I am the True Vine---John 15:1-6

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Hamtramck_Mike, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. Hamtramck_Mike

    Hamtramck_Mike
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    Can anybody work this passage a little for an inquiring brother? Anybody have a Greek they can refer to? I am speaking of the word "Airo" in v. 2. Some think this is a mistranslation. Please let me know what you think of this as relates to the Father doing "somthing" to the branches that "bear no fruit". God Bless!
     
  2. Hamtramck_Mike

    Hamtramck_Mike
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    John Fifteen
    In the previous chapter, Jesus had said, `There's hope for you — hope in heaven. See the big picture. Get a handle on your destiny. Let not your heart be troubled.' Here, in Chapter 15, He puts in the clutch, changes gears a bit, and gives us a message not so much dealing with hope in heaven, as with help on earth. The last phrase in Chapter 14 being, `Arise and let us go hence,' Jesus and the boys left the Upper Room, made their way through the city of Jerusalem, and headed towards the Garden of Gethsemane via the Kidron Valley. Thus, it would seem that John 15 is actually given to the disciples as they are en route from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. It being Passover season, they would have been traveling under a full moon and would, very possibly, have seen the magnificent Temple structure, with its massive vine-engraved doors, off in the distance. The vine being the historic as well as the religious symbol of Israel (Isaiah 5, Ezekiel 19, Psalm 80), perhaps it was the gold-covered vine reflected in the moonlight which inspired the masterful teaching which follows . . .

    John 15:1

    I am the true vine . . .

    The eighth `Ego Eimi' or `I AM' statement, Jesus says, `I am the true vine.' I find this intriguing. Why would He use the word `true' at this time? Because as we go through this chapter into the next, we'll see that Jesus knew His disciples would soon be kicked out of Temple worship, barred from the synagogue, ostracized from the glory, tradition, and beauty of Judaism. Thus, I believe it is in this reference that Jesus declared, `I am the true Vine. Don't be deceived. It's not Judaism. It's not religion. It's Me.'

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    John 15:1-2

    . . . and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away . . .

    If I had a nickel for every message or study I've heard on the pruning procedures of Jesus Christ based upon this passage, I would be a wealthy man. It's a commonly used text for the premise that if you're bearing fruit — if things are going good, watch out because Jesus is on His way, hedge clippers in hand. Following such messages, I invariably leave bloodied and bruised, battered and afraid Jesus is going to come with His clippers and prune me. I believe such teaching is a complete misunderstanding of this passage because linguistically, contextually, and logically it doesn't fit. Let me explain. The word translated `takes away' in verse 2 is `airo' — a word in which three of the four definitions deal with lifting up, raising up, pulling up. Yes, the fourth definition in the Greek lexicon is `take away'. But there are three which precede it. `Airo' is used in John 11:41, where Jesus lifts up His eyes toward the heavens — and again in Luke 17 when the people lifted their voices. Thus, the idea here is not `take away' but `lift up'.

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    John 15:2

    . . . and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

    The word translated `purge' is `katharizo', from which we get our word `catharsis', referring to a cleansing process. `Katharizo' is used in John 13 when Jesus cleansed the feet of His disciples. In fact, in virtually every case in New Testament language, `katharizo' being translated not `purge' but `cleanse', I believe the use of `purge' here in John 15 is a mistranslation. If you put these thoughts together, you get an understanding of what Jesus is really saying — and it's wonderful. It's not terrorizing; it's terrific. It doesn't cause consternation, but rather comfort, for He says this: `Every branch in Me that bears not fruit, I lift up. And every branch that bears fruit, I cleanse that it might bring forth more fruit.' You see, in vineyards, it is not uncommon for branches to become so heavy with fruit that they sag to the ground — leaving them vulnerable to the mud that is the result of the rainy season sure to follow. Consequently, the vinedresser, seeing a branch in the mud, lifts it up and braces it. And if there is fruit on it, he washes the mud off the fruit — lovingly, carefully, tenderly.

    Thus, it's not a picture of the Lord lopping you off, but of Him lifting you up; not of Him cutting you, but of Him cleansing you. How do I know this with certainty? Look at the next verse . . .

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    John 15:3

    Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

    In following this analogy, in keeping with the flow logically, what Jesus is saying is, `I lift the downtrodden branch, I wash the contaminated fruit. How? Through the Word.' You're clean through the Word. Gang, how do you bear more fruit? Not by the Lord butchering you or bloodying you, but by you being in the Word. How do we get our lives cleaned up? How does more fruit come? By commitment to the Word, by receptivity to the Word, by staying in the Word. David said the same thing essentially in Psalm 119 when he said `How shall a young man cleanse his way? How does a young man walk in a clean way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.' And Paul picks up the same analogy in Ephesians 5 where, talking about husbands and wives, he says that the bride is washed by the water of the Word.

    Jesus gives us an important, absolutely essential exhortation when He says, `I am the true Vine. You're the branches. When you're downcast or dirty, the Father will come and pick you up and wash you off via the Word, the Scriptures — your morning devotions, Wednesday evening Bible study, home groups.' Just being in the place where the Word is taught, where we are basing our beliefs on what Jesus said, has a cleansing effect upon our lives.

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    John 15:4

    Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

    `Stay close to Me,' Jesus is saying. `Abide in Me. Cling to Me because if you don't, there won't be any fruit coming forth from your life.' What is fruit? Fruit is vital to spiritual life. It's where it's at for your life presently, and it will effect you eternally. Romans 1:13 and John 4 identify fruit as winning lost souls. Romans 6:22 defines fruit as holiness. Romans 15:28 names financial giving as fruit. Colossians 1 describes fruit as helping practically. Hebrews 13 tells us that the fruit of our lips — giving praise to His Name — is fruit. And ultimately, most importantly, Galatians 5:22 teaches that the fruit of the Spirit is love. Love is the ultimate fruit.

    What about joy, peace, and longsuffering; gentleness, goodness, and faith; meekness and self-control? Doesn't Galatians list them as fruit? Yes, but the fruit (not fruits) of the Spirit being singular, those are definitions of what love is.

    So, when you're life is filled with love, when you're giving financially, when you're praising the Lord verbally, when you're doing good things practically, when you're witnessing to the lost boldly, when you're joyful, peaceful, patient — all of these constitute fruit.

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    John 15:5

    I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit . . .

    I like this! In the beginning of verse 2, there was no fruit. In the middle of verse 2, there was fruit. At the end of verse 2 there was more fruit. And here in verse 5, there is much fruit! How is `much fruit' produced? By abiding. I have an apple tree in my backyard which bears prolifically. Suppose I brought in a branch from this apple tree and said, `Hey, gang, this tree produces so much fruit that we're going to set this branch right here, and in April it'll start blossoming — and a couple months later, we'll have all kinds of apples right here in the Sanctuary.'

    `That's crazy,' you'd say. `The branch has gotta be linked to the trunk — otherwise there's no way fruit will be produced on that limb.'

    And that's what Jesus is getting at. We might know how we should behave and what we should do — but if we're cut off from the Lord, if we're distanced from the Lord, there just isn't going to be any fruit. We need to be in His presence daily, in His Word continually. If not, we'll cut off the flow of sap which would have produced in us fruit for His pleasure and rewards in eternity. If there's a lack of fruit in our lives, we mustn’t say, `I don't see why there's not more fruit coming my way' — because an irrefutable fact of spiritual life is that every man, every woman is only as close to the Lord as he or she chooses to be. And if you choose to abide in Him, to intertwine your life with His, to wrap yourself around Him and stay close to Him, you will inevitably bring forth much fruit.

    How is fruit produced? By abiding — not struggling, not striving. The apple tree in my backyard is interesting. As I've watched it for many years, I have never once heard it struggling or complaining or groaning to bear apples. I've never in my whole life seen branches struggling or straining to produce fruit. Yet I have seen Christians, myself included, struggling and straining to control temper or change character. But it never works in the long haul because sooner or later (usually sooner), the old character will emerge and dominate once more. The only way you can really bear fruit — which is love defined by joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith; the only way you really bear fruit — which is boldness in witnessing, sincere expression of praise, and generous giving — is just to abide in Christ. What does the apple branch do? It just hangs in there day after week after month after year. And in due season, the blossoms come and the apples appear, and there's fruit — all because it just hangs in there. So too, you hang in there with the Lord, and as the days turn into weeks, turn into months, turn into years, you will see fruit and then more fruit and then much fruit. And you'll say, `Wow, what's happening in my life? This stuff is popping out, and I don't even know from whence it came!' It just came from your abiding in Christ, just enjoying Jesus. It's so simple — profoundly so.

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    John 15:5

    . . . for without me ye can do nothing.

    If you're not abiding in Christ, whatever you're doing is a huge waste. It's nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. It's worth nothing. It will not count. It will not be there in eternity. `Oh, but I'm a Kiwanan, or a Rotarian, or I work for the Red Cross.' If it's not done as you're abiding in Christ, for the glory of Christ, because you were led by Christ, it is for nothing. Period. Why, then, do people donate time to the Red Cross? Why do they join service organizations? Why do they perform good deeds? Perhaps to appease a guilty conscience, to be part of a fraternity, to strike up business deals, for camaraderie — for lots of reasons which have nothing to do with absolute goodness. Only what you do in Christ and for Christ and because of Christ will count in the ages to come. That's why Jesus says, `If I'm not in the center of it, it's worth nothing.'

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    John 15:6

    If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

    Does this mean that if we don't abide in Jesus, we'll be lopped off and cast into the fire? Well, if we don't abide in Him, the fruit-bearing part of our life will indeed burn — but not our sonship because our salvation was secured by what Jesus did on the Cross. The wood of a vine being so soft it is useless to build with, here, Jesus is saying, `If your life is not bearing fruit, it's good for nothing but kindling.' It's an interesting analogy because that's what life is all about. We're either bearing fruit, or we're just burning up the clock.

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    John 15:7

    If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you . . .

    The word `abide' is really important. It means `be at home in'. `Thy Word have I hid in my heart,' said the Psalmist (Psalm 119:11) — not in his head, but in his heart. Paul prayed in Ephesians 3 `that Christ may dwell in your hearts.' Why does the Lord want His Word to abide in our hearts and not just in our heads? Because affected by data, discussions, and information, the mind is incredibly fickle. I can change my mind 100 times in a single day concerning a single issue. So can you. But not so the heart. You know what it's like — if someone dumped you, you know in your head he's a jerk, yet you still feel for him and care about him. Why? Because the heart holds on. That's why the Lord wants His Word to dwell there. How does this happen? For me the most practical way knowledge moves from the head to the heart is through meditation and contemplation — so that the Word can sink in and permeate my inner man. It must not just be written on paper, it's gotta be written in my heart.

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    John 15:7

    . . . ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    `If you're clinging to Me, if your life is intertwined with Mine, you can ask whatever you want, and your prayers will be answered without exception.' Notice the qualification: `If you abide in Me and My words abide in you.' This is the problem with most of our prayers. James 4:2-3 says, `You have not because you ask not. But when you ask, you receive not because you ask amiss.' In other words, our requests are out of line. Gang, when we're not in the Word, we don't know how to pray. Prayer and the Word go hand in hand. As I'm in the Word, His words abide in me, and it is then that I know how to pray and for what to ask.

    If I went to the Father tonight and said, `Oh, Father, we need to finish the mountaintop, or to expand the mission in Mexico, so I pray You would help me find a big stash of cocaine to sell,' — would the Lord answer that prayer? No, because it is completely out of line with what His Word says I should be doing. We chuckle at that, but I have a hunch that if we could play back our prayers, we would be shocked and amused by them. `Oh, how foolish that was,' we would say. `How out of line with what I now know is God's heart. No wonder that prayer wasn't answered!'

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    John 15:8-11

    Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

    ‘I'm telling you these things,' Jesus says, `so that you might be full of joy.'

    You're playing on the Applegate softball team. The pitcher hurls one in your direction. You cock your arm, swing mightily, and hear the crack of the bat as it sends the ball deep into left field. You watch the left fielder fade deeper and deeper. His back is against the fence. He leaps into the air. The ball clears his glove. And are you happy! It's a four-bagger with bases loaded. You're ready to take your victory trot — when you hear the voice of the umpire yell, `Foul.' And suddenly, your happiness dissipates.

    Jesus promises not happiness, but a constant sense of joy in your heart regardless of whether you hit a homer or a foul. That doesn't mean your life is going to be trivial, giddy, and trite. It does mean, however, that even when you feel discouraged, underneath it all somehow mystically, miraculously, mysteriously there's still joy. And Jesus said this joy will be in proportion to our abiding in His Word. Do you think the Lord was pretty serious about us being in His Word? I sure get that impression when I read John 15!

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    John 15:12

    This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

    `Speaking of abiding in My Word,' Jesus says, `This is My Word to you, this is My commandment: As I have loved you, so I want you to love each other. It doesn't matter how much theology you know, or how much wisdom you claim to have. If you don't love Me and the person sitting beside you, nothing else matters.' Notice it's a commandment — which means love is not a matter of emotion, but of volition. It's a choice. Jesus doesn't ever command us to feel something. He commands us to do something. `Help the world to see I am alive,’ the Lord says. ‘They pinned Me to a Cross. They thought they did Me in, but I'm alive. And how shall they know I'm alive? By your love one for another.'

    Again, in the context of Jesus' teaching, love is not so much an emotion as a decision. And the beautiful thing is, oftentimes when you implement the action, the emotion will follow. Guys, maybe you've lost the feeling for your wife. Treat her like a treasure and your emotions will follow because Jesus taught that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Luke 12:34). Our culture has lost the meaning of what real love is. Consequently, husbands and wives are saying, `I don't have feelings for him or her anymore, so I'm leaving.' But feelings aren't the issue. Love is not an emotion or a feeling. It's a decision. It's an action. `My commandment,' Jesus said, `is that you make the decision to love.'

    You will come across people tomorrow who might initially seem to be an interruption to your schedule. But if you say, `Wait a minute. Here's an opportunity for me to love,' you know what will happen? As you make that decision, there will be a change in your emotions. The Lord will meet you in that place. I guarantee it.

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    John 15:13

    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    An entire nation was revived when John Knox prayed, `Lord give me Scotland, or I die.' But what many people don't know is what Knox wrote concerning the answer to that prayer. The Lord responded in his heart saying, `First die, then I'll give you Scotland.'

    `Make this relationship work, or I'm going to die,' we pray.

    `Die first,' the Lord says.

    Lay down your life for your wife, your neighbor, your friend. That is not only the proof of your love, but the pathway to love because love is not some feeling you hope returns, not some kind of elusive mystical emotion. It's the decision to die to your dreams, your desires, your needs, your wants for your friend, your husband, your neighbor, your kids.

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    John 15:14-15

    Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

    Jesus considers me His friend. That's amazing. I'm so flaky, and so fickle and so foolish. But the Lord looks at us and calls us His friends. This means He doesn't love us because He has to, but because He chooses to. He likes us. He gets a kick out of us. We're a delight to His heart. We bring a smile to His face. Amazing! And because we're His friends, He wants us to know what He's doing . . .

    `Shall I hide from Abraham this thing which I do?' asked the Lord in Genesis 18. `No.' So God did indeed tell the man singularly called the friend of God (James 2:23) He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. As He did to Abraham historically, God will whisper in your heart concerning what He's doing presently. You'll know things about which the world is unaware because He calls you His friend.

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    John 15:16

    Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain . . .

    `Not only does Jesus tell us what's going on and what's coming down eventually, but He ordains us to be involved in ministry presently. Whether or not you've been credentialed by some ordination council is irrelevant, for on the basis of this passage, you are ordained just as much as Billy Graham. What, then, is the purpose of formal ordination — when we put the title Reverend in front of someone's name? It's simply a legal ratification which confirms a man has indeed been keeping the commands of Jesus, thereby allowing him to move through the legal processes of marrying and burying. But there's really not a whole lot to it because nowhere in the Scripture do you see councils and tests and examinations for ministry. Jesus said, `I've ordained you.' That's all you need.

    As Napoleon was talking to a group of his high-ranking officers, his horse, standing nearby, spooked and bolted away. A quick-thinking private, observing the scene, pursued the runaway on his own steed, and was able to return Napoleon's horse safely.

    `Well done, Captain,' said Napoleon upon his return.

    The private, with eyes as big as saucers, saluted smartly and said, `Yes, sir.'

    Then he went immediately to the supply tent, got himself a captain's uniform, and moved into officer's quarters. He never said, `I don't deserve it. I should have worked my way up through the ranks. I need to earn this.' No, he just said, `Yes, sir.'

    Likewise, the Lord calls us `Friend', `Ordained Minister' — and all that's left for us to say is, `Yes, Sir!'

    John 15:16

    . . . that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

    If you walked into Costco, made $100,000 worth of purchases and then pulled out a check upon which was written at the top `Jon Courson', you would be laughed out of the store. But if you walked into that same store with an authorized check from Donald Trump, there would be no problem because the issue isn't how rich you are, but how rich is the person upon whose account you draw. And that's the beautiful thing about prayer. My request isn't based upon how many devotions I've had this week, how many folks I've witnessed to this month, how many hours I've spent in prayer today. No, that's all irrelevant. I draw from the bank of heaven based solely upon the riches of Jesus Christ, who gave me His Name to use. How free your prayer life will be when you understand what it means to use Jesus' name with the Father.

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    John 15:17

    These things I command you, that ye love one another.

    `OK, Lord, we hear You. You want us to love each other by laying down our lives, by making the decision to love based not upon ethereal emotions or fuzzy feelings but on the basis of Your command. And if we do that, You say we are Your friends — giving us the privilege and power of prayer; the right to be ordained by You in service and ministry. Incredible! That's a wonderful package You've given us. And now we'll just carry it out. We'll make the decision to love.' Now, it seems if you, if I, if any of us do this — if we really love people — we would be popular and embraced. After all, everybody loves a lover. But watch what Jesus says . . .

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    John 15:18-19

    If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

    If the world loves you, watch out — you're in hot water. Paul told his protégé, Timothy, that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12). That's a fact. If you are living godly, you're not going to make it into the Who's Who of the world's system. It just won't work that way.

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    John 15:20-22

    Remember the word that I have said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.

    The reason the world will hate you is because you're light (I Thessalonians 5:5). And when light shines, people in the dark get real uneasy. Like bugs under a rock, they start scrambling and fleeing. `If I hadn't come,' said Jesus, `men could continue on in their sin and no one would feel uncomfortable. But because I came, because of how I lived, because of where I stand, men have no cloak for their sin. Consequently, they feel exposed and foolish in their iniquity, and will hate you as a result.'

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    John 15:23

    He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

    Many people claim to love God, Yahweh, Elohim, Jehovah. But they hate Jesus Christ. Here Jesus goes on record saying that the one who hates Him hates His Father. Therefore, a person cannot say he loves God but doesn't acknowledge Jesus Christ. The Buddhist in his monastery may be sincere in his desire to attain the state of a snuffed-out candle (a state also known as Nirvana), so that no desires can pollute him, no feelings can cause ill will between him and another. But when you talk to him about Jesus Christ, he doesn't want to listen. The Hindu can claim to love the Brahmin; the Jew can claim to love Jehovah. Regardless of how many prayers the Muslim offers, or how many synagogues the Jew attends, however, the fact remains that Jesus Christ made a powerful, non-negotiable proclamation when He said to all mankind, `If you don't love Me, if you don't acknowledge Me, if you hate Me, you hate My Father also. Period. End of quote.'

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    John 15:24-27

    If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

    Here’s our Lord, saying, `They hated Me without a cause.' When people hate me or you, they've got cause. Oh, I'm not speaking just about our making them uncomfortable because of our Christian witness or testimony. I'm saying that the hatred of people towards us is justifiable because we deserve it. Yes, there might be persecution, yes there might be lies, yes there might be hurtful words spoken or wrong deeds done against us. But the fact is, every one of us deserves more of that than we get because we're sinners.

    Having fallen sick, Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, sent his servant, Hazael, to inquire of Elisha the prophet if he would recover.

    `You'll recover from your disease,' answered Elisha, before proceeding to weep uncontrollably.

    `What's wrong?' asked the servant.

    `I see the evil you will do,' answered Elisha. `You'll set the cities of the Israelites on fire; you'll kill her young men, dash her children, rip open her pregnant women.' `That's preposterous,' said Hazael. `What do you think I am? A dog? I would never do those things.'

    But the very next day, we see Hazael smothering Ben-Hadad and reigning in his stead, setting into motion the events which would culminate in a fulfillment of Elisha's prophecy (II Kings 8).

    Why do I share this? To remind us once more that the Word of God tells us we are depraved and sinful. `I would never do that,' we say. `What do you think I am — a dog?' But yet so sinful is our flesh that even the good things we do are tainted with wrong motives and mistakes. Because we all want to be liked and appreciated, we carefully cultivate an image to impress people. It might be through intellectual ability or appearance, athletic prowess, or through service to humanity. It doesn't work, however, because there is none righteous (Romans 3:10) — and sooner or later we all act like dogs.

    But here comes Jesus on the scene with cloth in hand, not to smother our face, but to wash our feet. And it is this One Who has chosen us, ordained us, and called us to abide in Him that we might bring forth much fruit for His glory. Truly, they hated Him without a cause. But He is the only One Who can say that. We're all dogs. This doesn't depress me about my human nature. I am just impressed all the more with His lovingkindness.
     
  3. Hamtramck_Mike

    Hamtramck_Mike
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    Found my answer! Praise God that this is just a couple of mistranslations! I thought something was wrong with the flow of this chapter! :eek:
     

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