Tag Archives: John 15:5

Victory is a Person (God’s not out to change us, but to exchange us)

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.

Lord, You are my Victory.

 

The Christian Life is a Dance not a March

Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB)  So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

It’s easy to read the above verses and get caught up with the word “work” in the beginning and miss the incredible freedom at the end.

I’ve lived in the “work” part for far too long and just about missed the essence of the Christian life.

It started before I truly believed. Until I was 21 years old, growing up in a socially Christian family, I thought I was going to heaven because I “believed” in Jesus and thought my good “works” outweighed my bad.  In other words, I hadn’t killed anybody and performed some good deeds like walking little old ladies across the street. In my uninformed mind, this made me good enough for heaven.

Back then, my idea of being “born again,” was associated with being judgmental and living a life of rules which choked out all joy. I had no desire to live like that.

Just like everyone else, I was searching for joy in the world around me. I had no concept that the hole in my soul was eternal and could only be filled with God himself. A trip to jail brought me to my senses and turned my attention to my creator. Eventually I surrendered my life to my Lord Jesus Christ.

This was a marvelous day, but it took me years to realize the Christian life is not just something else to “work” at. Living as a Christian is so different than anything else I’d ever experienced.

Over time, and I must admit, I’m still learning it, the true nature of living the Christian life began to become clear. Christianity is not primarily about rules, it’s about a relationship with Christ.  He did the work. Ours is to respond to what’s he’s already done.

Our life is not an arduous march to a set of rules. It’s more like a dance; us responding to Christ our partner as he leads us in a  dynamic relationship.[1]

This changes everything.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.[2]

Spiritually, we’ve  died and Christ, by his Holy Spirit, has taken up residence in our lives. The “work” we now do is a work of dependence, yielding to Christ as he produces the fruit of his Spirit in our lives.[3]

We don’t march around like robotic soldiers to a sheet of rules. We dance with God as he leads us through difficulties as his life is formed in us.

Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m sorry I spent much of my life totally misunderstanding the way you interact with me as your son. You’ve not left me alone to fend for myself. You’re involved in every dance step of my life and want me to enjoy being with you through every circumstance. Draw me ever closer to you as we dance together here. I praise you that one day, I’ll see you face to face.

[1] From a conference at the Cove by Pete Briscoe about Galatians 2:20

[2] Philippians 2:13

[3] Galatians 2:20

[4] John 15:1-12

[5] John 15:5

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.

 

Minding your Busyness

..but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:42

If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.

 I was preoccupied as I pulled up in front of Dad’s trailer. My father had been through a lot of pain and was trying to rebuild his life. He didn’t have a car and he depending upon me. On this particular Saturday, he needed me to pick up some groceries. I was doing what he asked, but it was not out of love for him, it was out of duty.

My task list had grown so large, the joy of life was being sucked out of me. As I was lifting the bags of groceries from my car, I was already thinking of the other items on my task list. I had to mow the yard, take the kids to the park, check on a problem at work, prepare to teach Sunday school the next day and …

I charged into Dad’s trailer and began stacking the groceries on his kitchen table. When I was done, I told him I was running short on time and would need to be going. He asked me to sit a moment and chat. I agreed, but insisted I was on a tight schedule. I could see the disappointment in his eyes, as I sat down.

“Rob, you’re always on a tight schedule. Where do I fit in?” Dad asked. “Put me on your priority list somewhere!”

My immediate reaction was anger. In fact, I think I even raised my voice at him. “Dad, you have no idea all I have going on!” I fumed, releasing some pent up pressure.

Later, as I reflected on Dad’s words, my heart was pierced. He had nailed me. I had become so busy, people had dropped from my priority list. I was very dutiful, seeing people not as objects of love, but obstacles to my ever growing list of duties.

Looking back on the time now, I see that much of my busyness was self-imposed; adding task after task to earn God’s love and to avoid feeling as if I had failed in my roles as husband, father, brother, employee, friend and son. Truly I was acting more like a “human doing” than a human being.

Because of this, I wondered how God could be so merciful to me. He called me to be an ambassador of His love, yet I was not spreading his love. Even though I was doing things for Dad, he was not feeling loved. He felt disrespected by my indifference to him as a person. I suspected my wife and kids and friends were feeling the same thing. I was so busy, yet I was literally doing more harm than good.

I thought of Martha in Luke chapter 10, verses 38-42. Jesus was in her house, but she was so preoccupied with her duties she missed Him. Jesus told her she was bothered and worried about so many things.

But her sister Mary knew exactly what to do. While Martha was stressing over her tasks, Mary was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His words. Mary chose the one thing that was important.

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 (NASB)

Now, years later, I’m convinced that if I follow Mary’s example, what needs to be get done will be accomplished. And though I still struggle at times with the Martha syndrome, I also know that activities, which do not spring from my dependence upon Christ, accomplish nothing of eternal value.[1]

Mary was not lazy. After the scene recorded in Luke, she would take a costly vial of perfume and anoint the Lord’s body for burial. This work, done in response to her great love for Jesus, will always be remembered whenever the gospel is preached.[2]

I want to be like Mary; to love and trust Jesus so much that He is the one focus of my life. After all, Jesus lives in me. His love is in my heart. I don’t have to do anything for Him to love me. I’m simply told to remain where He has put me: in His love.

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

Challenge: When you feel yourself getting busy, slow down. Follow Mary’s example of being with Jesus and listening to His words. And don’t stop resting in Him even when your activities begin. Depend upon the Indwelling Spirit of Jesus to love the people He brings your way. Let love be your focus. What needs to get done, will get done.

God produces extraordinary accomplishments when we depend upon His Spirit in us.

Lord, thank you for showing me that focusing on You and listening to You is the key to life.  Please help me trust this fact, even in the midst of life’s responsibilities. Guard me from being bothered and worried about my tasks. Build in me the rhythm of sitting with you and listening to you, before I work and while I work. I love you, Lord. Keep me settled in Your love.

The man who remains in the love of Jesus is never a failure.

 

 

 

[1] John 15:5

[2] Mark 14:9

Finding a Friend in Need

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mathew 5:3

 Being in need is not a bad thing. In fact it’s essential to our spiritual journey.

Robbie is my friend. I met him a few years ago at a men’s conference at Myrtle Beach. After the conference was over, I discovered he was homeless.  This was very humbling for me to find out.

Over the years, Robbie has attended our small group and our church. We’ve meet his niece and he has become very dear to us.

He’s had a stable place to live a few times, but he mostly rotates between  the Oliver Gospel Mission and an abandoned building  he calls the ‘Camp site’. He gets work when he can.

For all he’s going through, I’ve never heard him complain.

We communicate mostly through facebook messaging when he’s at the library, or when he can find a WIFI hot spot for his track phone.

One afternoon, a few months ago,  we agreed to hang out for a while. I picked him up at the library and we went to Lizard’s Thicket, a local restaurant.

“Order whatever you want Robbie,” I said as I slid in the booth across from him.

“You’re not getting anything?” he asked.

“No, I’ve already eaten.”

Robbie closed up the menu. Even though he hadn’t eaten since an early morning breakfast at the mission, he thought it impolite to eat in front of me.

“Alright, I’ll get some fried okra,” I agreed.

Robbie grinned and opened the menu back up.

Later, as we were eating, I asked Robbie how his day was going. “It’s a beautiful day and I’m sitting here eating fried chick and okra with you, how could it not be a great day?” he chuckled.

“Do they let you keep your stuff at the mission?” I asked, as I forked a couple of okra.

“Not really,” he replied.

“So where do you keep your things?”

“I have a few  clothes at the campsite, but  my stuff’s in a  book bag in your back seat.”

Wow! Most of Robbie’s earthly possessions were in my back seat. This was  inconceivable to me. My friend was acutely aware of his need in a way I’d never experienced.

Being in need is actually something I’ve avoided; partly because of pride, but mostly because of the vulnerability of having to depend on someone else.

Spiritually speaking, being needy is an absolute necessity. I can’t earn my way to heaven. I need the death and sacrifice of Jesus to blot out my sins and grant me access to heaven. But I also need Him moment by moment as I seek to live a Christ-like life.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poor in spirit means embracing our spiritual poverty. We must know we need Jesus.

Not only do we need the death of Jesus to be acceptable to a holy God, but we need to depend upon the life of Jesus in us to live moment by moment. There’s only one person who can live a true Christ-like life and it’s not us, it’s Jesus in us.[1] The Sermon on the Mount teaches us this.

The word “saved”, used in Romans 5:8-10, not only means delivered (as in rescued from eternal separation from God), but it also means to be healed and made whole. We are to continually embrace  our need of Jesus, knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing. [1]

Challenge: Think about an area of your life you’re still trying to live in  your own abilities. Take a moment and embrace your need for Jesus in this area.  Hand’s open, surrender it  to Him.

hands-247138_960_720 (1)

Lord, I’m sorry for the times I haven’t fully trusted you and tried to live on my own. I need you desperately. Please show me when I forget my great need for you.

By the way. today is Robbie’s birthday. If you know him, wish him a happy one. He is a blessing to many.

[1] John 15:5