20.5 John – Aroma

Why are Christians hated and persecuted in the world?  It isn’t just a targeted response.  It doesn’t come from logical or rational thought, it is deeper, more basic.  We smell.

In the same way that different people have different tastes, food they like and dislike, we learn from scripture that the aroma of faith smells differently to believers and none believers.

Throughout the old testament, there are over 40 verses discussing the pleasing aroma of true sacrifice to God.  This is a recurring theme and one that time and again points to the aroma of how Jesus smells to God.  He is the ultimate sacrifice, one who laid down His life for His friends.

2 Cor 2:14-16 discusses this.  When we are followers of Christ we take on His sacrifice as our own and we take on His aroma.  To God we smell like Jesus.  It goes out before us.  It is present on us whether we open our mouth or not.  It is all around us.

To fellow believers it is a pleasing aroma.  It smells like home.  It smells like Jesus.  It smells like everything we want and desire.

But to those who have rejected Christ, we smell like their future.  We smell like death.

If you have ever smelled a dead animal, you know the smell.  It is repulsive and they can think of nothing but getting rid of it, hating it, getting it away from them.

The smell is not the same because the future is not the same.  The smell is not the same because the “smeller” is not the same.  We smell the perfume that was poured on Jesus by Mary to anoint Him, they smell death that awaits them by participating in rejecting the Lord.

My Answers:

Unbelievers, because they have rejected Jesus and, in so doing, rejected his followers as well.  Do they dislike me or what I represent to them?  If they hate Jesus, shouldn’t they hate me as well, if I’m living a life that reflects His glory?

Luke 5, it is not the healthy who need a doctor…  Our place in this world is to be a servant of Jesus in aiding the spiritually sick to become well, by drinking from the well of salvation.  We are constantly under attack in this endeavor because we stand out, we fight the disease of sin.  I attempt to do this with children who must make their own decisions about faith in their life but currently come under the faith of their parents.  I do this will co-workers and clients and vendors at work.  I do this with family who do and do not believe.

The disciples then and there as well as those of us who are disciples here today.  Me.

Because why would we expect to be treated better than Jesus was treated?  We have less power, less authority on our own, our only real power and authority is that which we channel that belongs to Jesus.  In the same way, the attacks on us are not on us, but on Jesus through us.


20.4 John – Making the Intangible Tangible

One of the things I love the most about John 15 is the way Jesus makes the intangible visual and tangible and real.  For example, LOVE.  We know love as an emotion.  We know it is real, but it isn’t something that we can visualize or touch, much less “remain in”.

But, Jesus explains that LOVE is like a HOME, and not just any home, but God’s home.  It is a real and tangible place.  It is a safe place.  It is a place we are with God, in His presence, in His Home.  It is a place for us, where we have our own room, just like home.  It is a safe place.

But, we are a people prone to wander.  The grass appears greener in other places (even though it is dead grass painted green).  And we walk out the front door.  Sometimes we think we are just sneaking out for a short time, other times we reject the Father to His face and run away.  But just as in the story of the prodigal son, the Father keeps our room ready for us to return and be welcomed back.

One other thing I want to point out from this verses is the interpretation of the word “if” in verse 14.  Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”  The word here is if, not when.  The other translation of the Greek word used here is “whosoever”.  The message is NOT “when you obey me you are my friend and when you don’t you are not.”  But, instead, Jesus is saying, ‘those who choose to love me show it by obeying my commands (such as loving one another, such as remaining in the Father’s love), and not only will they not be rejected by me, but I will call them my friends.’  Think about this from the perspective of who Jesus is.  He is the King of Kings and Lord or Lords.  But those who choose to come under Him are not only His subjects and servants (as would be the case with other Kings), but He promises that we will be His Friends.

Friends get invited to dinner.  Friends become part of the family.  Friends get a seat at the table and, ultimately, get adopted as brothers and sisters.

My Answers:

Love is a home.  It is a place to dwell in occupied by God.  It is a place to remain.  It is something to share, to bring others in to.  As the song says, it is a big, big house!

It is what Jesus commands.  It is what Jesus did for us (and them).  It is the only way to share the gospel.  You cannot share the good news in hate or as a weapon against others.  You can’t share it by throwing it over the fence, emailing it out.  You share it by sharing Christ’s love.  It is not our love that is the key, it is the love of Jesus Christ.

To be His friends.  We were appointed that we might go and bear fruit, everlasting fruit.  When we ask He will empower us in anything that is needed for that mission.  It starts with Love.

20.3 John – Stopping Unfruitful Activities

When we read these verses in John 15 and get to the part about pruning, we probably cringe a little.  Even when it is for our own good, we don’t like pruning.  It sounds painful.

But, the message is clear, we need to do more pruning in our lives, not less.  And, the first area that we need to prune relates to time.

As hard as we may want it to be different, there are only so many hours in a day.  In those hours we fill them up with a lot of “good” activity.  We make commitments with family, friends, partners, work, organizations, and even ourselves.  We are busy, busy people.  We are busy, busy people doing “good” things.

But which of those things are bearing fruit?

Why aren’t more Christians active in their faith?  The number one reason given is that they are too busy. Of Christians in America, only 20% attend a worship service weekly.  Of those who attend worship service only 20% read the bible more than once a week.

How do we expect to bear fruit when we are not receiving nourishment?

Why do we keep participating in things that aren’t bearing fruit and taking our time away from those that do and those that nourish us?  I think the answer is in three parts.

First, we get into a rut.  We go from day to day, commitment to commitment, busy to busy, and we don’t think and assess things from a higher vantage point.  This is one reason it is so important to occasionally pull back, retreat, block out some quiet time that you do not fill up with things already on your list, but that you assess the things you are engaged in, that fill up your time, against the criteria of bearing fruit.

Second, we don’t know how to get out.  We really don’t want to disappoint other people and we get ourselves into situations where we have made a commitment and we don’t know how to end it.  But God gives us the answer to this as well, it is called seasons.  Pruning one activity so that we can begin a new one does not mean we are saying the first activity is bad or something we are rejecting.  We are saying it was great for a season and now we are entering a different season of life.  This also gives us a way of communicating effectively to those we are stepping away from.  It is a way of confirming that value of what we are a part of for the season of life we were in, but that it is now time for us, in this season of life, to move to something else. (keeping in mind that while it may not be producing fruit in our season of life, that does not mean it cannot be producing fruit for others).

Third, I think we sometimes take pride in the importance of our busy-ness.  How often have you heard the conversation, “How are things going?  Good, we are staying really, really busy.”  We get so caught up in being busy and being proud of how much we must be wanted and needed, that we get too busy to see what all this busy-ness is taking away from our lives.  How it takes away the opportunity to listen to God and what he has called us to do.  There is a big difference between working on lots of things and working on the right things, and aren’t the right things the things that produce fruit?

My Answers:

With Children, at work, with family, in church

It is, in the same way there can be “bible on the bookshelf” christians, who put faith in Jesus but have disconnected from Him in practice and are not living a life of faith.  James 2, faith without work is dead

Focus on being healthier.  Blood numbers weren’t where they should be.  To continue to do the work God has given me, I need to stay healthy and able to perform which means I need to eat right and exercise.

20.2 John – Nourishment

I love the visual that Jesus provides of the vine and the branches.  When we are in the right path in life we are so securely connected to the Lord that we are part of the same living organism.  The nourishment that we need for eternal life comes up out of the eternal roots of the plant (from the Father), through the vine (Jesus) and into us, the branches.  The Holy Spirit is the connecting fluid flowing throughout, bringing the nourishment deep into us.

Not only that, but the illustration puts it in the right order.  We connect to Jesus, not the other way around.  Jesus isn’t something that we add to our life to make us feel whole.  We are chosen by the master gardener to be grafted on to Jesus, taking something that was weak and frail (us) and making it a part of something eternal and holy.

But the same illustration shows our propensity to sin as well.  Just like a branch, we wander, seeking out the next shiny thing to get our attention.  We don’t completely let go of Jesus, and He for sure does not let go of us, but we stretch ourselves out reaching for the lusts of temptation.  We sometimes not only reach out, but be bind ourselves around those other things.  They are always things of this earth, nothing but rocks or wooden (including things like shiny rocks such as gold and jewels and coins and paper money).  We get ourselves so wrapped around these things that, in a  storm, we pull against the direction of our vine and we can be hurt and damaged.

When this occurs, the master gardener helps prune us back, again giving us the strength and nourishment that we cannot receive in chasing after wandering ways.

My Answers:

We are not on our own or disconnected, we are tied to Christ, we are connected to Him and receive life through the connection in him

Earlier he had washed their feet and explained they were already clean because they had received His word, and walked with Him.   Psalm 51, Create in me a pure heart, o God, and renew a right spirit in me, — If any one is thirsty let him come to me and drink John 7:37

This is about where we draw strength, not whether we are or are not saved.  We often, through sin, pull away from Christ and attempt to find power in ourselves.