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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > Life-Lessons From Grape-Growers - Part 2

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Life-Lessons From Grape-Growers - Part 2 - John 15:8-11

Taught on | Topic: Spiritual Fruit | Keywords: fruit, growth, prayer, joy

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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7/10/2011
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Life-Lessons From Grape-Growers - Part 2
John 15:8-11
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
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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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. Fruitful in Life (vv. 2, 5, 8)

  2. Powerful in Prayer (vv. 7-10)

  3. Joyful in Spirit (v. 11)

Some Fruitful Considerations:

  1. Why do you think there is so much emphasis on the production of fruit? Is there a relationship between fruit with obedience and love?

  2. Try praying from Scripture. Use a promise, command or example from the Bible when you pray. (Note: This way you know the Word is "abiding" in you and the answer will be assured.)

  3. Is there something getting in the way of the joyful life God wants for you? Dare to go deeper: move from seeking the temporary happiness in life to the timeless joy that transcends it.

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. Growth is a normal part of life
    2. General observations about spiritual growth
      1. Spiritual growth should happen
        1. As babies grow into adults, Christians grow into mature believers
        2. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)
        3. More than an altar call: a progression throughout life
      2. Spiritual growth has nothing to do with physical age
        1. Some older people are immature believers
        2. Some young people demonstrate maturity, wisdom, and growth
        3. "In the Church of God there are children who are 70 years old. Yes, little children displaying all the infirmities of declining years! …One would not like to say of a man of 80 that he had scarcely cut his wisdom teeth—and yet there are such…On the other hand, there are fathers in the Church of God—wise, stable, instructed—who are comparatively young men. The Lord can cause His people to grow rapidly and far outstrip their years." — C. H. Spurgeon
      3. You can grow as much as you want
        1. Spiritual resources are given to us: take them or leave them; employ them or lay them down
        2. "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:3-8)
  2. Fruitful in Life (vv. 2, 5, 8)
    1. Progression
      1. No Fruit
      2. Fruit
      3. More Fruit
      4. Much Fruit
    2. Observations
      1. It's noticeable
        1. Like seeing fruit to determine the type of tree, you don't have to guess if someone is a believer
          1. Obvious and visible fruit
          2. Not everyone's output is the same (See Matthew 13:23)
          3. There must be some kind of fruit
        2. Fruit of the spirit
          1. Character of Christ: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)
          2. People you win to Christ: "Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles." (Romans 1:13)
          3. Holy living: "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life." (Romans 6:22)
          4. Financial giving: (See Romans 15:28)
          5. Praise: "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." (Hebrews 13:15)
        3. A spiritual person is known more by his fruit than by his gifts
          1. "You come short in no gift," (1 Corinthians 1:7)
          2. Χάρισμα; charisma-a gift
          3. "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:1)
          4. "The Christian life should resemble a fruit tree, not a Christmas tree." -- John Stott
      2. It's natural
        1. A tree doesn't work hard to produce fruit; it is the natural unfolding of life
          1. Root system
          2. Trunk tied to root system
          3. Branches connected
          4. The product of connection
        2. Spiritual fruit is the natural connection of being connected to Christ
        3. According to an AP report from an agricultural school in Iowa: to produce 100 acres of corn from one acre of land:
          1. 4 million lbs. of water
          2. 6,800 lbs. of oxygen
          3. 5200 lbs. of carbon
          4. 160 lbs. of nitrogen
          5. 125 lbs. of potassium
          6. 75 lbs. of yellow sulfur
          7. Rain and sunshine required at the right times
          8. Only 5% of the produce attributed to the efforts of man
      3. It's nourishing
        1. Fruit produced for others
        2. If the life of God is flowing in you, the life of God will flow through you to others
        3. What Christ produces nourishes others
        4. "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; His branches run over the wall." (Genesis 49:22)
        5. "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-38)
        6. We are satisfied, and a conduit to satisfy others
         
  3. Powerful in Prayer (vv. 7-10)
    1. "But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon." (John 15:7 The Message)
    2. Common daily activity worldwide
      1. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, even Atheists pray
      2. According to George Barna, 4 out of 5 Americans pray during a typical week
    3. Why we don't pray more
      1. Don't see results
      2. No power in prayer
    4. Conditions of the promise
      1. Abide in Jesus
      2. Jesus abides in us (let Him control your life)
        1. His plan
        2. His kingdom
        3. His purpose
        4. In His name (according to His purpose and person)
      3. The Word abides in us
        1. Scripture gives us direction to pray the right things
        2. "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." (Matthew 6:9-13)
        3. Purpose of Prayer: not my will in heaven—His will on earth
        4. Line your desire up with His will
  4. Joyful in Spirit (v. 11)
    1. Jesus promised peace: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
    2. Now Jesus promises joy
    3. The very things we crave—peace and joy—Jesus wants us to have
      1. We obtain peace and joy God's way
      2. "For the joy that was set before Him endured the cross," (Hebrews 12:2)
    4. Part of history, Christianity not associated with joy
      1. "I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers."—Oliver Wendell Holmes
      2. "I went to church today and I'm not depressed."—Robert Lewis Stevenson
      3. "Should we not see that lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as are the line of care and seriousness? Is it only earnestness that is baptized? Is laughter pagan? We have already allowed too much that is good to be lost to the church and cast many pearls before swine. A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub and the toastmasters."— Helmut Thielicke

Greek Terms: Χάρισμα; charisma-a gift
Figures Referenced: C.H. Spurgeon; John Stott; George Barna; Oliver Wendell Holmes; Robert Lewis Stevenson; Helmut Thielicke
Cross References: Genesis 49:22; Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 13:23; John 7:37-38; John 14:27; Romans 1:13; Romans 6:22; Romans 15:28; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 13:15; 2 Peter 1:3-8; 2 Peter 3:18

Topic: Spiritual Fruit

Keywords: fruit, growth, prayer, joy

Transcript

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Would you turn in your Bibles this morning to John's Gospel Chapter 15.  Ready?  Let's get busy.  Let's pray.

Father, we deliberately set aside every distraction, every thought that would compete for your attention that you want from us to give to you.  We deliberately make contact with you and you've been good to us.  We've announced our worship of you in the songs that we have sung.  Now, we continue our worship by demonstrating our willingness to sit and listen.  So often Lord, life gets so busy and rarely do we get to input truth into our lives in a meaningful way.  I pray this would be a meaningful connection that we have with you today as we consider, engage our minds, our bodies in your service.  And so we thank you Lord for so many gathered this morning and last night and those by radio and internet, what a humbling privilege that is.  But this is your time and this is your word and we are your people.  And we make that known that we depend upon you, for without you we can do nothing.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Growth is a normal part of life.  We all know that and we all expect growth to happen, so that if it doesn't happen, we know something is wrong and we want to know why.  And so, we love little babies.  We love all that comes with that package.  Their eyes are so wide.  Their skin is soft.  They make such endearing little noises for the most part.  But, we do love all of that simply because we don't expect them to stay that way.  We expect them to grow up.  So we'll put up with their demanding cries.  And we'll put up with their selfish impulses.  And we'll put up with their messes because we know they're going to grow.  Somebody once said, "A baby is a digestive apparatus with a loud noise at one end and no responsibility at the other."

But, that's okay, because once again, we don't expect them to stay that way.  And if you can just think back moms and dads, some of you don't have to think back very far, some of us have to think back far, to those first sounds that your child made and how stoked you were when you heard, "Dada", "Mama" or even "Uhh".  It's like "Wow!"  But I guarantee you, if your 25-year-old came home and said, "Dada", you'd go, "Oh, my goodness!"  You'd be appalled, because you don't expect them to stay babies, you expect them to grow up.

In John Chapter 15, a passage we have studied last week and now again this week is all about growth.  Jesus uses this metaphor, this extended metaphor and the better part of the first half of Chapter 15, about a farmer growing grapes.  Jesus says, He's the vine, we're the branches and fruit comes out of that.  So He speaks about it, He describes the relationship of growth that we have as Christians.  And if you remember, by way of review last week, there were three descriptors or three things that describe that relationship.

Number one, we're connected to Christ.  Number two, we're cared for by the Father.  And number three, we're consistent over time.  Those things describe Christian growth in the normal Christian life.  This morning, I want to give you three demonstrations of growth.  They're outlined in your bulletin.  A person who exhibits those first three marks will then demonstrate it by three other things.  In last week's study and this week's study go hand in hand.  We will be fruitful in life.  We will be powerful in prayer.  We will be joyful in spirit.  Those are the things we'll look at as conclude the study on the vine and the branches.  But, since the whole thing is about spiritual growth, let me just give you some ground work, some general observations about spiritual growth.

First of all, spiritual growth should happen.  It should happen.  Just as we can expect babies to grow up into adults, we should be able to expect Christians to grow up into be mature believers.  2 Peter Chapter 3 Verse 18, Peter writes, "But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ."

There was a group of tourists visiting little villages in Europe and they came to one picturesque little town.  And there was an old man sitting by a fence and it was just a beautiful setting.  And one person in the tourist group yelled out at the old man leaning on the fence post.  He said, "Excuse me.  Were any great men born here?"  And the old man said, "Nope, just babies."  It's actually a profound truth.  There are no instant heroes, right?  We all begin as babies and we grow into men and women, and some are great.

And so, growth should happen.  Spiritual growth should happen.  And the Christian life is far more than obstetrics.  It's far more than an ultra call.  People coming forward, it's pediatrics and emergency room services and geriatrics.  There's a progression that goes all through life.  So growth should happen.

A second general observation, spiritual growth has nothing to do with physical age.  There are some people who are older people, but immature believers.  And there are some people that I have met, not always, but sometimes where they're very, very young, but they exhibit a depth of maturity and wisdom and spiritual growth that's staggering.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes, "In the church of God, there are children who are 70 years old."  Yes, little children displaying all of the infirmities of declining years.  I would not like to say it, but a man of 80 that he scarcely cut his wisdom teeth and yet, there are such.

On the other hand, there are fathers in the Church of God wise and stable, instructed who are comparatively young men.  The Lord can cause his people to grow rapidly and far outstrip their years.

And here's the third general observation about spiritual growth, you can grow as much as you want to.  All of the resources for that are given to us and you can take them or leave them.  You can employ them or let them lie dormant.  The control lies with us.  Again, Peter writes in 2 Peter Chapter 1 that "God has given us all things that pertain to life, that is spiritual life, and godliness to the knowledge of Him who called us," all things.  Then it goes, "Therefore, add to your faith virtue and the virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control."  A list of additives were given.  And then he sums it up by saying, "If these things are in you and abound, you will never be unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ."

So, those three things sort of formed the general observations about spiritual growth.  Now, we'll get into the demonstration of that in this test.  Last week, we looked at how the relationship was described, this week, how the relationship is demonstrated.  And here's the first demonstration.

You'll have fruitfulness in life.  You'll have fruitfulness in life.  Now, let's go back over our verses and read a little bit further.  And you'll notice a word that keeps coming over and over again, it's the word "fruit".  Verse 1: "I am the true vine and my father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away and every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit.  You are already cleaned 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, and 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."

"As the father loved me, I also have loved you.  Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you, that your joy may be full."

So you notice, over and over again, this whole mentioned of the idea of fruit.  And if you look carefully, you'll notice there's a progression beginning in Verse 2.  First of all, there is no fruit.  And a branch that has no fruit is cut off.  But those that bear fruit, bear fruit and then more fruit in Verse 2 and then in Verse 5, much fruit.  Also in Verse 8, much fruit.  Fruit, more fruit, and much fruit.

So here is Jesus using the analogy of fruit growing on a branch, a great vine.  As an analogy of Christian growth in the demonstration of Christian growth.  Now, there are a few obvious things we can say about fruit.  First of all, fruit is noticeable.  If you were to walk by a great vine and not know it was a great vine, you could tell if it's a great vine if it had a bunch of what?  Grapes.  Grapes don't come with little signs on them that say, "Aye, I'm by this riparia."  So you could be a very common person like myself, have no advanced degree in botany or in -- you're not a viticulturist, a great grower, a professional, but you can walk by because there's something noticeable, visible that says, "I'm a great vine."  And that is the grapes, the fruit.

And so it is, spiritually.  You don't have to guess if a person is a believer or not.  And none of this, "Well, I think they are way deep down inside."  That's the whole point of the passage.  You don't have to go way deep down inside of a grape bush to find out if it's a grape.  Typically, you just walk by and if there are grapes on it, you go, "Grape, vine, I get it."  It's something that is obvious and visible.  Something is going to be produced.

Now, I'll be quick to say that not everybody's output of a fruit is the same.  Jesus even said some will bear 30 fold, some 60, and some are 100 fold.  And though the output of fruit from person-to-person will vary, there's got to be something at some point, at some time that gives it away that that is a believer, some kind of fruit which brings another question.  What is the fruit that Jesus is speaking about that would be able to be noticed?  Now, you know the answer to that.  Paul writes in Galatians Chapter 5 some familiar words.  He says, "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, longsuffering."  That's the fruit of the spirit.  And that little section of descriptive verses are a beautiful picture of the character of Jesus Christ.  So you go, "Well, do I have love?  Do I have peace?  Do I have joy?"  Yeah, a lot of these sayings mark your lives as followers of Christ.  Well, that's the fruit.  That's the fruit of the spirit.

But then, there are other things, did you know that the Bible speaks about as being fruit, some visible manifestation of the life of Christ in you beside that little list in Galatians.  I'll give you a few.  Number one, people that you win to Christ are considered fruit.  If you win into Christ, you have some input in their lives to disciple them in Christ, that's fruit.  Romans Chapter 1 Verse 13, Paul writes, "I often plan to come to you that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among other gentiles."  He was going to go to Rome and he was going to win many of these Gentiles to Christ and help them grow.

Number two, holy living.  A holy lifestyle is considered fruit.  In Romans Chapter 6 Verse 22, he writes, "Having been set free from sin and having become slaves of God, you have fruit to holiness, in the end, everlasting life."  So, winning people to Christ, Holy Godly living.

Here's the third, giving.  Financially giving, supporting God's work.  When Paul was taking a collection, this is in Romans 15 now, of all the Gentile churches and bringing that money to Jerusalem to help out with the work there.  Paul wrote to them and said, "Your offering to the Christians in Jerusalem," he called it "This fruit."   "This is your fruit that I'm harvesting in bringing to the saints in Jerusalem.

Here's the fourth, praise.  The fruit of your own lips, worship; when you sing, when you ascribe praise to God.  Romans Chapter 13 Verse 15, "Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God.  That is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name."  So, all of those things are visible manifestations, demonstrations that there's growth taking place.

Now, let me add something that I think is very important.  A spiritual person will be known more by a spiritual fruit than by spiritual gifts.  I need to say that and I need to explain it.  A spiritual person is known more by spiritual fruit than by spiritual gifts.  See, a lot of people think, "Well, if you exhibit certain gifts of the spirit, certain charismatic gifts and that proves you're more spiritual."  No, it doesn't.

And here's how I can prove that.  Paul wrote a letter to a group called the Corinthians.  Remember them?  And he writes in Chapter 1, "You Corinthians come behind in no charisma, no spiritual gift."  They were speaking in tongues.  They were doing everything.  The next chapter, Paul says, "I couldn't write to you as spiritual people, but as carnal people, babies in Christ."  So here's a group exhibiting spiritual gifts coming behind and no spiritual gifts, but they lacked fruit.  And Paul calls them "babies, carnal, unspiritual."  And the whole litany of that letter is you got this problem and that problem, and that problem and no love and no joy and no peace, et cetera.

So it is by fruit and not by gifts.  John Stott put it beautifully.  He said, "The Christian life should resemble a fruit tree, not a Christmas tree."  For the godly decorations of a Christmas tree are only tied or whereas fruit grows on a fruit tree.  So fruit is noticeable.  Second, fruit is natural.  A fruit tree doesn't have to work hard to produce fruit.  It's just a natural unfolding of life.  All you need is root system in the ground, a trunk tied to the root system, branches connected to that main stem and fruit will happen.  It is the normal, natural unfolding of life.  It's the product of a connection.

Have you ever seen a fruit tree sweat?  Have you seen an apple tree like out there going, "Uh, poof!  Apple!  Whew!  That was hard, man!"  No.  What does a branch need to do to produce fruit?  Just hang in there.  What do you need to do to produce fruit?  Just hang in there.  Abide in Christ.  Abide in Christ.  It's not like you say, "Okay, I got to take Galatians 5 Verse 22, the fruit is the Spirit, I'm going to work on each one."  Okay, first of love.  "I'm going to be all about loving people.  Love, love!  And then, okay, I got that one down.  And now, peace, I'll work on peace.  And joy, I'll be joyful.  I'll smile.  And I'm going to work my way down the list."

By the time you're done with that list, you're not going to have any peace.  And you're not going to love anybody.  It's nothing you have to work or strive for, you just need to hang in there and the natural result of being connected to Christ will be fruit.  You just have to keep in close contact with them as you hang out with Him, as you seek Him.  That will happen.

I found something I want to share with you this morning.  I'll think you'll enjoy it.  It's Associated Press, they released a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa.  Listen to these results, 100 bushels of corn from one acre requires four million pounds of water, 6800 pounds of oxygen, 5200 pounds of carbon, 160 pounds of nitrogen, 125 pounds of potassium, 75 pounds of yellow sulfur and other elements.  In addition to these things which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are critical.  It is estimated that only 5% of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man.

Now I would take that template and put it over spiritual growth and I would say that's exactly the same truth in spiritual growth.  It's not like that brand tester really, really worked.  Yeah we cooperate with Christ, yeah we abide but as we abide, we're not really doing much but hanging close to Him and the natural result is growth and fruit.

It is noticeable.  It is natural.  And something else about fruit that is pretty obvious, it's nourishing, right?  Fruit trees don't produce fruit for themselves.  You ever see an apple tree eaten an apple or a grapevine eating grapes?  No, the whole point is it is produced to nourish and bless other people.  There's a very profound truth there.  If the life of God is flowing in you, then the life of God will flow from you, through you.

Now this is where life will get excited.  In fact, there I say some of you have gotten bored in your Christian experience.  And I would venture to say that's because it's all been inward up to this point.  The real excitement is when you start looking outward and seeing that what you produce through your life or what Christ produces through your life can actually nourish other people.

True story, a man was driving his car from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Tampa, Florida.  And the thing that he noticed more than anything else were orange trees everywhere, as far as the eye could see, thousands upon thousands, upon thousands and millions of oranges everywhere.  So he stops into a restaurant, orders bacon and eggs and a glass of orange juice with his meal and the waitress says, "I'm sorry, we don't have any orange juice."  And then she explains, "Our machine is broken."  And he just stopped right there and he thought about that statement.  He is thinking, "Here we are surrounded by millions of oranges.  Thousands of gallons of orange juice are in these fields.  And I know you have oranges in that kitchen because there are slices of oranges on my plate.  And you're telling me you have no orange juice because the machine is broken?"

What's the problem?  They'd become dependent on the machine.  All I got to do is get an orange, cut it up and go -- and get orange juice.  "I'm sorry we don't have any orange juice, the machine is broken."  They became so dependent on the machine and here is my point, we can become so dependent on the machine.  We're surrounded by Bibles.  I bet you have more than one in your house.  They're everywhere.  We're surrounded by Bible teachers on the radio but we're so accustomed to the machine kicking out spiritual nourishment for us to consume and that's the machine.

We want to go somewhere and hear something or tune something on and we get fed and we get nourished and we consume rather than, "Okay, that's good," but with that I'm going to make my own orange juice.  I am going to turn my focus on others around me and with the truth that I have learned; I'm going to give it out."  See, because if we don't do that, we're just going to turn into sermon connoisseurs.  We're going to go, "Yeah, I liked that sermon today.  From one to 10, I'd give it a seven.  It had a nice tune, easy beat.  I like that."  That's about all.  But when we become this, we don't depend upon the machine but with the life that is in us and the production of Christ that is through us, we're nourishing other people.  Life becomes exciting.

I've always loved the description that Jacob had for his son Joseph.  When Jacob was on his deathbed he said of his son, "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a vine by a spring whose branches climb over the wall."  Now what he was getting at is, "My son is so fruitful that he just doesn't stay confined, he blesses people outside of where he's at.  He has blessed the whole world with his wisdom.  His branches go over the wall."

Years ago when I lived in Huntington Beach, California, my neighbor had a lemon tree on the edge of his property.  And half of the tree reached on my side.  California Law is, "Anything on my side of the fence is mine."  And I was exceedingly blessed with lemons constantly because his branches went over the wall.  When your branches go over the wall and it's not the machine that I am dependent on but you are yourself nourishing and nurturing and discipling other people, that's when life gets exciting.

Think back just a few chapters when Jesus stood on the Feast of Tabernacles and said to the people of Jerusalem these words.

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink."  And a lot of you might say, "Well that's true of me.  I have come to Jesus and I am satisfied."  Okay, that's only step one.  Then he said, "He who believes in me out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  In other words, not only will he or she be satisfied, he will be a conduit, a channel to satisfy others.  That's fruit.  It's noticeable.  It's natural.  It's nourishing.

And the demonstration of true life inside of us is that we're fruitful in life.  There is the second, not only will we be fruitful in life, look at Verse 7, we'll be powerful in prayer.  "If you abide in me and my words abide in you."  Now, watch this promise, this is so exciting.  "You will ask what you desire and it will be done for you."  Wow!  Then he goes on, "By this as my Father glorify that you bear much fruit, so you will be my disciples."  Well, with a promise like that, it's a wonder that more Christians don't pray.

Listen to it in another version called, "The Message."  "If you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon."  Well, have you noticed that prayer is just one of those areas we have a hard time with?  "Yeah, I know we hear it, I hate it when they talk about prayer.  It's just that one little area in my life."

Well why is that?  Why is it we don't pray more?  Or why is that that prayer room which should be packed all the time is so sparsely populated?  And why is it that we're just weak in prayer?  Because truth be told, people all over the world pray, right?  You know that.  It's one of the most common daily activities all over the world.  Jews do it, Christians do it.  Muslims do it, Buddhists do it.  Even Atheists do it when they're in trouble.  People pray all over the world.

According to George Barna, recently he stated, "Slightly over four out of five Americans pray during a typical week."  Now, I don't know exactly who they're praying to or how sincere their prayer is or why they're praying, I can't make that judgment.  I mean for all I know, it could be like the little kid who said, bedtime prayers, he said, "Lord, bless mommy and daddy and my brothers and sisters and my little puppy and God please give me a bicycle.  Amen."  And his mommy heard him and said, "Sweetheart, you don't have to yell.  God isn't deaf."  He goes, "I know mommy but grandma is in the next room and she is hard at hearing."

So really was it a prayer to God?  Or was it a prayer that grandma could overhear him and he could get his bicycle.  I know that we all pray at church before each message we pray.  And at the end of each message, we pray and I know that you probably pray before every meal.  But why is it that when it comes to really getting down and praying, we don't do much of it?  Here's a possible thought, let me throw this out at you.  Could it be that we don't pray and many Christians don't pray because it didn't work?  They just don't see results.  They've tried that but there's no real power when they pray.  So they just go, "Yeah, okay whatever."

I'm brining that up because this promise is incredible.  You will ask whatever you desire but I want you to notice there are conditions to this.  There are conditions.  You meet these conditions, that promise will happen.  Number one, Jesus said Verse 7, "If you abide in me," stop right there.  Those who have a permanent connection and union with Christ, that's abiding in Christ.  So, God never obligates himself to answer a single prayer of an unbeliever.  He might.  He could do it for His own purpose and His own glory, His own sovereign plan, but He's not obligated.

So, prerequisite number one, do you abide in Christ?  Prerequisite number two and I'm taking you now in the whole context to the passage to Verse 4, "Abide in me and I in you."  Second prerequisite is Jesus is abiding in you.  Do you let him into your daily activities, your daily life?  Do you let him control your life?  My day, Lord, my life is about your plan, your kingdom, your purpose.  It goes back to what Jesus said a couple chapters ago, "If you ask anything in my name," in other words according to the person of Jesus, something that aligns with his purposes and his person.

So if you abide in him, he abides in you and here's the third, Verse 7, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you."  What are his words?  Well, all the sayings that he said and I think we can broaden that up to say the word of God, the scripture.  Certainly the scripture gives us direction to pray right things.

Before I was saved, this is to my shame but I'll admit it, I distinctly remember praying, asking God to help me do something that was wrong, that was evil.  I knew it was.  It was criminal.  And I asked him to help me do it and help me not get caught when I did it.  Now talk about a lame prayer, do you think God is going to answer that?  Actually he said, "No" he did answer.  Because what I was asking for was certainly not in line, it was totally out of line with His word.  You know how Jesus taught us to pray, "Father in Heaven, Holy is your name.  Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  Well, that helps me understand the purpose of prayer then isn't to get my will done in heaven but His will done on earth.

So, I abide in Christ.  He abides in me.  His words abide in me and look at what Jesus said, "You will ask what you desire."  You know why that is?  Because what you desire will be what He desires, your desire will line up with His wishes and His will.  You won't be desiring things like, "Lord, help me do this evil thing and not get caught."  And Jesus said, "You will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you."

So, demonstration number one, fruitful in life.  Demonstration number two, powerful in prayer.  And here is the third and we close with this, joyful in spirit.  Look at Verse 11.  Oh, let's read all the way down, Verse 9, "As the Father loved me, so I have love you abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you."  Now, what things?  Well, he said a lot of things to him in Chapters 13, 14 and now in 15.  "These things I have spoken to you, my disciples, my followers that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full to the max, turned up to ten you might say."

Think back to last chapter.  If you recall in the last chapter, part of these things Jesus' promise to them was peace, remember that?  He said, "Peace I'll leave with you.  My peace, I give to you.  My own personal peace, I'm passing unto you."  So he promises them peace.  Now, he promises them joy.  And just think about that, those are the two very things this world craves.

Every single person I have ever met would say, "I want to find inner peace and I want to find true joy."  So, put it all together.  Put all together when we said last week and this week so far.  You're connected to Christ, cared for by God, consistent overtime.  It produces a person who is fruitful in life, powerful in prayer, joyful in spirit.  In other words, the very things that people, every person craves, Jesus says, "I want you to have peace, joy."  The very things everyone wants, I'm going to give to you.  The question is, are you willing to go God's way to get them?  Are you going to say, "Well, I don't know about this Christian stuff.  I think there is a lot of other ways to be peaceful and joyful."  Okay, go try it, empty well.  Try something else, empty will, try something else, empty well, Jesus says, "I'll give it to you."  You'll have joy and it will be my joy.  Have you ever thought about that?  Jesus is going to the cross.  He knows He is going to die in a few hours and He speaks about having joy?  What kind of joy could you have knowing your life is going to end soon?  Well, it says in Hebrews, "For the joy that was set before him, He endured the cross."

I think the joy was seeing you and me and millions of others like us throughout history who would believe in Him and be heaven bound because of his act of sacrifice and it brought Him such joy.  He said, "I can do this, it's worth it."

And He promises you that joy.  Boy, as I read Christian history, I would say that there have been periods at least of Christian history where Christianity is not been associated with much joy.  I mean there was a time when Christians were taught to sort of look very serious and clergy, all wore black.  Everybody was sort of dower and sanctuary tone and don't you dare smile and especially don't laugh.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "I would have entered the ministry if the clergymen I know didn't look and act so much like undertakers."  Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote in a journal as if surprised, "I went to church today and I'm not depressed."

Now who wrote those rules?  Whoever wrote those rules, throw that rulebook out.  Jesus says, "You can have my joy and your joy can be to the max, to the full, real authentic Christian joy."  It's time we overturn that kind of nonsense that we've just mentioned and demonstrate what it is to be joyful, touched by God, full of life, believers.

A name, probably most of you have never heard is Helmut Thielicke.  He is a German theologian, now dead, wrote this, "Should we not see that lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as lines of care and seriousness?  Is it only earnestness that is to be baptized?  Is laughter pagan?  A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub and the toastmasters."  How is your joyfulness?

So put all of that together and we've said last week and this week and I was thinking about that because I had now two weeks to go through these verses that I wish I had two more, but I want to keep the pace up.

I was thinking, "You know what, if we could really get a handle of application on this truce from last week and this week, it would revolutionize our church."  I honestly believe that, connected to Christ, cared for by the Father consistent over time so that we're fruitful in life, powerful in prayer, joyful in spirit, it would revolutionize every individual who applies themselves to this, in turn revolutionizing our church and are witness in this community.

Let's pray for that.  Father in Heaven, we know that these are truths given by Jesus to his followers, who probably at that point weren't really thinking along these lines.  They were just thinking about, "Uh-oh, Jesus is about to leave and what am I going to do?"  But the truth is, you had all of this in store for them.

Lord, I do pray and I know Lord it is according to your will that I am praying this and according to your person and according to your word.  Lord, that we as your people who are connected to Jesus Christ by the new birth and by our ongoing connectedness by faith in you.  We who are cared for by the Father in this vineyard being pruned in our daily lives, as we continue to abide and remain and are consistent over time then we're going to be this kind of people who are fruitful in our lives, producing that which is noticeable and natural and nourishing.  We're going to be powerful in our prayers.  We're going to see real results.  We're not going to have our prayers bounce off the ceiling and dribble on the floor somewhere.  It's going to reach heaven and the result of all of that abiding isn't some kind of fake plastic fruit or plastic joy but authentic joy which is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Thank you Lord for letting us see this and connecting the dots and now we pray Lord that this truce from the last two weeks of our study in John 15 would flow through our lives, from the vine into these branches that we would be verdant and be like even the man in Psalm 1, planted by rivers of water that brings forth fruit in its season.  We ask that in Jesus name, 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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7/3/2011
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Life-Lessons from Grape-Growers - Part 1
John 15:1-7
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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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7/17/2011
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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
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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
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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
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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.