your heart, not your skin. As King David discovered, one of the benefits of worshiping the Lord from your heart is that “your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).

So the choice is yours. Will you follow in the footsteps of Ponce de León and focus your attention on outward appearances? Or will you become radiantly renewed in the presence of the Lord, giving priority to the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4)?

In Revelation 21:6 we’re given a glimpse of those who will drink of “the fountain of the water of life” at the end of time. Thirst is their key trait, which is good news if you’re thirsty today. You don’t have to search the world for something to make you happy and keep you young. You just need to come into God’s presence and drink.

 

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Love, Obedience, and Purity of Heart

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the “upper room discourse” lately, in John 13-14 in particular so far. It’s an interesting section, since it’s one of the few where you really see Jesus interacting with His disciples collectively, instead of just one or two at a time. Heck, we even get a line out of Jude/Thaddeus (aka Judas Not Iscariot) here.

It’s also a hard section to wrap your head around, and simultaneously kind of annoying because it sounds like Jesus is constantly repeating Himself—like He’s constantly rephrasing the same comments over and over because His listeners just don’t get it. Then again, He’s talking to His disciples, and we know they’re kinda thick.

Or at least we should—because after all, we’re His disciples, too.

Anyway, what seems inescapable here is the connection Jesus draws between love and obedience. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). ”Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21)

In fact, He connects our obedience with our ability to see Him work in our lives. “And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:21, 23).

This isn’t the first time Jesus makes this connection, though.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). This word also helps contrain our obedience, so that it’s not blind—at best misguided, at worst satanic—obedience. Purity of heart is to want what God wants, in the way God wants it. It necessitates the right kind of obedience, and promises that God will manifest Himself as we do it.

Jesus illustrated this principle Himself later in John 14: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:30-31, emphasis mine).

Especially to the world, our obedience can look wrong, misguided, and overly submissive—and sometimes it is. There is a time to stand up. But as He prepares to enter the garden of Gethsemane and take up His cross, Jesus shows us what standing up should look like. It’s not “in your face,” but in His name. It is doing what God demands, and letting the chips—and our desires—fall where they may.

So, along with Jesus, “Rise, let us go from here” (John 14:31).

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The Centrality of the Gospel of Grace

The gospel of grace is central to all of life. Everything we do, say and think about will be impacted by the gospel. The gospel is simply the good news that God sent his son Jesus to save us from our sins. We were created to live in relationship with God but we chose to turn our backs on God and live life the way we wanted to live. This rebellion broke our relationship with God and left us to face the wages and consequences of our own sin, which is death. But God, who is rich in mercy and grace, did not leave us to ourselves. God sent Jesus to come and die, paying the penalty for our sins, past, present and future. Through faith in Jesus we can have a restored relationship with the God of the universe. This renewed relationship will last forever and cannot be broken.

The Bible says that we are “new creations” and that we who live might no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us. God’s Spirit comes and makes his home in our hearts. The Holy Spirit will work in and through us to glorify God in all we do. Every day should be one in which we live in the gospel of grace. This grace infects us and causes all our interactions with others and with ourselves to glorify God. You will have people that irritate you, dislike you, disobey you, make fun of you and you will love them with the grace that God has given you. You will have financial stress, your computer will stop working, you will miss an appointment and you will work through these issues with the grace that God has given you. You will enjoy a date with your wife, you will accomplish something great at work, you will find joy in smelling the fresh spring air and you will thank God for his abundant grace in your life. The gospel of grace is central to all of life. It permeates our thoughts, our actions and our words. As we walk through today and the day after that and the day after that, let us never forget to bathe ourselves in God’s grace. May you be completely overwhelmed just by meditating on this infinite grace.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through GRACE, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (II Thess.2:16-17)

All for Jesus,

Fletch

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