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A Final Thought From The Vine

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12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends”.       John 15:12,13   NKJV

The gospel of John is far and away one of my favorites books out of the 66 books that make up our Bible.In it you will find just about every conceivable human trait on display at one time or another,and I often marvel at the sheer range of emotions found within it.

Jealousy…Anger…Bitterness…Love…Forgiveness…Greed…Grief…Despair

All of these and more are on display. Life is on display here.

Whenever I read John’s gospel I look to the end of the book with apprehension,knowing of course that before I get there Jesus is going to be violently murdered.But before the lies and betrayal, before the accusers line up to spew forth their hate filled demands for vengeance, Jesus spends His final hours doing what He always did.

He taught.

About love.

Jesus taught his disciples that He had a commandment for them. And that commandment was that the disciples were to love one another as Jesus had loved them.

What? Jesus is within a few hours of enduring the most horrific death imaginable. And He knows it’s coming.It’s unavoidable. He knows it’s coming because it was for this hour that he came into the world.

Yet His focus is on imparting one last word to those who had walked with him for over three years. His focus was on love,and more specifically that the disciples would love one another like He had loved them.

All of this begs the question “what kind of love is this”?

Well,for one thing Jesus loved them to death,didn’t He? He even went so far to say that there was no greater love than this,that a man would lay down his life for his friends.

Other worldly love. Incomprehensible love. God love.

I’d like to know that someone loved me this much,wouldn’t you?

How about you?

A Follower of Jesus?

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What exactly is a “Follower of Jesus”?     Can anyone be a follower?

This morning as I was reading my bible,I came upon the verses below from Luke’s gospel that deal with the topic of following Jesus.And so I got to thinking about this subject and what it really means.And it has prompted me to do some very critical thinking all day today.

Actually,it’s pricked my heart is what it’s done.

I hear a lot about following Jesus. A lot.I suppose every person who goes to church would say they are a follower of Jesus.It’s what church folks do,right? We follow Jesus.

So how do you know a “Follower” when you see one?                way to Jesus

Now there’s a great question isn’t it?

I mean….do they look different than everyone else?

Do they talk differently than everyone else?

Do they act differently than everyone else?

All good questions I think. So lets take a look at what Jesus Himself said about this. After all,He would be the expert on the subject,not me.

23 Then He said to [them] all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

24 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

25 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His [own] glory, and [in His] Father’s, and of the holy angels.

[Luk 9:23-26 NKJV]

One of the first things we notice here is that if we are to follow Jesus we must do something. Well, right away some are not going to like that because lets face it…we don’t like being told we have to do anything. It’s that pride thing don’t you know.

As a matter of fact the first requirement to be a follower of Jesus is likely to be a major stumbling block to most of us.The words “let him deny himself”immediately causes us to wince in pain at the thought of us,or self,not being the most important thing on the planet.

Ouch.

Funny how that life has a way of distorting our priorities as “Followers” isn’t it? This is especially true of those of us who call ourselves Christian.For example,if you listen to any of the hundreds of con men masquerading as men of God you would think that God exists for one purpose,and that is to serve them.

And yes,I know that some don’t like to hear those things but I’m long past worrying about whether or not I hurt someone’s feelings because I call out their favorite TV rock star preacher for stealing from the sheep and sowing discord among the brethren.

Ouch again.Sorry….couldn’t resist.

How pathetic we must appear to a lost world that is dying and going to Hell if all we can offer them is the same old tired mantra of “sow your best seed now and God will bless you”….Or translated for those who have ears to hear “send me your money so I can get rich at the expense of the needy”.

Why would anyone who can discern even basic biblical concepts think that such a thing is what Jesus meant when He told us to deny ourselves? These are “Followers of Jesus”? These are our examples? God help us.

OK, sorry for the diversion……….back to the topic at hand.

In addition to denying ourselves Jesus then said we were to “take up our cross daily”….Take up our cross? What is that all about?

A lot of people think this means bearing burdens and suffering hardships for the Lord. No doubt there are times when that is the situation we find ourselves in.In fact,when I was a young Christian that was the prevailing sentiment in the church.But there is a deeper meaning if we consider the entire context.

  • What is the purpose of the cross? For one thing,it is an instrument of pain and affliction but more than that,it was an instrument of death and complete and total sacrifice.
  • Jesus said to take up our cross and follow Him. He bore His cross and we must bear our cross and follow Him.
  • So….”taking up your cross” refers to sacrificing your whole life to God, just as Jesus was about to give His life for us. As I mentioned previously,this often involves bearing heavy burdens, but it actually goes far beyond that.
  • It is a total,complete dedication of our life to Him.Our whole life is to be given to His service.

All of which started me thinking this morning about my own track record of following Jesus. And you know what?

I’m doing wonderfully,fantastically,incredibly great at it.No problems here!

NOT!

Deny myself? Really? Me,the guy who wants what he wants when he wants it and has very little patience while I’m waiting on it?

Me?

Here’s what I think. I think if I lived like Jesus has told me to live,which means a sold out,crucified life to Him,I think I would have far less “stuff” and a whole lot more Jesus in my life.

I think I would focus a whole lot more about eternal things than I do my 401K,or terrorism,or the up and down price of a gallon of gas.

If I was living a sold out crucified life I would care more about the hungry and poor among us,rather than which team will win the football game.

So what about you? How does your walk stack up to”deny himself” or “take up your cross”?

Notice any gaps in your life? Anything you need to work on?

To answer an earlier question, followers of Jesus do look,act,and talk differently than everyone else.

Because they understand that their life is not their own,but rather they have committed it all to Jesus.

And Jesus makes all the difference in our lives.

Be blessed,

Ron

Christ, and Christ Alone…..

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I’ve been reading and thinking quite a bit lately about the single most important “thing” in this life,and most certainly the life to come. This “thing”,for lack of a better term, is “Salvation”.

“Salvation”. No matter how you describe what happens at the end of this life,every Christian has this hope within them that by the grace of God they will be…

  • SAVED
  • REDEEMED
  • RESCUED
  • SPARED
  • RANSOMED

Call it by whatever name you, your church, or your denomination calls it. The meaning is still the same.

Abiding within the Christian is a promise from God who cannot lie that we are going to be saved.Awaiting us is a new home in Glory,and an eternity that will be spent in His presence. Never again will our bodies suffer disease.Pain will be a thing of a past that we will no longer remember.

For the rest of eternity we will never know the heartbreak of a loved one going on before us. Every tear shall be wiped away,for in that place of eternal joy there will never be another tear of sadness or grief shed.

Sounds great,doesn’t it? So how do I get this Salvation?

Well, it cannot be earned or bought with money. You can never do enough good deeds to receive it. No one else can get it for you. It’s something that millions,perhaps billions have attempted to gain but in spite of their best efforts to buy it,earn it,or steal it have fallen short of the mark.

No friends,this Salvation is made possible because of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the Cross. In other words,the price has already been paid.Now if that isn’t the best news you’ve ever heard!!!!

So how can you know that this is real and not some made up tale from long ago? How about we search the scriptures for some proof?

The apostle Peter delivered quite a message to the chief priests,rulers,and scribes the day after he and his fellow disciples had been imprisoned for teaching the people about Jesus. In this message,which I have included below, Peter spells it out very plainly in whose name comes this salvation I am speaking about.

Acts 4:1-12…

1:And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the temple commander, and the Sadducees came on them,
2:  being grieved that they taught the people, even to announce through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3:  And they laid hands on them and put them under guard until the next day, for it was already evening.
4:  But many of those who heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
5:  And it happened on the next day that their rulers and elders and scribes, gathered to Jerusalem,
6:  and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.
7:  And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name have you done this?
8:  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and elders of Israel,
9:  if we are examined today on a good work for an infirm man, by what this one has been healed,
10:  be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in this name does this man stand before you whole.
11:  This is the Stone which you builders have counted worthless, and He has become the Head of the Corner.
12:  And there is salvation in no other One; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.   Emphasis mine

Well there you have it friends. Salvation comes from Christ and Christ alone. No other name that has ever been spoken can save you except Jesus Christ. Praying to or calling upon any other is futile.

Christ, and Christ alone…..

Romans 10:9-10
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Be blessed,

Ron

An Affront To A Holy God

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OK, let’s get one thing out of the way up right front,can we? I know that I am considered a throwback to an era that has long since faded away from the church.Many probably consider me to be some sort of relic,or dinosaur because I utterly reject the path the church has taken in it’s never ending quest to entertain the goats while starving the sheep.

I make no apologies for the stand I have taken because I know full well that there is coming a day when I will give an account before God for the deeds I have done.

From where I sit on the front pew I am witnessing the first hand dismantling of that which so many who have come before us labored tirelessly to ensure we would have.

I’m talking about our Christian heritage.

The heritage of personal holiness.

The heritage of a hope and a future.

The heritage of a better way.

The spirit of the age has overtaken the church to the point that wrong is now right and right is considered to be outdated and of no use any longer.

This spirit declares it has no need of God for and by most accounts that is a true statement.

We have become so proficient at doing church that if the Lord were to withdraw His Spirit from our midst we would not even notice the difference!

So called “worship leaders” continue on with their “set” just as if they were performing in a club.Performers who have spent no time alone with the Lord the entire week yet somehow feel qualified to lead hungry,searching people into the Presence of a Holy God on Sunday!

This is an abomination!

Crude jokes designed to elicit laughter from unfeeling,uncaring,and unholy people have made their way into our pulpits,and the people can’t get enough of it!

Where does all of this stop? When will this madness end?

When Jesus comes,my friends. When Jesus comes.

There is a great falling away taking place right before our eyes and most in the church are blind to it.

So much so that they march arm in arm not even aware of what is taking place.

The sifting has begun beloved.

The sifting has begun in earnest.

Ron

The Cross That Set Me Free

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As Easter is fast approaching, I find myself being drawn more and more to the Cross of Calvary. To me, nothing is as precious or more sacred then the Cross that Jesus suffered and died upon. It’s because of this cruel instrument of death that I am free from the chains that once held me bound.

I find it interesting that what some consider nothing more than a piece of interesting jewelry to wear around the neck can also be a symbol of hatred and disgust to others. Indeed, I can think of no other image that stirs the emotions of mankind more than the Cross of Christ.

Scripture presents a picture of the Cross described in many different ways. The Apostle Paul referenced the Cross by associating it with the words Offense, Foolishness, Obedience, Shame, Reconciliation, and a host of others. However you picture it or describe it one thing is clear: without it you and I would be forever lost with no hope.                                                  Image

 

Jesus is my Redeemer, my Savior, my very present help in the time of trouble.

He paid the debt that I could never pay,and for that I worship Him with all that is within me.

Be blessed,

Ron

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