Monday, 4 July 2022

I Am The Vine (Part Two)

John 15:5 reads,

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

The "I Am" Statements Of Jesus Christ- "I Am The Vine." (Part Two)

Remember this O’ Christian, our strength will not suffice,
Our efforts will be futile if we fail to look to Christ.
He sends to us His Helper to glorify His name,
We’ll testify of Jesus Christ and in His love remain!

Consider this O’ Christian, that even at our worst,
Our gentle Saviour called to us and chose to love us first!
We are His disciples so do not turn aside.
Praises to the great “I Am,” in Jesus we abide!

Romans 5:7-8
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 John 4:19
“We love Him because He first loved us.”

Points For Reflection
I really love those last two Scriptures and how they point to the wonderful truth that God’s love extends to all people and it calls to us, even before we love Him. It’s such a beautiful picture of His unconditional, Agape love that reaches out to the sinful soul. It’s this love that we, as Christians have responded to and what we can now remain rooted in, as His followers.

How does it make you feel to know that Jesus loved you even before you loved Him? How has God’s unconditional love transformed you in your life?

Recently, I heard someone express the viewpoint that as Christians, we shouldn’t tell non-believers that God loves them. Instead, we should tell them to repent.
I personally feel this is an interesting yet disproportionate viewpoint when looking at things Scripturally. While I agree that communicating the need for repentance is vital when sharing the full Gospel of Jesus Christ, I feel that to be Biblically accurate, this should go hand in hand with also sharing the love God has for all people.

Looking at the Scriptures, I think it’s all about balance! Unfortunately we hear a lot of imbalanced versions of the Gospel being shared these days. They seem to range from the harshly toned, “God’s angry with you so repent!” type of sermons to the fluffy, ego-stroking messages saying, “God loves you exactly as you are so carry on in your sinful lifestyle!”

Neither of these messages is well-balanced or brings the listener to an accurate understanding of God’s heart towards the sinner. A focus on only one side, whichever it may be, is damaging and Biblically inaccurate. One without the other is only half the picture and so it’s extremely important that we give an equally weighted delivery of the Scriptures and the full counsel of God.

It seems to me that God’s love for us, combined with our need for repentance are two sides of the same coin.
Studying the Bible, we see that God’s love is a love that covers even those who don’t yet acknowledge Jesus as Saviour. As we read earlier in Romans 5, Christ died for us while we were still sinners!
I certainly think this verse, combined with many others, justifies the Christian sharing with the non believer, the truth that God loves them!

We also read in 1 John 4:19 that “we love Him because He first loved us.” This shows us that God’s love extended towards us when no love was being extended towards Him. His love is something He initiated towards us and it’s something we’re given the opportunity to respond to! His love is unconditional and not something that’s reliant on us first loving Him.

These two verses show us very clearly that God’s love is extended to all people,
unconditionally and without partiality. God’s love is shown to everyone and isn’t based on who we are and what we’ve done but rather it’s based on who He is and what Jesus has done! We only have to look to Christ’s death on the Cross to see God’s love in action for the sinner.

John 3:16 is one of the best known verses of the Bible and gives us a lot of insight on this subject. It reads,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Notice how the beginning of the verse reveals that God’s love extends to the whole world. It’s only later on in the verse the we discover that eternal life is what is solely extended to those who believe in Jesus. This shows us clearly that God’s love covers everyone and is unconditional, it’s His forgiveness that’s not. If God’s forgiveness was unconditional then Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the Cross.

God’s forgiveness is based on repentance, hence why it’s so important that we don’t neglect to share the need for repentance. It might not be an easy or comfortable thing to say but if we really love the person we’re talking to and want to see them saved, this is something that we’ll lovingly bring into the conversation. We’re not sharing the full Gospel if we don’t, as repentance is vital for salvation.

Taking a deeper look at God’s forgiveness, how do we know His forgiveness is based on repentance? Let’s look at Ephesians 4:32 which says,

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

How does “God in Christ forgive us?” Worded another way, God forgives us through Christ’s death on the Cross. The Bible tells us that wages of sin is death. God’s holy character cannot have any fellowship with sin, so for us as sinners to come into His presence, sin has to be paid for.
God’s righteous nature rightfully requires justice for the wrongs committed. So either we look to Christ’s death on the Cross which paid for our sins or we’ll pay for our sins with our own death.

We know that our sinful hearts have already sentenced us to death and rightfully so. Nobody likes to see crime go unpunished, our desire for justice screams otherwise. Why would God be any different?
This brings us back to the truth that when we acknowledge that Jesus took the punishment for our sins on our behalf and we repent of our sins, then God forgives us. The slate isn’t wiped clean through our own righteous acts or good deeds, we are forgiven through Christ and Christ alone.

As John 3:36 says,

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

This Scripture, among others makes it very clear that repentance is a vital part of receiving God’s forgiveness for our sins. As I said earlier however, it’s a tragedy to only preach this message and completely neglect the soul-saving, powerful love of Jesus Christ that calls to lost souls. We have a responsibility as followers of Christ, to deliver a well-rounded, balanced perspective of the Gospel.

As we read in Acts 20:27, the Apostle Paul declares,
“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”

Looking at the context of Paul’s teachings and the Scriptures, the “whole counsel of God” is the complete Gospel. It’s the whole truth about God’s provision of salvation for both the Jew and Gentile.
The Apostle Paul made sure he shared the Good News of the Gospel in it’s entirety and didn’t shrink back from his duty to proclaim the whole purpose of God when it came to mankind’s salvation.
This meant sharing the “hard to hear” truths such as our sin and man’s need for repentance as well as the beautiful truth of God’s love for His creation.

To leave out the truth of God’s love from the Gospel message is possibly just as damaging as sharing only God’s love when speaking to the non-believer about Jesus.
To preach only one side of the coin, whichever one it may be, is a huge disservice to both the listener and the Gospel.

To preach only God’s love leaves the listener with a false view of their standing before God and zero security when it comes to being accepted into His presence on Judgement Day. To preach only repentance however, robs the listener of the beautiful truth that their Creator loves them so much that He was willing to die for them. This harsh, one-sided message denies the lost and possibly hurting soul the opportunity to respond to the most beautifully healing, soul-saving and redeeming love the world has ever seen.

When sharing the Gospel, do you feel you’re able to give a well-balanced perspective on both God’s love and a personal need for repentance?
Are you ever tempted to shy away from topics such as sin and repentance? If so, why do you think this is?
Do you feel you’ve ever been too harsh when sharing the Gospel and neglected to share God’s love for an individual?

Let’s pray that our hearts can be on fire for sharing the full Gospel of Jesus Christ in a loving way with those who haven’t yet attached themselves to the Vine!
May we never compromise on the truth yet may our gentleness be evident to all as we seek to always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that’s within us.