Posts Tagged John 15: 5

I am Perfect

Matthew 5: 48

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I bet you have heard or read this verse before. What does it mean to you? Do you know who said it? These are words from Jesus? So here is the question we must first deal with. Did he mean that we are to be perfect now, here on earth, or is this mandate reserved for heaven?

A lot of folks will argue that this only pertains to our life in heaven. I would argue that makes no sense. First of all, Jesus was not preaching to a group of heavenly residents. He was preaching to a worldly group. Second, what would be the point of preaching this message here on the earth if he meant for it to apply in heaven. Further, why wouldn’t he say, “Someday, when you have ascended to heaven who will have to work on being perfect because your Father in heaven is perfect.” He had the opportunity to clarify himself if he meant to describe heaven. Also, look at the context of all the words around this sentence. This is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Would you argue that the Sermon on the Mount is about life in heaven? Of course not. Therefore, we must take this verse exactly how Jesus meant it and deal with it, but this is what we often do with difficult passages. We find ways to explain them away.

I tell you that you have the ability to be perfect now. It is a choice but here is the secret, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing,” (John 15: 5). Jesus is perfect. Wouldn’t you agree? So, as long as we are in him, operating through him, obeying him, we too can be perfect. Of ourselves, yes, we have no hope. These are more than words though. There is a big difference in Christians who try hard and those who have given themselves completely over to Christ. This latter group seeks to hear Christ in every step of their day and they hearken unto the Holy Spirit. It isn’t a Sunday prayer. It is a daily pursuit. It is a devotion and dedication which is realized in every waking moment. And when any of us allows ourselves, truly, to be led by the Spirit of God and allows our lives to be hidden in Christ, then there is perfection, in him. In those moments of clarity, we are without blemish, just as he is.

Our goal, then, is not in seeking perfection but in seeking the perfect one. There is a calling to all Christians to abide in him 100 percent just as he lived in perfect union with the Father. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you,” (John 14: 20). This life in Christ is Jesus’ wish for us but it does not come from a once uttered salvation prayer. You cannot even get it by going to church for twenty years, never missing a Sunday. As Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, he was pointing them to the deeper life. He was showing them that though they were about to be parted from him in the flesh, they could live integrated with him, the Father and the Holy Spirit. He told them the Holy Spirit was come and would lead them into all truth. Jesus is the way, he told us that, but the Spirit is like those guys on street corners holding the big signs directing shoppers to sales. The Spirit is the one who leads us and teaches us. He will teach you to live completely immersed in the Father and Son when you seek Him.

This is today’s Christianity. We are in the days when going to church even a couple of times a week isn’t enough. We need to bury our lives in Christ. Each breath is delivered by God’s Spirit. Jesus is calling us to be perfect by living completely in him. You can do it. You can be perfect, and I tell you that you are perfect because the perfect one lives in you and you in him. We have to stay in him though and that is our challenge.

Think about what you think it means to truly be in Christ. Remove all the religion for a moment and strip it down to the basics. What does it mean to be “in Christ” and how do accomplish it? I can tell you this, it has a whole lot less to do with what we do and a lot more of what we allow him to do in us. I say to you that this is the key to end time faith. This is the sweet spot and our hiding place. We need to know what it means and how to get there. Be perfect because Jesus told you to. Be in the perfect one.

Inextricably Intertwined

John 15: 5

I am the vine, you are the branches.

In yesterday’s Word of the Day I used the words interwoven and intertwined. I want to share with you, today, the basis for those words and why they are relevant to any discussion of Christians and Christian life.

Jesus describes us as branches of himself. That is a really powerful statement if you think about it. In fact, I think you could hang out in John 15 for quite a while gleaning the depth of meaning in it. Today’s verse is also part of the inspiration for the logo for Ivey Ministries. Being a Christian means being a part of Jesus and he being an integral part of you. I imagine an Ivy vine twining itself around a tree. Have you ever attempted to pull the Ivy from the tree? I am sure you found that the Ivy had intertwined itself with the tree. It is not readily removed from the tree. I like to see how the Ivy interlaces itself among the branches of the tree, its leaves comingling with the leaves of the tree. Inevitably the tree and the Ivy become so intertwined that it is hard to tell one from the other. The longer the Ivy abides with the tree, the harder it becomes to extricate it from the tree. There is another verse which eludes to this type of interconnectedness with the Lord. It is Isaiah 40: 31. It is the verse which is on the home page of the Ivey Ministries website. The God’s Word translation reads this way, “The strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed.” I like that translation. Another says, “Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength” (Christian Standard Bible). The NIV says that the strength of the Lord is for those who “hope” in the Lord. The reason you see all these variations in the verse is because the word and the idea contained herein is complex and rich in meaning. At its base, one of the keywords in the definition is “intertwined.” This is at the heart of our ministry. I would, therefore, communicate Isaiah 40: 31 this way, “Those who are intertwined with the Lord will renew their strength.”

I would like to help you become so integrated, so intertwined with the Lord that it is difficult to discern where one of you begins and the other ends. In fact, the amalgamation of you and Jesus can be so complete that there is no end to either of you but rather where one of you exists, there, also is the other. Everywhere you go, there is Jesus. Every word you say, Jesus speaks. Wouldn’t that be great? Every thought he has, you hear. Every desire of your heart or his, is shared completely between you. His life and light flow through your veins and strengthens every cell of your body and illuminates your mind. You will understand the deep things of God and see beyond the constraints of humanity. There is an entire universe for you and Jesus to share and explore together with no bonds to restrain you. When you hear me talking about intertwining, this is what I am thinking of. This is the vision and the goal.

Rooted

Romans 15: 12

The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.

Well, of course, you know that this root that was foretold from the family of Jesse is Jesus. Jesse was the father of David. As you well know, not only the Jews have hope because of the Messiah but also every person in the world. Regardless of ethnic background, family lineage or any other categorical subdivision, all people now can have the hope of a good life and a future.

This verse holds the promise of inclusion but it also holds the promise of hope. All who have been without hope now have a reason to hope again. In Jesus is renewed hope. Yesterday may have been a bad day. Last year may have been a rough year but tomorrow is a new day. In him, in Jesus, even the most lost person on the planet can have hope. He is the Lord over all and while some may hear that as oppressive, in truth just the opposite is true. When Jesus accepts his lordship over our lives, he accepts the responsibility to look after us, to take care of us and to provide for us. That is the lord’s job. That explains also why Jesus calls himself the good shepherd. The shepherd doesn’t oppress the sheep. He cares for them even at great personal peril. Jesus said that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10: 11).

I am also reminded of Jesus using the comparison of the branches and the vine (John 15: 5). There is something very earthy and base about these descriptions of Jesus and the role he plays in our lives here on earth. Our lives are filled and fulfilled when we are rooted in Jesus, grounded in him. When we strip away the frill and get down to the very basics there is soil and seed, roots, vines, branches, and fruit. Jesus doesn’t call himself a multilevel edifice, covered in gold and jewels. He is our root. He is the one down in the dirt, getting dirty providing a foundation and supply chain for us. He feeds and nourishes us. He provides everything we need by being grounded. We have only to abide in him. He does the work but the fruit shows out on our branches. Abiding in Jesus is still the real key here. We see it said differently at times but being rooted in Jesus is the hope of today and the hope for tomorrow.

Abiding in the Vine

John 15: 5

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.

I referred to this verse yesterday but just reading it filled me with such revelation and joy that I want to share with you. There is so much in this little verse. I certainly cannot cover it all in one Word of the Day. Let’s just look at two aspects. First, have you thoroughly considered “he who abides in Me?” What does abide mean? I think we understand this to mean to “dwell in.” Another definition is to remain in one place or state. We talk about abiding in Jesus and his abiding in us but it is hard to really wrap your head around. This abiding Jesus is talking about bespeaks a continuity. It isn’t characterized by one minute in him and then next off in our own world apart from him. This abiding in him and he in us is a deep integration of two souls, who are of one mind and one purpose. It isn’t the flitty affair of new love. It is the entrenched devotion of life long lovers. He who abides in Jesus and in whom Jesus abides is enmeshed with Jesus. There is no retreat from him. Everywhere you go, there he is. Your thoughts, dreams, songs and conversation keep revolving back to him. He is literally, rather than figuratively, “in you” and you are not only “in him” but also into him. You are interested in his thoughts and his ways. He is part of you such that there is no longer a means by which to separate the two of you. I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Then I really like this bit about “apart from Me you can do nothing.” At first blush it sounds a bit rude and may affect my ego. The other side of the coin is so amazing though. If, I can do no thing apart from him but I have done something successfully then isn’t it true that I must have done that thing with him? Now, how exciting is that? You have worked with Jesus because you have been successful. The really exciting part is that now you know how to create more success. Do everything you wish to be successful in with him. Endeavor to be “in him” as you work, play, raise your children. Confer with him not daily, but rather moment by moment. What was that email you were about to send? Wait, what does the Holy Spirit have to say about it. Is there better sentence structure, additional thoughts, praise for the recipient? Maybe he wants you to copy someone else or perhaps not send it at all. What about that meeting this afternoon? What does that look like if you are in him and he in you? Perhaps you even think you will work an extra hour and you hear his voice gently leading you to spending that hour reading a novel.

Whatever plans you have today, I guarantee they will all go better if you will do them with him. Maybe we all need to ask the Father what “in him” means to Him. I am convinced that He can, and will, show us even deeper meaning. The one part that is very clear is that the branches cannot survive apart from the vine. I would have you note, however, that the vine does not produce the fruit but rather the branches. This is a partnership of the most intimate kind. There is no end to which we can immerse ourselves in him, or even to allow him to take up residence in us. I hope this verse, this picturesque speech from Jesus will continue to minister life to you.

Wait Lifting

Hebrews 4: 11

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

No, I didn’t misspell the word “wait” in the title. There is a concept imbedded in those two words. It is the precept that in our quiet contemplation with the Lord there is power to lift great weight and succeed in every calling of the Lord.

I was speaking with some friends last week when this idea, this principle came to the foreground of my thoughts and I have been unable to shake it. The awareness that we are meant to glean from this passage is that our labor, our effort is in entering into the rest of the Father whereby we cease from our striving. In Him, we are able to do all things (Philippians 4: 13). Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15: 5). Therefore, the purpose of our effort is to become integrated with Him and thus be “in Him.” The King James Bible says it this way, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”

We have become such externalists that our faith and the expression of our faith has become largely external rather than internal. Contrast this ideology with some of the great historical icons of our faith. People like Thomas á Kempis, Martin Luther or Julian of Norwich. These and others, noticeably the Apostles John and Paul, believed and argued that the labor of our faith was to come to know God in the quietness of our spirits. Our faith is not in the things we do but in our connection internally with the Father, Son and Spirit. This is our works, extending our faith, believing with our hearts. Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6: 29).

We should not “do” works at the cost of sacrificing the quiet contemplation of our souls. Instead, external work should be at the direction of our Father and as an extension of the quiet, meditative connection with the Father. As in all things, balance is key. I know people who are so spiritual that they are no earthly good. What do I mean? They spend all of their time feeding themselves but it never has any expression beyond their own gorging. The true unity with God ought to show. It ought to spill over on to others but not by mere works but rather from the overflowing grace of the Lord.

When we rest in the presence of the Lord we gain substantively. This is not all subjective. It has real world consequences that can be objectively observed. We are empowered in the presence of the Lord and through communion with His Spirit we are guided; directed. He imbues us with power and then directs that power to His good intentions. “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40: 31). He fills us up to overflowing, speaks to us in our spirits and directs our paths. He gives us the power to do all things. All of this comes from spending time and investing our effort in “knowing Him” and the power which flows from just such a knowing (Philippians 3: 10). 

When Moses died and Joshua was appointed by God to take over the leadership of the nation of Israel God’s advice to Joshua was, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1: 8). I think that same advice will serve us well today. We should wait upon the Lord in the meditation of the Word, prayer and in the contemplation of the Lord. In that waiting, that quiet communion spent with the Lord, is great power; great strength. As we rest in Him, as we wait in His presence and in prayer He performs the works; His power goes into action rather than our limited power. He assigns angels and directs ministering spirits. His is the power which does all of the heavy lifting while we meditate in Him and the authority of His grace. In Him, in our rest, we become powerful ministers of the gospel of grace. In Him we become mighty “wait lifters”.

Please share your thoughts with me. How did this Word of the Day impact you? We always appreciate your comments. Thank you.