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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > Life-Lessons from Grape-Growers - Part 1

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Life-Lessons from Grape-Growers - Part 1 - John 15:1-7

Taught on

My parents grew grapes on their little plot of land in Southern California. There weren't many, but enough for me to know that getting fruit at harvest depended on three things: the solid connection of branch to vine, the vigilant care of the workers, and the consistency of those things over time. Jesus, walking with the disciples toward the Garden of Gethsemane, gives life lessons to His men using the familiar example of growing grapes. With that analogy in mind, let's consider the three ways our relationship to God is described by Jesus.

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7/3/2011
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Life-Lessons from Grape-Growers - Part 1
John 15:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
My parents grew grapes on their little plot of land in Southern California. There weren't many, but enough for me to know that getting fruit at harvest depended on three things: the solid connection of branch to vine, the vigilant care of the workers, and the consistency of those things over time. Jesus, walking with the disciples toward the Garden of Gethsemane, gives life lessons to His men using the familiar example of growing grapes. With that analogy in mind, let's consider the three ways our relationship to God is described by Jesus.
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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.

Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.

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Outline

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  1. Connected to Christ

  2. Cared for by the Father

    1. By Tending

    2. By Pruning

  3. Consistent Over Time

Grape-Growing Evaluation:

  1. As a plant on God's farm, how would you evaluate your own growth? What would help you grow more?

  2. What is one thing that your parents had to prune back in you when you were a child? What do you see in your life now that needs pruning or trimming?

  3. What does “abiding in Christ” mean to you personally?

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. Life is like a bunch of grapes
      1. Jesus distinguishes between branches that bring forth fruit and those that do not
      2. Analogy common to the Mediterranean
      3. Farmer growing grapes and tending branches; Jesus teaches to have a real relationship with God
    2. Metaphors for a relationship with God
      1. God is our Father: we are His sons and daughters
      2. God is King: we are His subjects
      3. Christ is the head of the church: we are the body of Christ
      4. Christ is the Good Shepherd: we are the sheep of His pasture
      5. He is the vine: we are the branches
    3. Lessons from this passage
      1. Relationship: a vital, growing relationship with God
      2. Hardship: God uses pain and affliction to prune our lives
      3. Discipleship: telling the difference between a true disciple and a fake disciple
    4. Underlying score
      1. True Father
      2. True vine
      3. Branches: some are true, some are not
    5. Setting
      1. Jesus turned from speaking directly to this extended metaphor
      2. Supper is over
      3. Talk in the Upper Room is over
      4. Jesus and the eleven disciples leave the room and walk toward the Garden of Gethsemane
        1. John 17 is a prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane
        2. John 18 is the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane
        3. John 15-16 spoke en route from the upper city toward the Kidron Valley and the Garden of Gethsemane
      5. May have passed a vineyard or a vine
      6. Temple to the left with huge bronze gate embossed with golden vines and grapes
        1. Vine a symbol of the nation of Israel
          1. "Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it." For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help" (Isaiah 5:1-7)
          2. See Psalm 80
          3. In context, Israel is God's degenerate, fruitless vine
          4. Jesus makes a distinction between the nation and Himself
      7. Judas is not there; he is plotting the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ
      8. 11 disciples are left with Christ
  2. Connected to Christ
    1. We are branches; twigs
      1. We love to enjoy a heightened sense of importance
      2. Dead grape branches are useless
        1. They are used as kindling to kindle the real fire
        2. Worthless in and of themselves
      3. The value of the branch comes from their connection with the vine
        1. Sap flows through them
        2. They are fruitful
    2. We enjoy real significance when we are connected to Christ
      1. Nothing significant, spiritual, lasting
      2. Twig can be powerful if it makes the right connection
    3. Personal connection ("you" used 11 times in this passage)
    4. Results in new life ("fruit" used 6 times in this passage)
    5. More than ritualistic connections
      1. Jews
        1. Circumcision
        2. Sabbaths
        3. Festivals
      2. Others
        1. Baptism
        2. Christening
        3. Confirmation
      3. John the Baptist: "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7)
    6. More than genetic connection
      1. Boasting in their genealogy, connection to Abraham
      2. "And do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (Matthew 3:9).
    7. God wants total surrender
    8. "I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth. I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I'd like to buy three dollars worth of God, please." —Wilbur Reese
  3. Cared for by the Father
    1. By Tending
      1. Farmer, grape grower viticulturist tends and grows grapes
      2. Cuts away dead wood and prunes living tissue
      3. He delights over the care given to each plant
      4. Creator of the universe superintends your life with this kind of care
        1. Millions of branches worldwide; God keeps track
        2. Guillemot - each mother knows her own eggs
    2. By Pruning
      1. Καθαίρω; kathairó - cleanse by purging, cutting away
        1. Tipping - slows growth
        2. Topping 1"-2" lopped off: (too much top kills growth)
        3. Thinning - some taken off , remaining fruit is sweeter, bigger, longer lasting
      2. All pruning always hurts
      3. God doesn't enjoy pruning, but the end result is fruit
        1. If you abide, you are fruitful
        2. If you are fruitful you are pruned
        3. If you are pruned you are more fruitful
        4. If you are more fruitful you are pruned
        5. Fruit, more fruit, much fruit
      4. Why do bad things happen to God's people?
        1. Be careful not to call something good "bad"
        2. "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)
      5. How God prunes us
        1. Scripture
          1. Some verses comfort, others confront
          2. "For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are." (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
          3. Do you let God's Word cut you?
        2. Suffering
          1. Pain prunes away fleshly desires and sinful habits
          2. "[Pain] plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul."—C. S. Lewis
          3. "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word." (Psalm 119:67)
          4. "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)
        3. Stupidity
          1. Sometimes our pain is a result of our stupid choices
          2. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)
          3. "Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1:2-4 NLT)
  4. Consistent Over Time
    1. Abide
      1. Μένω; menó - remain, stay put
      2. "abide" used 8 times in this passage
    2. Immediate context: Judas Iscariot professed to be a real follower
    3. True disciples stay disciples: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." (1 John 2:19)

Greek Terms: Καθαίρω; kathairó; cleanse by purging, cutting away; Μένω; menó - remain, stay put
Publications Referenced: Forrest Gump, by Winston Groom
Figures Referenced: Wilbur Reese; C. S. Lewis
Cross References: Genesis 50:20; Psalm 119:67; Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 3:7; Matthew 3:9; John 16; John 17; John 18; Romans 8:28; Hebrews 4:12; Hebrews 12:11; James 1:2-4; 1 John 2:19

Transcript

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Father, thank you for the fellowship, the connection we make with each other.  We have a common goal, we have a common purpose and there are things that bind us together in that commonality.  We're agreeing over the truth of scripture, we're agreeing over the person and work of Jesus Christ and we're agreeing over the hope that we have an eternal life.  And in that agreement, we gather together as a family, as your family, as your people.

Lord, we admit to You that we fall short of Your glory and we fall short of the standard.  And we are so thankful for Your grace, Your unmerited favor that has been extended toward us because of what Your son Jesus did for us on the cross.  That one act enables You to act toward us with such freedom and such graciousness and such lavish provision.  Thank You for that.

As we study, give us ears and eyes to see and hear the truth.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

There is a movie years ago put out, Forrest Gump, and you're going to remember this line where in the movie he says, "Life like is a box of chocolates because you never know what you're going to get."  Well Jesus would say to the analogy, we want to look at this morning, "Life is like a bunch of grapes, you never know what you're going to get."  You might get some branches that are life-giving and life-producing.  And others that are deadwood that need to be cleared away.

In Chapter 15 -- and I've been looking forward for a long time to get into it: Learn about real life.  Extended metaphor is given in this chapter about the vine, the branches, and the gardener.  It's a parable that Jesus gives.  And Jesus was ever the master storyteller, weaving the basic truths of life into a story so that we would appreciate it in a deeper, greater manner.  That's what we have here, this extended metaphor of a vineyard.  We're going to walk into a vineyard and understand truths about life.

If you lived around the Mediterranean world, then or now, one of the most familiar sites to you would be growing grapes for the production of wine.  It was a mainstay in Judaism.  Wherever you would look, you would see grapes being grown and you would understand the symbolism behind that.  I'll explain that in a moment.

As we go through Chapter 15, there are some highlights, some lessons that jump out to us.  Number one, we're going to learn about relationship, what it means to be related to God properly.  Number two, we're going to learn about hardship.  We're going to learn why God uses hardship to prune our lives.  And the other thing we're going to learn about is discipleship.  Some would-be disciples aren't always true disciples.  Some so-called "branches" aren't really true branches and Jesus will make a distinction between the true fruit bearing branches and those that are not really his.

You may have heard a story about a bandit, a notorious bandit years ago from Mexico named Jorge Rodriguez.

Jorge wreaked havoc on the good people of Texas.  He would scurry across the border, rob banks and before anybody could catch him, he'd hightail aback to his mountain hideaway in Mexico.  So eventually, the Unite States thought, "We got to take action."  They sent their best detective down to arrest Jorge Rodriguez and recover all the money back.

The detective went to Mexico, went to a town where he thought Jorge would be and sure enough, as he walked into a bar, there in the corner sat Jorge Rodriguez.  The detective walked up to the table, pulled out his gun, pointed it at Jorge and said, "Tell me where the money is or I'm going to blow you away."  Just then, a man walked up to the detective and said, "Senior, I am sorry but Jorge can not speak English.  He has no idea what you just said.  Would you like me to translate for you?"  He said, "Yeah, I do I want you to translate.  You tell Jorge that he tells me where the money is or I'm going to kill him.  I'm going to shoot him right here, right now."

So, this helpful translator, Juan Garcia was his name, turns to Jorge Rodriguez, and in Spanish they're talking back and forth.  And in Spanish, Jorge tells Juan that if that detective goes a mile out of town to a now defunct town, there's a well and if you would scurry down the well and take out the third row of bricks, he would find $3 million worth of gold.

After this little conversation, mind you all in Spanish, Juan now turns toward the detective and said, "Senior, I'm sorry.  Jorge says he can not remember where he put the money.  You're going to have to shoot him!"

[Laughter]

We would call Juan a hypocrite, a pretender, someone who seems to be helpful but is not really helpful, somebody worst actually than Jorge who stole the money.

One of the underlying themes and you'll see it as just a minute we read to the first eight verses of Chapter 15, is that Jesus is showing the difference between the real and the authentic, the genuine and the pretenders.  The branches that bear fruit, the branches that are fruitless.  Let's look at Chapter 15 Verses 1 through 8 together.

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

Now a question comes up.  Just in reading this, we understand that Jesus is dealing with the Upper Room Discourse.  It's that last speech before He goes to the cross.  Why does Jesus suddenly launch into an analogy, a parable if you will, about a farmer, a vineyard, branches.  Where does that come from?  What's going on?  Well, there's perhaps a little clue, and we just sort of skipped it over last week but you'll notice that the last phrase of Chapter 14, Jesus says to his disciples what?  Read it in your bible, it says, "Arise, let us go from here."

So now we have to picture Jesus and his men getting up form the table.  They were in the upper room in Jerusalem.  They had the Passover Supper, Jesus have been briefing them in Chapter 14, "Now it's time to get up."  So that we believe Chapters 15 and 16 are spoken by Jesus to his men as they are walking, because in Chapter 17, they are in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In Chapter 18, he is arrested.

So probably they get up, they walk out the door and they leave the southwestern portion of upper Jerusalem walking down toward the Kidron Valley and will eventually be in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Now I can't tell you for sure but it could be that Jesus and his disciples pass by a vineyard along the way, maybe in the Kidron Valley.  And as they were going by the vineyard, Jesus used that as a way to teach his disciples.  Or here's the thought, as they were going down, on their left hand side would be this enormous building called "The Temple."  And one of the most noticeable features if you were to just look at the temple from the front were two huge bronze doors and embossed upon the bronze doors were golden vines and grapes.  They went from top to bottom.  They have been made in Greece.  Some estimate the value of those doors to be at $12 million if you were to remake them today.

This vine, these grapes, the vineyard that was depicted on the doors was there for a very important reason, because the vineyard in the Old Testament depicted the nation of Israel.  It was a very common idea that Israel, the nation of Israel was God's fruitful vineyard or vine.  There are many scriptures that speak to that, Psalm 80 is one.  There are several in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, but the most famous comes in Isaiah Chapter 5.

In Isaiah Chapter 5, it begins by saying, "Let me sing to my well-beloved, a song regarding his vineyard.  My well beloved had a vineyard on a very fruitful hill and he dug it and he cleared away its stones and he planted in it the choicest vine."  And it says in Isaiah 5, "He expected it to bring forth grapes but it brought forth wild grapes."  And then the question comes, what will he do?

Since he's done everything he can to bring forth good fruit but it's brought forth wild grapes, what will he do?  And the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 5 says, "He will tear down its hedges, he will destroy and burn the vineyard" and then it says, "For the vineyard of the Lord God Almighty is the house of Israel."

So they have always lived under the impression that we are God's vine, we are God's vineyard, here comes Jesus and says, "I am the true vine," not Israel.  And I'll tell you why that is important.  Because though Israel is a nation, had been depicted as God's vineyard, God's vine, always in context they were God's fruitless vine, degenerate vine and Jesus says, "I am the true vine.  The only one that's ever been rightly connected to God is me His son.  And the only who can connect you rightly to God is me His son."

Something else is going on.  There's a drama that is unfolding this very night.  How many disciples are with Jesus when they leave the upper room?  Eleven, not twelve.  Judas has left the bunch and right at that very moment, he is plotting the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ.

He's a fruitless branch.  The ones that are left are the disciples and so as they perhaps walk by a vineyard or see the doors of the temple, because of the drama that is happening in their relationship, Jesus gives this parable.  For our purpose, we want to look at three things this morning, three things, three distinguishing marks of those in relationship with God.  If you're a Christian, a true Christian, these marks will be in your life.

Number one, you are connected to Christ.  I know that sounds very obvious but it needs to be explored.  Jesus said, "I am the true vine, my Father is the vine-dresser."  Look down in Verse 5, "I am the vine and you are the branches."  So what are you personally, you're a?  You're a branch.  I'm a branch.  Do you know what a branch is?  It's a little twig.  You're a twig.  You're a little piece of wood.

Now, I put it to you that way because sometimes we get this, like, inflated idea of our importance.  "I'm a special messenger of God," you're a twig.  In fact, what's interesting about grape branches is they were utterly useless, totally unimportant.  The only thing they were used for once they were dead, they couldn't even be used to heat your house.  They would just be used as kindling to start the real wood.

It has no value unless it was connected and when it was connected, that's when life flowed through it and if it was planted in good soil, it would bring life to others.  Your life takes on real significance as long as you're connected to Christ.  When it comes to any lasting significance, certainly any spiritual significance, you and I are worthless unless we are connected to Him.  The branch must be connected to the vine.  You are the branches.  We are connected to Christ.

Now I want to explore that a little bit further.  When I say you're connected, I'm connected, we're connected, this is what I mean.  It has to be a personal connection, your own personal connection that results in new life.  Eleven times in these eight verses, Jesus uses the pronoun "You," "You" plural to his disciples.  You this, you that, you must be this, you abide.  You abide in me, I'll abide in you.  That means it's got to be personal.  You've got to be a part of this equation.  A second word that Jesus repeats a lot six times is the word "Fruit".  So the connection follow that together -- put those together, the connection that is made must be personal and it has to fruitful.  That is it has to have the evidence of new life.

Some people think that all they need is a ceremonial connection.  Have you met people like that?  In those days, many would say, "Well, I've been circumcised as a Jewish youngster and I keep the Sabbath Day and I go to the festivals several times a year.  I'm in the temple worshiping.  I go through all of the ceremonies and all of the rituals."  Like a person today, when you ask them about their connection with Christ, all they can say is, "Well, I've been baptized when I was a baby."  Or, "I've been christened when I was younger."  Or, "I was confirmed after that."  They will name the rituals that they've been through, not the personal connection.

You recall when John the Baptist was performing baptism down at the Jordan River and many came to be baptized.  John said to them, "Who has warned you to flee from the wrath that is to come?"  As if to say, "You might come into this water and get wet and get baptized, but if that's what you're relying on to be connected to God, you better think twice."

So it can't just be a ceremonial connection.  It also can't just be a genetic connection.  You say the Jewish people were Israel's vineyard, the vine.  And they boasted in that fact.  "We're God's vine.  We've been God's vine for a long time.  We're untouchable.  We can trace our heritage back to Moses and to Abraham.  We're children of Abraham."  They boasted in that fact, their genetic connection to their forefathers.  Just like a person today would say, "I was raised in a Christian home.  My grandpa was a preacher, My uncle --."

Again, I think of John the Baptist when he was baptizing at the Jordan River and all of those religious people came around, most all of them were Jewish.  John the Baptist, as if he could read their minds said to them, "Do not think to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father for I say God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these very stones."  Your connection to God must be more than your heritage or your religious experiences.

Now let's just stop here for a moment.  Put a marker in this section of your Bible if you don't mind, even a finger and turn back one book.  Turn back to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 20.  I want us to look at another vineyard parable.  It's very similar, but it has a different kind of a twist to it.  And as you're reading with me, I want you to keep in mind what I just quoted you out of Isaiah Chapter 5, that whole vineyard analogy of Israel in the Old Testament.

Luke Chapter 20 Verse 9, "Then He began to tell the people this parable.  A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time.  Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.  But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  And he sent another servant, and they beat him also, and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed.  And again he sent a third, and they wounded him and they cast him out."

Now it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to figure out what he's talking about, even these Pharisees are going to figure it out as you're going to see.  God in the Old Testament sent prophets time and time again to the vineyard, the house of Israel.  And they castigated those prophets or they beat them and in many cases, they killed them.  Think of Jeremiah.  Think what they did to Isaiah, et cetera.  So he gets better.

Verse 13, "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do?  I will send my beloved son.  Perhaps they will respect him when they see him.'  But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves saying, 'This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance maybe ours.'  And so they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.  And when they heard it they said, 'Certainly not!'"  That was their emotional reaction to this parable.

Now probably Jesus is referring to what's going to happen after his resurrection in 70 A.D. when the Romans are going to come against Jerusalem and destroy it and Jerusalem will be now in Gentile hands in Roman occupation with no real Jewish influence for years and years to come.

We'll continue on.  "Then He looked at them and he said, 'What then is this that is written:  'The stone which the builders has rejected has become the chief cornerstone?'  Whoever falls on that stone will be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.  And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people for they knew He had spoken this parable against them."

He spoke the parable against them, the vineyard, the vine of God because they had trusted in their ceremonies and in their heritage, which wasn't enough.  I find a lot of people, I find so many people that try to pull this off today.  They really don't want to surrender their lives to God, but they'll allow a little bit of God to come in their lives.  Let me put God here on this shelf so I can manage him.  It's never a total commitment.  It's just sort of, "I'll attend church every now and then, especially Christmas and Easter and I'll sing up to you the songs and my family likes to drag me so I'll go."  And so God, yeah, but not really.

Let me read to you something Wilbur Rees wrote sometime back that I think sums it up.  He writes, "I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God please - not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.  I want ecstasy, not transformation.  I want the warmth of the womb, but not a new birth.  I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.  I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please."

The first distinguishing characteristic of a true disciple is he's connected to Christ and it's a real connection, it's a personal connection and the result is new life.  The second is he or she is cared for by the Father, cared for by the Father.  I love this part.  "I'm the true vine," now get this, "My father is the farmer," we would say vinedresser, grape grower.  If you want to be really technical:  viticulturist.  That's what they're called, grape growers, viticulturist.

Now, he's the vinedresser, he's the farmer.  In Verse 2, Jesus tells us of his work, he strips away deadwood and burns it, gets rid of it, the false branches and he tends by pruning the true branches.

Here's a picture of God as caregiver.  A picture somebody with delight bending over the vine wanting to grow prize grapes.  I don't know if you know any real gardeners.  I mean, you know, the real gardener.  They got the boots.  They got the tools.  They got the lingo, and it just -- you put him in a garden and it works.  They know what to do.  They know the terms.  They're good at it.  My dad, we had about an acre and a half growing up almost two acres and he love to grow things and he grew grapes on the side of the yard.  We had a little vineyard going on there.

To my dad it was never a chore.  He loves doing that.  For me, it was a chore.  In fact, it was one of my chores.  I had to water those things and tend them and fertilize them and cover them and I learned a little bit, not as much as he learned because he has a green thumb.  I had like a brown thumb.  I'll kill the thing.  Don't let me do it too long.

But for him, it was never a chore.  He loved his garden.  He loved his grapes.  Now I want you to picture your God, the creator of Heaven and Earth with that kind of care on your life.  He tends you.  He looks to see what needs to be fixed or taken away or added.  And with meticulous care, every single branch He knows and you're one of those branches.  Even though He's got a pretty big vineyard, He's got millions upon millions of branches around the world.  How does God manage to keep up looking after all of His kids, all of these branches?  Because some of us point one direction, some of us are twisted in another direction.  I mean we're so different, we're so many.  Well, that's the beauty of it.

I was studying this week about a bird called the "Guillemot."  A Guillemot is a bird, a small bird that lives up in the Arctic Sea region and it usually congregates in these rocky cliffs in the Northern Costal Areas of the world.  Guillemots gather together by the thousands in crowded places and the mother Guillemot will lay her eggs in a long row.  She lays her eggs and right next to her eggs, another mother Guillemot will lay her eggs and then another, and then another.  So you see this long line of eggs.  If you and I look at the eggs, you can't tell them apart, they look identical, but each mother knows her eggs.  And studies have shown that if you remove an egg to a far away place, the mother Guillemot will be able to find it and bring it back to its exact spot.  Imagine the kind of engineering required for that brain to know that.  God put that there.

Now if God can engineer that kind of honing device in a bird brain -- am I right?  It is a bird brain.  Then certainly can God's mind keep track of every single twist of every single branch in his vineyard?  And my point is simple.  You are never off God's radar screen.  He knows every twist and turn in your branch.

Verse 2, he does something about that, "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away.  Every branch that bears fruit" -- here's the word we don't like, "He prunes that it may bear more fruit."  Now don't misunderstand then say that He'll make you a prune, He'll turn you into a prune-faced believer.  You ever met one of those?  But He'll prune you.  "Kathairo" is the Greek word.  It means "to cleanse by cutting," cleanse by cutting.

In fact, in the very next verse, you are already cleaned.  The word "clean" is the same word as "Kathairo" and to prune, to clean by cutting.  That's the idea, to take excess foliage off of the branch to make it more fruitful.  So I did a little bit of studying on this and I discovered that viticulturists, grape growers that the most important part of their job besides planting and watering and fertilizing, the most important thing they do is pruning.  And they do two things:  They prune deadwood because it breeds disease.  They get rid of the dead branches, it will breed disease.  Number two, they'll prune or cut back live tissue because they want to save the sap.  They don't want the sap wasted on extraneous growth.

So they do a few things.  They do what's called number one:  pinching.  They'll pinch the new growth off of the top so it retards its growth, it grows slowly.  He can manage the growth that way.  Number two, there's topping where he'll take one to two, even three feet of the tendrils to grow and lop them off, save them to be planted later.  But sometimes the top growth can be so much that the whole thing will die.  And the third thing he does is called finning where he'll actually take bunches of grapes and remove some so that there's not too many grapes, so that the ones that remain will get bigger and sweeter, tastier.  That's what it means to a viticulturist, a grape grower to prune.

Now here's a question for you, "What does pruning mean to us?"

I can sum it up in one word, "Ouch!" right?  Pruning always hurts.  Anytime God applies the knife and cuts away at our life, we don't like it.  In fact, if branches could talk, they might say, "How can a farmer of love allow this to happen to his poor little branch," something like that.  It always involves pain.  And why would God do it then?  If it hurts, why would God do it?  Is it because God is a and he gets off on seeing us hurt?  No.  Jesus said, "That it might bring forth more fruit."  In fact -- and we'll look more in-depth next week but there are three stages:  there's fruit, there's more fruit and there's much fruit.  Those are the progressive stages Jesus takes us to fruit, more fruit and much fruit.

Now this helps.  This helps answer a question that we've all asked from time to time in life and that is why do bad things happen to God's people?  I think it's a better question than why do bad things happen to good people because the Bible says, "There's none who are good, no not one."  Why do bad things happen to God's people?  They are in covenant relationship.  They're connected to Him.  Why would something bad happen?  Here's my answer.  Be very careful what you call bad, because it actually might be good.

Joseph is an example.  Young Joseph brought jealousy by his brothers.  He was sold to the Midianites, placed in a hole, taken as a prisoner to Egypt, falsely accused, lived in jail for a few years, all of the things that we would take, "Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad."

Now later on, when he becomes second-in-command over the entire world and his brothers come to him and he reveals himself to them.  Remember what he said to them?  "As for you, you meant this as bad or evil, but God meant it for -- for what?  For good.  What I would have called bad, God used it and it was good.  Look at the good it has done.  Look at the good it has done in my life.  So be very careful when you assign the term "bad" to something, God maybe using it for something that is good.

Here's another question as we're working our way through the text, "How does God prune us?  How does he do it?  I'll give you three ways."  Number one, by scripture, number two, by suffering and number three, by stupidity.  Now I've got to explain that, I know.

The first one is easy to understand.  God prunes us to scripture Verse 3, Jesus said, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."  They were being pruned by His word.  Verse 7, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it will be done for you."  You know how it works.  Sometimes you read through the Bible and you come across the passage, it is very comforting to you.  You love it and you underline it and you memorize it and it's your life verse and you put it on little memory cards.  Then you at other times read to the Bible and you read something you don't like, because it doesn't comfort you, it confronts you.  And you read it and you go, "Ouch, I don't like that."  That's why the writer of Hebrews and Hebrews forces the word of God is living in active, sharper than a two-head sword or a better translation, "Sharper than the sharpest knife that cuts deep into our inmost thoughts and desires.  It exposes us for what we really are."  Now, do you let the Bible cut you?  I hope you do.  I hope you don't say, "I don't like this term and I'm going to walk out."  Or, "I don't like this verse's scripture.  I'm going to close the book."  Let it cut, so God prunes you, scripture.

The second way God does it:  suffering.  Suffering, pain.  Pain cuts away fleshly desires.  Pain deals with sinful habits that we have.  What do you think about when you're suffering?  You think about anything else.  You might be thinking about other things in life.  You got plans then this huge episode of suffering comes in your life.  And what are you thinking about now?  Nothing else but the pain.  And it helps you think differently about life and what you thought was big yesterday isn't so big today and it helps you reevaluate and it cuts away what doesn't need to be there.

Listen to what C.S. Lewis said, "He put the best, he kicked it just right."  "Pain plants the flag of truth in the fortress of a rebel soul."  Chew on that for a moment.  "Pain plants the flag of truth in the fortress of a rebel soul."  David stated it this way in Psalm 119, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray.  But now I keep your word."

If you're a parent, you get this or if you just remember you're growing up, did your parents ever spank you, ever?  Who got spanked?  I want to see an honest show of hands.  The rest of you, I don't know if I want to know you.

[Laughter]

I remember getting spanked and I used to challenge my parents whenever they did it, "You don't love me."  No, it's because we know you and we love you that you're going to get spanked.  Have you ever seen a brat in a store?  You know what a brat is.  You have a brat alert in your mind.  You can spot them.  You see, you hear what they're saying and how they act and you go, "Men, I want to spank that child."

[Laughter]

God doesn't want his kids to be brats, so he disciplines us.  You could look -- that's another word, "Spanks us.  Prunes us."  So by scripture, by suffering, here's the third, I got to explain myself: by stupidity.  Sometimes we suffer because of the stupid choices we make, because of the sinful choices we make and now we're suffering as a result of our own stupid choice.  But what I want to say to you is even then, God uses that to prune you.  That's where Romans 8:28 comes in, "For we know that in all things, God is working together -- bringing those elements together, synthesizing all of the good and the bad and the ugly -- "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

So whether it's by scripture that confronts you or suffering that is from the outside or stupidity that is from the inside, God can use it all to prune.  That's why James writes this, in James Chapter 1, "Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.  For when your faith is tested, you're endurance has a chance to grow, so let it grow.  For when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything."

One final point and we'll close with this.  The third mark, the third characteristic of a true disciple.  The first one is your connected to Christ and the second one is you're cared for by the Father.  The third one is you're consistent over time, consistent over time.  And there's a word that is used also frequently in our text, eight times here, it's the word "abide".  Look at it with me.  Verse 4, "Abide in me and I in you, as the branch cannot bare fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me and I in him, bares much fruit, for without me, you can do nothing."

Now, think of the immediate context.  Who's the guy that left the group?  His name is what?  Judas.  He's not there right now.  Only eleven disciples are left.  Judas is a fake branch.  He's a non-believer.  He's a pretend believer.  He has a branch, has left but God will take him away.  He's called the son of perdition.  There's no hope for Judas.  He is lost.  There are eleven ones that are remaining and Jesus says, "Abide in me."  The word "abide" -- "meno" is the Greek word.  It means "stay put" or "remain" or "stay around."  Here's the point, true disciples stay disciples.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of a true God follower, the evidence that you're the real deal is that you continue in the connectedness with Him.  That's part of the evidence.  The only legitimate believer is the abiding believer.

Now, John was in that upper room and John was taking that walk and recorded what Jesus said on that walk that are in words in front of us.  He would also write another letter later on, 1 John and in Chapter 2, I quote to you Verse 19 written by the same apostle, "They went out from us, but they we're not of us, for if they had been of us, they would've continue with us.  But they went out that it might be made manifest or seen clearly that none of them were of us."  That does not mean a person who leaves our church in his fellowshipping at another church, don't quote that for that.  It's speaking about people who live the connection with Christ and my mind goes to some casualties that still break my heart to this day.  They were never really of us.  A true disciple abides, continues, stays put.

In closing, I ask three questions for you this morning, "Are you connected?  Is it your own personal connection is your own personal conversion?"  Number two, "Are you close?"

Does abiding, you know, you can't get close within a branch stuck into a vine or the sap from that vine is finding its way to the nourishing fibrous of that branch to produce a cluster of grapes.  Are you connected?  Are you close to the Lord?  Is your relationship intimate or you're a little distant, aloof, formal, stilted?  The third thing, "Are you cut?"  See, if you're the real deal, you'll stay put for the pruning.  If you're the real deal, you'll hang around even when that farmer comes with the knife or the shears.

By the way, of all of the acts that a viticulturist does to the vine, he is closest to the branch when he's pruning.  See, you can fertilize and water from afar, you can superintend from afar but you have to get right on that branch, hold it in your hand and meticulously cut at the right spot.  The very times when you suffer, when you're being pruned and you say, "God, where are you?"  He's closer to you than ever.  And what is he doing?  Well, when that farmer cuts away that little branch, a true pruning leaves not much of the branch but you can see the vine more clearly.  The vine is more prominent than the branch.  And I would dare say that when you and I get pruned by scripture, suffering, stupidity, whatever it is, that the aim of God is that more of Jesus would be apparent in our lives and less of us.  Make sense?  It's called fruit.  I'll talk more about that the next time.  Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times that we have acted as the farmer, trying to be in charge or trying to claim anything of ourselves.  The truth is You Father is the farmer.  It's your vine.  Jesus is the main stem and we being connected to Christ are thus connected in relation to you.  We can't have any relation to you at all unless we're connected to the vine.  Lord, forgive us for trying to grow our own direction many times or trying to plug our little branch into some other vine for nourishment other than Christ.  Bring us back to the simplicity of nourishment, intimacy and fruitfulness in Christ.  So in His name, we pray.  Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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10/25/2009
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Believe:879
John 20:30-31
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Is your faith in need of bolstering? Do you find yourself saying "Help my unbelief?" The book of John presents a unique, up close and personal look at the life of Christ, focusing on Jesus as God Incarnate. As we dive into a thorough study of each of John's 879 verses, we'll walk with disciples who were eyewitnesses of His ministry, His death, and His resurrection, and we'll experience abundant life in His name.
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11/1/2009
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The World's Most Important Word
John 1:1-5
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It may be difficult to say what the most important word is in any language, but not for the Apostle John. He begins his gospel with the identification of Jesus as, "The Word." Starting with the very beginning of beginnings, John shows us the fundamental truths about the Jesus that he writes about in the rest of this book. The language is simple and unmistakable and yet the truths presented are deep and extremely profound. Let's see how John presents Jesus and Who Jesus is according to one who was closest to Him.
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11/15/2009
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Step Into Son-Light
John 1:6-13
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I love early mornings when sunlight first comes up over the eastern sky. But if you’ve ever had the experience of the sun suddenly shining into your eyes (like when you turn westward while the sun is going down), it's not so pleasant. Most people wince when light is shined in their eyes. Jesus is presented here as being "the light of men" and "shining in darkness". But the world cries out, "Turn off that light!" How can Jesus enlighten your life and how will you respond to Him?
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11/22/2009
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One of a Kind!
John 1:14-18
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It is a mistake to think of Jesus as "one among many" options in the pantheon of deities. He is unique, matchless, unrivaled, singular, and incomparable. From His birth to His Resurrection, there is no one who even comes close to the majestic Christ. Jesus was One-Of-A-Kind! Let’s consider four distinct ways that Jesus was unique and what these mean to us today.
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12/6/2009
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The Greatest Man Meets the Greatest Lamb
John 1:19-34
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Everyone is good at something, maybe even great at something. Maybe you're a great artist or a great mom or even a great leader. Jesus said that John the Baptizer was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11). But John knew Jesus to be the greatest One ever—past, present and future - the Sacrificial Lamb sent to remove sin. Today we discover from John the Baptist how to witness for Christ and we look at the identity and the activity of this most unusual man.
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12/13/2009
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Are You a Follower-Really?
John 1:35-42
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You can't make it through much of the Bible without coming to the word Disciple. Just the four Gospels alone use this term 228 times. Basically a disciple is the follower of a teacher: one who observes, learns, and practices what the teacher shares. We now come to the first time John uses this term in his book. So today we assess ourselves by asking, "Are YOU a follower?" Lets look at five characteristics of the first disciples of Jesus and see if they’re reflected in our lives.
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1/3/2010
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Finding the God Who Found You
John 1:43-51
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When the first disciples encountered Jesus, they chose to follow Him--only to discover that they had already been chosen by Him! Without getting drowned in that theological tide pool, let's consider and marvel at how both of these realities work together. The Bible teaches that God sovereignly elects people for salvation while at the same time teaches our responsibility to believe in Christ. Let’s see how both Philip and Nathanael encountered Jesus for the first time.
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1/10/2010
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The Wedding Guest
John 2:1-12
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How cool (and also potentially scary) would it be to have Jesus as a guest at your own wedding! The unnamed couple at the village wedding of Cana had that privilege. Jesus was the wedding guest who brought the best gift. His first miraculous sign was performed while celebrating that marriage. But far more than just attending a nuptial party, Jesus demonstrated who He was in relation to four entities: His mother, the moment, a miracle, and His men.
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1/17/2010
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Trouble in the Temple
John 2:13-22
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A hymn by Charles Wesley begins, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child..." It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful thought. However, Jesus is anything but gentle and mild in John chapter two. Here in the temple at Jerusalem, He displays His righteous anger as He overturns tables and beats the religious businesspeople with whips! But Jesus was using this trouble in the temple to predict a greater sign—the triumph of His own physical temple—His bodily resurrection!
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1/24/2010
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Uncommitted!
John 2:23-25
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These three verses are some of the most unusual in the New Testament. They describe a scene in the life of Jesus that explains His popularity and fame. The response of people to the miracles of Jesus is understandable. What is not readily understandable is Jesus' response to the interested and excited crowd. Though they believed in Him, He was not too energized over their kind of faith. Understanding this will help us to understand Jesus and His mission.
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1/31/2010
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Nick at Nite!
John 3:1-8
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The meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus at night is one of the most famous and compelling stories in Scripture. This man's inner curiosity and spiritual thirst drove him to want to know more. What he heard puzzled and astonished him, but he heard from Jesus' own lips the only way to be saved. Jesus' words here divide all of humanity into two groups: those who are born again and those who are not.
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2/7/2010
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Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition!
John 3:9-21
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For years ABC has aired two different versions of a show called Extreme Makeover. One is a total body makeover designed to enhance the physical beauty of a selected individual. The other is a Home Edition that rebuilds or adds to a struggling family's residence. But only Jesus can give the soul a makeover; only Jesus can ready a person for eternity. Here Jesus answers Nicodemus' question of how a person can have the New Life that comes from the New Birth.
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2/14/2010
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God's Valentine
John 3:16
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Today we take a look at the Bible's most famous verse and probe its depth while preparing to take the Lord's Supper together. Though most everyone knows this verse, John 3:16 is much more than just a slogan; it is a summary statement of God's love through Jesus Christ. This single verse of scripture gives us the salient truths of God's plan of salvation in abridged form. Let's consider God's great plan for us as we unpack it phrase by phrase.
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2/21/2010
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To Grow Up, You Must Grow Down!
John 3:22-30
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"They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud!" That's what British Puritan John Flavel once said. And that’s how John the Baptist once lived! John the Baptist and his followers provide some great applicational fodder for how Christians should get along and humble themselves before one another and God. For any Christian believer who wants to spiritually grow up and grow strong, he must first grow down.
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2/28/2010
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The Nail Everything Hangs On
John 3:31-36
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Imagine if everything you valued was in a sack, hanging on the wall from one nail. It surely must be a strong nail, or you're lost! If life could all be boiled down to one thing or one word or one most important principle, what would it be? What is the irreducible minimum for everything and everyone? John answers that here, saying that Jesus Christ is the nail that everything hangs on. He determined what has been and what will be. Thus our knowledge of Him and relationship to Him is paramount above everything else.
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3/7/2010
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Refreshment!
John 4:1-14
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You know the feeling of swallowing ice-cold water on a hot day or after a savory meal—it's refreshing! That cool, invigorating sip revitalizes you from the inside out and makes you say, "Ahh!" Well, that experience is not limited to the physical realm, but is even more satisfying in the spiritual realm when dealing with Living Water. Jesus came to give thirst-quenching spiritual life to every parched soul on the planet. When was the last time you drank deeply?
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3/14/2010
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How to Lead People to Water
John 4:10-30
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The world is thirsty and doesn't even know it, or won't admit it, or will look to be satisfied by everything else but Jesus Christ. So your job and mine is to lead them to water (living water, that is). Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman illustrates perhaps the best approach for personal evangelism to be found anywhere. Leading someone to the place of spiritual satisfaction is a process that rests upon two pillars—the pillar of attitude and the pillar of approach:
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3/21/2010
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What God Really Wants
John 4:20-24
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Worship conferences, worship seminars and worship experiences abound within the landscape of the American church, but in all these there's something that seems to be always lacking—worship is confined to the activity of singing songs. When the subject is brought up in this chapter, Jesus talks plainly and openly about true worship: what it is and what it isn't. Let's explore these few verses to discover what God is seeking after and how to be part of fulfilling that.
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3/28/2010
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Spiritual Farming 101
John 4:28-42
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Farmers live for the harvest season--a time when their crops are taken in and profits are made. But crops don’t grow on their own. Seeds must be sown and plants must be garnered by a whole group of active farm workers. God is the head Farmer and we are His farmhands, all working together to produce a bumper-crop of people who believe that Jesus is the Savior--Are you in?
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4/18/2010
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Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift!
John 4:43-54
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Like any muscle in our physical body, our faith too must be exercised in order for it to develop. Faith is developed in virtually every circumstance in life, but especially in hard times. Peter put it best, "These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:7). Let's look at a real-life story of one who came to Jesus in his trial and had his faith lifted to a higher dimension.
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4/25/2010
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Healing Misery with Mercy
John 5:1-16
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One of Jesus' most distinguishing characteristics in His earthly ministry was His mercy toward people who were hurting. This is not astonishing, for the prophet Micah announced that "God delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18). Jesus standing among the squalid misery of sickness and hopelessness while at a feast in Jerusalem is a perfect setting to show how Christians can show mercy to a world in misery. But be warned: not everyone will be sympathetic to your cause!
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5/23/2010
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Like Father, Like Son
John 5:16-24
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The most important question you could ever ask is not, "Who am I?" but rather, "Who is Christ?" That was the supreme question Jesus presented to His disciples when He said, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Jesus made the most astonishing claim ever when He confronted the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem here in John 5. What do these claims have to do with us today? Absolutely everything!
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5/30/2010
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Everyone Lives Forever
John 5:25-29
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My mom used to wake me up early every morning with her sweet voice saying, "Rise and Shine!" It took a few times but I eventually got up out of bed. As Jesus declares that He will be in charge of the future judgment, He too will usher the call to everyone who has died to "Rise up!" But not everyone will rise up to shine; some will rise up to suffer. Let’s consider three inevitable and unalterable truths about the future for all of us: We will all die, we will all be judged, and we will all rise again to live forever... but where?
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6/6/2010
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Why Should You Believe?
John 5:30-47
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The theme of John's gospel is "believe." The whole reason he wrote this book is so that people who read it will believe in Jesus (see John 20:31). But why should they believe? And even more applicable, why should we believe? After all, the events of the New Testament are over 2,000 years removed from us today. Jesus' confrontation with the religious leaders in John 5 tells us why we should believe. Like a skilled lawyer, Jesus calls upon four witnesses to testify to His claims and these four give the reasons for our believing in Jesus Christ.
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6/13/2010
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Lessons From a Picnic
John 6:1-14
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This story ranks in the "top ten" of the most famous miracles of Jesus Christ. In fact this is the most famous of all His miracles as it alone is recorded by all four gospel accounts. But this is far more than a Sunday school tale. This extraordinary picnic was not just a free meal for five thousand folks; it provided lessons for both ancient and modern disciples. Here are four profound truths that emerge from this lakeside lunch.
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6/20/2010
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What Storm Goers Need to Know
John 6:15-21
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Have you ever been on the ocean in a raging storm? If so, you know that a well-trained crew follows an immediate protocol until the storm is over. Their knowledge and experience about violent weather are invaluable for those who want to survive. Using the story of Jesus walking on the waves to His disciples, let’s discover a few things about the stormy trials of life.
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7/4/2010
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The Right Thing, The Wrong Way
John 6:22-29
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Our text reads that crowds of people came "seeking Jesus." That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And yet Jesus challenges them as to their motive because they were seeking Him (the right thing) in order to satisfy themselves only (the wrong motive). Let’s consider three monumental truths about how people interact with spiritual things in general and Jesus Christ in particular. Let’s also reconsider the starting point for anyone who wants anything to do with Christ.
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7/11/2010
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Wonder Bread!
John 6:30-50
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The Hostess Company has for years advertised that its Wonder bread "helps build strong bodies 12 ways" and that just two slices has the calcium of eight ounces of milk and the fiber of 100% whole wheat. Wow! The crowd that Jesus was speaking to would have loved that! But our Lord presents something to them far greater than what they were wanting. He knew what they needed.
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7/18/2010
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Plain Truths About the Bread of Life
John 6:51-71
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Mark Twain once remarked that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still lacing up its boots!" This section of John's Gospel has generated much confusion and misunderstanding. Even Jesus' original audience had trouble understanding His meaning, and when they did, they found the truth was difficult to bear. These "hard truths," however, are "the words of eternal life" (v. 68). Let's look at these four realities today.
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8/1/2010
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Seeing Jesus Through the Fog
John 7:1-13
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There was always a fog surrounding Jesus! It was a fog of uncertainty, of unbelief, and of conflicting opinion. He was misunderstood about both His mission and His message. His friends, His family, and His foes were often bewildered about who He was and what He was doing. That remains true even today. But in this passage our view becomes clearer. Jesus had clearly defined objectives that He reveals here and they are extremely practical for us today.
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8/8/2010
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Follow Jesus But Don't Be Religious
John 7:14-24
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Jesus clashed with religious leaders more than any other group of people. He went against their spiritual grain and challenged their legalistic ideas. Christ made it clear that He hadn’t come to establish a new religion but rather to show the way to God His Father. He didn’t give people another “system of beliefs and practices”; instead He said that He Himself was the way, truth, and life. In this public confrontation, we learn how to follow Christ in truth and not be religious.
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8/15/2010
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Standing by a Waterfall (Dying of Thirst)
John 7:25-53
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All the diverse and assorted experiences offered by this world can never satisfy the deepest longing of the human soul. What we really want isn't what we really need. The rest of John chapter 7 illustrates this truth. In the midst of a crowd of people clamoring for deep spiritual satisfaction stands the only One who can provide it. He offers them the drink that really satisfies and all but a few refuse it, preferring rather to die of thirst. How painfully ironic!
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8/22/2010
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Scribbling on the Ground
John 8:1-11
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Can you imagine what a surviving copy of Jesus' autograph would be worth today? Or what about a letter to His disciples? The fact is, there is no existing document or copy of anything Jesus ever wrote. We only have this story of Him scribbling something in transient dust on the Temple stones. Though John doesn't tell what Jesus wrote that day, his account does reveal a lot about Jesus Himself and how He interacted with three different kinds of folks.
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8/29/2010
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Blinded by the Light
John 8:12-20
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When the sun shines right in your eyes, your immediate inclination is to squint, turn away, or put sunglasses on. Light can be blinding! Though light penetrates our world, providing illumination and energy for our very existence, big doses of it can be difficult to handle. That's true spiritually as well. Jesus, by His teaching and work, illuminated this world darkened by sin. Some rejoiced in that light, able to see where they were going. But others, who'd been so accustomed to spiritual darkness, could only wince when Jesus was around.
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9/5/2010
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The Worst Way & Best Way to Die
John 8:21-30
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One person put it this way, "Death is the big flaw. Sometimes we can postpone it, lessen its physical pains, deny its existence—but we can't escape it!" Since that is universally true, why don't people take death seriously enough to plan for it? While we are alive in this world, everyone should be thinking more about the next. But what's the best (and worst) way to die?
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9/19/2010
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The Best Way & Worst Way to Live
John 8:31-36
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Everyone has an opinion on what "The Good Life" is. For some, it's financial independence. For others, it’s autonomy from government control. For still others, it’s the ability to do whatever you want whenever you feel like it. Jesus offers a different kind of freedom and a better brand of life. Here Jesus tells us what the best way to live really is: It’s the freedom to be a genuine disciple. And He tells us what the worst way to live really is: It’s the slavery of a sinful lifestyle. Today consider how free you really are and what areas of life you may still be in bondage to.
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9/26/2010
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The Devil's DNA
John 8:37-47
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Your body has 100 trillion cells. Inside each one is a nucleus and in each nucleus are DNA molecules. DNA is like an instruction manual for life with densely coded information telling each cell what to do. A simple paternity test would prove that my father was really my father. Here Jesus gives His audience a spiritual paternity test that reveals their spiritual father to be the devil himself. No matter what your physical ancestry, you can always tell one's spiritual heritage.
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10/3/2010
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Who IS This Guy?
John 8:48-59
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Jesus had friends and He had enemies. But besides those, He also had some "frenemies" (enemies who pretended to be friends). To this crowd who at first pretended to believe (v. 31) Jesus is both confrontational and controversial. This paragraph highlights three possible identities of Jesus: two of them were his enemies' accusations and one was Jesus' own claim.
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10/10/2010
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Life Hurts! Where's God?
John 9:1-12
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"Why is there so much pain in the world?" is the most frequently asked question ever! We hate it when we, or those we love, are in pain. Today we see Jesus confront a hurting world. As we do, consider these words by Elizabeth Elliot (whose husband was murdered): "If God is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our joy."
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10/17/2010
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The Truth About Your Neighbors
John 9:13-34
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Those of us who are Christians live in a sea of unbelievers who work with us, live next to us, shop where we shop, and send their kids to the same schools. Some have a mild case of unbelief disguised by religious practices. Others are more demonstrable in their agnosticism or atheism. Let's watch a local Jerusalem neighborhood struggle against faith in spite of clear evidence.
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10/24/2010
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Got Any Blind Spots?
John 9:35-41
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When you drive, you encounter "blind spots"—it could be part of your own car or it could be a tree that hides traffic on the other side. Those blind spots hinder both progress and ultimately, safety. When Jesus healed a blind man in Jerusalem, the same man was also healed of his spiritual blindness. But others who thought their spiritual perception was keen were as blind as a bat! As we consider this story, can you think of any blind spots in your spiritual journey?
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10/31/2010
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The Good Shepherd (and a bunch of happy sheep!)
John 10:1-10
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This is one of the most beloved passages to be found anywhere in Scripture. But it's not a stand-alone passage: The healing of the blind man in chapter 9 was more than a miracle. It was part of the process of Jesus forming His flock. The leadership had cast the healed man out of the synagogue. Jesus found him, accepted him, saved him, and placed him in His own fold.
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11/21/2010
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What's So Great About the Good Shepherd?
John 10:11-21
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"What's so great about being a Christian?" some people ask. The answer lies in the kind of care, provision, and protection we get from Jesus Christ, our Shepherd. Have you ever stopped to make a list of the benefits that are yours as a follower of Christ? Consider this short list of advantages that you, as a child of God, have. When was the last time you thanked Him for being your Shepherd? This would be a great week to do that!
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12/5/2010
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To BElieve or Not to BElieve...
John 10:22-42
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"In all unbelief there are two things: a good opinion of one's self and a bad opinion about God."— Horatius Bonar. It's true, isn't it? Humanism is man-centered and rejects God's existence or His relevance. But Jesus appealed to two things: the plain evidence of His supernatural works and the testimony of those who witnessed them. Jesus here asserts His deity, and the reaction is predictable—some believed while others did not believe. Which camp do you fall into?
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1/9/2011
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The Great Physician's Patient Dies
John 11:1-16
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When a doctor loses a patient on the operating table, there is a deep sense of remorse and sadness in the surgical theater. Doctors are trained to save lives but sometimes even the best trained physicians are unable to control complications that lead to death. But here we discover that Christ, the Great Physician, not only knows that His patient is sick--He allows him to die! Here are three principles about Divine Medicine that we can all learn.
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1/16/2011
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A Tale of Two Sisters
John 11:17-32
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In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote his famous work, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The story before us is set in Bethany near Jerusalem and highlights the personal relationship that two sisters had with Jesus Christ. Their broken hearts provide an excellent platform to consider how Christ deals with people in grief and loss. Let's actively probe not only their responses but ours to the incredible promise Jesus makes.
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1/23/2011
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The Strangest Funeral Ever
John 11:33-44
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According to one source, there are approximately 2 million funerals in America per year, which means that about 5,479 funerals take place every single day! Most of those funerals are pretty typical: a formal service followed by an interment. But the funeral service we're looking at was really different--and not just because of a resurrection. Here Jesus does three things that are pretty normal for most people at a funeral, but strikingly odd for Jesus.
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1/30/2011
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What to Do with Jesus?
John 11:45-57
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Any lawyer can tell you that whenever the star witness is a resurrected corpse, you have a pretty good case! But Lazarus being alive from the dead doesn’t seem to persuade everyone. And so the big issue becomes what shall we do with Jesus? The decisions made here set the clock in motion for an impending hate crime—the crucifixion of Christ. But from heaven’s vantage point, this is all part of God’s plan for redemption. Let’s see the responses and how we can make a difference.
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2/6/2011
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A Meal to Reveal the Heart
John 12:1-11
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If you were to step into the home of Simon at Bethany (Mark 14:3) on that night, you would've seen Jesus and His disciples along with Lazarus and His two sisters reclining at a low table for a meal in honor of Christ. But if you were to step into the hearts of those people, you would discover they were all very different from each other. Those inside the house and outside represent the gamut of feelings about Jesus—from adoring love to intense hatred. What a complicated meal!
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2/13/2011
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A Day, a Donkey, a Deliverer, and a Decision
John 12:12-19
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2000 years ago, on the final Sunday of Jesus’ earthly life before His crucifixion, He did the most unusual thing—He sat on a donkey and was carried into the city of Jerusalem in parade fashion. This formal presentation of Him as Deliverer was both profound and predicted. What’s the significance of such an act as this? What overarching principles emerge for us today? We’ll dig in and discover them, but today you’ve got to write them down yourself:
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2/20/2011
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Living the Right Life
John 12:20-26
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If this sermon was a book and I wanted to sell lots of copies, the title would cause it to fail. Now if it were entitled "Living the High Life" or "Living the Successful Life," then I may have a winner. But many have lived with both success and riches who didn't live right! So what is the right life? Or to frame it with a better question: What kind of life is most pleasing to God? Through a series of paradoxes, John gives us the answer—it wasn't the answer most people are looking for!
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2/27/2011
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Cross-Culture
John 12:27-36
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The term cross-culture emerges from the social sciences and typically refers to interaction of one culture or language with another. But that's not how I'm using it today. I'm thinking of it in the biblical sense, the salvation sense. Jesus' whole life was immersed in the culture of the cross and He referred to His impending death on the cross as "His hour." Let's consider today the culture of the cross of Christ: what it meant to Jesus personally and the world ultimately.
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3/6/2011
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Believe It or Not!
John 12:37-50
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Most of you reading this are believers. Some are not. Both are dangerous positions to take but for different reasons—vastly different reasons! This paragraph in John's Gospel is the summary of all that has been written, from chapters 1 through 13. It reviews the two different responses people have to Jesus and then gives us Jesus' own synopsis on faith and unbelief. Today you will be able to understand the real differences and consequences of faith and unbelief.
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3/13/2011
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A Night Unforgettable
John 13:1-5
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Some days are frozen in time because of the magnitude of an event. You will always remember September 11, 2001 and where you were when the towers fell. The night America bombed Baghdad or the night John Lennon was murdered may be permanent memories captured in your mind. This was the final night Jesus spent with His own disciples and it would be unforgettable. Let’s discover how what seem like ordinary moments can be extraordinary appointments.
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3/20/2011
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Basin Theology 101
John 13:6-17
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At the final Passover meal that Jesus shared with His closest friends, He gave new meaning to the bread and wine, using them to point to His upcoming sacrificial death on the cross. Today we share Communion as a church family and reflect on that meal, as well as the lessons Jesus was teaching His first followers. After dinner Jesus took a basin of water and began to wash the feet of his students and taught them life principles about stooping, cleansing and serving.
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3/27/2011
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Betrayed!
John 13:18-30
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Relationships can withstand an enormous amount of pressure, but betrayal is sure to end most. The old English word means to hand over or to deliver. Think of it: while Jesus was about to deliver the world from sin and its destruction, Judas was about to deliver the Savior over to His enemies. If you've ever felt betrayed by someone, this study will have special application to you.
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4/10/2011
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A Brand New Way of Life!
John 13:31-35
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To follow Jesus is to have a brand new way of life. When these twelve men sitting around the dinner table started hanging around Jesus, they had no idea just how new and different their lives would become. At this final meal on that last night, they were still learning just how new their lives should be. (Jesus can still teach old dogs new tricks!) As present-day followers of Christ, let’s consider three aspects of life that become new once we become His disciples.
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4/17/2011
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F.A.Q.
John 13:36-38
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An old Persian Proverb reads, "It's harder to ask a sensible question than to supply a sensible answer." Many times our questions to God are reactive—based on a sort of knee-jerk reaction to painful circumstances. Peter asked Jesus two questions of this sort. But whenever we ask God questions we must hang around to get the supplied answers. The questions Peter asked are similar to ones we frequently ask. Let's consider and apply Jesus' outstanding answer
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5/1/2011
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A Theology for Messy Lives
John 14:1-6
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Life can be pretty messy sometimes: plans fail, people leave, money diminishes, and taxes rise. There are plenty of reasons to be troubled these days but there are better reasons not to be! Life was about to get real messy for those disciples around that Jerusalem dinner table. At times like that, there are some basic instructions we need to fall back on so our hearts inside us won't be swallowed up by the mess around us.
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5/8/2011
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How Can I Know God?
John 14:7-11
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What a thought—that a mere human can know God! The agnostic asserts this is impossible. The atheist insists that the very idea is an arrogant and purely metaphysical pursuit. But one of the reasons Jesus came was to reveal God's character and nature clearly and perfectly! Let's consider two roadblocks to knowing God and four resources that help us know Him better.
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5/29/2011
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Privileges of God's Employees
John 14:12-14
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Most companies have benefits for employees: things like overtime pay, health insurance, and sick pay. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Paul calls us "workers together with Him" (NLT renders it "God's partners"). We have been called to a high and lofty task—to be His representatives here on earth. You might say we're part of the "family business." So what has God called us to do? And how has He provided for us in terms of resources? In short, what are the benefits of being God's employees?
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6/5/2011
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Four Part Harmony
John 14:15-18
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Some of the best moments on American Idol aren't the solo performances, but when all the singers join together and blend their voices in harmony. There's nothing sweeter than well-trained voices blended together in first, thirds, and fifths. Spiritual harmony is much the same—when believers blend with the triune Godhead there is an alignment that results in a deep sense of fulfillment. And what is the note we are to sing in this spiritual song? It is the note of loving obedience!
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6/12/2011
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Promises, Promises!
John 14:19-26
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Someone once mused, "Promises may get friends, but it's performance that keeps them." No wonder God has so many friends! He makes promises and keeps them. On this final night that Jesus spent with His friends, as both sorrow and confusion assailed them, Jesus made several promises that would sustain them in the days, months, and years ahead. What about you? Will you dare to trust the promises of God? It's the only way to see if they really work.
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6/26/2011
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Peace Where You Least Expect It
John 14:27-31
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On countless American gravestones this epitaph could be written: Hurried, Worried, Buried. What a sad way to live! Fear, anxiety, and distress have literally become part of our national culture. Odd, isn't it? Though we have such abundance in this country, most don't experience abundant life—especially as Jesus described it. Sure, everyone has his or her share of trouble and anxieties, but let's consider one of the greatest gifts Jesus gives to followers—the gift of peace!
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7/10/2011
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Life-Lessons From Grape-Growers - Part 2
John 15:8-11
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As we grow older, we mature. In our spiritual lives we should become spiritually mature. The Bible calls it being fruitful. Spiritual fruit is the indication that we're truly connected to Christ. But there are others, as we'll see today. Last week we examined how the relationship with Christ is described (Connected to Christ, Cared for by the Father, and Consistent Over Time). Today let's consider how this relationship is demonstrated. When we're rightly connected to God we'll be:
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7/17/2011
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What a Friend We Have in Jesus
John 15:12-17
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We can get through almost anything in life with friends to share our sorrow and divide our grief. A Chinese word for friend is peng-yu and it has a much fuller meaning than in English. It means "one who brings completion and sums up beauty." The ancient Hebrews saw true friendship as an ideal to pursue and a blessing to enjoy. In these final moments with His followers, Jesus uses a most tender term for their relationship—they were friends! What does that friendship look like?
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7/24/2011
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Why Does Everyone Hate Me?
John 15:18-25
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There is a flipside to being a friend of Jesus. That's true of any friendship. Whenever you ally yourself and make friends with someone, you will incur some enemies because of it. Likewise, some who don't like Jesus won't like us either—and we discover there are quite a few who don't! Let's find out why, and how we can raise our heads high and prevail.
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7/31/2011
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Two Thirds Is Not Enough
John 15:26-16:15
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We love God the Father who created us and God the Son who redeemed us, but what about the Holy Spirit? We hear His name a lot, but who is He? What exactly does He do? What does He want from us? The Holy Spirit is the "quiet One," active in the life of believers but sometimes not acknowledged as being vital. Oswald Chambers noted, "The Holy Spirit cannot be located as a guest in a house. He invades everything!" Today, we consider Him and His role in our lives.
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8/7/2011
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The Holy Hound of Heaven
John 16:5-11
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Having understood Who the Holy Spirit is (Person not just power; Deity not just dignitary) we now find out what He does in the world of unbelieving people. Since the greatest gift God ever gave to the world was His only Son (John 3:16) it stands to reason that the greatest sin one can commit is to reject the Son (John 16:9). How does the Holy Spirit both sentence the world as prosecutor and lead people away from judgment? And what role do we play in all of this?
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8/14/2011
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When Sorrow Turns to Joy
John 16:16-22
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The flamboyant baseball-legend-turned-preacher Billy Sunday stated, "If you have no joy in your religion, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere!" That's not to say that life is all laughs. Hardly! Jesus anticipated His followers' deep sorrow. He predicted it. But He also assured them that their experience of sadness would be eclipsed by a greater experience of lasting joy.
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8/21/2011
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How to Send Knee-Mail
John 16:23-28
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Today you can be anywhere in the world and send or receive messages digitally via email. Sending email has eclipsed traditional mail for years now. Sending knee-mail is similar (you can be anywhere)—but with better results! You don't need wifi or a modem; you don't need an electronic device or a computer. Before Jesus left His disciples, He wanted them to get "online" with the Father and stay connected through the simple yet powerful means of prayer.
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9/4/2011
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I've Fallen, but I CAN Get Up!
John 16:29-33
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I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail! So said President Woodrow Wilson. Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and is not surprised by our weaknesses. We all fall and fail, even though we may commit to standing strong. What can we learn about ourselves and our God in such valleys? Even more, what kind of restoration can we hope for after our bout with failure?
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9/18/2011
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Holy Eavesdropping
John 17:1
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Imagine if you could sit and listen to Jesus talking to His Father—what would Jesus say to Him? In this prayer (which comprises all of John 17) we step onto holy ground. His instruction to His followers is now over. His preparation of them is done. He now turns His attention heavenward to talk directly to His Father about Himself, about His disciples, and about His future church. This prayer is unique for four reasons:
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9/25/2011
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The Gifts That Keep On Giving
John 17:1-5
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It's possible to give without loving but it's impossible to love without giving— Richard Braunstein. Part of God's nature is that He shows His love by His generous gifts. "For God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3: 16). Here, in the opening lines of Jesus' prayer to His Father, He requests a gift from His Father and acknowledges three other gifts—two given to the Son by the Father, and one given by the Son to us. These are the gifts that keep on giving!
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10/2/2011
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How Followers Are Formed
John 17:6-10
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Okay, so which is it? Did I choose God or did God choose me? Perspective is everything! If you look at it from the divine viewpoint, you'll say God chose. If you're looking at it from a human viewpoint, you'll say we do the choosing. But why can't both be true? I suppose you can sit around, scratch your head, and try to ponder such imponderables, or you can sigh happily and say with a grateful heart, "I'm elated that He chose me!" But you should also ask yourself another question while you're at it—What am I going to do about it now?
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10/9/2011
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Missionaries or Monasteries?
John 17:11-19
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How can you leave your mark on the world? Most everyone wants to be remembered for some contribution made to society. Well, Jesus wants us to do that, too. In fact, He prays for that. God wants you to make an imprint on life's road so people will say, "Hey look! God's kids were here!" We can't do that by isolating ourselves. We have marching orders!
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10/23/2011
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Listen Up! Jesus is Praying—for YOU!
John 17:20-26
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What's God's general will for you? Look no further than this text! Now as we listen to Jesus pray for us, we also find what our priorities in life are to be. These words are the "Last Will and Testament" of Jesus Christ. So pay close attention and you'll get it right from the heart of Jesus Himself.
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10/30/2011
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I've Got It Under Control
John 18:1-11
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Sometimes life appears to be spinning out of control. Events happen we didn't plan for, people do things we didn't expect, we find ourselves in places we never thought we'd be in. But though you can't always control what happens to you, you are responsible for what happens in you (attitudes and responses). What do we really believe about God's authority and power in our lives? Is there ever a time when God can't say, "I've got it under control"?
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11/20/2011
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The Darkest Night!
John 18:12-27
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On a dark spring night in Jerusalem, it seemed everyone was against Jesus Christ. The religious system had long been opposed to and jealous of His burgeoning ministry. The mock trial designed to get rid of Jesus was only going through the technical motions to achieve their end. And Peter, Jesus' closest friend, was in a downward process of disassociating himself from Him. But in the midst of the darkest night, the sunrise of God's grace was beginning to shine!
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1/8/2012
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A King, a Kingdom, and a Courtroom
John 18:28-40
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What kind of a King is Jesus, and what is the nature of His Kingdom? And what does it mean to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done"? These are the questions faced in the text before us. As Jesus nears the cross, a nation denies His reign over them, while a Roman ruler questions Him and then cynically admits his own confusion and despair.
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1/22/2012
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How Do You Handle Jesus?
John 19:1-16
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Pontius Pilate was like every other person who has ever lived. The fundamental question of his life was, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:22). Everyone has to deal with Jesus, to decide about Him and His claims. In one setting, we can see how one man (Pilate) was influenced to deal with Jesus in three different ways. These three ways are how many people today still choose to deal with Jesus Christ.
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1/29/2012
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Execution of a King
John 19:17-22
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Regicide is the official word used for the execution of a king. Most countries reserve the stiffest of punishments for subjects or assassins who would kill their royalty. John records the execution of the King of kings on a Roman cross outside the city of Jerusalem. But the rest of Scripture reveals that it was more than an execution; it was sacrifice that brought salvation. The next few weeks, we will consider the cross in depth and what it means for the world and for us.
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2/5/2012
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The Cross on the Billboard of Eternity
John 19:23-24
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Did you know that the cross of Christ was always God's plan from the very beginning? It wasn't a reaction to mankind's rejection of His Son, nor was it an accommodation to a Roman and Jewish miscarriage of justice. It was according to "the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). Today we will take a journey back and connect the dots of God's unfolding plan of the cross throughout the ages.
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2/12/2012
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How to Love Your Mother
John 19:25-27
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A mother's love for her children is distinctive and irreplaceable. To watch a child suffer is crushing and almost intolerable for any mom. In this touching scene revealed in three verses, we not only see Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of her Son's cross, we also learn how Jesus cared for His mother. Even from His place of extreme suffering, Jesus was thinking of others and His love for Mary is noteworthy for us.
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2/19/2012
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iThirst
John 19:28-29
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The world is filled with Apple's i-technology, which delivers on its promise to make connectivity and information readily accessible. But there is a deeper need within everyone, a thirst to be right with God, that no app or gadget can fulfill. How ironic that Jesus, the great Thirst-Quencher, would Himself be thirsty. It was part of the great exchange—His temporary thirst enabled yours to be quenched eternally!
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2/26/2012
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It's Done!
John 19:30
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While Jesus was doing His greatest work, He uttered His greatest words! Through the excruciating pain of a tormenting death, Jesus gave the most meaningful statements worthy of careful consideration. John records three of Jesus' seven statements uttered while on the cross. The sixth—and perhaps the most hopeful—is the one we consider today.
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3/4/2012
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Death Under Control
John 19:31-37
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Watching someone you love die is always a heart-wrenching experience, especially when the victim experiences great suffering. For the apostle John, the death of Jesus was likewise difficult-but he saw a glimmer of hope, a silver lining in the dark clouds of death. This death was long ago anticipated and was being carefully monitored from the control center of heaven. Today we see why that's important.
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3/11/2012
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Disciples on the Graveyard Shift
John 19:38-42
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You can find an unending supply of books, pamphlets, and articles on discipleship in Christian churches and bookstores. Many of them will be predictably regimented and conventional, giving solid biblical references and calling Christians to ardently follow Christ—all great stuff. But not everyone's spiritual journey is identical. Some disciples are unexpected, and so is their story. Here are two disciples of Jesus who've been in the background and now step forward to care for the body of Christ after His death. Let's allow their story to inspire us.
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3/18/2012
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A Not-Quite-Empty Tomb
John 20:1-10
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There was a lot of confusion happening on the first Easter morning. The resurrection had happened but it was neither expected nor accepted by all at first. Mary Magdalene ran to tell the disciples what she saw, and they ran to check out her report. What they saw was compelling evidence of a resurrection, but only one of them really connected all the dots. Let's see why.
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3/25/2012
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Hope Rekindled
John 20:11-18
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When people grieve, they usually run the gamut of the emotional spectrum, from denial to bargaining to despair to anger to eventually hope. Mary Magdalene was in hopeless despair as she stood weeping by the grave of Jesus. The resurrected Christ deals tenderly with this woman as he reveals Himself to her and conveys hope for her future. Let's glean some principles for dealing with brokenhearted people.
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4/1/2012
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From Closed Doors to the Open Road
John 20:19-23
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Our relationship with Jesus isn't a secret to be hoarded; it is a story to be heralded! The disciples were seated behind closed doors (sounds like a lot of churches). Jesus wanted them out, giving away what they had been given. Let's see how these early followers went from panic to peace, from perplexity to purpose, and from protection to power. It's a great journey. Are you up for it?
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4/8/2012
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Rise Up!
John 20:24-31
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The apostle Thomas has been noted for his skeptical attitude. In fact, we refer to a skeptic as a "doubting Thomas." In this message from John 20, we consider four ways Thomas was able to rise up from doubt and become a joyful follower of Jesus.
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4/15/2012
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Gone Fishing! (Relating to a Risen & Returning Lord)
John 21:1-14
Skip Heitzig
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I am not a great fisherman. I don't do it often and when I catch something, it's pure luck! My dad was the opposite—he loved it and was great at it. At least seven of Jesus' disciples were fishermen and here we see them plying their trade after the resurrection. Some beautiful lessons can be discovered about how to live while we wait for Jesus to come back for us.
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4/22/2012
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I Failed! Now What?
John 21:15-19
Skip Heitzig
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One of life's harshest realities is failure. The very sound of the word seems harsh to our sensibilities. We even harbor the age-old axiom, "Failure is not an option!" But failure is an option; in fact, it's a certainty. But discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to victory. In a post-resurrection interview, Jesus restores Peter with a fresh commission. If you have failed in your spiritual experience (and who hasn't), these principles will inspire.
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4/29/2012
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Final Instructions
John 21:20-25
Skip Heitzig
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As John closes off his singular testimony of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he features some closing words of Jesus and Peter about himself (John). These final sentences provide some instructions for us as we await Christ's return. How should we live in light of who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and when Jesus will return?
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There are 95 additional messages in this series.