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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1257: Tuesday 25th October 2016: John 16: 17-22: Any Answers?

John 16: 17-22: Any Answers? (please click for todays passage)

”Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said…?” (19) The Message.

Questions, questions, questions! It is not wrong to ask questions. Rather it is natural and normal to have them. Life throws up scores of questions.

It’s not wrong either to talk with fellow disciples about our questions. The essence of fellowship is ‘sharing’, and we can and should open up our hearts, our thoughts to one another. We really can help each other.

Neither is it wrong to try to ”figure” out what Jesus means. God has given you a wonderful brain. It is a remarkable gift. We are told that we don’t come anywhere close to fully utilising its capacity. So, by all means, please use the grey stuff between your ears. Be a thinking Christian…

…but do this PRAYERFULLY.

It is a big mistake to ask questions that pertain to Jesus, His Word and His work, and not ask Him WHEN HE IS WITH US. It is sad when we run the church by committee meetings and brainstorming sessions and good ideas, but do not pray – or, at least, pray only perfunctorily:

”If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Sometimes we just don’t do the obvious:

”Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant…” (19) The Message.

So why don’t we?  Is it that we think the Lord might ‘find fault’ with us; might scold us for our stupidity or ignorance? Might be somewhat annoyed or irritated? 

Jesus is willing to explain to us as much as He wants us to know. He doesn’t unveil every mystery of course, but He is alive, and He speaks to His followers. I thought about entitling this piece ‘Any questions?’, but in the end I went for ‘Any answers?’ His answers are far more important than our questions. We will not always find what He says to us easy to bear, but we can trust Him to be truthful. Whatever pain may lie in the short term, over the long haul the outlook is glorious. The Christian story is a ”happy ever after” story.

And a day is coming when we will have all the answers we need.

But for today, what pressing, burning questions do you need to lay at Jesus’ feet? Come – He bids you, and at His door you will see the ‘welcome’ mat.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord Jesus that you speak to your disciples still today, and that you are willing to help. Please forgive me for the many times I try to work through stuff on my own. I ask today for your wisdom with regard to…(fill in the blanks yourself), and I trust that I will be given help and understanding. Thank you Lord.

Daily Bible thoughts 1256: Monday 24th October 2016: John 16:12-16: The promised Holy Spirit.

John 16:12-16: The promised Holy Spirit.(please click here for todays passage)

There are many true things we can say about the Holy Spirit.Here are three further points:

  1. The Holy Spirit reveals truth (13, 15). We would not have a Bible without the Holy Spirit, and we cannot understand it without the Spirit. In Ephesians Paul prays that the ”eyes” of the hearts of the believers will be opened. Such revelation is made possible only by the Holy Spirit. He gives us ‘eyes to see’. In a sense every Christian testimony says, ”Once I was blind, but now I see.” We are brought out of darkness into marvellous light. We need this passage to understand the doctrine of inspiration; to grasp how the apostles were able to accurately remember the words and works of Jesus, write up the story, and interpret it’s meaning.
  2. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus (14). Jim Packer writes in his book, ‘Keep in step with the Spirit’ about ”the floodlight ministry” of the Spirit of God. He says that when floodlights are working properly you are not aware of them, only of the building being illuminated. So it is with God’s Spirit. He does not glorify Himself. He puts the spotlight on Jesus. 
  3. The Holy Spirit enables us to ”see” Jesus (16). Although the Lord has physically gone from the earth, and is now at the right Hand of the Father, all who have the Spirit are able to ”see” Him. He is vividly real to us.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, please help me to see Jesus more clearly, to understand God’s Word and to glorify the Lord by life and lip.

Daily Bible thoughts 1255: Friday 21st October 2016: John 16:5-11: The Supreme Counsel for the prosecution.

John 16:5-11: The Supreme Counsel for the prosecution.(please click for todays passage)

I believe I once read somewhere that the great and effective Victorian preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, used to say to himself,every time he was entering the pulpit, ”I believe in the Holy Ghost.” He knew where his strength lay.

Today’s passage says at least three things to us:

  1. Have confidence in the Holy Spirit. He has a job to do, and He will do it. You can be sure of that: ”When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.” (The Message) He causes people to see fundamental spiritual realities. Believe in His presence and activity in the world, even though you do not see Him. He is at work. You may or may not be a preacher, but every Christian should share Spurgeon’s confidence in the Holy Spirit.
  2. Don’t confuse your role with that of the Holy Spirit. It is not your work to change people. Some  folks seem to see it as their life’s assignment to put everybody else right. If that’s you, you are wrong! Christian wife, you are not asked to do the Holy Spirit’s work with reference to your unconverted husband. And to any Christian husbands with unregenerate spouses, it’s exactly the same message to you. Christian parents, much as you love your children and want to see them in God’s Kingdom, you can’t push them in by force. You can’t badger and bully them into submission. This is not the God appointed way. Please get this: it is not your job to bring another human being under conviction of sin. This task is definitely the domain of the third Person of the Trinity. It’s not the case that we have nothing to do. We have already seen the ‘double testimony’ in (15:26, 27). Jesus said about the Spirit, ”he will testify about me”. But He went on to say, ”you also must testify…” We do have to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in pointing to Jesus, but He is supremely ‘the Counsel for the prosecution.’ Spirit-filled witness is your job; conviction of sin is His unique work.
  3. Look for what the Holy Spirit is doing in every situation you find yourself in. He is working in people and situations where it may appear to the outward eye that nothing promising is happening. Only this morning, I heard a testimony given by a highly influential pastor. He told a story of how as a youth he was totally reprobate. He said he loved his sin. But then his life began to cave in. A friend invited him to a Christian meeting. After attending for a while he bought himself a Bible (‘The Authorised Version’, because that was the one in use in that particular church!) and it began to come alive to him. He was soundly converted. Again, as you read the Book of ‘Acts’, you get the impression time after time that the church is playing ‘catch up’ with the Holy Spirit. They are discovering what He is doing, and joining Him in it. That makes for effective mission. As someone said, the Holy Spirit is ”President” and not just ”resident”.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as I understand you here, I believe you are saying that I; that we who make up your church today, are in a more advantaged position than were the disciples who lived with you during your earthly life. This is a remarkable, mysterious truth, but we have your Holy Spirit within us. How wonderful. Thank you Lord for your abundant provision.

Daily Bible thoughts 1254: Thursday 20th October 2016: John 16:1-4: Loving honesty.

John 16:1-4: Loving honesty.(please click for todays passage)

In order to help people, you can’t always tell them what they want to hear. There are times when the only way to protect is by proffering loving honesty. Jesus knows what His disciples need to hear and WHEN they need to hear it (4). You can feel Jesus’ love for His disciples in the content and timing of these words.God has a way of preparing our hearts for times of trouble ahead. I’ve heard people say that they can cope with bad news better when they know precisely what the diagnosis and prognosis are; when they can look what they are facing squarely in the eye. When there’s a vague sense of threat hanging in the air it’s much harder to deal with.

When ”the time comes” they will remember that Jesus knew all about it and prepared them in advance (4). This will strengthen their confidence in Him. It points to the Lordship of Jesus. He (and they) may be under threat, but He is definitely in control.

What had Jesus already told His disciples to keep them ‘on the straight and narrow’?    Here are a few things:

  1. They will be hated (15:18). They are to expect animosity, violence and even death itself. Look how that theme continues here (2);
  2. They will be hated because of their relationship to Jesus (15:18, 20, 21). But the hatred of Jesus, and His church, is irrational (15:25). It is also inexcusable (15:22);
  3. This hatred springs from spiritual ignorance (15:21; 16:3);
  4. In the face of hatred and danger, they ”must” testify to Jesus (15:27). But they are not alone (15:26). The Holy Spirit will do the work. So there is a balanced picture of warning and encouragement. Some people did wholeheartedly obey Jesus’ teaching (20b) so they could anticipate some degree of success.

Let’s be careful to spell out the cost of discipleship to potential (and actual) followers and ask them to count it. And don’t be surprised if you find the Christian life hard; if you find yourself and your message opposed; if you should be socially ostracised. Expect it. If it’s not your experience now, it no doubt will be at some point. Keep going, trusting in the reality of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Jesus knows, and He is in charge of all things.

Daily Bible thoughts 1253: Wednesday 19th October 2016: John 15:26, 27: The evangelistic imperative.

 John 15:26, 27:The evangelistic imperative.(please click for todays passage)

”And you also must testify…”

It is an imperative for a disciple of Christ to ”testify” to Him. We who have been called into relationship with Jesus; who know Him; who spend time with Him – we are to testify to Him.

But the testimony spoken of here is a double testimony. It is the witness of the Holy Spirit and that of the disciple. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the primary witness. His testimony is mentioned first.

In the first place He testifies about Jesus to us, so that we may know Him more and more.

But, secondly, He testifies about Jesus through us. He is the great evangelist in our world; the foremost missionary and witness to Christ. Without Him all our efforts to spread the gospel will fail.

I like to think, as an illustration, of a gloved hand. To the outward eye it looks like the glove is moving, touching, picking things up.But in reality it is the hand in the glove doing the work. The hand and glove have become as one.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray that the Holy Spirit will so fill my life that I become a powerful witness to Jesus. I ask in Christ’s own Name.

Daily Bible thoughts 1252: Tuesday 18th October 2016: John 15:18-25: On persecution.

John 15:18-25: On persecution.(please click here for todays passage)

If the last section in John was about love, this next one turns to the theme of hate – the hatred of the world (”the moral order apart from God” D. Guthrie) for Christ, for His Father, and for the church (18, 19, 23, 24). At one level it is an inexplicable hatred because it is ”without reason” (25; see Psalm 25:19; 69:4). Why would ”the world” hate the God who ”so” loves it (John 3:16). It doesn’t make any sense naturally speaking. But we are not ‘naturally speaking’. We live and serve in war time realities (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Here are four observations from the passage:

  1. The persecution of Christians is indissolubly linked to the persecution of Jesus (18, 20, 21). The Lord had previously enunciated the principle found in (20) back in (13:16): ”No servant is greater than his master.” There it related to the need for humility. Here it has to do with how the world will treat them. If Jesus was hated by the world they will be. But some did respond warmly and positively to the teaching of Jesus and we will find this too. The picture is not totally bleak.
  2. Christians are persecuted because they do not belong to the world (19). We belong to another country, a better land, a different commonwealth, a greater kingdom: ”But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We have been born from above. We don’t belong in this world. It’s been said that the principle here is that like attracts like but repels opposites. It’s like when birds turn on other birds of a different plumage and want to kill them.
  3. Persecution has its origin in ignorance of God (21). People who truly know God would not hound other lovers of God. They just wouldn’t.
  4. Persecution may be understandable, but it is nevertheless inexcusable (22,24). The preaching and miracles of Jesus left them without excuse. Brilliant light had shone in their darkness. They allowed their day of opportunity to pass them by.

I applaud every sincere attempt to befriend people who are not Christians. Jesus was the Friend of sinners, and I want to follow in His steps. But if we offer that friendship without compromise, we will find that there will be many who do not wish to return it. Don’t be surprised if you are often rejected, ostracised and even hated. Don’t let it be because you are offensive, or unwise in your behaviour. But you must be prepared for it. That’s how things are. That’s how Jesus said it would be.

I heard that a new Christian said to Charles Spurgeon: ”Mr. Spurgeon, now that I am a Christian, how much of the world must I give up?” Spurgeon replied, ”Young man, don’t worry. The world will give you up.”

PRAYER: ”Lord Jesus, in the face of hostility, help me to not be surprised, and fill me with courage to still stand by your Cross.

Daily Bible thoughts 1251: Monday 17th October 2016: John 15:15: Friendship with Jesus.

 John 15:15: Friendship with Jesus.(please click for todays passage)

Just a thought for the day:

”The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them” (Psalm 25:14).

”The LORD is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant” (New Living Translation).

”God-friendship is for God-worshippers; They are the ones he confides in” (The Message).

This resonates with Jesus’ words in John 15. The Lord brings His disciples into a place of deep intimacy. What a privilege.

PRAYER: Lord, enable me to live so close to you that I can hear even your faintest whispers. Let me not miss anything you are saying to me.

Daily Bible thoughts 1250: Friday 14th October 2016: John 15: 9-17: Enjoying Jesus’ love.

John 15: 9-17: Enjoying Jesus’ love.(please click for todays passage)

At a superficial glance, it may appear that Jesus is saying that we can earn His love by being obedient to Him. However, the message in these verses is not about earning but enjoying. ‘The Message’ makes this clearer I think:

”Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.”

We cannot earn the love of Jesus by being obedient to His commands; but by such obedience we will enjoy the fullness of His love. Those who walk in disobedience to Him, who trample on their own consciences, will feel a distance in their relationship with Jesus. He still loves them, but they will fail to feel the warm sunshine of His love tanning their souls. We can’t live how we please and enjoy all that Jesus has for us.

A particular command is emphasised here:

”This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends…

…remember the root command: Love one another.”

So many other commands of Jesus are contained in this one. When you boil it all down, the Christian life is about loving God and loving people.

Daily Bible thoughts 1249: Thursday 13th October 2016: John 15:1-8: The Source of fruitfulness.

 John 15:1-8: The Source of fruitfulness.(please click for todays passage)

”Do not confound work and fruit. There is much work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine.” Andrew Murray.

The ”fruit” we bear as disciples of Christ is to the ”Father’s glory” and by it our identity is revealed (8). It is God’s ambition for us that we should ”bear much fruit” (5, 8); and let us not forget the vital, yet painful, contribution of the pruning knife in the production of a greater crop (2b). We may not like this truth, but if honest, surely we will say that it feels like we grew the most when times were hardest.

The key to fruit-bearing is to ”remain” in Jesus (4, 5, 6, 7), and for Him to ”remain” in you. Notice the repetition of this word. It is the continuous, living connection with Jesus ”the true vine” (1) that is indispensable.

The ”fruit” produced on the Vine is linked to the nature of the tree. A vine produces grapes – not apples, oranges or pears. And the fruit of a life in Christ will be a Christ-like life.

”…apart from me you can do nothing.” (5b). The deep, inward apprehension of this truth will transform your prayer life. It will fill prayer meetings. Prayerless people and prayerless churches probably just don’t get this. It certainly looks and feels that way. Recognition of our utter helplessness apart from Christ will bring us to our knees and keep us on our knees. There are many things we can do without prayer, and many of them may appear spectacular and impressive. (I guess the Tower of Babel did!) But we cannot glorify God in the production of much and lasting ”fruit”.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please keep my heart in closest contact with you.

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