March 11: The Spirit of Truth (Christ’s Life) Empowers A Life That Glorifies The Father, Not Ourselves.

In John 14 Jesus promises us the coming Holy Spirit. In John 15 Jesus tells us to abide in him. In John 16 Jesus returns to the coming Holy Spirit.

John 16:7. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Having the Spirit is better than having the physical presence of Jesus. Why? Because by the Spirit, we all can have the indwelling life of Jesus, which transforms us into the likeness of Jesus from the inside out. Without it we are doomed to a life of chasing things to fill us up inside.

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John 16:13-15. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit fills us with the truth of Jesus. John 16:13 could be translated -“he will guide you by means of the truth.” In other words the Spirit guides us by means of Christ and his indwelling life. Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). The Spirit gives us the life of Jesus, and this is a life of truth. But what is the truth?

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Or better yet, WHO is the truth? It is the truth of who Jesus is that guides our lives. Jesus is reality. He is true goodness. True love. True righteousness. He is not a theory or a guess. He is the true Logos. And he is true forever.

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This is how we must see the Spirit’s ministry. It is not more or less than a ministering of the life of Jesus to our lives. Notice in verse 14 “He will glorify me.” The Spirit never glorifies the Spirit. He only ever glorifies the Son, just as the Son glorifies the Father.

How does the Spirit glorify the Son? Look at verse 14 again- “He will take what is mine [the life, ministry, death, resurrection, glorification] and declare it to us” in our own spirit by our union with the Holy Spirit. And we complete this as the Spirit indwelt community. We declare the life and work of Christ to each other and thus minister it within our spirits to each other. This is WORD ministry, or Gospel ministry- declaring the gospel to each other, so as to receive grace and release the Spirit in our lives.

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How can Jesus let the Spirit glorify him without being an egocentric glory hound? Look at verse 15. Everything Jesus has he received from the Father. He lived dependent upon the Father. When the Spirit takes what is Jesus’ and declares it to you, he is really declaring the Father to us. So Jesus’ sending of the Spirit to glorify himself is really a glorification of the Father.

Have you been looking for the Holy Spirit to do something for you other than reveal the life of Jesus to you? Are you asking him for a glory beyond that of Christ’s? A glory that comes from some sort  of super spirituality rather than through the fellowship of Christ’s dependency and suffering? Do you live your life for your own glory? Or like Christ, do you live for the glory of God? “To live is Christ” is to live from the truth of Christ- the truth that even he lived for the glory of God not himself. That’s real life.

March 10: The Life of Christ Brings Fullness of Joy.

Abiding in Christ is union with Christ. And abiding in Christ brings us his life. And this life brings with it one of the greatest signs of life possible: joy.

John 15:11. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Does this statement by Jesus seem to be unrealistic and elusive and almost ridiculous? It might, especially when we remember that Jesus is talking about fullness of joy literally a few hours before he dies on a cross.

Jesus did not call us to abide in him so that he could load us down with all kinds of rules and regulations that steal our joy. He didn’t die for us to pile on the guilt and shame and leave us joyless. He is full of joy, and so abiding in him will result in a joy filled life.

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But how precisely is he full of Joy? And how are we going to be full of joy? The answer in John 15 is by keeping his commandments: believe in Jesus and love like Jesus. These two things bring the fullness of Christ’s joy to our lives. We find joy in trust and in love. We find joy when we put Christ and others before ourselves. We find joy in abiding in eternal love and then sharing that love. We find joy in knowing that Christ gave everything for us.

Nothing causes more joy than to be loved. And with Christ’s life in us, we know that we will always be loved.

Are you loved? The cross says you are, and the indwelling life of Christ says you are. And if you are, then life should be a joy filled ride. Not free from all hurt, and suffering. But joy filled because it is free from guilt, shame, burden, doubt, and fear. The joy of the Father over of the Son guarantees His joy over you. So find joy in being loved, not in your circumstance. Find joy in “to live is Christ.”

 

March 9: Living By Christ’s Life Is to Love Others as Christ Loves You.

Jesus said “abide in me.” Paul said “to live is Christ.” These are essentially the same thing. We live from Christ’s indwelling life. How? By knowing, receiving, and trusting in the love of Christ- “abide in my love.”

It is this power of the indwelling love of Christ that allows us to obey the second command of Jesus in John’s gospel- “love one another, as I have loved you.” You may remember that in John’s theology, Jesus gave us two commandments. The first is to believe in Jesus, that’s faith. And the second is to love one another, that’s living by faith.

 

The Source of Life

John 15:9. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

The source of our love is Christ himself. Just as the source of his love was the Father.

John 15:10. 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. 

Again, this verse is not saying that we earn Christ’s love by commandment keeping. When we recall that Christ’s commandment is to believe in him and then love others, we see that we abide in Christ’s love by faith not works.

The Sign of Life

John 15:12-13. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Here now is the second of Christ’s commands- love one another. The sign of Christ’s indwelling love is to love one another, even to the point of sacrifice, laying down your life for your friends.

So this is a summary of everything we have sen in this blog this year. To image God is self sacrifice. This is humanity. This is to be alive. This is impact and intimacy. This is desire fulfilled. It is glory. It is zoe. It is freedom.

And it is Christ. Notice his words again- “this is MY commandment.” This command flows from his own life- “as I have loved you.” The power for unconditional love is to be unconditionally loved. We cannot manufacture this love on our own. We can’t “try to love.” We must first be loved deeply and purely.

And don’t let the word “friends” fool you into thinking that I only have to love people that I like and that like me. Jesus is telling us to love others who don’t deserve it, the same way he loves us who don’t deserve it. Ask yourself this question: “Who did Jesus lay down his life for?” Answer: Everyone in the world. Therefore he is calling everyone, even his enemies, his friends. We see Jesus live this out when he calls Judas his friend:

Matthew 26:50. Jesus said to him [Judas], “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

Tomorrow we will look at some more signs of abiding in Christ. But for today ask yourself “who do I love?” “Am I first trusting in Christ’s love for me, so as to empower me to love others?”

 

March 8: To Abide In Christ Is to Abide In His Love.

Ok, so you’re abiding in Christ because of his indwelling life (Position) and you are supposed to continually abide in Christ by faith (Condition). But what does this actually mean? How do we abide in Christ? How do you dwell or live in a person? Well, one of  the most helpful verses for us to answer this is this one:

John 15:9. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 

To abide in Christ is to abide in his love. Jesus’ statement here is the most overwhelming, comforting, and satisfying word ever spoken. It echoes John 3:16- God loves us so much that he gave us his son. And now his son loves you and me with the same love that the Father loves Jesus.

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Who does God love more – Jesus or you?

What did you answer? If you answered Jesus or you, then you are wrong. The answer is, He loves you both equally. It’s the same love. The same love that opened the clouds at Jesus’ baptism, opens over you and declares “this is my son/daughter whom I love.”

If your mindset is, “I am working hard to obey God, so he must love me,” then you have it backwards. You have put condition before position. If you think, “God’s love is a never ending stream of life that exists no matter what I do,” then you are “living as Christ.”

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“To live is Christ,” means that we receive God’s love, just as Christ Jesus received the love of the Father, and that love empowered him to face anything and everything each and every day. It is this unconditional unending love that allows us to have true peace. By it we can relax.

Stop the train of self effort. Get off it. And jump on the love train. True, pure, real, authentic, hope filled, life empowering, image producing love. And it is this love that will empower Christ’s new command to us: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

More on that tomorrow.

 

March 7: Abiding With Christ Is Both Positional and Conditional.

“To live is Christ” is to “abide in Christ.” Because of our union with Christ we do abide in Christ and Christ abides in us. We live in him and he lives in us. This happens by the life giving Spirit of God.

It can be easy to see Jesus’ statement “abide in me” as something that we have to manage and maintain. “It is up to us to abide,” we think. Or, “Some days I am abiding and some days I am not.”

But we have to see abiding in Christ as both a positional truth (who we are) and a conditional (what we do or how we feel) truth.

 

The Source of Life

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Jesus is the source of our life; he is vine, we are branch. Therefore our position is one of dependence. The branch depends on the vine, just as Jesus depended on the Father. The branch doesn’t maintain or manage life, it simply receives it. And this receiving life is not an “on again, off again” proposition. It is a one time “born again” experience, whereby we receive a new nature. So, if you are saved or born again, then you are abiding in Christ and Christ is abiding in you.

Do you remember John 14:23? Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Remember, “keeping Jesus’ word” is equal to having faith in him. When we place our trust in Christ, he comes with the Father to us and makes his home with us. That is a positional, unchanging truth. Or as John puts it in 1 John 4:15 – Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

So abiding is first about being before it can be about doing. We CAN abide in Christ because Christ abides in us. When we turn abiding into something that we have to figure out, we make the Christian life about knowing good and evil for ourselves rather than about faith in Christ’s life given to us as a free gift.

The Signs of Life

So abiding is a positional truth, but it is also a conditional truth. Now, our spiritual condition must always follow our spiritual position. What we do and how we feel, must follow the truth of who we are in Christ. In this way the Christian life is faith. If our condition determined our position then our religion would be one of works. But if our condition flows from our position then our religion is one of faith and dependence.

Because we abide in Christ and Christ in us positionally, we must then abide in Christ conditionally. This means that each and every day our faith is renewed as we trust in our abiding life with Christ. Abiding therefore, means that I appropriate Christ’s life in each and every situation that I face. I recall, and remember my abiding. In fact, that is why this blog exists- not to cause your positional abiding (only the Spirit can do that), but to help you in your conditional abiding day by day (which of course is also an act of the Spirit as he prayerfully uses this blog).

Here’s positional and conditional abiding in Colossians:

Colossians 1:27. Christ in you the hope of glory (POSITION)

Colossians 3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (CONDITION)

Here’s positional and conditional abiding in Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (POSITION)

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (CONDITION)

Here’s positional and conditional abiding in Ephesians 3:16-17:

[I am praying] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being (POSITION), 

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… (CONDITION)

As we move forward we will continue to explore these positional and conditional truths. “To live is Christ” means that we abide by having faith in our position, and we abide by faith as we allow our position in Christ to affect our condition day by day.

 

March 6: Because of the Indwelling Life of Christ, We Do Nothing Apart From Christ.

In John 15, Jesus gives us one of the best metaphors in scripture for the indwelling life of Christ, the vine and branch. “To live is Christ” means that he is the source of our life, like the vine provides life to the branch. We “abide in Christ” and he “abides in us.” This foreshadows our complete union with Christ, which will become the bedrock of the Apostle Paul’s Christology. Jesus hints at this union when he says “apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Fruitfulness is guaranteed by this union. If every Christian has the Spirit of Christ (and they do), then every Christian has the fruitfulness of the Spirit. We can and will do great things by the indwelling life of Christ. We will care for our children and our aging parents. We will love those who are marginalized. We will be faithful in ministry, and kind to neighbors. We will live in hope and die in that same hope. We will pray believing. We will grieve and yet find joy in Christ. We will love even when it makes no sense to love. We will tear down barriers in our churches. We will feel peace in the middle of the storms of life. We will share our hope with others. We will stop lying and stealing and rather we will encourage and build. We will forgive and offer grace over and over again.

Yes, we will do great things by the Spirit of Christ. But so we don’t get a big head, Jesus gives us a warning- “apart from me you can do nothing.” This does not mean that we do nothing physically without Jesus. It does mean that we must live in dependence upon Christ’s indwelling life, just as Jesus lived dependent upon the Father’s life. We can even hear Jesus saying, “apart from the Father, I can do nothing” (of course he did actually say these words). Anything we do apart from the freely given life and love of Christ will not bring glory to the Father.

But we must also set this warning beside the reality of the indwelling life of Christ. For the Christian, this warning becomes a promise. We actually don’t do anything apart from Christ, and our union with him by the Spirit. Our spirit is joined to his Spirit. Therefore it is literally impossible to do anything apart from him. When we do the amazing spiritual acts of faith that we listed above, it is because of that union (never our own mechanical growth). And even when we sin, we bring the Spirit of Christ along with us (1 Corinthians 6:16-17).

In John 15, Jesus, of course, has in view our fruitfulness, not our sin. But nonetheless, the radical reality of our union with Christ remains a truth that has implications for everything a Christian does throughout the day. We truly do not do anything apart from Jesus. And any grace filled, loving thing that we do from the Spirit of God, we do from our union with Christ. That is why Paul could say “to live is Christ.”

March 5: Abiding In Christ is Living By the Indwelling Christ’s Life.

In John 14 we’ve seen Jesus relate his union to and dependence upon the Father with our union and dependence upon the Son. In John 15, Jesus will use the metaphor of the vine and branches to explain how to live life. “To live is Christ” is what Jesus will describe as “abiding in Christ.”

John 15:1-5. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

“I am the true vine.” This is another of Jesus’ 7 “I Am” statements. He is declaring himself to be our source of life. He is our source of zoe. The result of this life, is what Jesus calls “fruit.” Think this through with me. If Jesus is the source of life, then the “fruit” of life must also be Jesus- his life, character, obedience, love, and holiness (more on this tomorrow). Image result for bear fruit odg

 

 

The branch (that’s you) must abide in the vine (that’s Jesus). “Abide” means to stay, remain, or dwell. The branch has to live attached to the vine in order to bear fruit. We have to constantly draw on the life of Jesus in order to live like Jesus. We cannot manufacture the life of Jesus within ourselves through our self efforts or good works. True change can only come organically, not mechanically. Or to say it another way- true change comes by faith in Christ’s saving life, not by behavior modification.

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Is most of your “spiritual growth” organic or mechanical? Is it through behavior change or through abiding in Christ (faith). For example, do you measure your spiritual growth only by behavioral markers, like “I read my Bible everyday.” This is mechanical growth, not organic.

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Mechanical Growth
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Organic Growth

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual growth through abiding in Christ would sound more like, “I find that I have peace even in the middle of this hard situation.” This is growth that comes from abiding in Christ; the organic growth of faith. This is the growth of heart change. This is the growth of an empowered life. It is Christ’s peace at work in your heart and mind. And don’t misread what I am saying about reading the Bible. Bible reading is not a measure of spiritual growth. But it can definitely be the cause of true spiritual growth, if we read it in order to abide in Christ.

“To live is Christ” is to abide in Christ. To allow his life to be my life. His love my love. His power my power. His acceptance my acceptance. His dependency my dependency. His faith my faith.