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!

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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!

God’s Design For The Family!

-We’re All Someone’s Son Or Daughter!

Family & parenting are subjects that all of us can relate to! We’re all part of a family. We’re all someone’s son or daughter. If we’re married, we’re someone’s husband or wife. If not, we’re probably hoping to one day be someone’s husband or wife.  Most of us either have kids; or, we HOPE to have a family someday! Our infinitely wise Creator designed a husband & wife to complement; or, complete each other. And, He’s also designed the family to work together a certain way!

-Something Beautiful Happens!

When the family works the way that God designed it, something awesome and beautiful happens! Families bring glory to God; and, joy to each family member, when God’s design specifications are followed by faith. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter, to the ancient Church of Colosse, that is hated by the world! But, if, by faith, you will believe God’s Word; and, live it out— by the power of God’s Holy Spirit— your family will bring glory to God; and, you will find joy! Your life will be a blessing to your family; and, to everyone you rub shoulders with in life.  “And whatever you do,” Paul begins, “in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them. Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged” Colossians 3:17-21.

-Do It God’s Way!

Whatever you do, Paul says, do it God’s way, according to His design—including husbands, wives & family! That’s the context here! Wives! He begins with wives— if you wanna bring glory to God & live a joy-filled life—Be submissive to your husband! Now, the order has perplexed a number of believers. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to begin with instruction to the wives? I don’t know! There are a number of differing opinions; and, I do have my own opinion. I think it has to do with the meaning of that word “submit” or “be submissive.” The word, in the original language, meant “a VOLUNTARY attitude of giving in, assuming responsibility & carrying a burden.” The key word is “VOLUNTARY.” The wife VOLUNTARILY submits to her husband.

-Not Meant To Lord It Over Her!

So, here’s the message I think the Spirit wants to convey— the husband is not meant to LORD it over his wife by demanding that she submit! Rather, the wife is to willingly, voluntarily, submit! If the husband were addressed first, we might have read into it that the husbands’ responsibility is to demand that his wife submit. So, God removes any inclination the husband might have, to demand submission, by addressing the wives first:  “Ladies, you need to voluntarily give in to your husband’s lead.” God commands this— not, because the wife is incapable! Not because she’s not his equal! Don’t confuse “submission” with “inequality”! We submit to our bosses at work; not, because of inequality; but, because of order! God designed an order to the home. Even Jesus submitted to His parents as part of the created order!

 

The Fading Glory Of Creation!

-Don’t Accept A Cheap Substitute!

When we refuse to give God the glory He alone deserves, we exchange the glory of an immortal Creator for the glory of created things! In other words, we accept cheap substitutes! When we could have gloried in an eternal, immortal, all-powerful Creator, we glory instead in the FADING glory of a creation that groans & dies under the weight of sin’s curse! James wrote:  “Let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits” James 1:9-11.

-Beauty Queens & Hip Replacements!

That means that beauty queens grow old & decrepit. It means that sports stars grow old; and, get hip & knee replacements.  So, if you value anything more than God, you’ve exchanged the “imperishable” for the “perishable.” You’ve traded the diamond for that rotten peach that’s been in the back of your fridge for the last 3 months! You’ve traded gold for a rusty bolt! In Paul’s letter to the Church of Rome, he also says that when you dismiss or deny God’s glory that you exchange the truth of God for the lies of sexual perversions— “…God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” Romans 1:24-25.

-God’s Not The Kill Joy In The Sky!

Listen, God is NOT the big “sex KILL JOY” in the sky! He’s NOT a PRUDE! He created sex! Contrary to what some people seem to think, sex wasn’t our idea! God created sex; and, the reason He restricted sexual activity to a HUSBAND & a WIFE is because He loves us! His way is the BEST way for us! All sexual activity—outside that which is between a HUSBAND & a WIFE— will always result in painful, negative experiences! Humanity keeps ignoring God’s glory when it comes to sexual conduct; so, God delivers them over to sexual impurity, Paul says. And, our society is bent on degrading their bodies because they’ve believed all the lies of sexual perversions! There’s a really important principle here!

-Living With Regret!

You can glory in the lies of sin & get some momentary pleasure out of it; but, the pleasure is soon gone & what remains is regret! Or, you can glory in the truth of God; and, gain happiness & joy that does not fade in this life! A joy that actually carries over into eternity! You can live without regrets now! Give God the glory due His name! Redirect any praise— that might come your way— to Him! Humble yourself before him! Admit that you’re NOT a self-made man or woman! You’re made in the image of God for His Glory! If you’re a follower of Jesus, His Spirit indwells you; and, it is He who is making you into the image of Christ.  Everything you have— Yes! Everything— comes from Him! Don’t take any credit for your accomplishments! That’s what unbelievers do. Stand with the Apostle Paul: “As for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ “ Galatians 6:14. Brag on the cross & Jesus’ work for our salvation!

 

God Deserves All The Glory!

-Who Else Would Deserve It?

There’s a wonderful passage, in the Old Testament, that relates to the Glory that God deserves.  Here’s what King David says:  “Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!” 1 Chronicles 16:28-29.  In my previous post, I talked about how God’s Glory is a really big deal to God! And, rightly so! David is also inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to declare God’s “strength.” Declare the Lord’s “…glory and STRENGTH…” I find it interesting that David would point to God’s “strength” in the context of His “glory”! Why?

-Let’s Dig Deeper!

Whenever we ask that question “why”—-of a biblical text—it ought to serve as our cue to dig deeper! To study the verses surrounding it! So, if you look back at the preceding verses, David says that, “…YAHWEH is feared above all gods…” (little “g”) because “…all the gods of the peoples are IDOLS…”; and, here’s the CONTRAST—”…BUT, the LORD made the heavens…”; end v.27, “…STRENGTH & joy are in His place.” So, compared to false gods, YAHWEH is all-powerful; or, OMNIPOTENT! It is to His Glory that, by His STRENGTH, He created the heavens! So, DECLARE His STRENGTH! Someone once asked me that old philosopher’s question: “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” I think the answer is “YES” He can create that rock! And, “YES” HE CAN LIFT IT!

-Glory In God’s “Name”!

It’s to His Glory that He is able to do anything and everything! Then, David tells us to declare God’s Glory in His NAME! There’s really 2 thoughts in that phrase, “…give to the Lord the glory due His name…” The 1st thought relates to His “NAME.” There’s a lot going on with a person’s NAME—if I say the name, “ADOLPH HITLER”, that name evokes thoughts related to his CHARACTER, doesn’t it? That name conjures up thoughts like dictator and anti-Semite and murderer! The name of God, however, brings to mind thoughts of His love, mercy, grace, benevolence, etc. All that’s in His “NAME”; or, His character! Those traits describe who He is! He is just & righteous in everything He does! So, declare the glory related to His NAME!

-Stealing God’s Glory!

The 2nd thought, in that phrase, “…give to the Lord the glory due His name…” is this: He ALONE DESERVES all Glory!  The Apostle Paul wrote: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be Glory forever” Romans 11:36.  He’s saying that, in fact, God HAS all Glory! He alone had all glory before creation, right? There was nothing else until He created it! So, any glory that the creation has was given to it BY GOD! The “glory” of a sunset is God’s Glory! He gave the sunset it’s “glory”! It’s because of God’s Glory that He hates pride—”pride” is man’s attempt to STEAL God’s Glory! Whenever we’re PROUD of our work we’re stealing glory from God who gave us the gifts & talents to do the work we do! Pride is acting like you didn’t receive it from God! Any praise we receive must be redirected to God for His Glory!

 

Worship God Rightly!

-Not All Worship Is Truly Worship!

It’s been my experience that many, who claim to be followers of Jesus, do not worship God rightly! I’ve found many who claim to be worshipers; but, their worship fails to resemble what God commands worship to look like in Scripture.  A great example, of Biblical worship, can be found in King David’s Holy Spirit inspired message, to Israel, about proper worship. Just open your Bibles, to 1 Chronicles 16; and, you’ll see what I mean.

-Worship God With Offerings!

Among other things, David commands the congregation to worship God with their “offerings”—“…ascribe to Yahweh the glory of His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness” (v.29). Don’t come to worship God empty-handed! Remember that we are “stewards” and “managers” of God’s stuff, not OWNERS! God owns ALL of our stuff! We’ve been given the responsibility to manage a portion of “God’s ESTATE.” God is the owner of it all! And, worship has always included an offering!

-Worship God For His Creation!

David also led Israel to worship God for His creation—“…the world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord is King!’ Let the sea and everything in it resound; let the fields and all that is in them exult. Then the trees of the forest will shout for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth”(v.30-33).  ALL of creation—the HEAVENS, the EARTH, the SEA & everything in it; the FIELDS and all that is in it; the TREES of the forest—ALL worship Yahweh, David says! At Jesus’ triumphal entry, into Jerusalem, when the Pharisees told Him to rebuke His disciples for giving Him honor as Messiah, Jesus told them that “…if they kept silent, the very ROCKS would cry out…”  We are called to worship God for the wonder of His creation AND for the wonder that all creation worships Him!

-Worship God Now!

And, then, David instructs Israel to worship God NOW because they’ll be worshiping God for all eternity—“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. And say: “Save us, God of our salvation; gather us and rescue us from the nations so that we may give thanks to Your holy name and rejoice in Your praise. May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting” (v.34). We don’t know a lot about heaven; but, worship will be part of it!

-Worship Beyond Imagination!

It’s a clear sign that a believer hasn’t spent a lot of time in prayer & the Word—seeking after God—when they express fear that an eternity in heaven may get boring!  After a BILLION years, we’ll still not know our God completely! But, I’m certain I will find Him more fascinating than all the Super Bowls & Star Trek reruns I’ve ever watched! As David finished his sermon, the text says that all the people said “Amen” and “Praise The Lord” (v.36).  And, there was great joy as God dwelt with His people. The disciples also had great joy as God, the Messiah, dwelt with them during his 3 1/2 year ministry leading up to the cross. And, in heaven, Revelation reveals that “God will dwell among us”; and, forever we’ll worship Him!

 

Worshipers Are Thankful People!

Next Post August 8th

A Little Vacation Time!

-Give Thanks To Yahweh!

The Ark, of God’s covenant with Israel, was coming back to Jerusalem! King David, the newly installed King, made it a priority to lead Israel back to faithful worship of Yahweh! You might recall that the Ark had been captured, by the Philistines, while Saul was Israel’s King; and—though it had been returned to them after God broke out against them with plagues—it had been neglected under Saul’s leadership.  So, returning the Ark to Jerusalem was one of King David’s 1st orders. “On that day David decreed for the first time that thanks be given to the Lord by Asaph and his relatives: ‘Give thanks to Yahweh; call on His name’ David said, ‘proclaim His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him; sing praise to Him; tell about all His wonderful works!’’-1 Chronicles 16:7-9.

-Where Worship Begins!

God’s Holy Spirit inspired David to write that genuine worship begins with a thankful heart.  It’s his initial point! It’s impossible to worship God rightly if your heart is bitter and unthankful! The old preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, once wrote: “All the good that we enjoy comes from God. Recollect that! Alas, most men forget it. Rowland Hill used to say that worldlings were like the hogs under the oak, which eat the acorns, but never think of the oak from which they fell, nor lift up their heads to grunt out a thanksgiving. Yes, so it is. They munch the gift and murmur at the giver.”  True worshippers, of God, must quit taking God’s blessings for granted! Our faith will grow deeper & deeper the more we thank God for everything in life—the good with the bad!

-Worship God In Song!

And, then, David calls out the children, of Israel,  to worship God by singing praise to Him. Notice, it’s NOT a “suggestion”; but, rather it’s an imperative or a command. David doesn’t tell them to sing only if they’re good at it. He’s preaching to the congregation; and, he commands all of them to sing! The psalmist wrote, “make a joyful noise to the Lord”-Psalm 98:4.  It seems that God may actually take a bit more delight when the musically ungifted or unskilled, in the congregation, sing with all their heart, because they’re not doing it for the praise of men; but, for the genuine love of God.

-Worship Is Seeking God!

David also tells the congregation, of Israel, to worship God by seeking Him— “…let the hearts of those who seek Yahweh rejoice,” he says, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always” 1 Chronicles 16:10.  It’s an act of worship to seek after God! In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that God “…is a rewarder of those who SEEK Him” (ch. 11:6). God actually REWARDS the worshipper who seeks Him! He hides Himself from those who seek Him for their own selfish interests; from, those, who want Him to be a genie in a bottle. But, to those who seek him so that they might know Him, He will be found! Do you seek Him? Do you pursue Him with greater passion than you pursue the fleeting interests of this world? Only than will you find Him! Seek Him as though He were the greatest treasure in life; because, HE IS!