Reflections for the Week Ending Sunday, April 29, 2018

Gospel: John 15.1-8 in which Jesus tells His disciples (and us) that to bear fruit believers must abide in Him as a branch abides in the vine. He identifies Himself as the vine and believers are the branches. Those who do not abide in Him (unbelievers) are cut off and discarded. Those who abide will bear much fruit.

Let us use this Scripture to reflect for a moment on Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God.

Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God from the beginning of His ministry (Mt 4.17; Mk 1.15; Lk 4.43). The Apostles’ Creed says that Jesus was ’born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died , and was buried’ . Isn’t it interesting that nothing is said of His life in this creed except that He suffered and was crucified. But the Gospels tell of His announcing the kingdom of  God and revealing it through His healing, teaching, fellowshipping with sinners, and forgiving their sins. References to His proclaiming the kingdom can found throughout the Gospels. In the Lord’s Prayer that He taught to His disciples, He prayed that the Father’s kingdom may come on earth…as in heaven (Mt 6.12f.; Lk 11.1-4f.). He said that we should seek it first (lMt 6.33; Lk 12.31), and He preached it in Galilee, spoke of it in many of his parables, and said that it was ‘at hand’ apparently meaning now that He had come. It must refer to the people who have been brought into a relationship with God through Jesus as their King and sovereign Lord ‘by grace through faith…it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast’ (Eph 2.8,9). When we have come into His kingdom through faith in Him so that we are adopted as His sons and daughters, then we are justified which means declared to be members of His covenant family. His Spirit comes to dwell in us so that we are His Holy temple. His Spirit begins the process of sanctifying us, making us worthy of life in the ‘age to come’ as well as eternal life which is an abundant life in this present age in which we manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22,23). Our sins have been taken away by what Jesus did for us on the cross.

And that means that we are holy and blameless before Him in love. This is a new status that we have ‘in Christ’ without reference to what we do. It is a new identity based on who we are in Him apart from the law which only condemns us because we can’t keep it perfectly. Loving God and one another ‘in Him’ fulfills the law. Of course the indwelling Spirit makes us want to please Him in everything we do, but our status before Him does not depend on our doings or failings. We are loved by Him because He has chosen us and forgiven us and loves us even when we stumble and fall. He is merciful to forgive us and His love never fails. We can never lose our relationship with Him (cf, Rm 8.29-39). We think we must earn His love through our behavior, but Christ died for us for us while we were still sinners (Rm 5.8). Since God has justified us, who is to condemn us? (Rm 8.33).  Christ died for us and nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rm 8.38,39). Our being members of His kingdom is based on who we are ‘in Him’ and is not based on what we do, but on what He has done for us! Of course the Holy Spirit dwelling in us makes us wish to please Him so we don’t want to sin. We are a royal priesthood manifesting Him in the world by being fully human and reflecting the praises of the world back to our Creator God in gratitude for what He has done for us.

Memory Verse: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2.9).

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