Tag Archives: John 15

Life’s a Grind Without the Oil of Gladness

To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 

Trying to live the Christian life without relying on the Indwelling Spirit of Christ is like running an engine without oil.

On a couple of occasions I’ve neglected the vital upkeep of adding motor oil to various vehicles. One resulted in the demise of the Wheel Horse tractor I inherited from my grandfather. And if it wasn’t for the durability of Toyota truck engines, the other would have left my brother and I stranded on the side of the highway between Columbia, SC and Athens, GA. Good thing he noticed the red light on the dash board. It was almost three quarts low.

Sometimes I’m a slow learner, but I got it now; Engine oil is critical for lubrication, minimizing friction and cooling the pistons. It’s the very lifeblood of an engine.

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Only with Jesus can we Live the Christian Life

I’m learning the same thing about the Holy Spirit in my spiritual life.[1] For years I thought my job as a Christian was to model my life after the Jesus I read about in the Bible; trying really hard to have peace, patience, kindness, self-control and joy. If you’ve tried this yourself, you know the futility of this kind of effort. Sooner or later we all discover that there’s only one person who can live the Christian life and it’s not us; it’s Jesus in us.

Coming to the End of Ourselves

Often it takes a crisis for us to realize we can’t live without Christ. We come face to face encounter with our failures and inabilities. Not fun, but necessary. More often than not these failures are revealed in our relationships with those we love. When this happens, we find ourselves at a crossroad in life.

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At the Crossroad

In the midst of emotional turmoil we often choose to numb our pain with our coping mechanism of choice, but this delays the inevitable. Pain is an alarm to be heeded. Pain screams, “Take your hand off the stove!” Denying the pain only deepens it’s affect until  it takes over our lives completely.

Another choice is to realize our desperate need for Jesus.  Humbly turning to Him, we admit  our inabilities to love without Him. There may be dark nights of the soul, huddled only with our Lord, but full surrender leads to life changes.  “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

Summary of the Christian Life

Out of Paul’s sufferings He wrote:

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Spiritually, we have died.  Christ, by His Holy Spirit, has taken up residence in our lives. We no longer have to try harder, but must depend upon Him to be our patience, our goodness, our peace, our self control, our joy.

Ours is to rest in the fact that He is at work in us.

Ours is to yield to His Spirit, realizing that apart from our vital connection to Him, we can do nothing of true value.[2]

Trying to live without dependence upon the Holy Spirit is like an engine without oil, a ‘grinding it out’ in a swirl of activity; movement without lubrication, joyless friction.

Burnout or Joy

Recipe for a life of burnout: Live in the swirl of activities with no awareness or dependence upon the Holy Spiri; going through the motions in your own energy and strength. Just do it. It’s all up to you.

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Recipe for a life full of joy:  Realizing we were designed to run on the oil of gladness. [3]  choose a life of overflow as you yield to the Spirit of Jesus in you to love whoever God puts in your path.

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Challenge: Is there an area of your life in which you’re just going through the motions, an area in which you feel burned-out in? If so, come to Jesus.  Realize that you were not designed to operate without His Spirit, the Oil of Gladness. Recognize your inability to live even one moment without full dependence upon Christ,  allow His Spirit to refresh your life giving you His Joy.

“He must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:30

Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you so much for dying for me and securing a place in our Father’s presence. Thank you for sealing us with the promised Holy Spirit, a pledge of our inheritance and the power and lifeblood of our lives. Keep me ever yielded to you that I might love others as you have loved me.

[1] The Holy Spirit is widely symbolized by anointing oil. See Luke 4:18

[2] John 15:5

[3] John 7:37-39

 

Victory is a Person

Victory, from the Old French word victor, means to triumph or overcome in a struggle. A personal victory might be losing weight, breaking a bad habit or making the dean’s list. There are team victories, political victories and victories in war. Most victories require tremendous strain and effort, but are extremely rewarding.

In Christian circles you hear of a “victorious Christian life,” a time when sin is conquered, fear is overthrown and love for God and other’s flows freely.

Our natural tendency is to think a “victorious Christian life,” is gained in the same pains taking efforts other victories have been won, giving it our all, trying as hard as we can to win. This could not be farther from the truth.

It is true, Jesus desires for us a life free from fear and sin, loving God and others in the same sacrificial way He has loved us, but He is not asking us to change.

God is not looking for a changed life. He is offering an exchanged life.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2nd Corinthians 5:21

Christ has exchanged His life for ours. Not only did He die in our place to rescue us from eternal separation from God, but He also imputed His righteousness to us. We have become the righteousness of God.

There is not trying hard to be righteous. In Christ we are righteousness.

But you say, “That might be true, but how is victory realized in my own life? How is sin defeated, fear banished, love unleashed and joy experienced?”

The answer is still the same. With His exchanged Life.

Consider the great summary verse Paul wrote about the Christian life:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

The victory is not in trying harder. The victory is in embracing the death of our old nature on the cross and depending upon the newness of our life in Christ. Christ did not die so that we could be changed. He died so that we might die with Him and be raised with Him in newness of life.

Victory is in realizing our crucifixion with Christ and depending upon Christ in all we do. Yielding to His abiding Spirit, we bear fruit for the glory of God. Apart from His work in us, we can do nothing. ( See John 15:5)

We need to stop trying so hard to pattern our lives after what we read about Jesus in the Bible. There’s only one person who can truly live the victorious Christian life and it’s not us. It’s Jesus in us.

We have been made new. In Christ we have all the love, joy, peace, patience and hope we will ever need. Ours is to realize our newness in Him (counting as fact the death of our old self (See Romans 6:11) ) and yielding to Christ in us to love whoever get’s in our way.

Victory is not in trying harder. I’m pretty sure we’ve all tried that.

Victory is in remaining in the love of Christ and yielding to His Spirit.

The old has gone the new has come.

Challenge:  Consider an area of your life in which you feel defeated.  Trust that Jesus wants you to have victory in this area even more than you do.

Bring this area before the Lord right now:

Lord, you know  how discouraged I am in this area. I’ve tried so hard to be like you, but have failed miserably. I know now that victory is not in trying harder, but in resting in You. Open the eyes of my heart that I might know your great love for me. Teach me to remain in your love and yield to your Spirit in me as I allow you to become my victory in this area.

You are my Victory.

 

Loving Without Expecting Anything in Return

A few years ago, my oldest son Jonathan and I were tending a burn pile down by the barn. As we sat in camping chairs, water hose ready, watching the dried limbs and brush blaze, he had something to tell me that was very hard to hear.

As my eyes followed a black ember dancing upward in the billows of smoke, he said, “Dad, growing up I felt as if you cared more about the relationship than you did about me.” He went on to explain that he knew I loved him, but he could tell I cared a lot about being viewed as a successful Father.

Jonathan’s words pierced my heart. At that time my identity was very closely tied to success in all my roles. I feared failing as a husband, father, provider, brother and friend. This is exactly what he was pointing out to me. My love was not pure. I needed to know I was doing a good job and depended on the response of others for assurance and validation.

My conversation with Jonathan was very hard, but it was exactly what I needed.  I’m so glad he cared enough about our relationship to point out how he was feeling. His honesty helped me understand that I loved with a selfish love, expecting something in return.  I thanked him for his boldness and sincerely apologized. I asked God to heal this part of me which craved affirmation and the approval of others.

God has and is answering my prayer. I’m now much freer to love others with the sacrificial love of Jesus, but I also know He’s not through with me yet. At times, I still find myself expecting certain responses from others as I seek to love them.

My prayer is that I will love others as Christ loves me, not with a faulty human love, but with the love of His Indwelling Holy Spirit.

Consider the following verses:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,  gets up from supper, and lays aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.  Then He pours water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. John 13:3-5

Right before Jesus performs a service, done normally only by slaves, John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives us a peak into Jesus’ mind:

Jesus knew who He was and where He came from.  Jesus is the Son of God. His Father sent Him forth, giving all things into His hands so that He could rescue us and restore us to right relationship with God. Jesus didn’t need anything from those He came to rescue. He was completely filled with His Father’s love.

If we were sent to an ant colony to rescue the queen from an anteater, to return when the job was done, would we really care what the ants thought of us while we were there? No, we could care less how the ants felt, we were visiting from another place.

As believers, our citizenship is in heaven. Like Jesus, our true home is not this world. We are free to love others as Christ has loved us, needing nothing in return.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20

Because this world is what we see, it’s easy for us to operate on its terms, looking to society to tell us how we’re doing. But consider the following amazing fact, spoken by Jesus concerning you and me.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; Remain in My love. John 15:9

Jesus loves us just as much as God the Father loves Him. Let this soak in before you read on.

Ours is to remain in this great love, a love we did nothing to deserve to begin with. Remaining in the love of Jesus allows us to love freely as He did.

If we remain saturated in the love of Christ, untethered from the need for human validation and approval, we love freely, expecting nothing in return.

But how do we remain in His love? Read the following verses carefully for the answer.

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 so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:10-12

We remain in His love, by loving others as He has loved us. His love flowing through us, completes our Joy. Our life becomes a continual rhythm of receiving His love and giving it away. Free to love because He loves us..

  • Jesus loves us as much as God loves Him
  • We can do nothing apart from Jesus, including loving others

Challenge: Think about a time recently when a person didn’t respond to your love as you would have desired; a time when your feelings were hurt or when you found yourself fishing for a response.

Ask the Lord to wash away your expectations and hurt in His great love. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart that you might get a glimpse of how much God loves you. His love is wider and deeper and longer and higher than your mind can understand. But His can speak to our hearts and reveal His ocean of love.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19

Don’t Postpone Joy

Martha had enough. Her sister Mary did it again, left her to do all the work while she just sat there. Martha was distracted by all the preparations. And though the very source of Joy was with her, she was focused on what she had to do.

Sound familiar?

“But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

But how can life really be about one thing? Without Martha, no food would have been served.

On a slow morning, sitting on a dock facing the intracoastal waterway in Wilmington, NC, I’m once again pondering how to be a Mary without neglecting my responsibilities.

The mid-morning sun warms the steady breeze as it massages my face. I look across the gray blue waterway and see white caps ushering the tide to my right. The rhythmic waves lap upon the shore only interrupted by the rubbing of the floating docks along the pile driven wooden poles, the squawking of sea birds and the distant sound of a dog’s bark.

I have sought my own answers to this quandary for years, but this morning it all seems clear. No profound answers are given, only His strong hand outstretched; inviting me to give Him my concerns, so I can be with Him. Together, He will show me how to live a Mary life in a Martha world.

My cares are safely sealed, waiting for His commands to be revealed.

Two light yellow butterflies dart across the rolling tide. Above the water flow, there is a lime green strip of land below a line of emerald trees, couching white, multi-storied buildings in the distance. Above the tree line, a cloudless sky rises in deeper shades of pastel blue towards the heavens.

Wow! This is joy, this trusting, this resting, this enjoying His presence. Is this abiding? Is this what Jesus means when He tells me to remain in His love?

So, what now? I could regret millions of distracted moments in my past when I labored without a thought of His nearness.

But I won’t.

I will go forth with a deeper understanding of what Jesus means when he tells me not to worry, but to seek His business, His Kingdom, His supremacy in my life.

All that other stuff, the things I seem to focus on, what I’ll eat and what I’ll wear and what I’ll drink – He’s got that. He and I  have more important things to do, like enjoying this moment together.

And by the way, when I am doing that (Enjoying moments of life with Him) I will naturally love the people I meet along the way. When, like Mary, I’m in tune with my Lord’s nearness, when I’m yielding to His Indwelling Spirit, His love flows through me to others. My number one concern now is to love others as He has loved me. This  starts with resting in His love.

Jesus said, “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 so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

“Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the needs of others.” John Piper

In His Presence is fullness of Joy (Psalm 16:11)

Remain in My Love

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)

I feel it happening again – the temptation to take charge and handle the challenge myself. I try to trust God, but it seems to be ‘all up to me’; a familiar lie. The internal pressure is mounting. I’m compelled to think I must uphold and maintain God’s love for me and the infusion of His strength. I feel the vulnerability of moving out from under the wings of His love into independent striving for achievement and approval.

Knowing I need truth, I turn to John 15. Here, Christ repeatedly tells me to abide in him and in his love. But how?

Digging into the word abide, I learn it also means to tarry, to dwell, be present with, to remain. I’m to remain in God’s Love. Jesus tells me that He loves me just as much as His Father loves Him. I want to believe this, but I struggle.

Remain. To remain somewhere means I have to be there to begin with. If I’m told to remain in a house, I have to already be in the house to stay there. I remember I Corinthians 1:30 where Paul says that because of God, I’m in Christ Jesus. He also says that it is by grace I have been saved, through faith; not a matter of my own works.[1]

It is Finished

God put me in Christ Jesus, not my own striving or achieving. When Christ said, “It is finished” on the cross, he finished all work needed to earn God’s pleasure. I don’t have to do a thing to be in his love. By believing, I’m already in the dwelling of Christ’s love. I’m to stay where God has put me.

This is extremely freeing.

Remain in Christ’s love. Don’t move.

Back in John 15, I read I’m like a branch of grapes. Connected to the vine, my source, God grows delicious fruit for others to enjoy. When He produces the fruit and others benefit, He gets the glory and I’m filled with His joy. It’s the only way it can work. A branch detached from the vine can yield nothing.

So, what is my work? After all, Jesus commands me to abide. My work is to stay where God has placed me, in the love of Christ. I’m to rest and yield to His life in me, fighting every lie with the truth of His amazing love.

Lord, I’m guilty of doubting your love, of thinking I have to achieve something for you to be pleased with me. Now I see how absurd this really is. Not only are my independent efforts worth nothing, but they produce the plastic fruits of self-glory.  I’m so sorry. Please keep me ever aware of your great love for me. Teach me how to remain where you have put me, in your surpassing love.  Amen. 

 

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9