Parents

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience and explain salvation

Read: Deuteronomy 6

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)

Reflect:

Deuteronomy 6 has several mentions of parents teaching their children. Parental teaching is to be two-fold: first they are to teach by example, then by explanation. Living their own lives in accordance with the law God has given them, parents will teach their children mimetically. Then their children will witness their law-keeping and ask questions about it. After that, the parents are to take the second step of explaining the salvation of God that predates and underpins the keeping of the law. For Christians, this means explaining the salvation that has been won for us through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Demonstrate obedience to God and explain salvation by God – these are the two lessons parents are to teach throughout the everyday ordinary; at home and away, morning and evening.

Vitally, it is not enough to teach either of these lessons without the other. If we only demonstrate obedience to God, our children may grow up defeated and disheartened if they fail to be obedient, or self-righteous and proud if (they think) they are successful in their imitative obedience. Either way, the children will not be saved because they won’t know that it is God who saves them, not their obedience.

Likewise, if we only explain salvation to our children and do not model obedience, they will never learn to hate their sin, never learn to yearn for holiness, never appreciate righteousness, never be thankful for forgiveness. They need both lessons.

crux:

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience to God even as they explain salvation by God to their children.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are my heavenly Father. You adopted me through the work of your Son. You parented me perfectly and yet I still sinned, and needed (and still need) your forgiveness. Thank you for rescuing and redeeming me. Please help me to be obedient to all Jesus has commanded me to do.

Please help me and help Jeff as we parent our children in one flesh unity. Please help us to demonstrate obedience to you and to your will in ways our children will see, which will cause them to ask, “Why do you do that?” Please help us to (again and again) explain your salvation, your mighty hand, to our children so they may be drawn to you as their Saviour.

Please help our children to obey you and to love your Son as their Saviour, even as he is ours.

Amen.

Culture

The standards of culture must be submitted to the commands of Jesus

Read: Matthew 15

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.'” (Matthew 15:7-9)

Respond:

Jesus did bring new ways of doing things to his culture (11:19) and he did provide new teaching for his students (“new treasure,” 13:52). This “new wine” did not fit into the Pharisee’s “old wineskins” (9:17).

If I accept – as I do – that Jesus is the Christ (God’s anointed king) and that Jesus is God’s Son (God’s essence and representative to mankind) then I must accept Jesus’ new ways and new teachings as God’s ways, God’s teaching. Which leads me to ask myself, in what ways am I like the Pharisees? What parts of Jesus’ teaching am I inclined to reject or gloss over because I favour my tradition, my human rules?

The very next story in Matthew’s gospel, for one. I do not like that Jesus refers to the Canaanite woman as a “dog”, albeit metaphorically. But is my objection mainly based upon my cultural interpretation of this as offensive name-calling? I think it probably is.

Is my tradition, therefore, getting in the way of me accepting that Jesus knew to whom he was sent (the Jews, not Gentiles, for the purpose of his earthly teaching and healing ministry) and that Jesus chose to obey his Father’s mandate? The Canaanite woman, it seems, took no offence, so neither should I.

The truth is, Jesus extended grace to this woman, and to her daughter, and to all he healed. Thanks be to God!

crux:

The standards of my culture must be submitted to the commands of Jesus.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus, who shows me the right way to live. May I submit to him and his ways and not conform to the pattern of this age.

Please help me to be wise and discerning enough to distinguish between useful, helpful, biblical teaching and mere human rules. Help me to know the difference between opinion and truth, no matter how loud and strident the voice is that proclaims it.

May my worship of you always be honouring to you.

May I be appalled by the things in my culture that appall you. May I despise the things that you despise. May I be disgusted by the things that disgust you. And then, please help me to do something about it – may I speak up, may I act up, may I submit to the commands of God.

Amen.

Rest

God is great and the good news about his Son gives rest to my heart

Read: 1 John 3:19-24

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:19-20)

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23)

Reflect:

This passage answers some of the questions raised earlier in verses 6 and 9 of this chapter, which say that Christians stop sinning. According to John, if my heart feels guilty, then my feeling shall be corrected by my mind, which knows that God is greater than my heart, greater than my shame.

I stop sinning because Jesus has taken away my sin (3:5). Jesus did this by fulfilling the law; not abolishing it (Matthew 5:17), but refining and redefining it in himself.

Jesus said the whole law is summed up in two commands: to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love my neighbour as I love myself (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31). Now John reframes this summation of the law. John says, paraphrasing Jesus (John 6:29), that God’s commands are two-fold: to believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ and to love one another.

If I consider the parallels between these two two-fold summations of the law, I can see how the second interprets the first. John’s “one another” defines Jesus’ “neighbour” as fellow believers, I think, based on John’s previous use (3:10, 3:16) of “brother and sister”. (Which doesn’t mean that Christians should not love non-Christians, merely that this love is not a primary command.)

Likewise, “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ” clarifies what it means to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We love God primarily by believing in His Son.

And when I believe in God’s Son Jesus, I know that God is greater than me and he has sent his Son to take away my sin. I stop sinning because my sin is no more – abolished not by the abolishing of the law, but by its fulfilment by Jesus Christ. Sin is lawlessness (3:4) and since the law is fulfilled in Christ and through my belief in him, there can be no more lawlessness in me, no more sin in me.

Aaah! Now my heart is free to rest.

Crux:

God is great and the good news about his Son gives rest to my heart.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Great is your name; great is your glory.
You are greater than me; greater than the condemnation of my heart within me; greater than anything I can conceive or imagine; greater than infinity.
You are greatly to be praised.

I believe in the name of your only Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.

I believe that somehow you, who are more-than-infinite, became less, lowly, a human infant born of the virgin Mary, conceived by your Holy Spirit’s essence.

I believe that Jesus suffered cruelly according to the decision of Pontius Pilate. I believe Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross; that he died there at Golgotha, the place of the skull. I celebrate this as Easter Friday.

I believe that the body of Jesus was buried in a fresh grave by those who sought to honour him.

And I believe that Jesus rose again to life on the third day, which I celebrate as Easter Sunday.

I believe that Jesus was seen alive by honest eyewitnesses before he ascended to heaven, to the God-realm. I believe Jesus is sitting even now at your right hand. I believe that one day Jesus will return to earth to judge all people, including those who have already died and those still alive on that day.

I believe, LORD. Please deepen my belief in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Remain

I remain in Christ because I remember the Christian gospel

Read: 1 John 2:24-28

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us: eternal life. (1 John 2:24-25)

Reflect:

John gives a direct command here to his readers. He tells me I must ensure that what I “have heard from the beginning” stays in me. I am responsible.

What is this message that reached my ears? It is the gospel, the good news.

In words of one syllable, it is this: Christ died to save me from my sins so that I may be right with God.

The Big Words version: The gospel of salvation told me that the forgiveness of my sins (justification) and imparting of Christ’s righteousness (imputation) was made possible by God’s free gift (grace) to me, through my faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ in my place (substitution), which turned away God’s wrath (propitiation).

So how do I ensure that this message “remains in me”?

I study and learn more about this gospel message (so I understand all those Big Words that End in SHUN). I read the Bible closely and see Christ’s death on my behalf portrayed throughout its pages. I partake in Holy Communion. I celebrate Easter, gathering with my local church body. I talk about the gospel with my husband, my children, my fellow believers, my co-workers, my friends. Through prayer, I talk about the gospel with my God.

I take responsibility for loving God with all my mind and soul as well as with all my heart and strength.

Blessedly, all this learning, remembering, celebrating, meditating and talking has a flow-on effect, according to John: it ensures that I stay in Christ and in the Father. Christ promised me eternal life, and I have it now as I remain in him.

Crux:

I remain in Christ because I remember the Christian gospel.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

May your name be praised in all the world.

You saw my horrible sin and were justly angry at me. Yet you expended your wrath not on me but on the body of your Son, Jesus Christ, as he hung crucified, bearing my sin and shame in his body.

You are just – terribly, fearfully just.
You are merciful – wonderfully, generously merciful.

You are Sovereign, Saviour and Spirit, Three in One, the Holy One.

I acknowledge you. May I always remain in you, and in so-doing enjoy eternal life.

Thank you for this eternal life which you have birthed in me through the hearing of the gospel and faith in your Son. Keep me in your Son always, eternally alive because I am eternally in him who grants me life.

May I continue to live in Christ, so I may be confident and unashamed – confident in Christ’s sacrifice and unashamed with Christ’s righteousness – before Jesus when he comes.

Amen.

Vine

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God

Read: John 15

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1)

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

Reflect:

Jesus and his disciples have left the room where they ate the Last Supper, and are now probably wandering among the fruit orchards somewhere on the Mount of Olives. I can imagine Jesus running his hand carefully over a few green vine leaves, dark now in the deep of evening, using their surroundings as stimulus for another illustration of the relationships between Jesus, his Father and his followers.

Jesus = the True Vine

Jesus’ Father = the Gardener

The Disciples = Branches

John 15v1-17 1
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

A vine does not exist without a gardener to plant it and tend it, growing it where and in what shape the gardener desires. A branch does not produce fruit unless it is connected strongly to the vine, else it withers and weakens, or the gardener cuts it off entirely.

Again, God the Father is shown to be greater than God the Son, and infinitely greater than the Son’s disciples.

Jesus’ disciples are told to remain in the Jesus-Vine in order to bear fruit. How do they remain in Jesus Christ and he in them? Jesus said his words will remain in them, by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father and testifies of the Son (v26). Jesus said they will remain in his love by keeping his commands. Most notable and relevant is Jesus’ most recent command (John 13:34) for the disciples to love each other, as Jesus loved them: sacrificially, with their very lives.

Then, Jesus says, because his disciples are connected so strongly vitally to him, they may ask for what they want and will certainly receive it. Does a grape vine wish to grow figs? Does a pear tree desire to bear plums? Neither would the disciples ask to bear fruit that is not in keeping with their connection to the true vine, Jesus. So of course “it will be done”!

When the disciples ask to bear fruit, they will: the fruit of love for one another. Their love demonstrates their connectedness to their vine, their discipleship to their Rabbi. Through their love, the disciples give glory to God the Father. This is true joy!

Crux:

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are both Gardener and Vine and only in you may I have fullness of life.

Because I am joined to Jesus, his Spirit in my spirit, I am truly alive and able to bear the fruit you desire me to grow: love for others.

As I pray this I remember Jesus’ assertion that he will never lose me (John 6:39) so I don’t fear being cut off from him. I do earnestly desire to grow into a strong branch, able to bear the weight of much fruit without cracking or toppling. I confess that ofttimes I feel like I will break under the weight of loving those you have brought into my life, so please grant me your strength to continue. Keep your Holy Spirit sap flowing into me, nourishing me, LORD!

May this branch be much like the Branch of Jesse, the True Vine, Jesus Christ. May I love as Jesus loves, being willing to lay down my life for those I call “friends”, the other branches of the true vine. Whatever, whenever, however, may I show myself a true disciple of my Rabbi Jesus by loving as he loved, in my everyday ordinary life, so you may be glorified.

Amen.

Commanded

Read: John 14

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happened. so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince off this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:28-31)

Reflect:

The greatest act of love the world has ever witnessed was Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. His death was not compelled by this world’s prince (ie, the devil); it could not be, because the devil has no power over Jesus (v30). Rather, Jesus’ death was an act of obedience to his Father’s command (v31).

Jesus’ words in this passage reveal anew three key things about Jesus’ nature:

  1. Jesus has the ability to foretell truth (v29).
  2. The Father is greater (even) than the Son (v28).
  3. The Son willingly obeys the Father (v31).

Even though Jesus said seeing him was the same as seeing the Father, in some sense God the Father is, has always been and will always be greater than God the Son. There is complete harmony between the members of the Trinity, yet their is also hierarchy and subordination. And this does not mean that there is a lack of love, nor is there any disobedience. This loving obedience allows Jesus to be completely calm and assured for his future, even though he is very aware he is going to his death.

Crux:

Jesus loved me to the cross because his Father commanded him to.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus’ act of love on the cross. Thank you for your love within the Trinity for each other, and for your love for me.

Please help me to love others in the way Jesus loved. Please help me to know others are greater, and that’s okay. Please help me to obey Jesus’ commands and teaching because I love him.

Please help me to understand what Jesus teaches me, with the help of the Advocate’s teaching. Please disciple me, be my Rabbi, through the voice of the Holy Spirit, so I am reminded of all I know to be true about Jesus.

Make me mature in my faith. I know this will mean disciplining me when I am disobedient. I submit to you in that as in all things. Please conform my spirit, my soul and my self to the image of your Son Jesus Christ.

Amen.