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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

John 15:1-8: The Source of fruitfulness.

John 15:1-8: The Source of fruitfulness.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 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.” NIV

”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.

John 15:1-8: The cleansing Word.

John 15:1-8: The cleansing Word.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 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.” NIV

”You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (3).

”Cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” (Ephesians 5:26).

I had a very dear friend; a Scotsman called John, who came back to solid faith in Jesus during the time I was living in Morecambe, and helping to plant a church in Lancaster. John had spent years in ‘the wilderness.’ So he was now playing catch up. He became a keen Christian and avidly read the Bible. It was exciting to spend time with John and converse with him. We spent hours together talking about the things of God. He lived in the Scriptures, and was profoundly drawn to Paul’s letter to the ‘Romans’. But by now his memory was not what it had been, although he was still  physically strong and active. He bemoaned the fact that he wasn’t retaining much of what he read. ”But, I suppose,” he said to me, ”it’s like water going through a sieve. It cleanses as it goes.”

Jesus’ Word is a cleansing Word.

It is also a clarifying Word (7). 

How do you know what to pray? How can you know that your prayers will be answered? The Bible itself will clarify things for you. In Timothy Keller’s excellent book on prayer, he emphasises the great tradition going back to the reformers, that encourages prayer to arise from meditation on Scripture. Pray the Bible. Take what you are reading and reflecting upon, and turn it into prayer.

The ‘rails’ for prayer are laid down in God’s Word. It is up to us to travel on them.

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to get ‘derailed’!

John 14:25-30: Inheritance.

John 14:25-30: Inheritance.

“25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.28 “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. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me,”NIV

Someone observed that during His life and ministry Jesus experienced numerous and severe traumas, yet inwardly He was a ”sea of glass.”

It is interesting that Jesus leaves with His disciples His own peace (27). The peace He promises is the peace He Himself possessed (and possesses.)

Do you think you come anywhere close to experiencing Christ’s peace on the often turbulent high seas of your life? Probably at times you do. But maybe not all the time?

Imagine being left a fortune in a will, and yet continuing to live in poverty. Many Christians seem to do this. Jesus has left us a rich legacy. It includes His peace among other numerous blessings. He has died willingly so that we may become His beneficiaries. But we seem content to live well below the level of our privileges.

Are you living in the fullness of all that is yours? Know for sure that you can. Whatever the Father has planned for you to have, and the Son has made possible by His death on the cross, the Holy Spirit will make real in your daily experience. But you and I have to co-operate with Him in this. For the second time in a few verses, Jesus says, ” Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (27b). The disciples were facing circumstances where their natural instinct would be to fear, but Jesus called them to resist anxiety. We are to co-operate with God in the working out of His purposes in our lives. Don’t permit the thundering hooves of fear to leave their footprints on your heart.

”Too many resemble the stone-breaker who came into a vast estate, but was content to live in the lodge. When an old friend came to congratulate him, and see over the property, he said: ”There! It is all in those parchments; but I have never been to see for myself what there is.” ” F.B. Meyer.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for where and when I play at Christianity. Help me to be resolute in seeking you, and to go after everything I can have because of Jesus.

John 14:15-24: Not abandoned.

John 14:15-24: Not abandoned.

“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” NIV

The Holy Spirit has been described as ”the uncomfortable comforter”. In the Bayeux Tapestry, there is a caption which reads ”Bishop Odin comforteth his troops.” What the Bishop is actually doing is prodding his soldiers with his sword, and urging them back into the fight. Someone pointed out that at the heart of our word ”comforter” there is the word ”fort”. He said, ”The Holy Spirit comes to turn you into a fortress for the day of battle. The comfort is much more than, ”There, there now.”

Jesus was about to leave His disciples. He had only recently informed them about His imminent departure. He was everything to them, and if they felt like they were about to be orphaned, you could understand it (18). So Jesus assured them that whilst going away, He would nevertheless ”come” (18) to them in the Person of the Holy Spirit. This section points to a new relationship with the Spirit for the disciples (17b).

The Holy Spirit is spoken of by Jesus (in the Greek language) as ”allos parakletos” (”another advocate” or ”another comforter”). I understand that in Greek there are two words for ”another”. One means ”another who is different”, but ”allos” means ”another who is similar”. Everything Jesus had been to His disciples, that the Holy Spirit would be to them. They would not feel orphaned at all.

In the Holy Spirit; through His ministry, we ”see” Jesus (19) and know the reality of His presence within us, and in the midst of the church community. Someone pointed out that if Jesus were still on earth bodily, you might be able to book Him to speak at your church once in your lifetime. And that is ‘might’. But because He is now here in the Holy Spirit, you can have Him with you at every single meeting. What a privilege.

John 14:15-24: ‘Love does’.

John 14:15-24: ‘Love does’.

 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” NIV

Bob Goff wrote a book entitled ‘Love does’. 

Jesus clearly stated that love for Him will show itself in action – in obedience to His teaching (15, 23, 24). In addition, He made a wonderful promise of fellowship with the Father and Himself for those who walk in loving obedience.

In Bishop J.C. Ryle’s book ‘Holiness’, he has a chapter headed ”Lovest thou me?”. It is based on Jesus’ challenging question to Peter (John 21:16). Here is an extract from this wonderful and practical chapter: 

”If we love a person, we like to please him. We are glad to consult his tastes and opinions, to act upon his advice, and do the things which he approves. We even deny ourselves to meet his wishes, abstain from things which we know he dislikes, and learn things to do which we are not naturally inclined, because we think it will give him pleasure. Well, it is just so between the Christian and Christ! The true Christian studies to please Him, by being holy both in body and spirit. Show him anything in his daily practice that Christ hates, and he will give it up. Show him anything that Christ delights in, and he will follow after it. He does not murmur at Christ’s requirements as being too strict and severe, as the children of the world do. To him Christ’s commandments are not grievous and Christ’s burden is light. And why is all this? Simply because he loves Him.”

Prayer: Help me Holy Spirit to love Jesus more and more.

John 14:1-14: The window into God.

John 14:1-14: The window into God.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know  my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” NIV

Here are two complementary truths about Jesus: He brings God to people, and He brings people to God.

He brings God to people. He reveals ”the Father.” In the incarnation, He shows us what God is like, in terms we can understand. He is translating into our language; we can comprehend flesh and blood. What is God like? That’s a good question. The answer: He is just like Jesus.

He brings people to God. Somebody said that Christianity is both exclusive and inclusive. If Jesus is the only way to the only God there is, then all people must hear about Him, regardless of colour, creed or culture. But the same speaker also said, at a meeting in Leeds, held probably around thirty years ago, that he felt that in the church there is a ”loss of nerve” over this point. That may be even more the case now. The secular world does not like exclusive truth claims. But this is still the gospel message. Jesus is the only One who can bring people to God. He is the only ‘Bridge’ over the great gulf.

Apparently, if you were to get lost in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, and you stopped someone and asked for directions, they wouldn’t say, ”Well take a right, then next left, then…etc etc.” They would be likely to reply, ”I am the way”, meaning ”Follow me. I’ll take you there.”

The Lord Jesus is still saying this to the world.

Let’s be brave enough to pass on His message.

John 14:1-14: Troubled – yet trouble free!

John 14:1-14: Troubled – yet trouble free!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” NIV

This was a troubling time for the disciples. They had just been hit by a ‘double-whammy’! They had been told that one of their number would betray Jesus – and they had watched as Judas left them to carry out the dastardly deed. (Though whether they fully understood all that was going on seems dubious.) They had also been told by Jesus that He was going away. That conversation continues here. There’s still confusion in the air for His followers. As with ourselves, it could take time for the penny to drop!

So, troubling times indeed.

But Jesus tells his disciples not to ”let” their ”hearts be troubled”. It is obvious – at least this is how I read it – that Jesus wants His disciples to live trouble-free even when smack bang in the middle of trouble. Anxiety, worry etc are to be resisted as much as sin. In fact these things may often be sin, or manifestations of it. The way to resist this kind of ‘heart trouble’ is to trust In Jesus (1b). And don’t miss the staggering claim that trusting in Jesus and trusting in God are parallel. Essentially, to do the one is to do the other.

In the face of temptation to worry, to fret, to fear, here is a ‘pill’ you need to take. It is the faith pill.

The other remedy is in the prayer pill (13,14). To ask that we will have untroubled hearts, when Jesus has expressly said that He wants us to be free in this way, is surely a good thing to pray. When we ask for what we know the Lord wants, we are most certainly praying in His ‘name’ and for the Father’s ‘glory’. A well-known Christian writer has recently pointed out that the Holy Spirit can cause us to feel the emotions described in the Bible. The pertinent point to underscore here is that He can cause us to live in peace. He delivers what is in the ‘prescription’ right to your door.

”Fear knocked at the door; faith answered; and there was nobody there.

PRAYER: Lord please forgive me for all the times I have not lived in the power of this truth. I have let my heart be troubled so many times. Most of the time my worries were illusory anyway. But even on the worst of days you wanted me to have an inner serenity that comes from you. Have mercy on me Lord. Please forgive my weaknesses and sins. Help me to fully live in my God-given inheritance.

John 13:31-38: The power of love.

John 13:31-38: The power of love.

“31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself,and will glorify him at once.33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” NIV

When Judas ”went out” (30), Jesus knew it was time for Him to die (31, 32). He knew that this treacherous ‘follower’ would trigger the events leading to His arrest and sufferings.

When Judas ”went out…it was night” (30). But it was the time for Jesus to shine with supreme glory. This is what we see in the Cross – the glory of God.

In the light of His soon departure, Jesus spoke so tenderly, kindly and gently to His beloved disciples (33). ”My children…” Let’s be careful how we handle precious people. Who can say what pain lies behind each carefully constructed facade? Probably everyone carries some wounds. In fact, cross out the ‘probably’. Hurt and tears are universal realities. May God help us to be gentle.

How did Jesus want His disciples to conduct themselves after His leaving (34, 35)? He wanted them to be a loving community. Don’t miss the importance of these words.

See the evangelistic power of love. People are hungry for true love, and the more perfectly it is expressed (even in an imperfect world) the more people will be drawn to it. It is known that in the pagan world in which Christianity took root, there were those who were saying, ‘See how these Christians love one another.’ What a testimony.

But we are far from perfect. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves (36-38). We mean well, but we often find that our fine-sounding words and good intentions go up in flames when we’re in the furnace. The Lord is never taken by surprise. He knows what is in us; what we are really made of. We are not yet ‘finished articles’, so humility is called for.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I ask that our church community will be a powerful and vivid advert for life in the Kingdom of God.

John 13:18-30 Ask Jesus

John 13:18-30 Ask Jesus

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture:‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spiritand testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas,the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” NIV

This passage ends in a dramatic fashion with the short sentence: ”And it was night” (30). It was night in more ways than one. It was a time of deep darkness as  the diabolically inspired Judas (27a) went out to do his worst. But Jesus is in total control. That is the feel; the tone of this section. Judas may go out to betray Jesus, but he goes out at the Lord’s command (27b).

So today’s reading affirms that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’

It also encourages us to:

Ask Jesus (22-26): become someone who enquires of the Lord, as David did in his best moments. Pursue this relationship with a real, living Lord Jesus who speaks. Where you do not know; where there are mysteries, you can ask Him. He’s not obliged to give you an answer, but He may well choose to do so. Even here, where He answered Peter, it seems the disciples still didn’t fully understand. But that, I feel, is a reflection on their dullness yet again. We see a Jesus who responds with words to our words. ”You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2b). Ask Jesus.

Here is something else for us to grasp:

Jesus knows (18, 19). He knows the Scriptures better than we do (18) and can give sparkling insight into them. He knows the future much better than we do (19, 21, 26, 27b). Someone said we should be very interested in the future because we will spend the rest of our lives there! Well, some people try to peer into the future in dark, unbiblical ways that are outlawed in Scripture. We should stay well away from that kind of thing. But in the Bible the Lord has revealed what He wants us to know about the future. There are prophecies yet to be fulfilled. And if Jesus wants to prepare you for anything in your personal future, He has ways to do that.

PRAYER: Yet again Lord Jesus I must confess to you my slowness to pray and to ask for all that I can have from you. Lord please fight against all the enemy’s stratagems to keep me off my knees, and help me to do all I can to resist him.

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