Bible Reference: John 13:34-35
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 34 “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. 35 For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.”
OBSERVATION: Jesus was about to end His earthly ministry, and I believe He was admonishing His disciples to carry on by demonstrating all that they saw in Him while working together, ministering together, and seeking after the heart of loved ones who had gone astray. Because I believe that Jesus still desires for His children to be imitators of their Master, I want us to contemplate what that might look like today.
APPLICATION: Ever notice the difference between a military enlistee and a regular civilian? One is determined to follow the orders of their commanding officer and defend their country, in spite of all the evil going on inside their homeland, while the other tries to follow the general idea of the local laws, but will not think twice about questioning those laws and or commands of those in charge of their safety and welfare. Similarly, you will often identify God’s children by their demeanor, their lifestyle, their honesty, their commitment and their love for one another. I believe that Jesus is teaching us in the Scripture today, just as He taught the disciples: ‘Let the world see so much of Jesus in you, that they will be convinced that He exists, and that they could easily follow you, as you follow Christ. I believe that Jesus wants us to not only desire to know Him in order to have our ticket punched for heaven, but especially so that the non-believer would turn their heads to this cruel, heart-breaking, mean and treacherous world, and be encouraged to see the character of Jesus in every fiber of our being. And that it would be inviting enough to convince them that there is a better way! Friends, I believe that many of you may have traveled down some of the same roads that I have. For we have seen the impact of this world on folk at our job site, in our neighborhoods, in our government, and even in our churches. I am so encouraged, and touched by the living Word of God, for Jesus knew that we would face these challenges and discouragements and we may sometimes want to just throw our hands up in disappointment and wonderment of whether it is worth the effort to try and be kind and loving every day. Often, when we ‘try’ to be good, loving and kind, we are polluting ourselves with so much self-effort, and self-taught principles, and selfish desires, that we sometimes make things worse. I believe that Jesus is teaching us, as He did His disciples, to just apply all that we have learned from Him to our lives, and look to His Book of Instruction (the Bible) when searching for answers, instead of the TV Talk Shows, or the internet sites of Palm Readers, and the like. Jesus has placed the Holy Spirit inside of us, believers in Christ, so that we might be led in the right direction; understand His precious Word, and love like He first loved us. Let’s learn to love like Jesus did – for He gave up His own life for us, even while we were still sinners. He loved Lazarus and his sisters enough that He cried in empathy for Mary and Martha who thought they would never see Lazarus alive again. Let’s learn to care for others like He did – for He stopped a whole parade so that He could chat with, and seek the desire of two cripples who could not fend for themselves. Instead of racing the children away, like His disciples, He called them to Himself, taught them and loved on them as a father would. To all my readers, I would plead with you today to seek God, read His Word, pray to Him, and be bold enough to love, talk and act like Him, even in a world that tends to be in total opposition to that. Don’t force these things upon your neighbor, but allow God to embed them into your hearts and upon your life. He wants to shine brightly through you, so that your neighbor will be convinced about the One who loves him/her in spite of their circumstances and their rotten attitudes. Be willing to let go, and let God have His way in you, my friend!
PRAYER: Precious Lord, You are more wonderful than all of creation! You loved me when I was totally unlovable by anyone. Why you even stood still under the barrage of whips, and You endured the cross, so that the world might know that we are loved more than life itself. Father, it seems like we are facing a world that is so evil and filled with hatred. I’m sure that this is no worse than what You faced, but Lord we need You. Every hour of every day we need You. Please fill us with Your power, so that we may not only overcome the temptations and trials of this world, but that we might shine with the glory of the Son, so that our dark world might be illuminated and convinced of Your love. While deserving nothing in return from this world, I pray that You may be glorified through us today in many wonderful ways. AMEN!
Bible Reference: John 13:18-21
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 18 “I don’t refer to all of you when I tell you these things, for I know the ones I’ve chosen—to fulfill the Scripture that says, ‘The one who shared supper with me treacherously betrays me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when the prophecy comes to pass you will be convinced that I AM. 20 “Listen to this timeless truth: whoever receives the messenger I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives the Father who sent me.” 21 Then Jesus was moved deeply in his spirit. Looking at his disciples, he announced, “I tell you the truth—one of you is about to betray me.”
OBSERVATION: To consider this topic today, is like saying to a crowded room ‘Will the perfect one please stand up’! For who do you suppose has been ‘perfect’, or fully obedient in every way to the commands of Christ? Wouldn’t you be like the rest of the disciples should Jesus say to your group that one of you will betray Him. Let’s humble ourselves before God and consider this very challenge that the disciples faced. Is it I, Lord?
APPLICATION: We could very easily see a group of Christians get upset if someone walked into their meeting room and said that one of them will betray Jesus that day. In fact, they would probably shoo that critique out of their midst immediately, thinking that he meant to go next door where the non-Christians were hanging out. But how often do Christians take for granted the awesome love that Jesus extended to them?; how often do we think about the sacrifice Jesus made just for us at Calvary?; how often do we imitate Him in following His example to only say what the Master has ordered us to say?; and how often have we sold out to the world when it comes to representing Christ in action, deed or word? I know, the immediate response is often but. ‘we’re only human’. However, for what purpose have you given your heart to the Lord? Is it not to promise Jesus that you will leave these earthly desires and sin, so that you might live a holy, dedicated, life for Him? As you do this, are you not saying to the world, ‘follow me as I follow Christ’? So, when you choose to deliberately defy the commands of Christ, ignore the love of Christ, and totally destroy your witness to the unsaved, have you not betrayed the trust that Jesus placed in you when you promised Him that you would love and represent Him for as long as you live? Friends, I believe that if Jesus walked into a room filled with, who we might consider to be the most respected christian leaders, and He said that one of them would betray Him, I believe they all would stand in open guilt, knowing that it could be either one of them. Do we set out to be like that? No, I would never believe that. But let me remind us today that when we become unconcerned and uncommitted in our faith, we tend to start accepting more and more of the world back in. When that pollution reenters our lives, we are easily swayed into doing the former things of life. The hurtful thing about that, is that you are now subjecting the Holy Spirit to all of the filth, because you invited Him to come and live inside of you the day you gave your heart to the Lord. Do you suppose that the heart of Jesus was broken when He realized that one of His own disciples would betray Him? How do you suppose our risen Lord feels when He sees you and I betraying Him still today? Just living in this world, we will be tempted, but let me assure you today, based on the very Word of God, that greater is He that lives in you, greater is He that is available to you when you cry out to Him for help and guidance, than he that is in the world! For those who know Jesus personally, know that we serve an awesome God – one who is greater, stronger and always willing to empower us to overcome the struggles of this world! Know Him today my friend, and know peace everlasting!
PRAYER: Precious Lord, Your weak and sinful children need You each and every day. The temptations of this world are real, and they are often stronger than we can personally overcome. Please teach us to always lean on You for the strength to face the challenges of this world, and to live noble lives ordained by our perfect Savior. For those that may find this whole devotional unreal, I pray that You would please speak gently to them and melt their heart of stone so that they may see Jesus in all His glory. Lord, I know that Jesus is the answer to all of man’s challenges today. Oh that sinful man might see Him and accept Him as Lord and personal Savior, and may we commit ourselves fully to Your care, Your power and Your direction. We need You precious Lord, every hour of every day. AMEN!
Intro: If you could interview the Apostle Paul and ask him only one question, what would it be? A good question to ask might be, “Paul, what was your greatest struggle?” Would he say, “Shipwreck?” Probably not. Maybe, “Beatings?” Unlikely. How about, “Stoning?” That’s a candidate, but almost certainly he wouldn’t mention it. What then? It is without doubt what he is discussing here in tonight’s text: it is the struggle to make Christ known to Christ’s people. That may sound strange, but it really isn’t strange at all (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24-29). The hardest thing in ministry may very well be helping Christ’s saved people to discover who Jesus is for them personally. Tonight we’ll explore that question.
Proposition: It is “Christ in you” that is your hope of glory.
(1:24-29) The Minister’s Struggle – The discussion begins with a crucial concept that should be appreciated by every believer: When we came to Christ, we became one with Christ in spirit and truth. Notice what we are told in these verses:
[DOCTRINAL POINT] As God’s people we will not be mature in Christ until we realize that it is our union with Christ that is our hope of glory forever.
[ILLUSTRATION] Remember when you were a child but didn’t know it? I remember going out to celebrate my birthday one year when our oldest son was about 10 years old. We went to a favorite restaurant and I ordered a meal that had way too much food on it, even for an adult. My son, wanting to show that he was my equal ordered the same meal and ate the whole thing. The resulting evening was not pretty around our house! As a child we were often unaware that we are not the intellectual, emotional and physical equal of our adult parents.
[APPLICATION] Spiritually speaking, this is also true of many Christians in our day. There are many people in gospel preaching churches that have been followers of Christ for years but seem to reflect Paul’s words to Timothy about a certain class of Bible students: “Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). What is the problem? I would suggest to you that it is a lack of the Holy Spirit’s ministry either in the source of their teaching or in the individual himself. When we are in union with Christ, the Spirit will not rest, will not cease the struggle to bring us to full maturity in Christ. We must pray continually for Spirit-filled ministers and Spirit taught congregants if we want to have a mature body of believers in our churches.
(2:1-3) The Greatness of the Struggle – Paul had never personally met the believers to whom he was writing, but he worked hard for their maturity just the same. He recognized that this battle to bring them to maturity was no small contest because the believer’s maturity in Christ will dictate so much of the believer’s happiness in Christ and unity in the Church. Follow his argument about the importance of this struggle on their behalf:
[DOCTRINAL POINT] All we need for Christian encouragement, happiness and assurance is found in Christ.
[ILLUSTRATION] God save His Church from “Well Intentioned Dragons,” and “Killer Sheep.” These are some of the titles given to Christians who have lost for a moment their grip on intimacy with Christ. Well intentioned dragons and killer sheep are found in every church body. They want to do what is right, but because they have lost sight of Jesus and replaced Him with lesser things they actually become stumbling blocks to everyone around them.
[APPLICATION] The struggle for maturity in a life or in an assembly is simply this: We must keep our eyes on Jesus because in Him are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. It is amazing how easy it is to convince ourselves that Christianity is about something other than Jesus. For many who have lost their way, Christianity is about the idolatry of patriotism. For others, Christianity is about comfort and prosperity. Still others in our day are all about strengthening the family (nothing wrong with that unless your family becomes bigger in your eyes than Jesus). Whatever it is in our lives; whatever it is in our church that takes the place of Jesus in our thinking and priorities becomes a stumbling block and must be struggled against. Even good things can become stumbling blocks to the believer if they overshadow in our thinking “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
(2:4-5) The Importance of the Struggle – There is a continual danger to believers and churches of drifting away from the centrality of Christ. We are constantly allured by “plausible arguments” and outright delusions that “have indeed an appearance of wisdom… but are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). Paul will tell us more of this at the end of chapter 2, but for the moment let us simply notice his concern for the Colossians because of his union with them in Christ. You see, our union with Christ also is a union with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] As believers in Christ we are called to look out for the best interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
[ILLUSTRATION] Families look out for each other, don’t they? “You can say anything you want to about me, but watch out what you say about my momma!” Who we love we have the courage to struggle for.
[APPLICATION] Christian maturity in ourselves and in fellow believers is everyone’s responsibility in the body of Christ. Perhaps the most dismaying quality of Christian life in our day is our lack of courage when it comes to protecting our fellow believers and our churches from the “delusions and plausible arguments” that fly around us every day in the name of contemporary Christianity. “Preaching is out of date! Just give us more opportunities for pleasant services and blessed thoughts!” But we won’t grow to maturity that way. “Give everyone a spiritual gifts test. Then they’ll volunteer to help out!” But what if the problem isn’t that they don’t know their gift, but that they don’t know their Savior? “Make sure you don’t offend people by being too specific about issues of morality!” Fear. A lack of courage keeps us silent when we ought to be struggling “to make the word of God fully known.” It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that a lack of courage comes from a lack of love. Christian maturity dares to be brave when those it loves are threatened. Let’s be the kind of people who look out for those we love.
Conclusion: If our question to Paul was “What was your greatest struggle,” what is our question to ourselves? I would like to suggest that the answer to that question, whatever we discover it to be, is probably one and the same: Know “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Let’s pray about that.
Bible Reference: John 13:6-8
Translation: The Voice (VOICE)
Simon Peter (as Jesus approaches): 6 Lord, are You going to wash my feet?
Jesus: 7 Peter, you don’t realize what I am doing, but you will understand later.
Peter: 8 You will not wash my feet, now or ever!
Jesus: If I don’t wash you, you will have nothing to do with Me.
OBSERVATION: Although foot washing is not widely practiced in today’s churches, every time I read this story I see humility symbolized in a very real way. However, Jesus not only teaches humility, but also the need for cleansing, especially as we are impacted daily by the filthy effects of Satan on his followers. Because we rub shoulders with these folk on a regular basis, we should consider how critical it is to plead with the Master daily for cleansing.
APPLICATION: My spiritual curiosity was peaked when I read verse 8, so I studied the meaning of these words deeper. I loved the way this is explained in the Matthew Henry Commentary and wanted to share it: All those, and those only who are spiritually washed by Christ, have a part in Christ. All whom Christ owns and saves, he justifies and sanctifies. Peter more than submits; he begs to be washed by Christ. Those who truly desire to be sanctified, desire to be sanctified throughout, to have the whole man, with all its parts and powers, made pure. The true believer is thoroughly washed when he receives Christ for his salvation. See then what ought to be the daily care of those who, through grace, are in a justified state, and that is, to wash their feet; to cleanse themselves from daily guilt; and to watch against everything defiling. This should make us the more cautious. From yesterday’s pardon, we should be strengthened against this day’s temptation. Within pain and filth, there is an opportunity to extend God’s kingdom through an expression of love, humility, and service. This simple act of washing feet is a metaphor for how the world looks through the lens of Jesus’ grace. He sees the people—the world He created—which He loves. He also sees the filthy corruption in the world that torments everyone. His mission is to cleanse those whom He loves from those horrors. This is His redemptive work with feet, families, disease, famine, and hearts. When Jesus sees disease, He sees the opportunity to heal. When He sees sin, He sees a chance to forgive and redeem. When He sees dirty feet, He sees a chance to wash them. Oh for wonderful grace of our Savior to cleanse ourselves daily. With sin in our lives, we are like Peter, guilty and embarrassed for Jesus to look inside and see our filth. With a regular cleansing from Jesus, we would feel honored and proud to be in the presence of our holy God, because we are happy to be living a holy life before Him. Christianity is not like some men say about their marriage – I told her at the altar that I loved her, and unless something changes, that word remains true without the need to repeat myself daily!! That is not true love, and it definitely does not define a true relationship with Jesus. He deserves our commitment to honor Him every day and to commune with Him daily to keep our relationship in good, fresh order. Dear friend, if you have not been to Jesus for cleansing yet today, may I encourage to keep your priority items first on your to-do list? He deserves our first, and our best!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, living in a world filled with the filth of Satan and his demons, it becomes increasingly challenging to allow my light to shine as a beacon for all that represents my loving Savior. Like Peter, I acknowledge that there is a strong need for me to be washed by You on a regular basis. You washed my sin away, when I asked you to, back on 1976. But Lord there is a daily influx of evil that fills my eyes, my mind and tempts me with evil thoughts. Please wash me Lord, so that my mind will remain fixed on You and that I may remain immersed in Your precious love, forgiveness and mercy. Lord, I plead also for my readers that they too may receive a word from You today, and that they may be drawn to You more closely than yesterday. Our wicked world needs You, dear Lord, and I believe it would really help if they could see You in every action by Your representatives her on earth. Use us Lord as Your loyal, honest and dedicated representatives before our family and friends who desperately need You. AMEN!
Bible Reference: John 12:35-36
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 35 Jesus replied, “You will have the light shining with you for only a little while longer. While you still have me, walk in the light, so that the darkness doesn’t overtake you. For when you walk in the dark you have no idea where you’re going. 36 So believe and cling to the light while I am with you, so that you will become children of light.”
OBSERVATION: In our world, filled with frustrations, crime, backbiting and envy, don’t you wish sometime that life was simpler and much less stressful? Don’t you feel sometime that you have the weight of the world on your shoulders bearing you down? Take a deep breath, and now re-read today’s Scripture! Isn’t it obvious that Jesus is the answer? Meditate with me as we reflect on this awesome truth today!
APPLICATION: In John 1:5 we are told that the same light referred to in our focal verses today, is actually ‘Jesus‘. God saw how far His precious children had gone off course, and away from the ideals He had first established for us to follow, so He sent His precious Son as a ‘LIGHT’ to remind us of the joy, refreshment, peace and hope that belong to those of us looking for a way out of the darkness that seem to overwhelm us everywhere that we turn here on earth. Yesterday I glanced at my Facebook account, and there was one plea after another for prayer and encouragement. In one case a dad and his relatives were mourning the sudden death of a 30+ year old son who was killed in a tragic accident; in another case close to home, a husband lost His precious wife who was his primary caregiver and support; in another case someone was very concerned for her family displaced by Hurricane Dorian; another friend is anxiously wanting to retire for relief from the stress of her job; and if I would have read on, I bet there would have been more friends feeling the results of the ‘darkness’ of this world, than those who were able to rejoice in the Light of all that God has blessed them with. Friends, I believe that most of you reading this devotional will identify with the struggles I mentioned, because we all are impacted by the ‘darkness’ of the world that we live in. HOWEVER, true to form, I went to the Word of God today to discover ways that I might be encouraged by the God of all hope! And I was reminded that we were created in the image of God so that we might return praise back to Him. So what have we gotten ourselves into that hinders that praise back to our Father? Do we have an open and honest relationship with His Son, and experience the freedom of chatting with Him about all these worldly things that tend to stress us out? Are we able to praise Him, even in the storms of life that come our way? Don’t you think that the child of God that praises Him in all circumstances of life, will truly be able to approach Him with every decision that must be made, and every challenge that we foresee with just our human heart and eyes? Oh dear friend, let us together learn to speak with our Lord every day of the week, and not just when called upon to do so while at church. Remember, our relationship is with Jesus, and while our church family will definitely encourage us and support us, there is no one that could ratify your relationship with the Master, but you. Our verses today remind us to do this while the Light (Jesus) is available to us. I would boldly remind us that we’ve had enough of the ‘darkness’. It is high time that children of the Light, look to the Light for His huge hand of protection; healing; mercy and encouragement each and every day, so that He might wipe out the effects of the darkness and all the misfortunes that it burdens us with. Learn to praise Him in your storms of life, and recognize Him for the all-powerful, almighty God that He is. Hard to imagine that He loves even us – wimps and weaklings – but He does. We are His creation that He put His life on the line for!
PRAYER: To the Light of the world, Jesus my Savior, I am honored and humbled to stand in Your presence and not only recognize You as my Lord and Savior, but as the Light that will extinguish all darkness and especially the impacts of the ills and darkness of this wicked world. These bad things impact us all every day dear Lord, but I ask that You help us to stay focused on You and keep our eyes fixed on the awesome God that You are. Please guide us daily out of the darkness and into the light, so that our hearts will be freed and ready to worship and praise You in every aspect of life. You alone are God. Please help us to respect Your position in life, and be reminded of our need for You – in all things. AMEN!