What Jesus Calls Great!

-Wouldn’t You Like To Know?

Have you ever given thought to what it would have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples & just walk through life with Him? To literally walk through life with Jesus! Because that was the most common method of transportation in that day! And, to hear Him speak God’s wisdom into every situation they encountered! Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark, tells us about a time when Jesus & His disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; and, Jesus gets real serious with them & begins to tell them that the Chief Priest & the religious leaders would condemn Him to death! That He would be mocked & spit on & flogged & killed! And, it was weird— like they didn’t even hear what He was saying— but, 2 of the disciples, James & John who were brothers, approach Jesus immediately after He dropped that “bomb” on them & ask if they could sit on each side of His throne in Glory!

-Great To Jesus Is Service!

That really ticked off the other 10 disciples! Mark records it like this:  “Jesus called them over and said to them, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them.  But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” Mark 10:42-45.  In so many words, Jesus was teaching them that if you’re GREAT in God’s Kingdom, that this world probably won’t even notice you!

-Jesus’ Leadership Model!

What Jesus calls “GREAT” and what the world says is “GREAT” are generally 2 entirely different things. Jesus calls you great when you reject the world’s leadership style (v.42). Those who lead, in this world, dominate or lord it over anyone in a “subordinate” role, Jesus says. Having a “position” of power is of great significance! But, that’s not the case in Jesus’ Kingdom! If we follow Jesus’ leadership model, we have to reject the world’s style of leadership. Instead, Jesus calls you great when your ministry is measured by the people you serve (v.43).  “…it must not be like the world’s leadership style…” among believers, He says!

-Do You Want A Title?

In the ministry of the church, Jesus says it’s not about having a “title.” Do you want a title? If you’re an “ELDER” you SERVE! If you’re a “DEACON” you SERVE! If you’re a Sunday School Teacher, a Small Group Leader, an AWANA or NURSERY WORKER you SERVE! If you’re a WORSHIP TEAM MEMBER— it’s NOT A SHOW! Jesus doesn’t care about your title! He cares about your SERVICE! You want to be GREAT? You want a TITLE? Take the title of “SERVANT”, Jesus says! And, then, Jesus calls you great when you humble yourself & become the world’s slave (v.44).  Some versions render the word “servant.” But, that’s not right! The word is “doulos” in the original Greek language; and, the only correct way to translate it is  “slave.” Jesus meant for us to take on the humility of a slave when it comes to our ministry & service to others!

 

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Is Every Believer A Disciple?

-What Does Scripture Teach?

The Church, here in the west, has often made a distinction between a “believer” in Jesus Christ & a “disciple” of Jesus Christ! It’s a distinction, however, that Scripture fails to make— that you can be a saved “believer” & just live your entire life for yourself! That, if you desire, you can become a “disciple” and live out your days as a “super saint” for Jesus. No where, in Scripture, does Jesus say anything even close to that! If you abide, in Jesus, you will produce the fruit of a disciple! That’s the outcome of genuine faith!

-Grape Vines Produce Grapes!

There will always be fruit where there is genuine faith. It’s as natural as a grape vine producing grapes. That’s what grape vines do! And, there is fruit that is naturally produced, by God’s Spirit, in the life of every genuine believer who abides in Jesus! In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus says! Fruitfulness is the proof that you’re a “believer” & “disciple.” “If anyone does not abide in Me,” Jesus said, “he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” John 15:6-8.  We bring glory to God when our lives produce fruit because it PROVES that He’s saved us! The PROOF is in the FRUIT!

-Love, Joy & Obedience!

Then, Jesus expands, on that, in the next several verses (v. 9-17). Fruitfulness, He says, is measured by our love, by our obedience, and, by our joy! “This is My commandment,” Jesus said, “that you love one another as I have loved you.” Loving others isn’t an option for anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus! If there’s no love, it’s because there is no spiritual life. Where there’s no love, there’s no “abiding in Jesus.” “You are my friends,” He said, “if you do what I command you.” We cannot pick and choose what we’re going to obey in God’s Word. Disobedience isn’t an option! If we truly abide, in Christ, we’ll repent when we disobey & realign our life accordingly with the Scriptures. And, there’ll be joy in your life— “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may full.” Our joy is linked to a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ! It’s not circumstantial!

-Even When Life Is Hard!

Abiding in Christ produces joy! Even when the rest of life derails, our joy is centered In Jesus. All those grumpy, mean-spirited, haters out there who claim to be followers of Jesus must have missed that Scripture! Or… they don’t really abide in Christ! This text presents a clear case that God, the Father, won’t stand idle while His children act up! He will prune— “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” John 17:2. He will discipline His own! He will spank! But, He doesn’t spank the Devil’s kids! Our response, to His discipline, will either confirm or deny that our “faith” is legitimate! We will confess sin & let His Spirit clean house!

Is God Pruning You?

-Pruning Produces More Fruit!

My parents used to grow grapes; and, there were times when they had to cut away the dead branches that produced no grapes! But, they also cut back “living” branches; so, the vine would use it’s resources to produce more “fruit”—GRAPES! In the timeline, of John 15, Jesus is preparing His disciples for life after His death, resurrection & ascension. He begins with these words: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (vs. 1-2).

-Things To Come!

As you move, through the rest of the chapter, Jesus tells them that 2 things will come after his departure. First, He says there will be defections from inside the faith; or, inside the church body! People, who claimed to be followers of Jesus, will walk away from “the Faith.” They’ll quit! It’s not for them! And, second, Jesus tells them there will be persecution from the outside! Bogus faith inside the church & suffering from the outside! And, He uses the metaphor of a vine, a branch; and, the fruit produced, to illustrate the difference between a true disciple of Jesus and a fraud! Jesus is the Vine! The Father is the Vinedresser! And, there are 2 different kinds of branches here—ONE that bears NO FRUIT! And, the Father REMOVES it! And, the other—that produces FRUIT! And, the Father prunes it so that it produces more fruit!

-Responding To God’s Pruning!

So, here’s the bottom line—It is our RESPONSE to God’s pruning that proves what kind of branch we are! Are you a dead branch that produces no fruit? Or, a living, healthy branch that responds to the painful process, of pruning, by producing more fruit? Let’s talk about some of the points that Jesus makes, about fruitfulness, through His use of the metaphor of the Vine & the branches! First, He clearly indicates that fruitfulness is expected from every genuine disciple of Jesus. In the first 3 verses, of John 15, He says that if you don’t bear fruit, it’s because you’re “not abiding” in the Vine! In other words, you’re NOT “IN CHRIST.” So, what kind of fruit should we expect to see growing in the life of a follower of Jesus? While several passages answer that question; perhaps, none better than Galatians 5.

-The Fruit Of The Spirit!

The Apostle Paul, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, wrote the Church of Galatia to tell them that the indwelling Spirit will produce fruit in their life that looks like this: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (vs. 22-24). That’s some of the low hanging fruit that’s produced by those who belong to Jesus! The Spirit produces it! If you’re a believer, Jesus invested His life in you! And, He expects a “return”— or, FRUIT— from His investment! We’ll come back to this next week!

The Fruit God Produces In You!

-The Evidence Is The Fruit!

Everyone that is “in Christ” will evidence the fruit of that relationship. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches! So, if you don’t bear fruit it’s because you’re “not abiding in the vine,” He said. So, let’s take some time to consider what kind of fruit is expected to be growing, in our life, if we belong to Him. Besides Galatians 5, which speaks to fruit the indwelling Holy Spirit produces in us, there is also an expectation that our lives would produce the fruit of winning others to Jesus.

-The Fruit Of Disciple-Making!

In John 4, Jesus said: “Do not say, ‘There are yet four months and then comes the harvest. I tell you lift up your eyes and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.” Does your life reveal the fruit of disciple making? Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 14:15.  So, we would expect to see the fruit of obedience in the life of someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

-The Fruit Of Obedience!

If our faith is genuine, the indwelling Holy Spirit will be at work in us—pointing out all the areas of our lives we still need to line up, in obedience, to the Word of God. In John 15, Jesus refers to The Father as the Vinedresser (v.1); and, He added that God will remove you, from the vine, if there’s no life in you. In v.6 He says you’ll be thrown into the FIRE! Jesus taught the same truth in His parable about the wheat & the tares in Matthew 13. The “tares” LOOKED like wheat; but, they were frauds! They were weeds & at the harvest they’ll be separated from the genuine wheat and burned up. That pictures judgment for everyone who claims to be Jesus’ disciple; but, have no fruit to evidence that claim! Just as the owner, of a vineyard, expects fruit; so, God expects every one of us— who genuinely abide in Christ— to produce fruit! He saved us on account of His great Name & for His great purpose— that He might gather a people, to Himself for all eternity, that belong to Him! Jesus Christ “invested” His life in you; and, He expects a “return” on that investment! Consider what Jesus said!

-Jesus Chose Us!

You did not choose me,” Jesus said, “but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” John 15:16.  It’s fruitfulness, He says, that evidences real faith! If your life is absent, of fruit, you’d do well to examine yourself against the Scriptures to see if you’re faith is the real thing! Please consider Jesus’ words carefully, with all sobriety! This is “life or death” because fruitfulness is always the result of “abiding in Christ.” If there is NO FRUIT of the Spirit; if there is NO FRUIT or passion to “MAKE DISCIPLES”; If there is NO FRUIT of obedience—it may be because you do not abide in Jesus! Nor does He abide in you! The church, here in the west, has made a distinction between a “believer” & a “disciple.” A distinction that’s not endorsed by Scripture! We’ll get into that in next week’s post!

 

God’s Glory Is A Big Deal!

-He Alone Deserves The Glory!

God deserves all glory because He alone has designed everything & His Name is ON everything! It’s His Name that adds value to humanity & to the rest of creation! So, when we speak about God’s Glory we define it as, “the essence & beauty of His Spirit.” We’re not referring to His material or aesthetic beauty—like we typically define human beauty—but, to the beauty of His Character—to all that He IS! John Piper defines God’s Glory as, “the manifest beauty of His Holiness.” Holiness points to His absolute “uniqueness.”

-One-Of-A-Kind God!

He is ONE-OF-A-KIND! He is in a totally separate “class” all by Himself! There is no other God like Him! “O nations of the world, recognize the Lord, recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong. Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor” 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 NLT. God’s Glory is a really big deal to God; and, it’s a big deal in the Holy Scriptures! The GOAL of ALL things is God’s Glory! And, I’m not overstating that one iota! Let’s not forget that there is GOD & there is “everything He created!” That’s it! There is nothing else! And, in the original creation—before SIN—God declared that all of creation was GOOD! Why? Because ALL of creation reflected God’s beauty;  so, it ALL brought Him… GLORY!

-Redirecting All Praise!

In similar fashion we say that an artist’s painting is a reflection of the artist & the artist’s work brings him a certain “glory”! God has blessed humanity with certain creative abilities; but, they’re all SMALL “c—creative” because ALL mankind’s creative abilities were received from the CAPITAL “C—CREATOR” God. So, every “artist”—who is a true disciple of Jesus—will redirect all praise received to CREATOR God! In part, that is one way that we bring God Glory—by redirecting all praise & compliments received to God who created us with those abilities! We acknowledge that whatever TALENT or ABILITY we have is ON LOAN from God! It ultimately belongs to Him! Our greatest preoccupation must be with God’s Glory because that’s our reason & purpose for existence!

-Mandated To Give God Glory!

Here’s an observation from the 1st Chronicles 16 text—“the writer, King David, was inspired by God’s Spirit to offer this MANDATE regarding God’s Glory.”  This is an imperative or a command to “…declare God’s Glory…” v.28.  When David became king, he determined to make worship a priority again in Israel! And, one of his 1st acts was to return the Ark of the Covenant, which had been neglected under King Saul, back to Jerusalem! And, in the process, David preaches this great message that is included as the inspired Word of God. That means it’s AUTHORITATIVE—NOT because David said it; but, because God INSPIRED him to say it! So, “…DECLARE God’s glory,” he says! Don’t just study it and keep it to yourself! We’re commanded to declare it; and, that’s a general statement that means to declare it EVERYWHERE to everyone!

 

The Glory Due His Name!

-But We Are Self-Focused!

Why do “resolutions” at the start of a new year rarely work? I recently did a GOOGLE search for “New Year’s Resolutions” and came up with 18,600,000 hits in 0.54 seconds. There are more than 18 million articles, blogs, posts, sites, and news stories dedicated to the subject of New Year Resolutions! What does that mean? Well, I’d say, among other things, it means that people are always longing for change! They’re looking for strategies and formulas to help them eat less, exercise more, quit smoking…yada, yada, yada! Can I make an observation? Full disclosure here—I am NOT against “New Years Resolutions”! I am not against “Self Improvement”! But, I’ve come to believe that the reason “New Years Resolutions” and other methods for “Self Improvement” aren’t very successful is because they’re all “SELF” focused!

-We Need A Savior!

And, as a Bible believer and disciple, of Jesus Christ, I agree with the doctrine of man’s fallenness! I see the depravity and brokenness in my own life! I’ve learned I can’t trust my fallen nature; so, I’m not surprised by my inability to keep promises & resolutions to myself! I need help! I need a Savior! Here’s what I’ve seen in my life and the lives of countless others through the years—when I quit focusing on myself; and, I focus my heart, my thoughts & my energy on Jesus Christ, CHANGE begins to happen! Personal change happens when I quit being all absorbed in myself & look at Jesus over and over again—MEDITATE on Him! MEMORIZE His words!

-Preoccupied With God!

For change to take place, our greatest preoccupation must be with God & His Glory! We exist for His Glory! So, if we don’t live our lives for His Glory we miss our purpose; or, our very reason for existence! We live a wasted life! I don’t like the sound of that; and, I’m sure you don’t either! Preaching on the doctrine of “God’s Glory” is difficult because it’s as deep as God’s character, which is eternal, inexhaustible and indefinable! It’s also difficult because it’s easily misunderstood—“Why is God so concerned about His Glory? He must be some kind of GLORY HOG!” And, then, it’s difficult to understand the part we play in bringing God glory! All of which means that we don’t really know how to define it adequately, do we?

-A Working Definition Of “Glory”!

Let me try and illustrate “glory” for you. While stopping at a store, in Hollywood, Christian music artist, LeCrae, pulled a very ordinary, plain, cotton T-shirt off a rack to check it’s price. Thinking it had to be mismarked, he pulled another one only to find the same price on the tag. Incredulous, he approached the sales clerk to question the exorbitant price of $640. He was told that was the “special” sales price! When he asked what could possibly make it so special, the clerk said, “It’s the designer’s name on it that adds value to it.” Get the illustration? The reason God alone deserves all glory is because He’s the DESIGNER of everything! His NAME is on everything! And, it’s His Name that adds value to it! So, when we speak about God’s Glory we define it as “the ESSENCE & BEAUTY of His Spirit”; or, the beauty of His Character!

 

Worshipers Remember God’s Work!

-Don’t Forget What He’s Done!

Have you ever considered that a proper worship of God includes your “memories”? It’s not proper worship to be disengaged with our minds! King David tells Israel to worship God by remembering all that’s He’s done for them:  “Remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments He has pronounced” 1 Chronicles 16:12.  In other words, give testimony to the work that God is doing; and, has done in your life! “Let the redeemed of the LORD proclaim that He has redeemed them from the hand of the foe” Psalm 107:2. We worship God when we stand, before our church faith community, and testify to the way God is working in our lives! The NIV actually translates Psalm 107:2 like this:  “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story…”

-God’s Working In You!

If you’re truly seeking after God, in your life, He will show you how busy He is in your life! Your life will be intentional and purposeful! You’ll have “stories” to tell of the wonderful ways that God is at work. Notice that David follows that up by telling Israel to worship God by remembering His covenants! I’m thinking we don’t do this enough—at least not in my church! We don’t remember enough & rehearse enough that God is a covenant-keeping God:  “Remember His covenant forever—the promise He ordained for a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, swore to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob as a decree, and to Israel as an everlasting covenant” 1 Chronicles 16:14-22.

-Remember The New Covenant!

At the “Last Supper”—on the night that He was betrayed—Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” REMEMBER the New Covenant, He says! Here’s why we can be secure in our salvation—because God has made a covenant to save us when we put our faith in Christ’s work on the cross; and, He keeps us saved & seals us through that covenant confirmed by Jesus’ shed blood! And, then David turns his attention to the nations—”Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Proclaim His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all peoples” 1 Chronicles 16:23.  Making disciples, of Christ, is worship!

-We Worship By Making Disciples!

The making of disciples is NOT just a New Testament “thing”!  It was never God’s plan, for Israel, to keep His salvation to themselves! David continues, “…all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens…”; “Ascribe to the Lord, families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” 1 Chronicles 16: 26,28. Israel, like the Church, was to be a peculiar people and a priesthood, of believers, to the world! It is the destiny, of future history, that one day, “…every TRIBE, every NATION & every PEOPLE GROUP will be gathered around the throne of God to WORSHIP Him…” Revelation 7:9.   Have you ever considered that it’s an act of worship when we make disciples? It honors Jesus’ commission! REMEMBER THAT!