(Translated version, original article written in Chinese by Pastor Mickey Hsiao)
By singing praises and hymns, awake your soul, open your heart to the Lord, and prepare yourself to welcome the presence of God and receive the Word of God that will be given to you.
Petition with thanksgiving to God for a wonderful day and pray sincerely for a focused Scripture reading time! (Do not rush into reading the Bible without starting with prayers!) (e.g., you may start with a simple prayer like this: “Dear Lord, what will you be speaking to me today?)
Get the following items ready in advance: your devotional notebook, paper, pen, and/or electronic devotional articles so that you can easily write down the Bible verses, questions, and thoughts you have noticed! You are encouraged to open your Bible and vocally read out the scriptures (Try to practice this reading method daily or once a week)!
Scripture Reading: John Ch. 15 (ESV)
Take a moment to quietly reflect on today’s Scriptures. Through such exercises, let God’s Word be gradually written into our hearts and be inscribed to our mind.
Read the devotional articles prepared by CBCLWA (*Read the Bible first before reading any devotional materials.)
(vv.1-17) In the Gospel of John, the last time Jesus talks about “I am…” is this passage, where Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” The significance of “I am” comes from the Old Testament, when God introduced Himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM,” and “I AM.” (Exodus 3:14) John often wrote down Jesus’ declarations of “I am…” to make clear to the readers the true identity of Jesus. Jesus was declaring to the world that He is the incomparable, almighty God, the great “I AM”.
In the parable of the true vine, the Lord was emphasizing the importance of His relationship with His disciples. We see two types of branches later in this parable:
- The branch that cannot bear fruit: Cut down and thrown into the fire and burned because it could not bear fruit. It had lost the purpose of the life that God had originally bestowed.
- The branch that bears much fruit: Through the process of pruning, it bears much fruit, glorifying the Father and accomplishing the purpose of the life that God had bestowed.
The key reason behind these two vastly different outcomes lies in whether we abide in the Lord. How often should we abide in the Lord? Not frequently but continuously. To abide is to continuously stay with. It is this very passage that inspired the name for this devotional series, called “Abiding in the Lord”!
Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Let us do some self-examination by using the 3 T’s of Scripture reading and the 3 W’s of prayer:
- Time: How much time do I spend on God’s Word?
- Thought: How often are my thoughts pruned by the Word of God?
- Talk: Do the words I speak edify others and glorify God?
- When: When do I devote myself to prayer?
- Who: Who do I pray for?
- What: What are the contents of my prayers?
Jesus also said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Dear brothers and sisters, may you abide in the Lord, obey His commands, bear much fruit, love one another, and have joy to the fullest.
(vv.18-27) This passage tells us that the world would hate and persecute the disciples. There are two reasons for this: because we have been chosen by the Lord to be set apart for the Lord. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.” We are not of this world; therefore, we will not be loved by the world, but be hated. The other season is as Jesus said, “[The world] has hated me before it hated you,” and “a servant is not greater than his master.” Because the world hates Jesus, His followers should expect the same treatment. Jesus encouraged His disciples to not let that set them back. He said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
The reality is that when we walk in holiness with the Lord, we will naturally cease to fit in with those who live in darkness and sin. Our path will divert further and further away from them. Darkness cannot overcome the light; for everyone who does wicked things hates the light. (John 1:5, 3:20)
Let me clarify two important points: Where being hated by this world is mentioned, it does not apply to you being shunned for being short tempered or not being welcomed for wearing a poker face. If we are disliked for reasons such as these, it is incumbent on us to examine our mistakes and never try to justify them using the Scripture. Secondly, while the world hates Jesus, Jesus loves the people of this world. Once we recognize the fact that we have real irreconcilable differences with this world, we ought to emulate Jesus and love the people of this world and bring them to Christ!
We need to critically examine ourselves on an individual level and as a church. Are we becoming secularized in an effort to gain acceptance in this world, becoming more and more like this world that people can no longer recognize us as the light and body of Christ!
Let me share a personal experience from my days in military service. The unit I was a part of had some problematic culture. Sometimes at the end of a busy day, the men would visit certain types of places to “have a good time.” Once, my commanding officer wanted to bring us to a certain club. Everyone in the car wanted to check it out; that is, everyone but me. It did not matter how much they pressured me, physically pushed and pulled, or the disapproving expression on the commanding officer’s face, I was not getting out of the car. At the end the mood in the car was spoiled and everyone just drove back to base. Every time I think about that experience, I am reminded of the verse in Romans that says those who practice unrighteousness “not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Though deep down they know in their heart what is good and what is evil, they gravitate toward evil! As the Lord’s disciples, are we willing and able to be set apart from this world?
Give thanks to God for His enabling us to read the Scriptures and for our response for living out the Word of God today! (e.g., You may start with a simple prayer like this: “Dear Lord, what/where are you going to lead me to today?”)