Foundtional Framework 68 - The Cross/Altar of Christ

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The earthly life of Jesus Christ is nothing short of remarkable and we only have a fraction of all that He did and said as recorded in the Word of God. But we have no reason to feel short-changed, for what we have is more than enough Light. It proves His claims, vindicates His Person, leads men and women to salvation, and heartens the child of God to pursue Him in living a holy life. The fulfillment of prophecy alone in Jesus’ earthly life is enough to stagger the mind of the most educated man, seeing that the time gap between the foretelling of an event and the actual occurrence of the event in His earthly life is 400 years in the least to some 1500 years at the most. The following is a list of forty-five of the most significant messianic prophecies that were fulfilled during the first advent of Christ as recorded by Mark Hitchcock.

1.    He was born of a woman (see Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4).

2.    He was a descendant of Abraham (see Genesis 12:3, 7; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16).

3.    He was of the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:10; Hebrew 7:14; Revelation 5:5).

4.    He was of the house or family of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Luke 1:31-33; Romans 1:3).

5.    He was born of a virgin (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23)

6.    He was called Immanuel (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).

7.    He had a forerunner (see Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1; Mathew 3:1-3; Luke 1:76-78).

8.    He was born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5-6; Luke 2:4-6).

9.    He was worshipped by wise men and given gifts (see Psalm 72:10-11; Isaiah 60:3, 6, 9; Matthew 2:11).

10.  He was in Egypt for a season (see Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15).

11.  His birthplace was a place where infants were slaughtered (see Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18).

12.  He was zealous for the Father (see Psalm 69:9; John 2:17; John 6:37-40).

13.  He was filled with God’s Spirit (see Isaiah 11:2; Luke 4:18-19).

14.  He was a mighty healer (see Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1; Matthew 8:16-17).

15.  He ministered to the Gentiles (see Isaiah 9:1-2; 42:1-3; Matthew 4:13-16; 12:17-21).

16.  He spoke in parables (see Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:10-15).

17.  He was rejected by the Jewish people (see Psalm 69:8; Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11; 7:5).

18.  He made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (see Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4-5).

19.  He was praised by little children (see Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:16).

20.  He was the rejected cornerstone (see Psalm 118:22-23; Matthew 21:42).

21.  His miracles were not believed (see Isaiah 53:1; John 12:37-38).

22.  He was betrayed by His friend for thirty pieces of silver (see Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 25:14-16, 21-25).

23.  He was a Man of Sorrows (see Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 26:37-38).

24.  He was forsaken by His disciples (see Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 56).

25.  He was beaten and spit upon (see Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67; 27:26).

26.  His betrayal money was used to purchase a potter’s field (see Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10).

27.  He was executed by means of piercing His hands and feet (see Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34, 37).

28.  He was crucified between criminals (see Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38).

29.  He was given vinegar to drink (see Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34).

30.  His garments were divided, and soldiers gambled for them (see Psalm 22:18; Luke 23:34).

31.  He was surrounded and ridiculed by enemies (see Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:39-44).

32.  He was thirsty on the cross (see Psalm 22:15; John 19:28).

33.  He commended His spirit to the Father (see Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46).

34.  He uttered a forsaken cry on the cross (see Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46).

35.  He committed Himself to God (see Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46).

36.  He was hated without a cause (see Psalm 69:4; John 15:25).

37.  People shook their heads as they saw Him on the cross (see Psalm 109:25; Matthew 27:39).

38.  He was silent before His accusers (see Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12).

39.  His bones were not broken (see Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-36).

40.  He was stared at in death (see Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 27:36; John 19:37).

41.  He was buried with the rich (see Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60).

42.  He was raised from the dead (see Psalm 16:10; Matthew 28:2-7).

43.  He was and is a High Priest greater than Aaron (see Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:4-6).

44.  He ascended to glory (see Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8).

45.  He was and is seated at the right hand of the Father (see Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 10:12-13).[1]

In this list, we will quickly notice that #22-41 involve His betrayal, crucifixion, and death. One’s personal study of the above references would certainly be humbling and fruitful, yet it is what was accomplished IN the event of Jesus’ death that unifies the Scriptures and proclaims the heart of God for His fallen creation. 

In the cross, God is talking to mankind, displaying the atrocities of sin, the debt incurred, the payment demanded, and the necessary Provision graciously supplied. In every way, the cross of Jesus Christshould incite a sober sense of helplessness, an otherwise-untapped appreciation, and an instant swell of humility.

“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isa 45:22). It is with this verse that the whole process of the Foundational Framework began. It resonates straight from His heart, demonstraing the call of God Himself to the human race. We are often wandering, listless, and needy, yet wanting and scheming and lustful, all of which blind us from our bankrupt condition and separated status from the Almighty. 

God’s love for the world is still complete, unending, and unwavering despite our prideful justifications for our sin. The actual event of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ tells the story of God’s relationship with mankind in communicating a picture, a sacrifice, and a testimony. Herein lies the grand marker of all history and existence stretching to the farthest reaches of the universe. 

The cross is the centerpiece of all time, space, and existence. 
In the cross, God speaks.

A Picture

The prophet Isaiah writes, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa 53:4-6). 

The cross is a vivid and horrifying picture of our iniquity. We are told that He was chastened for our “well-being” (v.5b). This word means“completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.”[2]This line asserts the idea of substitution. The chastening of a child is for the correction of wrong done and for the future hope that their choices will be different. What would a father want more for their child than to live a peaceful, sound, and complete life? (See 1 Tim 2:1,2). This “chastening” fell upon Another, though it was to be administered in full force to us. Was it not OUR griefs (v.4a), OUR sorrows (v.4b), OUR transgressions (v.5a), OUR iniquities (v.5b), OUR going astray (v.6a), OUR turning to OUR own way (v.6b), and OUR iniquity (v.6c) that demands a recompense? And yet He steps into OUR place, receiving OUR punishment.  

The Savior was “struck down” (“smitten” in v.4d) by God with our transgressions being the cause for His judgment. The word “iniquity” in v.6 is translated consistently as such in the major English translations with the exception of the NLT, which uses “sins.” This Hebrew word encompasses the idea of guilt, and the punishment that is due for being guilty. 

God is righteous. No one can argue, for the basis of such an argument would need to supply a righteous standard than is greater than that of God Himself. No, God IS righteous, so we cannot presume that sins are simply passed over without Him taking notice.

Clearly, Isaiah is finding fault in those who have “gone astray” like sheep, having “turned to his own way” (v.6). Each of these descriptions point to the human propensity for selfish and sinful things. At the core, it is always a matter that originates in the heart, is fueled by our pride (ego), and seen in our daily living. Warren Wiersbe captures the thought in mind, writing “we are sinners by choiceand by nature. Like sheep, we are born with a nature that prompts us to go astray; and, like sheep, we foolishly decide to go our own way. By nature, we are born children of wrath (Eph. 2:3); and bychoice, we become children of disobedience (2:2).”[3]Whether in position or practice, we are emphatically stained with sinfulness.

This points us to an earlier truth depicted in the book of Leviticus.

In Leviticus 16, we find the requirements for Israel in offering an atonement for the sins of the people. While the whole chapter should be studied in great detail, some pertinent points in relation to the cross of Jesus Christ give us a greater comprehension of the picture of man’s sin that God was painting. In 16:2-3, we see that Aaron could not simply walk into the Holy of Holies without bringing what was required. Most significant is the bull that was needed to enter the presence of God (Lev 16:3, 6). This bull was sacrificed for the personal sins of the priest who would offer the sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the people. 

This fact is reinforced in Leviticus 16:11“Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself.” The need for Aaron’s atonement is mentioned twice in this verse, magnifying the sin of the priest and the need for atonement which would bring him back into a clean state before the Lord. While a thorough cleansing and a change of garments was also required to enter YHWH’s presence (Lev 16:4), it is the need for atonement that truly cleansed Aaron so that he could perform the necessary duties in bringing blood to the mercy seat for the atonement of the people. 

Sin is so thorough and so wretched that even the one serving as the intercessor, and making the offering for sins between YHWH and Israel, needed atonement. This is not so with Jesus. Hebrews 7:26-27tells us that “it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for allwhen He offered up Himself” (emphasis added). The sinlessness of Jesus makes Him a better priest who offers the necessary requirements for our atonement. 

In Leviticus 16:29there is a direct command as to when and how this “Day of Atonement” is to be observed. What is striking is the Lord’s pronouncement that “you shall humble your souls and not do any work.” This point is not simply about rest for the individual, but signifies that any work done would be in complete contradiction to the work that was being preformed on their behalf with the sacrifice of the lamb (Lev 16:9). YHWH understands man’s inherent propensity to justify himself, fix his own wrongs, and supply for his own needs. But when it comes to the matter of sin, which has greatly separated man from his Creator, God will have none of it. 

The works of man are not, and never will be, sufficient to atone for his sin. Robert Lightner captures this egotistical drive, writing “man has sought to make himself acceptable to God in a thousand different ways, but it still cannot be done. The ladder of human works is well-worn but too short. No man has or ever will reach God’s presence by climbing its rungs. Every such attempt, however small or large, is evidence that the condemned sinner does not really believe he stands condemned.”[4]

Did you catch that last part? The very idea that man can reconcile his relationship to God through “trying harder” or “doing better” is an admission that his condemnation before YHWH is merely partial or simply defective, rather than total and complete. 

At this point we must ask, “What does atonementmean?” The word “atonement” iskipperin Hebrew and would be most commonly understood today in relation to the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur being the “Day of Atonement.” Kipperis used 16 times in Leviticus 16 alone. It means “1. cover over, pacify, propitiate, 2. cover over, atone for sin, 3. cover over, atone for sin and persons by legal rites.”[5]
Notice that in each definition supplied, the concept of “cover over” is first, serving to remove the barrier that sin creates between God and man. 

Previously in Lesson 11, we saw a simple chart that helped us understand the facets of atonement. 

Substitution- Something living dies in place of the guilty party.
Propitiation- The offering satisfies the demands of a holy God.
Forgiveness- The debt has been met and is no longer an issue.

The picture painted before us in Scripture is that sin requires death and necessitates atonement so that man can stand in right relationship with YHWH God. This atonement was only found in the offering of another, for man can never atone for his own sin. 

A Sacrifice

In his book on the Tabernacle, M.R. DeHaan writes, “The altar is the Cross, the starting point of our experience of salvation.”[6]Many have viewed the cross as an execution device, and while it is very much that, there is something more taking place than just torture and death. The shedding of blood, Divine Blood, is being administered due to the sins of the world. The author of Hebrews tells us that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22b). This brings us back to the concept of atonement as stressed in Leviticus 16.

Why blood? What was significant about the necessity for blood in relation to sin? Again, this is a foundational truth first seen in Genesis 4:10where YHWH tells Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” In Genesis 9:4we find, “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood,” showing us that the life of a creature is found in the blood of a creature. In Leviticus 17:11we read, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” The Hebrew word for “life” is literally translated “soul,” which can be verified in all of the major passages that speak of one’s blood as being their “life” (See Deut 12:23). 

If we go further along to Leviticus 17:14, we read “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life.” DeWitt explains, “Since the blood is the literal vehicle of all life, whether animal or man, only it could adequately typify life, and give full meaning to God’s provision for the expiation of our sins, as well as the efficacy of Christ’s blood.”[7]Therefore, it is Christ’s perfect, law-abiding, God-honoring earthly life that is given as a sacrifice for the sins of the world; sins that He did not commit.

The conclusion may be that the demand for blood by a holy God is repulsive, abhorrent, and vile. But is this not what our sin is unto God? Nothing in sin is worthy, precious, or valuable. Nothing of sin is condoned. All sin is a personal offense to the Lord of glory, for it creates a thick-walled isolation between the Creator and His uniquely-designed creature. Thus, it is bright, red blood being presented before Him that demolishes the barriers that sin creates. We are told this fact in Ephesians 2:14-16. It states:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups (Jew and Gentile) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividingwall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two (Jew and Gentile) into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (emphasis added).

The blood of Jesus is the remedy for sin. Death, and this being the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, is the penalty for sin. It is the consequence for rebellion against God. D.L. Moody gives an illustration of the importance of this consequence:

“Suppose there was a law that man should not steal, but no penalty was attached to stealing; some man would have my pocketbook before dinner. If I threatened to have him arrested, he would snap his fingers in my face. He would not fear the law, if there was no penalty. It is not the law that people are afraid of; it is the penalty attached.

Do you suppose God has made a law without a penalty. What an absurd thing it would be! Now, the penalty for sin is death: ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ I must die, or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that, it doesn’t teach anything. And that is where the atonement of Jesus Christ comes in.”[8]

Atonement is truly a God-send, placing all of the deserved punishment on Another so that the guilty may be absolved of all wrongdoing.

A Testimony 

There is an inseparable link between the grace of God and the love of God. Both are what He is, and both are demonstrated in the cross. With the death of Jesus, we find an undeserved Provision (grace) anda visual depiction of the lengths to which God would go to reconcile His creatures to Himself.  

The manifestation of the Creator’s love for His creatures is shown in the death of Jesus Christ in place of the world, though they are fully culpable for their wrongdoing. This incredible transference (known as “imputation”) has been referenced through this series, and for each of these significant statements, we should ponder and worship the Most High God and His infinite mercy in providing a Savior for an ill-deserving people.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

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

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet 2:21-24).

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).

The cross of Jesus Christ is a testimony of God’s love for people even to the point of great personal cost. Jesus Christ is the substitute for our sins taking upon Himself the death that we all deserve. He loves us and He wants to be with us. Does that sink in? He loves you and me totally and sufficiently. 

Only the perfect life of His Son could overcome the separating effects that sin had caused in the Garden of Eden. And now God’s precious and costly gift in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ stands as the means of providing it freely to everyone who has ever lived, for every sin, including yours and mine, having been dismissed from our accounts permanently. Let’s turn to Jesus’ words on the cross.

Seconds before Jesus took His last breath, He was offered sour wine. Looking to John 19:28and seeing that this is a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21, Jesus took the wine. While He had refused a drink that acted as a sedative earlier (Matt 27:34), He now accepted this drink to quench His thirst so that He could declare that the debt incurred before God had been settle and satisfied. In John’s Gospel, we read, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). 

“It is finished.” This Greek word means, “to complete an activity or process, bring to an end, finish, complete,”[9]and was found to be the stamp of a satisfactory payment rendered on many sales receipts. It has been noted that the “perfect tense denotes the certainty of the fact.”[10]Some render this “paid in full,” having nothing left required or expected. No more lambs, no more blood, no more need or want. 

Jesus has finished the work that He was sent to do; to give His life, dying on the altar of the cross, as the Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29). 

We must remember, no one took His life from Him. No one forced their will against His and caused Him to submit to these unjust proceedings. Jesus tells us in John 10:17-18“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it  again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” This shows His willingness to die; His willingness to be the atonement on our behalf.

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In the cross, through the selfless giving of His Life, Jesus, God in the flesh, communicates:

A pictureof what the sin of mankind looks like in God’s eyes and the “covering” that we desperately needed;

A sacrificeof perfect blood that contains the very life of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, dying as our New Testament lamb;

A testimonyof the ever-abounding and unceasing love of God for His creatures, supplying the very means of rectifying all offenses that we have created. 

“In no way can the love of God be so clearly, beautifully and convincingly set forth as in the fact that God makes plain to the sinner his condition and peril, and then shows him the way of escape, having, in His great mercy, Himself provided it at infinite cost. Now, at this point the Gospel comes in as indeed good news, showing God’s love for the sinner.”[11]

[1]Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012), p. 31-33.

[2]Brown, Driver, Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 1022.

[3]Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), p. 138.

[4]Robert P. Lightner, Christ: His Cross, His Church, His Crown (Taos, NM: Dispensational Publishing House, 2018), p. 90.

[5]Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 497.

[6]M.R. DeHaan, The Tabernacle (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 9.

[7]Roy Lee DeWitt, Teaching from the Tabernacle(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), p. 126.

[8]D. L. Moody, Anecdotes, Incidents, and Illustrations(Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1898), p. 78–79.

[9]BDAG, p. 997.

[10]Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), p. 2121.

[11]Evangelist L. W. Munhall, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 161.

Foundational Frameworks Part 67 - The F-Train Part 3

This is a continuation of last weeks sermon and the notes are the same but they are included below.

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We have been physically born into a life that we cannot live because our only option in handling the problems of life is to do so sinfully. We must die to this life, and that is only possible by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are born into this world, we are dead to the things of God (Eph 2:1-2). But God makes us alive to Him at the moment that we believe in Jesus (Eph 2:5). This means that we have, in turn, died to sin, and have been raised to a newness of life.

The believer in Jesus Christ is placed “in Christ” at the moment of faith. This establishes the believer with a new identity, being a new creation, and now having a glorious standing of righteousness before a holy God. Jesus’ perfect provision is our distinct privilege.

Do we reallybelieve this? Our answer is predicated on our belief in the truthfulness of God’s Word, for in it are the factsof all history, seen and unseen, natural and supernatural, past, present, and future. 

Reality finds its meaning and purpose only in God’s holy Word.

Why are we Missing the Power to Live the Christian Life?

For many, Scripture seems disconnected from the “reality” of our modern age causing us to reluctantly dismiss the biblical record of the Holy Spirit’s work as borderline fiction. Such unbelief in the Bible’s accuracy has robbed us of the Spirit’s power in our lives. If we are not believing in what God has already said, why would we believe that He would work gloriously among us? When we render the Word of theLord as being mundane and ordinary, the Lord passes us by, just as He did in Nazareth. We are told haunting words by Matthew, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt 13:58). However, the Spirit’s power has been freely given to all who believe in Christ being freely available in abundance, and yet it lies dormant because of our unbelief, and more particularly our unbelief regarding what God has said in His holy Word. 

The believer in Christ is already “in Christ!” Thus, our position before God is one that is established in victory because Christ is victorious over sin, death, and the grave. His win is the provision for our lives to “win” also. Van Gelderen explains, “As children of God, Christ is living in each of us right now… Faith turns what is true provisionally into experience practically. We simply must choose to depend on the reality of the words declared by God in order to access the benefit of what God says is so.”[1]

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Believing His Word, moment by moment, is what it means to “abide,” and abiding in Christ is the answer to our power problem. Jesus references His own abiding in the Father in John 15:10. He tells His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just asI have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (emphasis added). Just as Jesus’ life was a model of constant obedience to the Father, so our lives in abiding in Christ must be one of constant obedience to Him. This is not a “do more, try harder” approach, but a “trust Him fully” way of thinking. No one obeys a command without believing it to be true. So it is with the relationship of “believing” and “obeying” in the Christian Life. This means that His Word is paramount and there are no worthy competitors. With His Word being our chiefconviction, we find our lives full of the Spirit’s power because all has come under submission to His will.[2]

R.A. Torrey brings understanding to Jesus’ words regarding the power that is available when the believer is abiding in Christ. He writes, “If we are to obtain from God all that we ask from Him, Christ’s words must abide or continue in us. We must study His words, fairly devour His words, let them sink into our thought and into our heart, keep them in our memory, obey them constantly in our life, let them shape and mold our daily life and our every act.

This is really the method of abiding in Christ. It is through His words that Jesus imparts Himself to us. The words He speaks unto us, they are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we meditate much upon the words of Christ, and let them sink deep and find a permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in their neglect of the words of Christ.”[3]

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Power in the Christian Life is NEVER our power, but the power of the Spirit flowing through us because we are in full dependency of the  Word of the indwelling Christ. We must well-remember that Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, and this Person operates and is who He is in complete consistency with His Word. This is a sound and consistent factto rest ourselves upon.

Factshave power, and those facts are found ONLY in God’s Word. When we speak of facts, we are speaking of authority. Understanding this, every situation, decision, and concern must have an authority in place. Therefore, it must be brought to the Word of God. It is the engine that provides the power for the F-Train to move forward. The remaining cars of faithand feelingshave no real power. Therefore,they only lead in wrong directions and to wrong responses. Their proper place is in submission to the authority (facts), for only the authority has power.

Sadly, there are many instances in life where God’s Word is not the authority. This finds the other cars of faithand feelingscompeting for the lead position, and in turn, stalling all progression and growth in the Christian Life. Let’s look at the problems that are created when God’s Truth is removed from the forefront of our lives.

When “Faith” is the Lead Car

This is a particularly sensitive area for many people because it strikes at the core convictions that one holds dear. Some have “grown up this way,” or “that’s just the way we do it,” or “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.” You get the picture. Using the above rationales are really a defense mechanism to excuse sin. Some of the common phrases that are identifiers of this are:

·      I believe…

·      I think…

·      You ought to…

·      You shouldn’t…

·      Well, everybody does/believes/etc.

·      Well, they say… (who are “they”?)

All of these have one thing in common: they are rooted in man’s opinion, having no foundation for their assertions, stemming from the biased minds and corrupted hearts of created, fallen beings. Each statement makes a man-centered assumption about how life should be or how situations and relationships should be handled, but fall seriously short when asked to provide a greater reason for these convictions other than, “Well, that’s just what I think ought to happen.” Life’s decisions should not be based on shaky ground.

Only God is True. Only God is Eternal. Only God is the Creator. Therefore, His commentary and interpretation of existence, as foundin the Bible, is the final authority, telling us the Truth (facts) about everything.

Though the person is obviously “believing” in something (faith), the object of their belief is not the Word of God. Therefore, it is considered unbelief, regardless of motives or heartfelt sincerity.

Paul stresses the maturity that comes from a church body that is benefiting from the implementation of the Word of God as they are being taught it. He writes, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). The “trickery of men” and “deceitful scheming” are the false convictions (faith) that stem from a sinful mindset. The Word of God must be at the forefront if we are to think correctly about life, existence, relationships, eternity, etc.

“I’m Religious”

Many people portray a sincere “faith” and they communicate this by stating, “I’m religious,” “well, my faith is my own,” or something like “you believe in your god and I will believe in mine.” Another favorite is, “I think that god would…” In each of these statements their convictions about deity are revealed, demonstrating a god who has been fashioned according to their personal expectations. The very idea of deity has been diluted seeing that man is really in control. This is exactly the type of deity that the human race clamors after… one that can do or not do, be or not be, everything that the person who worships it wishes that it would do or not do, be or not be. Who is REALLY superior in this relationship?

The self-serving nature of such diminished faithhas shown itself in all religions, being nothing new. Looking at Acts 17:22-27, we find Paul’s words to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Mars Hill. He notes that they are “very religious” (17:22). Faithis not their problem. They very much believe in a whole lot of gods, beings, and deities (17:16b). But as stated before, because their belief was not placed in the Wordof God, it is actually unbelief. Paul also notes one altar that was “to an unknown god” (17:23). Notice that this was a place of “worship” (feeling) that had an ascribed object as its focus (“an unknown god”) who is without identity or substance, having no foundation (unlike the factsof God’s Word). Yet, they were “very religious” (faith). 

How does Paul correct the F-TRAINof the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers?

Paul tells them the facts. Follow the train of thought (no pun intended): 1. God made the world (17:24a). He is the Creator of all things. 2. He is the “Lord (Master) of heaven and earth” (17:24b) who is beyond temples, structures, and altars (17:24c). 3. He is not served with human hands because He is self-sufficient and is in need of nothing (17:25a). 4. He is the one who gives the human race life and breath. He is the Life-Source (17:25b). 5. God created them, and every man who has ever lived (17:26a), and He alone determines the when and where of their existence (17:26b) so that every person would know Him personally (17:27). 

Paul gave these “very religious” people an engine (facts) to get their F-TRAIN moving. He immediately identified the problem that Athens was facing. They had faith, though it was faithin the wrong object (unbelief), and by worshiping these “unknown” gods and having an air of superiority (Acts 17:21), they had feelings(worship) that were being dictated by their misdirected faith/unbelief. What they needed was something worth believing in; something sure and certain; something worthy of devotion. So, Paul introduces to them their Creator (facts) so that they can believe in Him (faith) and worship (feelings) the right and true Object. 

It is essential for faithto always be found in the facts, for faithwill always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it. “Worship” (literally “worth-ship”) ascribes value to an object. If you are enthralled with a celebrity, it is because you believe (faith)that they have done well and you are ascribing a higher value to them. The feelingthat proceeds out from that conviction (faith)is elation, pride,or what have you, because worth has been ascribed to this object. Faith will always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it.

Misplacingfaith in something other than God’s Word leads to worship being ascribed to something other than God. This is the fabrication of idolatry in the heart, leaving one’s affections unchecked with trust and worth being issued to an object of complete inferiority. All things are less than God. Jeremiah the prophet exclaims, “There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might” (Jer 10:6).

Identity Crisis

One of the greatest cries among this current generation is “Who am I?” This question is a result of banning the Creator God from the education of children, and thus banning His given purpose for our identities. Today we are seeing a flesh-led quest for identity in YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., as well as the gay, lesbian, and transgender movement. Shock and awe are the calling cards of the culture and conformity is demanded in the name of originality (notice the contradictions that these worldviews create).

It was obvious that the Spirit wanted us to know our identities up front. Only twenty-six verses into the first chapter of the Bible we read, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen 1:26-28).

With His Word, God established the unchanging factof our identity. Every person is made in His likeness and in His image. This Truth holds great weight and significance, showing the Creator to be full of care and creating us for a purpose. Yet, our nation’s suicide rate among young people is skyrocketing. Could it be that the quest for “Who am I?” has already been answered by God, but the problem is that many are led to believe (faith) something else, leading to feelingsof inferiority, insignificance, and marginalization?

This is a factthat is true for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. For the believer, they have an extra advantage, with the Holy Spirit residing in them and leading them into all Truth (facts- John 16:13). These factskeep us grounded in trying times, for we have the risen Lord hiding us with Himself in the Father (Col 3:3). The believer has died to this life of sin and has been raised to a newness of life, being given a new identity by being “in Christ!” How helpful this is in such confusing and trying times. Handley Moule captures this, writing, “In temptation, in spiritual languor and decline, in care and perplexity and toil, let me draw upon the fact – not the feeling but the fact – of ‘Christ in me.’”[4]

When “Feelings” are the Lead Car

The idea that “feelings” can be the lead car are more of an excuse than a reality. What is meant by this is that all feelingsare actually a result of what it is that we are truly believing (faith), or what we are valuing as the “most true” concept at any given time. By believing something other than God’s Word, we have settled for a lesser truth that is really no truth at all because it is not God’s Truth (facts). 

In a situation where a heinous crime is committed because of someone’s reaction to something that they were surprised with, we may describe such rash actions as a “blind rage” (feelings). However, if the police believe that the person had pondered this crime for some time before committing it, they would call this “premeditated,” meaning that they had been believing (faith) this to be the right response for some time.We often phrase the reasons for our beliefs about something as “well, I feelthat…” when feelings are actually the result of our faithin a matter. When a reason is asked for why we did something wrong, we usually respond with a feelingsanswer: “I felt like I had to…” Many times, we find that the only way that we can express ourselves is in terms of feelings.

It would seem that the three most prominent feelingsthat we are faced with are doubt, anger, and revenge.

Doubt

InMatthew 11:2-6, we return to the moment where John the Baptist struggled with doubts (feelings) about Jesus being the Promised Messiah. Though he himself had been His forerunner, John’s present situation made his susceptible to doubts (feelings), finding himself in a prison at the order of King Herod, all because he stood up for the truth (facts). “Are You the Expected One,” he asked through his disciples, “or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:3). John’s feelingsabout his current situation had taken the place of the lead car, causing unbelief (faith) in who Jesus is. When we find ourselves in difficult situations, and especially in situations that are going to go on for some time, we may be tempted to lose faithin the facts

As a model example, Jesus does not scold John for his doubt (feelings), but turns his attention to the factsof Scripture: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt 11:5). All of this was happening in John’s day, yet, knowing the Scriptures, John would have understood that the prophecies of the Messiah as told by Isaiah were being fulfilled (Isa 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). Therefore, Jesus was placing the facts at the front of the conversation so that John would have faithin them, and in light of this new stability, his feelingswould change.

Assurance

This is true for those Christians who are struggling with an assurance of salvation. Whether it is where they are in life, their past sins creeping up to beat them down, or some ongoing sin in their lives that they just can’t shake, many Christians, who are eternally secure in Christ, frequently doubt their salvation. They feellike they are not saved. 

Because they are not willing to conclude that they are lost shows that they are not fully buying in (faith) to the idea, but they are struggling, nonetheless. In this case, feelingsare leading the train, faith is being placed in those feelings, which will ultimately cause a reinterpretation of the facts, concluding in something like “Jesus will only keep me saved if I am a good person who only commits little sins.” By letting their feelingstake the lead car, and by believing those feelingsas truth, the F-TRAINis now traveling backwards with the factsbeing reinterpreted by their feelings

Is this factual? What does the Truth (facts) say about this matter?

There are many verses and whole passages that could be cited that speak to the eternal, forever security of the believer in Christ, but we will only choose two, and with minimal elaboration. First, Romans 8:38-39states, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, not even ourselves, can separate us from the love of God. This is a fact; a Truth with power to propel us forward if we would only believe (faith) what God is telling us. If we do, we will not just feelsaved, we will feelblessed!

Another good passage that needs little explanation is 2 Timothy 2:13. It reads, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” The word “faithless” here actually means, “to have nobelief, disbelieve.”[5]This means that even if we are unbelieving in our lives, the Lord remains faithful to His promise of eternal life to us. Lea and Griffin explain this writing, “Paul was asserting that despite human unfaithfulness God’s saving purpose has not retreated. Timothy and all those with him were to continue their endurance that they might experience God’s blessing. Paul did not state these words to open the door to apostasy and disobedience but to soothe a troubled conscience and to provide encouragement to return to God.”[6]God is always faithful to His promises (facts) and He has promised us eternal life.

Anger

Anger is a big one! Everyone struggles with getting mad, and sometimes at the littlest things. However, being angry is not the real issue. As stated above, anger is the result (feeling) of a conviction (faith) that we are holding tightly. For those who seem to have a habitual problem with anger, their ultimate issue is the need to have control in situations. This is derived from a pride problem that believes (faith) that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Only their way is the correct way, and everyone else is “ignorant, stupid, uneducated,” or “means well, but they really don’t know what they are talking about.” This is pride, and when pride does not get its way, and a situation is not able to be controlled in the manner that “we think” (faith) it should be controlled, we get angry (feeling).

Pride is the exact same sin that the devil had/has (Isa 14:13-14). It is a natural conclusion to see that this should have no part in us. Pride asserts one’s rights and fosters entitlement (faith). We feellike we deserve something or should be listened to because of who we are or what we have done, but these are really the convictions that we hold dear (faith). None of this is acceptable before the eyes of the Father. 

Instead, we are to humble ourselves before Him. How do we correct the problem of our cars getting out of order when it comes to anger?

James 1:19b-20states, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Being rash (feelings) never works. What we should seek in every situation is for God’s righteousness to shine forth and be the center of attention. Only He is right (facts), we are not. Our anger (feelings) will not accomplish His righteousness in any situation. Therefore, anger must be abandoned as a suitable option in handling conflict. By holding fast to this Truth (fact) and believing (faith) that it is in fact true, our feelingswill come to a place of humility knowing that it is possible for God’s righteousness to be displayed in every trial. This is not a “maybe” situation, but a certainty that rests upon our submission to His Word (facts). Will He not do what He has said?

Biblically speaking, it is not wrong to be angry if you are angry about the right things. Ephesians 4:26-27says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” You can be angry about something and not sin. But the way to allow for anger to become sin is if you are not dealing with it properly. If it is prolonged, the devil will grab a foothold in your life. Being angry because of the abortion problem in the United States is a real and right reason to be angry. Being angry because you were lied to is a legitimate reason because truth (facts) has been bypassed for falsehood. But each of these situations needs to be addressed in the heart and brought before the Lord. They are not to fester and grow to an unhealthy dynamic. You see, feelingsare not bad when they are properly placed at the end of the train because of the faiththat you are exercising in the Truth of God’s Word (facts).

Revenge

We’ve all been there. When someone has wronged us, they need to pay! So, we devise ways in our mind that they are going to pay, how we wish to see them pay, or how we are going to make them pay(feelings). The factis, we have been wronged and we will not allow ourselves to be treated in such a horrible fashion (feelings). So, obviously revenge is the best option… or is it?

In Romans 12:19, Paul writes, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” This is Truth (fact). We may feeldisenfranchised in some way, but we must remember that the Lord knows all things and that He will bring all situations to justice. By claiming (faith) this Truth (fact), we can now rest (feeling) in God’s care, knowing that He will take care of what or who has wronged us with much greater precision than we would ever be able to muster in our sinful flesh.

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Q: Do you believe what God has said about who you are, your current situation, the choices that you are making, or the handling of your future? If not, why not? 

Q: Where did God get it wrong? Where has His Word misspoken? How has He failed you in the past convincing you that you cannot trust Him anymore? 

Such questions should expose the root of the real reason why we are not trusting what He has already said in His Word. We are either convinced that there is a greater truth than what He has said about a particular matter (faith)or we know that His Word will keep us from the excitingly sinful situation that our flesh wants to participate in (feelings). Such conclusions dismiss the factsaltogether, exchanging God’s revealed Word for our sinful desires. 

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It is possible to abide in Christ. We can experience the fullness of who He is because He is in us. In looking to Him as the Truth, and therefore looking to God’s Word as given through Him, we are submitted to His facts. He is so much more than many of us initially think or believe. 

Let’s close by illustrating this with a personal account of this grand realization. Charles Trumbull (1872-1941) was the editor of the Sunday School Times periodical. He was a committed and devout man, constantly championing the cause of Christ for some twenty years before He fully grasped the significance of Christ in him. He obviously knew the Word and all that it taught of Christ and the Christian Life, but he came to realize that he was not confidently convinced of what it was actually saying to him about the nature of Christ’s Life in relationship to his person. 

In the profound little booklet The Life That Wins, we find his personal testimony in coming to this profound realization. He writes, “I had always known that Christ was my Savior, but I had looked upon Him as an external Savior, one who did a saving work forme from outside, as it were; one who was ready to come close alongside and stay by me, helping me in all that I needed, giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I knew something better than that. At last I realized that Jesus Christ was actually and literally withinme and that He had constituted Himself my very life, taking me into union with Himself- my body, mind, and spirit- while I still had my own identity and free will and full moral responsibility. Was not this better than having Him as a helper or even than having Him as an external Savior? To have him, Jesus Christ, God the Son, as my own very life. It meant that I need never again ask Him to help me as though He were one and I another, but rather simply to do His work, His will in me and with me and through me. My body was His, my mind His, my will His, my spirit His- and not merely His but literally a part of Him. What He asked me to recognize was that ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.’ Jesus Christ had constituted Himself my life- not as a figure of speech, remember, but as a literal, actual fact, as literal as the fact that a certain tree has been made into this desk on which my hand rests. For ‘your bodies are members of Christ,’ and ‘ye are the body of Christ.’”[7]

The F-TRAINis a simple illustration that points to this greater truth. Christ, the Word of God, is telling us the Truth (facts) about life, reality, and Himself. His Word is giving us the answers, the factsabout every situation. By believing (faith) upon what He has already told us, we find heights previously unknown and provision much deeper than first assumed. How can humility and gratitude (feelings) not be the result of such amazing grace? “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11b). To live our lives in the light of His Truth (facts) is to have Him live His Life through us. This is most certainly a Life worth living!


[1]John Van Gelderen, Experiencing Jesus: Personal Revival Through the Spirit-Filled Life(Ann Arbor, MI: Revival Focus, 2017), p. 105-106.

[2]See H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 65-71.

[3]Reuben Archer Torrey, How to Pray(Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company, 1900), p. 71–72.

[4]H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 54.

[5]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 57.

[6]Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p. 211.

[7]Charles G. Trumbull, The Life That Wins(Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2015), p. 20-21.

Foundational Framework 67 - The F-Train Part 2

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We have been physically born into a life that we cannot live because our only option in handling the problems of life is to do so sinfully. We must die to this life, and that is only possible by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are born into this world, we are dead to the things of God (Eph 2:1-2). But God makes us alive to Him at the moment that we believe in Jesus (Eph 2:5). This means that we have, in turn, died to sin, and have been raised to a newness of life.

The believer in Jesus Christ is placed “in Christ” at the moment of faith. This establishes the believer with a new identity, being a new creation, and now having a glorious standing of righteousness before a holy God. Jesus’ perfect provision is our distinct privilege.

Do we reallybelieve this? Our answer is predicated on our belief in the truthfulness of God’s Word, for in it are the factsof all history, seen and unseen, natural and supernatural, past, present, and future. 

Reality finds its meaning and purpose only in God’s holy Word.

Why are we Missing the Power to Live the Christian Life?

For many, Scripture seems disconnected from the “reality” of our modern age causing us to reluctantly dismiss the biblical record of the Holy Spirit’s work as borderline fiction. Such unbelief in the Bible’s accuracy has robbed us of the Spirit’s power in our lives. If we are not believing in what God has already said, why would we believe that He would work gloriously among us? When we render the Word of theLord as being mundane and ordinary, the Lord passes us by, just as He did in Nazareth. We are told haunting words by Matthew, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt 13:58). However, the Spirit’s power has been freely given to all who believe in Christ being freely available in abundance, and yet it lies dormant because of our unbelief, and more particularly our unbelief regarding what God has said in His holy Word. 

The believer in Christ is already “in Christ!” Thus, our position before God is one that is established in victory because Christ is victorious over sin, death, and the grave. His win is the provision for our lives to “win” also. Van Gelderen explains, “As children of God, Christ is living in each of us right now… Faith turns what is true provisionally into experience practically. We simply must choose to depend on the reality of the words declared by God in order to access the benefit of what God says is so.”[1]

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Believing His Word, moment by moment, is what it means to “abide,” and abiding in Christ is the answer to our power problem. Jesus references His own abiding in the Father in John 15:10. He tells His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just asI have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (emphasis added). Just as Jesus’ life was a model of constant obedience to the Father, so our lives in abiding in Christ must be one of constant obedience to Him. This is not a “do more, try harder” approach, but a “trust Him fully” way of thinking. No one obeys a command without believing it to be true. So it is with the relationship of “believing” and “obeying” in the Christian Life. This means that His Word is paramount and there are no worthy competitors. With His Word being our chiefconviction, we find our lives full of the Spirit’s power because all has come under submission to His will.[2]

R.A. Torrey brings understanding to Jesus’ words regarding the power that is available when the believer is abiding in Christ. He writes, “If we are to obtain from God all that we ask from Him, Christ’s words must abide or continue in us. We must study His words, fairly devour His words, let them sink into our thought and into our heart, keep them in our memory, obey them constantly in our life, let them shape and mold our daily life and our every act.

This is really the method of abiding in Christ. It is through His words that Jesus imparts Himself to us. The words He speaks unto us, they are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we meditate much upon the words of Christ, and let them sink deep and find a permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in their neglect of the words of Christ.”[3]

Power in the Christian Life is NEVER our power, but the power of the Spirit flowing through us because we are in full dependency of the  Word of the indwelling Christ. We must well-remember that Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, and this Person operates and is who He is in complete consistency with His Word. This is a sound and consistent fact to rest ourselves upon.

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Facts have power, and those facts are found ONLY in God’s Word. When we speak of facts, we are speaking of authority. Understanding this, every situation, decision, and concern must have an authority in place. Therefore, it must be brought to the Word of God. It is the engine that provides the power for the F-Train to move forward. The remaining cars of faithand feelingshave no real power. Therefore,they only lead in wrong directions and to wrong responses. Their proper place is in submission to the authority (facts), for only the authority has power.

Sadly, there are many instances in life where God’s Word is not the authority. This finds the other cars of faithand feelingscompeting for the lead position, and in turn, stalling all progression and growth in the Christian Life. Let’s look at the problems that are created when God’s Truth is removed from the forefront of our lives.

When “Faith” is the Lead Car

This is a particularly sensitive area for many people because it strikes at the core convictions that one holds dear. Some have “grown up this way,” or “that’s just the way we do it,” or “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.” You get the picture. Using the above rationales are really a defense mechanism to excuse sin. Some of the common phrases that are identifiers of this are:

·      I believe…

·      I think…

·      You ought to…

·      You shouldn’t…

·      Well, everybody does/believes/etc.

·      Well, they say… (who are “they”?)

All of these have one thing in common: they are rooted in man’s opinion, having no foundation for their assertions, stemming from the biased minds and corrupted hearts of created, fallen beings. Each statement makes a man-centered assumption about how life should be or how situations and relationships should be handled, but fall seriously short when asked to provide a greater reason for these convictions other than, “Well, that’s just what I think ought to happen.” Life’s decisions should not be based on shaky ground.

Only God is True. Only God is Eternal. Only God is the Creator. Therefore, His commentary and interpretation of existence, as foundin the Bible, is the final authority, telling us the Truth (facts) about everything.

Though the person is obviously “believing” in something (faith), the object of their belief is not the Word of God. Therefore, it is considered unbelief, regardless of motives or heartfelt sincerity.

Paul stresses the maturity that comes from a church body that is benefiting from the implementation of the Word of God as they are being taught it. He writes, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). The “trickery of men” and “deceitful scheming” are the false convictions (faith) that stem from a sinful mindset. The Word of God must be at the forefront if we are to think correctly about life, existence, relationships, eternity, etc.

“I’m Religious”

Many people portray a sincere “faith” and they communicate this by stating, “I’m religious,” “well, my faith is my own,” or something like “you believe in your god and I will believe in mine.” Another favorite is, “I think that god would…” In each of these statements their convictions about deity are revealed, demonstrating a god who has been fashioned according to their personal expectations. The very idea of deity has been diluted seeing that man is really in control. This is exactly the type of deity that the human race clamors after… one that can do or not do, be or not be, everything that the person who worships it wishes that it would do or not do, be or not be. Who is REALLY superior in this relationship?

The self-serving nature of such diminished faithhas shown itself in all religions, being nothing new. Looking at Acts 17:22-27, we find Paul’s words to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Mars Hill. He notes that they are “very religious” (17:22). Faithis not their problem. They very much believe in a whole lot of gods, beings, and deities (17:16b). But as stated before, because their belief was not placed in the Wordof God, it is actually unbelief. Paul also notes one altar that was “to an unknown god” (17:23). Notice that this was a place of “worship” (feeling) that had an ascribed object as its focus (“an unknown god”) who is without identity or substance, having no foundation (unlike the factsof God’s Word). Yet, they were “very religious” (faith). 

How does Paul correct the F-TRAINof the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers?

Paul tells them the facts. Follow the train of thought (no pun intended): 1. God made the world (17:24a). He is the Creator of all things. 2. He is the “Lord (Master) of heaven and earth” (17:24b) who is beyond temples, structures, and altars (17:24c). 3. He is not served with human hands because He is self-sufficient and is in need of nothing (17:25a). 4. He is the one who gives the human race life and breath. He is the Life-Source (17:25b). 5. God created them, and every man who has ever lived (17:26a), and He alone determines the when and where of their existence (17:26b) so that every person would know Him personally (17:27). 

Paul gave these “very religious” people an engine (facts) to get their F-TRAIN moving. He immediately identified the problem that Athens was facing. They had faith, though it was faithin the wrong object (unbelief), and by worshiping these “unknown” gods and having an air of superiority (Acts 17:21), they had feelings(worship) that were being dictated by their misdirected faith/unbelief. What they needed was something worth believing in; something sure and certain; something worthy of devotion. So, Paul introduces to them their Creator (facts) so that they can believe in Him (faith) and worship (feelings) the right and true Object. 

It is essential for faithto always be found in the facts, for faithwill always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it. “Worship” (literally “worth-ship”) ascribes value to an object. If you are enthralled with a celebrity, it is because you believe (faith)that they have done well and you are ascribing a higher value to them. The feelingthat proceeds out from that conviction (faith)is elation, pride,or what have you, because worth has been ascribed to this object. Faith will always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it.

Misplacingfaith in something other than God’s Word leads to worship being ascribed to something other than God. This is the fabrication of idolatry in the heart, leaving one’s affections unchecked with trust and worth being issued to an object of complete inferiority. All things are less than God. Jeremiah the prophet exclaims, “There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might” (Jer 10:6).

Identity Crisis

One of the greatest cries among this current generation is “Who am I?” This question is a result of banning the Creator God from the education of children, and thus banning His given purpose for our identities. Today we are seeing a flesh-led quest for identity in YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., as well as the gay, lesbian, and transgender movement. Shock and awe are the calling cards of the culture and conformity is demanded in the name of originality (notice the contradictions that these worldviews create).

It was obvious that the Spirit wanted us to know our identities up front. Only twenty-six verses into the first chapter of the Bible we read, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen 1:26-28).

With His Word, God established the unchanging factof our identity. Every person is made in His likeness and in His image. This Truth holds great weight and significance, showing the Creator to be full of care and creating us for a purpose. Yet, our nation’s suicide rate among young people is skyrocketing. Could it be that the quest for “Who am I?” has already been answered by God, but the problem is that many are led to believe (faith) something else, leading to feelingsof inferiority, insignificance, and marginalization?

This is a factthat is true for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. For the believer, they have an extra advantage, with the Holy Spirit residing in them and leading them into all Truth (facts- John 16:13). These factskeep us grounded in trying times, for we have the risen Lord hiding us with Himself in the Father (Col 3:3). The believer has died to this life of sin and has been raised to a newness of life, being given a new identity by being “in Christ!” How helpful this is in such confusing and trying times. Handley Moule captures this, writing, “In temptation, in spiritual languor and decline, in care and perplexity and toil, let me draw upon the fact – not the feeling but the fact – of ‘Christ in me.’”[4]

When “Feelings” are the Lead Car

The idea that “feelings” can be the lead car are more of an excuse than a reality. What is meant by this is that all feelingsare actually a result of what it is that we are truly believing (faith), or what we are valuing as the “most true” concept at any given time. By believing something other than God’s Word, we have settled for a lesser truth that is really no truth at all because it is not God’s Truth (facts). 

In a situation where a heinous crime is committed because of someone’s reaction to something that they were surprised with, we may describe such rash actions as a “blind rage” (feelings). However, if the police believe that the person had pondered this crime for some time before committing it, they would call this “premeditated,” meaning that they had been believing (faith) this to be the right response for some time.We often phrase the reasons for our beliefs about something as “well, I feelthat…” when feelings are actually the result of our faithin a matter. When a reason is asked for why we did something wrong, we usually respond with a feelingsanswer: “I felt like I had to…” Many times, we find that the only way that we can express ourselves is in terms of feelings.

It would seem that the three most prominent feelingsthat we are faced with are doubt, anger, and revenge.

Doubt

InMatthew 11:2-6, we return to the moment where John the Baptist struggled with doubts (feelings) about Jesus being the Promised Messiah. Though he himself had been His forerunner, John’s present situation made his susceptible to doubts (feelings), finding himself in a prison at the order of King Herod, all because he stood up for the truth (facts). “Are You the Expected One,” he asked through his disciples, “or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:3). John’s feelingsabout his current situation had taken the place of the lead car, causing unbelief (faith) in who Jesus is. When we find ourselves in difficult situations, and especially in situations that are going to go on for some time, we may be tempted to lose faithin the facts

As a model example, Jesus does not scold John for his doubt (feelings), but turns his attention to the factsof Scripture: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt 11:5). All of this was happening in John’s day, yet, knowing the Scriptures, John would have understood that the prophecies of the Messiah as told by Isaiah were being fulfilled (Isa 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). Therefore, Jesus was placing the facts at the front of the conversation so that John would have faithin them, and in light of this new stability, his feelingswould change.

Assurance

This is true for those Christians who are struggling with an assurance of salvation. Whether it is where they are in life, their past sins creeping up to beat them down, or some ongoing sin in their lives that they just can’t shake, many Christians, who are eternally secure in Christ, frequently doubt their salvation. They feellike they are not saved. 

Because they are not willing to conclude that they are lost shows that they are not fully buying in (faith) to the idea, but they are struggling, nonetheless. In this case, feelingsare leading the train, faith is being placed in those feelings, which will ultimately cause a reinterpretation of the facts, concluding in something like “Jesus will only keep me saved if I am a good person who only commits little sins.” By letting their feelingstake the lead car, and by believing those feelingsas truth, the F-TRAINis now traveling backwards with the factsbeing reinterpreted by their feelings

Is this factual? What does the Truth (facts) say about this matter?

There are many verses and whole passages that could be cited that speak to the eternal, forever security of the believer in Christ, but we will only choose two, and with minimal elaboration. First, Romans 8:38-39states, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, not even ourselves, can separate us from the love of God. This is a fact; a Truth with power to propel us forward if we would only believe (faith) what God is telling us. If we do, we will not just feelsaved, we will feelblessed!

Another good passage that needs little explanation is 2 Timothy 2:13. It reads, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” The word “faithless” here actually means, “to have nobelief, disbelieve.”[5]This means that even if we are unbelieving in our lives, the Lord remains faithful to His promise of eternal life to us. Lea and Griffin explain this writing, “Paul was asserting that despite human unfaithfulness God’s saving purpose has not retreated. Timothy and all those with him were to continue their endurance that they might experience God’s blessing. Paul did not state these words to open the door to apostasy and disobedience but to soothe a troubled conscience and to provide encouragement to return to God.”[6]God is always faithful to His promises (facts) and He has promised us eternal life.

Anger

Anger is a big one! Everyone struggles with getting mad, and sometimes at the littlest things. However, being angry is not the real issue. As stated above, anger is the result (feeling) of a conviction (faith) that we are holding tightly. For those who seem to have a habitual problem with anger, their ultimate issue is the need to have control in situations. This is derived from a pride problem that believes (faith) that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Only their way is the correct way, and everyone else is “ignorant, stupid, uneducated,” or “means well, but they really don’t know what they are talking about.” This is pride, and when pride does not get its way, and a situation is not able to be controlled in the manner that “we think” (faith) it should be controlled, we get angry (feeling).

Pride is the exact same sin that the devil had/has (Isa 14:13-14). It is a natural conclusion to see that this should have no part in us. Pride asserts one’s rights and fosters entitlement (faith). We feellike we deserve something or should be listened to because of who we are or what we have done, but these are really the convictions that we hold dear (faith). None of this is acceptable before the eyes of the Father. 

Instead, we are to humble ourselves before Him. How do we correct the problem of our cars getting out of order when it comes to anger?

James 1:19b-20states, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Being rash (feelings) never works. What we should seek in every situation is for God’s righteousness to shine forth and be the center of attention. Only He is right (facts), we are not. Our anger (feelings) will not accomplish His righteousness in any situation. Therefore, anger must be abandoned as a suitable option in handling conflict. By holding fast to this Truth (fact) and believing (faith) that it is in fact true, our feelingswill come to a place of humility knowing that it is possible for God’s righteousness to be displayed in every trial. This is not a “maybe” situation, but a certainty that rests upon our submission to His Word (facts). Will He not do what He has said?

Biblically speaking, it is not wrong to be angry if you are angry about the right things. Ephesians 4:26-27says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” You can be angry about something and not sin. But the way to allow for anger to become sin is if you are not dealing with it properly. If it is prolonged, the devil will grab a foothold in your life. Being angry because of the abortion problem in the United States is a real and right reason to be angry. Being angry because you were lied to is a legitimate reason because truth (facts) has been bypassed for falsehood. But each of these situations needs to be addressed in the heart and brought before the Lord. They are not to fester and grow to an unhealthy dynamic. You see, feelingsare not bad when they are properly placed at the end of the train because of the faiththat you are exercising in the Truth of God’s Word (facts).

Revenge

We’ve all been there. When someone has wronged us, they need to pay! So, we devise ways in our mind that they are going to pay, how we wish to see them pay, or how we are going to make them pay(feelings). The factis, we have been wronged and we will not allow ourselves to be treated in such a horrible fashion (feelings). So, obviously revenge is the best option… or is it?

In Romans 12:19, Paul writes, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” This is Truth (fact). We may feeldisenfranchised in some way, but we must remember that the Lord knows all things and that He will bring all situations to justice. By claiming (faith) this Truth (fact), we can now rest (feeling) in God’s care, knowing that He will take care of what or who has wronged us with much greater precision than we would ever be able to muster in our sinful flesh.

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Q: Do you believe what God has said about who you are, your current situation, the choices that you are making, or the handling of your future? If not, why not? 

Q: Where did God get it wrong? Where has His Word misspoken? How has He failed you in the past convincing you that you cannot trust Him anymore? 

Such questions should expose the root of the real reason why we are not trusting what He has already said in His Word. We are either convinced that there is a greater truth than what He has said about a particular matter (faith)or we know that His Word will keep us from the excitingly sinful situation that our flesh wants to participate in (feelings). Such conclusions dismiss the factsaltogether, exchanging God’s revealed Word for our sinful desires. 

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It is possible to abide in Christ. We can experience the fullness of who He is because He is in us. In looking to Him as the Truth, and therefore looking to God’s Word as given through Him, we are submitted to His facts. He is so much more than many of us initially think or believe. 

Let’s close by illustrating this with a personal account of this grand realization. Charles Trumbull (1872-1941) was the editor of the Sunday School Times periodical. He was a committed and devout man, constantly championing the cause of Christ for some twenty years before He fully grasped the significance of Christ in him. He obviously knew the Word and all that it taught of Christ and the Christian Life, but he came to realize that he was not confidently convinced of what it was actually saying to him about the nature of Christ’s Life in relationship to his person. 

In the profound little booklet The Life That Wins, we find his personal testimony in coming to this profound realization. He writes, “I had always known that Christ was my Savior, but I had looked upon Him as an external Savior, one who did a saving work forme from outside, as it were; one who was ready to come close alongside and stay by me, helping me in all that I needed, giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I knew something better than that. At last I realized that Jesus Christ was actually and literally withinme and that He had constituted Himself my very life, taking me into union with Himself- my body, mind, and spirit- while I still had my own identity and free will and full moral responsibility. Was not this better than having Him as a helper or even than having Him as an external Savior? To have him, Jesus Christ, God the Son, as my own very life. It meant that I need never again ask Him to help me as though He were one and I another, but rather simply to do His work, His will in me and with me and through me. My body was His, my mind His, my will His, my spirit His- and not merely His but literally a part of Him. What He asked me to recognize was that ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.’ Jesus Christ had constituted Himself my life- not as a figure of speech, remember, but as a literal, actual fact, as literal as the fact that a certain tree has been made into this desk on which my hand rests. For ‘your bodies are members of Christ,’ and ‘ye are the body of Christ.’”[7]

The F-TRAINis a simple illustration that points to this greater truth. Christ, the Word of God, is telling us the Truth (facts) about life, reality, and Himself. His Word is giving us the answers, the factsabout every situation. By believing (faith) upon what He has already told us, we find heights previously unknown and provision much deeper than first assumed. How can humility and gratitude (feelings) not be the result of such amazing grace? “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11b). To live our lives in the light of His Truth (facts) is to have Him live His Life through us. This is most certainly a Life worth living!

[1]John Van Gelderen, Experiencing Jesus: Personal Revival Through the Spirit-Filled Life(Ann Arbor, MI: Revival Focus, 2017), p. 105-106.

[2]See H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 65-71.

[3]Reuben Archer Torrey, How to Pray(Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company, 1900), p. 71–72.

[4]H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 54.

[5]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 57.

[6]Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p. 211.

[7]Charles G. Trumbull, The Life That Wins(Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2015), p. 20-21.

Foundational Framework 66 - The F-Train Part 1

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What does it mean to “abide?” When Jesus calls us to “abide” in Him, He is calling us to “remain, stay put, continue on, cling to.” He alone is the object to which we are to abide, and He alone is the Source of supplying our growth and the ability to bringing forth fruit. It must be clearly recognized, though our society fights it tooth and nail, that Jesus supplies the power, that Jesus brings the growth, and that all ability in bearing fruit is Jesus' ability. He is our nourishment and nothing else.

John 15 shows Jesus likening Himself to a Vine and designating His followers as branches (15:4). Jesus wants to do great things with us; God-things through us. This is only possible by abiding in Him, looking to Him for nourishment, direction, power, and fruit. “Self” has no place in abiding in Him. Abiding takes the place of “self” in every area, for when one abides in Christ, they are steadfast in their position as a creature in need of everything and submitting his or herself to the Creator who supplies everything. Abiding strips us of our pitiful sufficiency, which is really no sufficiency at all, being only a poor and broken substitute for the genuine article made freely available in Christ. 

Our broken substitute my give off the appearance of genuine holiness and reliance upon the living God, but our ornate mausoleum will always reveal the dead bones of “self” and the sad remnants of the flesh. The only need in the Christian Life is the full acceptance of all that the believer already has and is in Christ. The key is dependency.

Abiding is based on the acceptance of the truths of living the Christ-Life as seen in God’s Word. This is what Bishop Handley Moule calls the “dethronement of self”[1]because we have been confidently convinced that there is a better Answer, being a better Source of nourishment in every single area of our lives.

Every Christian knows that this is the answer to the deep longing that gnaws away at the soul. The intimacy that satisfies is our insatiable desire, and we acknowledge this repeatedly by the events and relationships that we choose to surround ourselves with. Being in Christ, this is only heightened to a previously unknown extreme, having understood something of the goodness of Jesus in forgiving sin and giving the one who believes eternal life. Great and glorious are these blessings and both are exceedingly abundant in their provision, such that we will not be able to understand them on this side of Heaven, and though having glorified bodies, we may still be found lacking in our comprehension when we are “with Him always.”

Because of our flesh, many of us need incentive. We need to be convinced that the decision to abide is worth making if we are going to make it. This should not be surprising. As we have brought up repeatedly, Jesus had to tell His disciples, those who were following Him closely, that if they loved Him, they would keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21). 

If abiding is essential, what are the present benefits for the believer when they are abiding in Christ? According to John 15:1-11, they are:

·     Bearing Fruit- (15:2, 4, 5)

·     Effective Prayer- (15:7)

·     The Father is Glorified- (15:8a)

·     “Come into Being” a Disciple- (15:8b)

·     The Joy of Jesus in us- (15:11a)

·     Our Joy is Made Full- (15:11b) 

There is nothing but gain to be had in abiding in Christ. All that is listed above is holy and pure, and right, both in the here and now and in eternity.  

ATTITUDE & PERSPECTIVE 

The Apostle Paul writes of this intimacy in a way that would be deemed as the delusional writings of a madman when he states, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my ownderived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faiththat I may know Himand the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:8b-11, emphasis added). 

Some may read this and conclude that Paul is speaking of justification and that his main thrust is what his life must look like in order to go to heaven when he dies. But this view places one’s works and behavior as an indispensable ingredient to eternal life, expelling entirely the notion that it is a free gift (John 3:16; Rom 5:15, 18). The context shows us that the righteousness in view is a practicalrighteousness and not the positionalrighteousness of justification. 

In living his life, Paul understands that any “righteousness” of his own is not righteousness at all. He best deeds are sin without Christ at their center. All that he may have gained in this life is concluded to be trash before the Lord. Such things, if deemed important, could usurp his dependency in all that Christ is for him, thus becoming a god. Material goods, and immaterial values like “intuition,” are but daily distractions and barriers to the risen Christ living His glorious life through the apostle. This approach to life will always be unsatisfying, and Paul knows it. This is why he champions “faith” as the only path to practical righteousness.

Paul’s desire is to “know Him,” with “know” speaking to an experiential knowledge. Paul’s thoughts look to “the power of His resurrection,” not His death. Wuest notes this well, writing, “The tense causes us to translate, ‘to come to know by experience.’ Paul wants to come to know the Lord Jesus in that fullness of experimental knowledge which is only wrought by being like Him. He wants to know also in an experiential way the power of Christ’s resurrection. That is, he wants to experience the same power which raised Christ from the dead surging through his own being, overcoming sin in his life and producing the Christian graces.”[2]Paul is speaking of the Life of Christ being lived through him. 

Paul also speaks of the “fellowship of His sufferings,” which point to living in the trials of this life with the perfection of Christ’s Life always at the ready. This returns the believer to the nature of trials. Trials provide the opportunity to trust in the God of glory. Believing in Jesus resulting in the forgiveness of sin and a receiving of the gift of eternal life is the greatest need in all of existence, but for some reason it is there that we stop in our belief and handle the smaller, temporal situations of life with unbelief. In Romans, Paul rationalizes the absurdity of this approach, writing, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). The sufficiency of the greater promise of eternal life, ensured by the perfect shedding of His blood, exposes our unbelief when we conclude that our lesser worries are not covered by Him. Essentially, we are saying that He did not “save to the uttermost” (Heb 7:24-25, ESV).

Paul also speaks of his conforming to Jesus’ death as being the means to attaining “the resurrection from the dead.” Again, the “works-salvation” crowd will quickly pipe up to say that unless a person iswilling to conform to the death of Christ in their daily life, they will not attain this resurrection, thus showing themselves as being unsaved.[3]This conclusion obviously violates the foundational principle that salvation is by “faith alone,” but also fails to give the proper attention to the word “resurrection” in v.11. 

The word that is normally used for “resurrection” is anastasis, but the word that Paul uses here is bekanastasis, with ekmeaning “out of.” Dillow explains that ek“intensifies the noun; it is an ‘out-resurrection,’ a ‘full resurrection,’ a fuller experience of resurrection life. This is the prize/reward of the games that is awarded by the judge. It is his reward for faithful service.”[4]Paul uses this word intentionally in reference to the eternal outcome of the one who abides in Christ. For them, there will be reward, a fullness of eternal life, and opportunities granted to rule and reign with Christ. The time of self-denial will be difficult in the present, but worth it in the end (Rom 8:18). 

From Paul’s words in Philippians 3, we can see that our obedience in abiding in Christ gives us a fuller life in the future. 

HOW?

How does the Christian “abide” in Christ without wavering to the right or to the left? To put it plainly, the only way to abide is by applying the Word to our lives. This is often mistaken as a call to “do something,” but this is a works answer to a faith problem. To abide, the believer is to yield to the commands, precepts, and promises of the Word of God, believing them to be true in spite of their circumstances or environment. We simply need to “get out of theway” of Christ living His Life through us and submit to His leading as plainly stated in the Word of God.  

There are three basic tenets that, when placed in the proper order, have guaranteed our desired end. Let’s look at each one briefly, focusing on the main points of each, and then provide a simple illustration, that will help in the application of these tenets. 

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FACTS- When we speak of “Facts,” we are speaking of truth. The question being asked is “What is real?” When we speak of ultimate truth, we are speaking of a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only what God has said is true, and that He “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:2a), showing that Christ is the pinnacle revelation of God speaking. Jesus Christ is everything that God wishes to say to the human race. As noted before, all of the Old Testament prepares us for Him, while the New Testament explains the fullness of Him. 

All unbelief is a suppression of Truth, though the truth has been clearly revealed (Rom 1:18-20). The world system has been orchestrated by Satan to fool all people into believing that there is “more than one truth,” that “all roads lead to God,” that “it might be true for you but it is not true for me,” and in turn has de-personalized Truth from the Person of Jesus Christ. This deceitful philosophy has caused an epidemic of neglect in one’s personal responsibility to a Sovereign Creator. 

When dealing with “Facts,” the question to answer is: 

“What has God said?”

FAITH- “Faith,” as discussed previously, is a confident conviction that something is true. To believe is to be persuade of the certainty of a thing. The Bible gives us this definition in Hebrews 11:1- “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In quoting segments of Lane’s commentary on Hebrews, David Allen writes, “Faith is the objective grounds upon which subjective confidence may be based. Such faith springs from a personal encounter with God. This kind of faith enables one to venture into the future ‘supported only by the word of God.’”[5]

While objective, faith is also passive, accepting that which is deemed “true” by the one believing. Seeing that this can result in either “belief” or “unbelief” (depending on the object in which one is believing), we can see the necessary connection between “Faith” and “Facts” as indispensable in moving the believer to “abide” in Christ. To believe in the wrong thing is to be found in unbelief, regardless of the level of sincerity. One’s belief is only as good as the object in which they are believing. Thus, when we are trusting in Christ’s Word in how we live our daily lives, our “Faith” is found to be exceedingly valuable because of the Object that it has rested upon. 

Many have rejected the idea that “Faith” is objective, settling instead for a more palatable expression that confuses “Faith” with “Feelings.” This immediately gives way to the subjective, and in doing so, has rationalized the whims and desires of the sinful heart as standing fully justified in the eyes of the one wrongly-believing. Any consideration for what is really true about a matter has been abandoned because of the conviction that comes with it. In light of this, how one “Feels” becomes a safer answer, eliminating the idea that there is Anyone to answer to. 

For instance, there are many people who do a poor job of raising their kids. They knew better (“Facts”). So, in order to escape the “Facts,” which demand a “Faith” response due to the irrefutable nature of those “Facts,” unbelief takes over and justifies itself with the idea of how they “Feel” that children ought to be raised. “Faith” is seemingly moved into the subjective, but it is the person’s “Feelings” that are leading the way. What an unworthy guide they are. In this way, negligence is rationalized as an acceptable approach to childrearing because the parent simply does not “Feel” like parenting today. The results of this approach are being seen today on our university campuses, jails and prisons, and within the workforce.

When dealing with “Faith,” the question to answer is: 

“What do I believe about what God has said?”

FEELINGS

“Feelings” have their place. Let’s not conclude that “Feelings” are wrong simply because they are “Feelings.” “Feelings” are only wrong when they are leading our decisions and direction. Our God is a God who feels (Gen 6:6), and emotions are a gift from God so that we are able to express ourselves. However, “Feelings” are not to be the captain of the ship; Truth is. When the “Facts” of Truth are understood, and when they are accepted by believing in them (“Faith”), our “Feelings” should follow and flow out from our “Faith” in the “Facts.” When our “Feelings” are in the lead, every action that follows is irrational and dangerous.

In speaking to a friend of mine who serves as a biblical counselor, he stated, “This generation is so deceived and indoctrinated with following their feelings or their ‘heart.’ It’s so anti-Christ,” and he is right. “Feelings,” serving in the place of our reason for why we are doing something, is an approach that is completely dismissive of the Person of Truth. Think about it: when was the last time that we pulled back from a situation and said with confidence, “If I wouldn’t have followed my feelings here, this would have never worked out to the glory of God.” Never. We have never said this in any situation because when our “Feelings” take the lead, our pride becomes the dominant factor, and all direction and every decision is contorted to satisfy our secret need to have control. 

When “Feelings” are in the lead, we are abiding in the Self-Life. This makes it impossible to abide in Christ.

When dealing with our “Feelings,” the question to answer is: 

“How should I feel now that I have believed in what God has said?”

THE F-TRAIN

Each of these three areas lends themselves to a simple illustration that helps us to think rightly about abiding in Christ.

First, God’s Word must lead the way. It is Truth. Jesus is Truth. And Truth declares the “Facts” of reality, whether known or unknown; natural or supernatural. “Facts” are the engine of the F-Train. “Facts” are always true, and Truth has power. Therefore, they always provide a foundation that is unshakable. If the engine is not up front, the train has no power leading it and it cannot move forward.

“Faith” is the middle car (the boxcar), attached firmly to the engine, allowing for the “Facts” to propel the train forward. The middle car simply relies on the power of the car in front of it to get it where it needs to go. If the box car were to be in the front of the train, the engine would be strained in trying to move the car forward and progress would be greatly hindered, if not stopped altogether.

“Feelings” are in the caboose. It is the final car in the series, bringing up the rear, and contributing nothing in propelling the train onward. This is because every “Feeling” is without a foundation by itself. It is simply attached to the boxcar, enjoying the ride, with confidence that the engine will bring the cars that follow it safely to the proper destination. 

For now, it is enough to know that the Christian can only move forward in abiding in Christ if the “Facts” of God’s Word are leading the way, our “Faith” is firmly plugged into those “Facts,” eliminating the pockets of unbelief that suddenly appear. With the first two cars in place, our “Feelings” become the outcome of our “Faith” in the “Facts,” rather than the lead car which would ultimately lead us off the rails. 

“Faith” and “Feelings” have no power to move forward with God, so when either one is thrust into place as the lead car, all forward motion is lost. The ramifications of getting these cars out of order will be discussed in the next lesson.

What is the key to clicking all of the cars into their rightful place?  

THE KEY TO ABIDING

Our Christianity, and by this I am referring to how we live our lives as Christians in this present age, is largely of self. With the constant barrage of “customizable” options and the tailoring of our surroundings to make us comfortable and safe, we have all but uninvited Jesus to be our All in All in every situation. We have missed the Spirit’s leading that the obedient path is often the inconvenient path, and it is only deemed so because we view it with biased eyes. With our immediate futures being unknown, and our neglect to hurriedly hold Christ’s hand as He leads us to the next opportunity for growth and grace, we have dictated our ineffectiveness on the grounds of every reason but a biblical one. 

And then we wonder why we are not effective. 

We seem perplexed by the power that we read about in the Scriptures and the seemingly one-dimensional nature of our present-day Christian existence, and we ask, “Is this all there is?” Our short-sightedness has been brought on by our refusal to submit to God’s Word. 

Dependency is the key to the Christians life. Apart from Him we can do nothing. If we wanted to use a more biblical word that usually scares Christians silly, we would say “submission.” Our lives, our worries, our fears, our families, our preferences, and our recreational time, are all lived out with self at the center, and a dependency on Christ is nowhere to be found. Submission ends such independence.

The self-life crowds out the New Life that Jesus wants to live through us. We have come to believe, or have always believed, that each of these areas is compartmentalized as their own area separate from the influence of Christ. It is only by receiving the implanted Word that we are able to see that there are greater horizons for each of these areas, such as we could never fathom because we have kept them separated from Truth, and this Truth is none other than the LordJesus Christ Himself. Can we really expect to direct our families in the right way when we are not even inviting Jesus to the table? Let’s be honest, we ultimately doubt His power. We ultimately doubt His ability. And we ultimately doubt His goodness. Pure dependency is the cure that our unbelief desperately needs, for He is truly all-powerful, fully able, and uncompromisingly good. Thankfully, Paul models dependency for us.

In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul is writing of the vision of the third heaven that he was blessed to receive (2 Cor 12:2-4). With such revelation came the need to keep Paul humble, for otherwise, he would boast in himself, his knowledge, his status in relation to God, and his privileges. Though this grieved Paul, and though he sought for relief (2 Cor 12:8), he was brought to a grand conclusion, with Jesus telling Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” To this, Paul exhibited the lesson learned, writing “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor 12:9b, emphasis added). Our clamoring for self-sufficiency, the protection of our “personal time,” and our striving for safety and security is ultimately rooted in our unbelief, robbing the opportunity for Christ’s power to be seen all-sufficient for us. 

Again, the key is dependency, and apart from depending on Him, we should not expect anything of God in our lives. We may strive to “conjure Christian appearances,” but such striving is fleshly and antagonistic to His sufficiency in all things. We must come to terms with the fact that He IS, that He is ABLE and that He is GOOD, desiring only the best for His children. We must believe Him!

[1]H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 25.

[2]Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 93.

[3]Thomas R. Schreiner & Ardel B. Caneday, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2001), p. 111.

[4]Joseph C. Dillow, “Degrees of Glory” in A Defense of Free Grace Theology: With Respect to Saving Faith, Perseverance, and Assurance, ed. Fred Chay(The Woodlands, TX.: Grace Theology Press, 2017), p. 365.

[5]David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), p. 543.

Foundational Frameworks Part 65 - Abiding in Christ

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Being not without controversy, there are two dominant interpretations of Jesus’ teaching on the “Vine and branches.” First, those branches that do not “bear fruit” (John 15:2), who are “thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:6), are considered those who are pseudo-Christians, being without genuine faith, as those who had never truly believed.[1]The second view sees those who do not bear fruit and who are eventually burned as genuine believers, having a union with Christ, but who are failing in their communion with Him. Such believers are justified. However, their intimacy and fellowship with Him is not growing because they are not “abiding” in Christ. The idea of being “burned” speaks to discipline, and not the Lake of Fire.[2]

It is this last view that holds the greatest credibility, both in John’s Gospel and within the bounds of Scripture as a whole. Therefore, it is the viewpoint that will be endorsed and explained here.

John 13-16 finds Jesus teaching His disciples and encouraging them before His betrayal and arrest. Soon He would be gone, and they would need to carry on. But how? The Lord’s explanation of the indwelling Holy Spirit would certainly be of some comfort to them. But when a flood of emotions rush upon a person unexpectedly, much of what is valued can be quickly forgotten. When our emotional state has been heightened into a “fight or flight” condition, rational and steadfast truths can easily fade into the background. This is most certainly true for the eleven disciples of our Lord.

In troubled times, obedience is paramount. This is a theme that carries the reader into John 15, with Jesus stating “but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me” (John 14:31a). Obedience testifies to the world system about the love that we have for God. This was Jesus’ greatest desire, seeing that He was always in submission to the Father. In disputing the two possible viewpoints of this text, Jesus’ words bring clarity. Jesus “abides” in the Father. Therefore, believers should abide in Him as well. While further justification for the “fellowship/communion” view will be supplied as we work through the text, it is clear that Jesus has love on His mind, which He has shown to be demonstrated through obedience (John 14:15, 21). 

John 15:1-3.Jesus begins this significant teaching by stressing two designations in the form of an analogy. First, Jesus describes Himself as the “true vine,” with the surrounding context giving us little in understanding the necessity of Jesus using the adjective “true” in distinguishing Himself. Many have referred to the comparison made of the nation of Israel to a vine in the Old Testament (Jer 2:21). This is quickly followed up with the idea that Jesus, in His perfect obedience, is everything that Israel should have been unto God the Father. But this association seems forced, being without much merit when considering the context and the events that would soon follow. 

Since this pericope is focused on the importance of “abiding,” Jesus’ words may be a “setting apart” from other possible competing influences that would seek to draw away the devotion of the eleven. If the believer is to “abide” in anything, let their abiding be in Christ! 

The second designation refers to the Father as the “vinedresser.” This is geōrgosin the Greek, being a compound word with ge meaning “land, soil,” and ergonmeaning “work.” Literally, this word speaks of God the Father as One who is working with the soil, or in this case, a worker of the vine. 

The importance of the Father as the vinedresser is a designation that encompasses more than what might be readily understood by the reader. Jesus’ analogy is deliberate and no point of consideration is wasted. The weight of this description is captured well by Derickson and Radmacher: “A vinedresser is more than a mere farmer. His work is not like the typical farmer, who simply plows up a field, plants a crop, harvests it, and waits for next season (We are speaking simplistically here). Grapes are more than an annual crop. They are individuals. A husbandman must know all about grapes, how they grow, what they need, when they need it, and what produces the best health as well as production in the plant. But, to be effective, they not only must know the right things, but they must nurture their plants with loving care.

The vinedresser’s grapevines remain with him for decades. He comes to know each one in a personal way, much like a shepherd with his sheep. He knows how the vine is faring from year to year and which ones are more productive or vigorous than others. He knows what they respond to and what special care certain one’s need. Every vine has its own personality. And the vinedresser comes to know it over the years. The vinedresser cares for each vine and nurtures it, pruning it the appropriate amount at the appropriate times, fertilizing it, lifting its branches from the ground and propping them or tying them to the trellis, and taking measures to protect them from insects and disease.

So, when Jesus calls His Father the Vinedresser, He is describing Him in terms of His relationship and attitude as well as His actions in the lives of the disciples… To call Him a vinedresser is to tell them He cares for them personally and is wise to know exactly what to do to make them fruitful. With such a Vinedresser, the branches can experience complete confidence and security.”[3]

Thus established, the Father works through the Vine (Jesus) for the health and productivity of the branches in bringing forth fruit. In 15:1-11, we see the idea of bringing forth fruit of some kind (whether “much fruit” or “more fruit”) or not bringing forth fruit six times. From this we can conclude that the Father’s skilled and loving involvement in seeing that the branches are bearing fruit is a dominant theme.

In 15:2, Jesus addresses the product, or lack thereof, of the branches. He begins by stating “every branch IN ME” (emphasis added) demonstrating the location of the branches at the time of expected productivity. This argument alone should be enough to dismiss the notion that fruitless Christians are not really saved. While the comparison of the branches being representative of the eleven is not made clear until 15:4, the fact that the location of the branches being “in Me,” with Christ being the One speaking, does not change. Hart notes that “elsewhere in the New Testament, nonbelievers are never said to be ‘in Me (Christ)’ in any sense of the term.”[4]Jesus’ words are clear that both the productive and unproductive branches in 15:2 are in Him, dismissing the idea of pseudo-believers. 

One of the greatest evidences promoting the “pseudo-Christian” interpretation is that the branch that “does not bear fruit” is taken away (John 15:2a), which is the rendering of every major English translation of the Bible with “cuts off” (NLT) and “removes” (HCSB) being some of the variants available. However, this is not the onlyway to understand the Greek word airō, and most certainly not the way to understand how a vinedresser would initially deal with a branch that is not fruit bearing. It would seem that many of the presumptions that stem from the meaning of being “burned” in John 15:6 have controlled the decision to translate airōas “takes away,” as can be seen in the study notes of the NET translation.[5]Noting this bias, Boice writes “Undoubtedly, their translation has been made to conform to what they know or believe is coming in verse 6, but the translation is not the best or even the most general meaning of the Greek word airowhich lies behind it.”[6]

At this point, the deliberate nature of Jesus describing the Father as the “vinedresser” becomes essential to understanding the text properly. The word airōis shown to have the following meanings, which are mostly decided upon by the surrounding context of the passage in question. Note the following:

1.to raise up;

a.to raise from the ground, take up: stones, Jn. 8:59; serpents, Mk. 16:18; a dead body, Acts 20:9.

b.to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand, Rev. 10:5; the eyes, Jn. 11:41; the voice, i. e. speak in a loud tone, cry out, Lk. 17:13; Acts 4:24, (also in prof. writ.); to raise the mind, i. q. excite, affect strongly (with a sense of fear, hope, joy, grief, etc.); in Jn. 10:24 to hold the mind in suspense between doubt and hope, cf. Lücke [or Meyer] ad loc.

c.to draw up: a fish, Mt. 17:27 (Hab. 1:15); Acts 27:17; anchors from the bottom of the sea, Acts 27:13, where supply; cf. Kuinoel ad loc.; [W. 594 (552); B. 146 (127)].

2.to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised, to bear: Mt. 4:6; Lk. 4:11, (Ps. 90 (91):12); a sick man, Mk. 2:3; Mt. 11:29 (Lam. 3:27); a bed, Mt. 9:6; Mk. 2:9, 11 sq.; Lk. 5:24 sq.; Jn. 5:8–12; Mt. [10:38 Lchm. mrg.]; 16:24; 27:32; Lk. 9:23; Mk. 8:34; 10:21 [in R Lbr.]; 

15:21; Rev. 18:21; to carry with one, [A. V.take]: Mk. 6:8; Lk. 9:3; 22:36. Both of these ideas are expressed in classical Greek.

3.to bear away what has been raised, carry off;

a.to more from its place: Mt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23, (be thou taken up, removed [B. 52 (45)], sc. from thy place); Mt. 22:13 [Rec.]; Jn. 2:16; 11:39, 41; 20:1.

b.to take offor awaywhat is attached to anything: Jn. 19:31, 38 sq.; to tear away, Mt. 9:16; Mk. 2:21; to rend away, cut off, Jn. 15:2.

c.to remove: 1 Co. 5:2 (cast out from the church; tropically: faults, Eph. 4:31, Jn. 1:29, [36 Lchm. in br.], to remove the guilt and punishment of sin by expiation, or to cause that sin be neither imputed nor punished; but in 1 Jn. 3:5 is to cause our sins to cease, i. e. that we no longer sin, while we enter into fellowship with Christ, who is free from sin, and abide in that fellowship, cf. vs. 6.

d.to carry off, carry away with one: Mt. 14:12, 20; 15:37; 20:14; 24:17 sq.; Mk. 6:29, 43; 8:8, 19 sq.; 13:15 sq.; Lk. 9:17; 17:31; Jn. 20:2, 13, 15; Acts 20:9.

e.to appropriatewhat is taken: Lk. 19:21 sq.; Mk. 15:24.

f.to take away from another what is hisor what is committed to him, to take by force: Lk. 6:30; 11:52; Mt. 13:12; 21:43; 25:28; Lk. 8:12, 18; 19:24, 26; [Mt. 25:29]; Mk. 4: (15), 25; Jn. 10:18; 16:22.

g.to take and apply to any use: Acts 21:11; 1 Co. 6:15.

h.to take from among the living, either by a natural death, Jn. 17:15 (take away from intercourse with the world), or by violence, Mt. 24:39; Lk. 23:18; Jn. 19:15; Acts 21:36; with the addition of Acts 22:22; of a bloody death inflicted upon one, Acts 8:33 (Is. 53:8).

i.of things; to take out of the way, destroy: Col. 2:14; cause to cease: Acts 8:33 (Is. 53:8).[7]

Notice that the idea of “taking away” (#3, b.) stems from the understanding “to bear away what has been raised” (#3), and does not assume a negative connotation. The instances before this speak of being “raised up” or “to take up or carry for one’s self,” all of which happen to fit the cultural, historical, and contextual implications of this passage in likening the Father to a vinedresser. 

Viticulture, being the cultivation and care of grapevines, is a meticulous calling, as described above in Derickson and Radmacher’s comments. But the specifics of bringing a branch that is not bearing fruit into a place where fruit can be produced is often overlooked or totally dismissed as a course of action that the vinedresser would take, opting instead to dismiss the branch into the Lake of Fire.

In viticulture, a branch of the vine that was not bearing fruit was usually due to the branch coming off the trellis and resting on the ground. Being on the ground, the branch now has a disruption in receiving the nourishment that is needed to be productive. Desperately in need, the branch develops sprigs that plug into the ground seeking moisture for nourishment. Now the branch is dependent upon the ground for its sustenance, and though inferior, has attached itself as the sole means of getting nourishment. That which is produced from this inferior source is worthless at best. The vinedresser must get involved personally in order to give the opportunity for maximum production to the fallen branch. However, this is not an easy, or immediate process.

Caring for the branch, and wishing to restore it to its greatest source of nourishment from the vine, the Father slowly begins separating the fallen branch from its inferior dependency. To do this, the branch is lifted only slightly without breaking the sprigs attached to the ground. He then places a small rock under the branch in order to keep it lifted, slowly weaning the branch from its inferior source of nourishment. Over the next few days, the separation of the branch from the ground becomes more gradual until all dependency is removed and the branch can once again be restored to the trellis where a maximum flow of nourishment can occur, being provided from the vine. This illustration shows the Father’s loving care in slowly separating the believer from inferior sources of nourishment so that they are fully dependent upon Christ alone.

This is not a novel understanding. Hart explains, “The verb translated takes awaycan just as easily be translated ‘lifts up,’ denoting the Vinedresser’s action in stimulating growth in a fruitless branch (God helping a fruitless believer to produce fruit). In the viticulture of Israel, late fall was the season for removing dead branches (v.6). The springtime (the time of the upper room message and Jesus’ death) was the season to ‘lift up’ fruitless branches from the ground to encourage productivity.”[8]Being on the move (John 14:31b), it very well could have been that Jesus and His disciples were passing a vineyard at the time of this illustration. They could easily see the difference between those branches that had fallen to the ground and those who had remained on the trellis and were bursting with production. 

The Father takes those who are in a position of fruitlessness and gives them the opportunity and provision to grow. This is an opportunity that should not be wasted, but is a grand invitation to draw near to the Father and to be used for His purposes, ones that will display a

striking testimony (John 14:31a), bringing Him great glory and honor before men.

The second point in John 15:2 speaks of those branches that are bearing fruit and being productive. Such branches are “pruned” in order to have a greater productivity. This word is kathairōand is an obvious wordplay off of airō(“lifts up”) in the previous clause. It means, “to cause something to become clean, make clean, literally of a place that has been swept,… to remove superfluous growth from a plant, clear, prune of a vine.”[9]This is similar to the English word “catharsis” and is understood as a cleaning that takes place. Some have associated this cleansing of the productive branch as divine discipline,[10]but this hardly makes sense. Why would the Lord discipline a branch that is properly plugged into the vine, remaining steadfast in where it was placed, and receiving the correct nourishment so that production is rightly occurring? 

Instead, this “cleansing” would be better understood as divine “testing” that is being introduced into the believer’s life. Trials are God’s means of developing His people into mature saints. Note James’ words when he writes, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:2-4). Notice that the outcome of letting “endurance have its perfect result” is that the believer becomes “perfect and complete” (“mature” and “blameless”), having all that he or she needs. Hodges notes, “James is referring to the way trial and testing apply ‘fire’ to our faith, so that it can come through the ‘furnace’ of trouble cleansed of any dross or impurity from the flesh. Like gold that has been refined, faith can be purified from the selfish motives and misguided perceptions that often distort and weaken it. God can use trouble to accomplish justthat.”[11]Such testing always asks the question of belief or unbelief of the believer. Trials can rid the believer of the self-life and move us into a greater dependency on Him. Those who choose to believe God’s Word in the midst of their trials are those who will “bear more fruit” (John 15:2b). 

In John 15:3, Jesus states that the eleven are “already clean” (katharos- “being clean or free of adulterating matter, clean, pure”[12]) and this is because of the word that He has spoken to them. This may seem to be an out-of-place comment, but it finds its connection in John 13:10which states, “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’” The following verse records John’s commentary that the one who is not clean is the betrayer, Judas (John 13:11). Having left the group in John 13:30, Judas’ absence allowed for Jesus to give a much more concentrated teaching to those who were justified. Their being “clean” in 15:3 speaks to their justification, having been declared righteous by God after responding in faith to Christ. Justification had placed them in a position of unconditional acceptance before the Father, connecting them to the Vine, Jesus Christ. Now their responsibility would be to abide in that Vine in order to experience Life to the full.

John 15:4-6.With 15:4 the word “abide” is introduced for the first of ten mentions in this passage. “Abide in Me, and I in you.” In Greek, the word “abide” is menōmeaning “to remain in the same place over a period of time—‘to remain, to stay.’”[13]That to which the disciples are told to “abide” is in Christ. This imperative draws theimmediate implication that abiding is not automatic, even though the eleven are “already clean” (15:3). Jesus clearly delineates between one’s justification and their sanctification. His call to abide “in Me” is to explain the means for having a beneficial experience in the here and now by bearing fruit that will give God glory. This nourishing communion is a means of total blessing to the believer in Christ, having the power of God’s provision flowing to them and producing fruit through them. Augustine writes, “The relation of the branches to the vine is such that they contribute nothing to the vine, but from it derive their own means of life; while that of the vine to the branches is such that it supplies their vital nourishment, and receives nothing from them. And so their having Christ abiding in them, and abiding themselves in Christ, are in both respects advantageous, not to Christ, but to the disciples.”[14]

In understanding what is meant by “and I in you” (John 15:4b), we should not attempt to understand this apart from the preceding context either. In the previous chapter, Jesus was clear about how to cultivate an intimate fellowship with Himself and the Father. John 14:21finds Jesus stating, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose (emphanizō-revealing clearly in detail; moving from the sensory to the cognitive in being fully known) Myself to him.” It is obeying that equates to abiding, and it is by abiding that one bears fruit. Such obedience is what cultivates intimacy with the Father and the Son. This is synonymous with “fellowship.” “To abide in Christ is, on the one hand, to have no known sin unjudged and unconfessed, no interest into which He isnot brought, no life which He cannot share,” states Scofield. “On the other hand, the abiding one takes all burdens to Him, and draws all

wisdom, life and strength from Him. It is not unceasing consciousness of these things, and of Him, but that nothing is allowed in the life which separates from Him.”[15]Such a view is in complete alignment with everything that the New Testament espouses in “walking in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 25), “walking in a manner worthy” of our calling in Christ (Eph 4:1), and “walking in love” (Eph 5:2). All known sin must be confessed and every hinderance must be laid aside to ensure that “abiding” is a constant condition of the branch. 

This example is seen again in Jesus’ response to Judas (not Iscariot) in John 14:23when He says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” In essence, abiding is the believer remaining intimate with the Father and the Son in obeying the Word of Christ, keeping what has been commanded (John 14:15, 21, 31). The Word of Christ is central and paramount to intimate fellowship with the Godhead. In abiding, the Word must abide in us (15:7a). When this happens, not only is greater intimacy experienced, but “more fruit” is produced!

The example that accompanies this truth in John 15:4b is plain: A branch cannot produce anything if it does not abide in the vine in order to receive the provision for such production. Neither can a believer produce anything of benefit if he or she is not abiding in Christ. A believer is not self-nourishing. As the Scriptures clearly state, the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63; Rom 8:8). Just as absurd as it is to expect for a branch to produce fruit while separated from the vine, so is it equally absurd to expect the believer in Christ to produce fruit when we are not operating in connection with Christ. Independence from Christ in any situation, at any time, is sin.

John 15:5 clarifies the intended parties in this analogy. Jesus is the vine, the eleven (and being that this is a truth that is true of the Church Age believer as well, all believers in Christ would be included) are the branches. By abiding in Christ, one produces “much fruit.” The opposite of this is very much true as well. Jesus states, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (15:5b). “Nothing” here is ou oudeiswith ou being a negative adverb and oudeis meaning “no.” One should expect absolutely nothing if they are not abiding in fellowship with Christ. Such disconnection leaves the believer in a barren state. Robertson succinctly concludes, “There is nothing for a broken off branch to do but wither and die.”[16]This is precisely what is concluded by Jesus in John 15:6.

Jesus unfolds the consequences of those who do not abide in Him. The analogy is consistent, seeing that branches that have been separated from the vine and are no longer “abiding” are not good for anything other than kindling. Their sole purpose is to bear fruit, and once that has been rendered obsolete, they are no longer able to be used. Those branches that are not bearing fruit, after having been carefully and lovingly separated from their inferior means of securing self-nourishment and given the grand opportunity to become exceedingly productive only to spurn it, eventually dry up. Since nourishment is no longer flowing through them, they are only a sad representation of what they could have been had they remained in Christ.

Again, it must be stated, fruit bearing is the sole purpose of the disciple of Christ. Having denied themselves that purpose by refusing to abide, they are gathered and burned, for that is the only thing that they are good for. With many, the analogy of being “burned” immediately conjures disturbing images of hellfire and brimstone, and forces a theological conclusion on many that the lack of fruit in abeliever’s life is grounds for eternal damnation. Such conclusions are unbiblical for two reasons. First, salvation is based on the finished work of Christ and whether one has believed in Him or not (John 3:16-18; 5:24; Acts 16:31). Second, if hellfire were the result of not bearing fruit, salvation becomes ultimately contingent upon one’s works or lack thereof, and the work of Jesus performed on the cross 

would have to be considered insufficient to save, which violates Romans 3:21-28, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:18, just to name a few.

Since damnation is not in view, how should we understand this? Dillow writes, “a fruitless branch is lifted up to put it into a position of fruit-bearing. This does not contradict verse 6, which states that a branch that does not abide is ‘thrown away,’ literally ‘cast out’ (ballō exō). This would suggest that the heavenly Vinedresser first encourages the branches and lifts them in the sense of providing loving care to enable them to bear fruit. If after this encouragement, they do not remain in fellowship with Him and bear fruit, they are then cast out.”[17]God does not force obedience upon His children. He will direct them, even lead them, educate them, implore them, exhort them, and challenge them, but He does not force them. 

When such beckoning and education is not met with a favorable response, the Lord has no problem disciplining His children (Heb 12:5b-11). As the Vinedresser, the Father is longsuffering with His children, desiring what is best for them and setting them up for maximum success with all that has been provided for them in Christ. But there are many Christians who spurn the Lord’s loving care by clinging to the self-life. Such consequences are disastrous and can range from loss of intimacy with the Father and Son (John 14:24), physical death (1 Cor 5:5; 11:28-30), and loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:15). To be “cast out” and “burned” is not to lose one’s salvation, otherwise the promises of Jesus would be a lie (John 3:16; 10:27-30).

John 15:7-11.In v.7 we are given greater revelation as to what Jesus meant when He stated “I in you” in v.4. As stated previously, the Word of God is paramount. It is how Christ abides in us. Our abiding and His Word “dwelling richly” in us (Col 3:16) is followed up by a fantastic statement: “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7b). Jesus has just handed His disciples the keys to an effective prayer life; one that actually brings results with God’s fingerprints clearly shining along the way. The Word of God is the will of God, and when one is abiding in Christ and His Word is abiding in them the result is “the effective prayer of a righteous man” which “can accomplish much” (Jas 5:16b). The concept of abiding is now better understood as a life being marked by practical righteousness (sanctification) and not only positional righteousness (justification).

John 15:8 explains that the Father is glorified in the abiding disciple because they are bearing much fruit. Is this not the chief end of all of history? Ryrie notes that “Scripture is not man-centered as though salvation were the main theme, but it is God-centered because His glory is the center.”[18]Some have stumbled over Jesus’ words here in stating that one would “prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8b). The common approach is to conclude that the one who does not bear much fruit is not truly saved, with the absence of fruit being the deciding factor. The word “prove” is ginomaimeaning “to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being.”[19]The issue that is often overlooked is the difference between a believer and a disciple. This is plain because all that surrounds this teaching is with a strict emphasis upon those who are already believing. When the branch bears much fruit, the Life of the Vine is plainly seen by all. Thus God is glorified when the believer in Christ has forsaken thatwhich hinders his or her growth and has embraced God’s Word for living one’s daily life. No one can speak against the fruit with an honest conscience because it has its origin in the Vine!

Whereas the abiding of Christ’s Word was brought forward in John 15:7a, so now the theme of “love” is reintroduced in John 15:9. Five times in v.9 and 10 do we find the mention of “love.” Leading off this series is the example of the Father’s love for the Son. Divine intimacy is the first picture offered. Such an image draws the mind back to John 14:10 with the Father abiding in Christ, John 14:20 which speaks of the “already” loving communion that the Father and Son experience perpetually, and John 14:31 where Jesus speaks of His personal obedience to the Father’s will so that a testimony is promoted to the world. Every verse shows this communal love that is a daily experience between the Father and Jesus. In the same way, Jesus has loved His disciples, teaching them, leading them, bearing with them, guiding them, healing them, and demonstrating for them the sacrificial service that they are to have.

Jesus then issues the imperative to “abide in My love” (John 15:9b). Where else would they go? Where would be a better place than remaining in the love of Christ? Following up this command is the “how” of abiding in Christ’s love. John 15:10a states, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love.” This harkens back to John 14:15 and 21, showing that love is truly demonstrated because the commands of Christ are valued as being the ultimate truth, and therefore worth rearranging one’s life in order to experience a fullness of Life in the here and now.

The second half of John 15:10 draws the reader’s attention back to the truth of John 14:31. Jesus sets the tone for what it is to abide; to be walking in intimate fellowship with the Father. While the world has defined many things as “love,” Jesus defines it as obedience. To love the Lord is to obey Him. To demonstrate that one does not love the Lord is to not keep His Word (John 14:24). It is impossible to abidein Him if we are not keeping His Word. While obedience has no bearing on one’s justification, it has everything to do with whether a believer in Christ is experiencing the saving power of God in their daily life. This only comes about by pursuing intimacy with Him daily, moment by moment.

In John 15:11, Jesus gives the reason for this indispensable principle of abiding in Him. “Joy” is a word that is far fetched in this day and age. Few of us experience genuine joy. By and large it is a word that is absent from our vocabularies and our lives. Unless we are singing “Joy to the World,” we have little to do with “joy.” Abiding in Christ accomplishes two things. First, it establishes the joy of Jesus Christ in the disciple. It is a joy inexpressible. It is joy divine! Second, the joy of Jesus Christ makes our joy “full,” meaning that it is a supernatural joy that is abounding in our being. It is this truth that led John to pen the epistle of 1 John. In it he writes, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:1-4, emphasis added).

Notice the interplay between “fellowship” and “joy.” John was experiencing in his daily life the fellowship that exists between the Father and the Son, and such wonderous fellowship produces joy! John’s desire is that every believer would experience this great joy and so have fellowship together with them as they fellowshipped with the Father and the Son. The entire epistle of 1 John is written to tell the believer in Christ how they can have fellowship with Christ so that they would experience this inexpressible joy! This is seen plainly in John’s borrowing of the “abide” concept in 1 John stretching from 2:6 to 4:16. The call is to abide, for in doing so, sin become a non-issue and intimacy with the Lord abounds! 

Are we experiencing inexpressible joy; such that is radiating through us, where God is glorified and we are made full? 

Are we abiding in Christ? An uncertain response is confirmation that we are not. If this is the case, what have we allowed to move us out of the abiding communion that the Father has so gracious given to us? 

Where are the areas of unbelief that are keeping us from bearing much fruit?

In pondering all of this, J. Oswald Sanders offers a cogent statement for the Christian to ponder: “It is a sobering thought that we… are as close to Christ as we really choose to be.”[20]What better place is there to be than abiding in Christ?

Jesus’ call to “abide” is only made clearer in the use of the vine/branch illustration. Ponder this relationship for a moment: Contact is essential. Proper nourishment comes about from consistent contact with the Vine. The Vinedresser assures that every care and precaution is taken so that the greatest opportunity for fruitfulness can be experienced by the branch stemming through the Vine. When contact stops, nourishment stops. The flow is meant to encourage total dependency. This is what it is to abide in Christ; a total dependency on Him where whatever needs to be accomplished in our lives is accomplished because His supernatural nourishment is flowing through us with the Father helping it along. In this way, the branches are understood to be seamless with the Vine. This is Christ living His Life through us! 

Again, Sanders offers his thoughts, writing “It would seem that admission to the inner circle of deepening intimacy with God is the outcome of deep desire. Only those who count such intimacy a prize worth sacrificing anything else for are likely to attain it. If other intimacies are more desirable to us, we will not gain entry to that circle.”[21]

[1]See John MacArthur Jr., ed., The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Word Publishers, 1997), p. 1615, and David J. Ellis, “John” in The International Bible Commentary,ed. F.F. Bruce (England/Grand Rapids: Marshall Pickering/Zondervan 1986), p. 1255-1256.

[2]See Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), p. 3–6, and Joseph C. Dillow, “Abiding Is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1–6,” Bibliotheca Sacra147 (1990): 44–53.

[3]Gary Derickson and Earl Radmacher, The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus(Salem, OR: Charis Press, 2001), p. 152–153.

[4]John F. Hart, “John” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham(Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), p. 1649.

[5]NET Notes on John 15:2, “takes away” with emphasis added- “In Johannine usage the word occurs in the sense of ‘lift up’ in 8:59 and 5:8–12, but in the sense of ‘remove’ it is found in 11:39, 11:48, 16:22, and 17:15. In context (theological presuppositions aside for the moment) the meaning ‘remove’ does seem more natural and less forced (particularly in light of v. 6, where worthless branches are described as being “thrown out”—an image that seems incompatible with restoration).-Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible; The NET Bible(Biblical Studies Press, 2005).

[6]James M. Boice, The Gospel of John, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), p. 227

[7]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 16–17, with the Greek elaborations removed for ease of reading.

[8]Hart, “John,” Moody Bible Dictionary, p. 1649.

[9]BDAG, p. 488.

[10]See Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Jn 15:2.

[11]Zane C. Hodges, Arthur L. Farstad, and Robert N. Wilkin, The Epistle of James: Proven Character through Testing(Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1994), p. 19.

[12]BDAG, p. 489.

[13]Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon,p. 728.

[14]Augustine of Hippo, “Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John,” in St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. John Gibb and James Innes, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), p. 345.

[15]C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Study Bible(New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), Jn 15:4.

[16]A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament(Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Jn 15:5.

[17]Dillow, “Abiding Is Remaining in Fellowship”: 51.

[18]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism, Rev. and expanded. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), p. 48.

[19]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 115.

[20]J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God(Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 18.

[21]Ibid.