This has to be one of the most confusing, fearful passages in the New Testament. It is used to scare the "hell" out of saints, and used as a threat against charismatics of all kinds. Some have gone so far to say that any gifts of the Spirit today would actually be demonic and rejected by God. But what does it really mean? Is Jesus talking about going to heaven? Is he saying that only those who perfectly do God's will, are permitted go to heaven? Is this a works salvation after all?
Did Jesus threaten to throw you into the fires of hell if you don't abide in the vine? Abide in the vine or go to hell! Stay "in Christ" or burn? Did you put yourself in Christ to begin with? 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus..."
That is really the implication of John 15:1-6 if we don't understand it. Many Christians and unfortunately pastors too, have misinterpreted this passage and placed a weight of fear on believers that they were never intended to carry.
Remember the Justice League of America? Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash?
From a very young age we have had the concept of justice deeply ingrained in us. A four year old knows its wrong for another boy to steal his GI Joe toy.
But if we don't allow the Bible to inform our hearts, we will miss what divine justice is all about! In fact, without understanding justice, we will not be able to accurately interpret scripture. Even worse, we will misunderstand the nature of God.
Yes, of course what happened at the cross was vitally important, but if Jesus was simply going there separate from us, it would have resulted in religion.
Oh wait!! That is exactly what many people think. They weren't told that as a result of the incarnation, what Jesus did, he was doing for us us! Not in a separate sort of way, but as the Son of Man he represented all mankind. So whatever happened to him was happening for the whole of humanity!
I recently sat with a new missionary friend who told me the story about a former Taliban terrorist he encountered in another country.
One night in Afghanistan this Taliban terrorist was planning another attack. Suddenly a stranger named Jesus walks into his room and sits at the foot of his bed. This stranger begins explaining the gospel to him in simple terms, with love and patience.
I remember a time when I saw myself as an outsider trying to get into God’s presence. If my life was right, my prayers were fervent, and I was patient waiting on Him… eventually he would let me into that place of experiencing him. Instead of Jesus standing at the door and knocking, I was the one, knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.
That is such a good question! I'm glad you asked. The answer is simple: He is closer than your very breath! This begins a new series of simple grace questions that many of us need answers to and those simple answers can very profoundly affect our lives.
Some worship songs, as sincere and heart-felt as they may be, subtly teach us that God is at a distance and he needs to be invited.
Let me ask you a question: What part did you play in raising Jesus from the dead? Separating him from our sins? What role did you play delivering him from the "pains of death" (Acts 2:24)? What did you do to declare Jesus justified (1 Timothy 3:16) after carrying all our sin away? Did you declare him holy or was it the Spirit (Romans 1:4)? What role did you play in opening the heavenly sanctuary in the clouds so the Son could be received? Or was it totally Gods work? His victory?
Many of us have heard it quoted through the years... sin is so serious and God is so holy that his eyes are to pure to even look upon evil! Usually on the heels is the inevitable guilt trip where we are called to come to the altar and "get right" because... basically God can't stand the sight of you. That is the message that some people have internalized.
Want a shocking perspective?!! Did Jesus lie when he said that the gospel was only for a very few? Or is there more to the story? Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are FEW who find it.”
A legend is a story that has some historical truth in it but has probably grown bigger than life. You know what a fairy tale is right? A fairy tale is a story with fairies. A fairy tale is a fantasy story filled with mythical creatures with a moral to the story, but it is outright fiction.
I want to tell you about a God who is not a fairy tale. One whose story seems too good to be true… he calls it good news. Gospel. It is not a fairy tale. It has been minimized instead of growing bigger than life that's why I’m telling you it's no fairy tale what God did in the gospel! BUT a lot of the things we believe about forgiveness and the gospel are closer to fairy tales than they are to fact. So let’s look at some of those:
Who is separated from Christ? Sinners right? Well… come with me and explore one of the most important paradigm shifts ever. As you read, suspend judgment until you allow the Holy Spirit to massage your heart. The difference is between religion and life. The change of mind you will get is called repentance.
I recceived a "ministry letter" recently which was from a well-known Christian leader who wrote that he stopped to pray just for me. Of course this was a form letter that went out to thousands of people. God showed him that we were under attack by the devil, but God showed him the secret to me getting free. It said, “I felt that your finances, health and a loved one were being attacked by the devil.” (Well, that was hard to figure out!)
Trying to do the right things but can’t keep up with the list? Feeling disconnected with God because you haven’t read your Bible lately and prayer is dry? Getting offended because of all the work you do in church or “for God” but things still aren’t going great…in fact life kinda stinks? Are you almost tired of being a Christian but you have enough fear of God that you can’t just walk away?