Bible Study

This is a copy of the Sunday School Lessons presented to an adult class each Sunday.

Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

Retired, Lobbyist in Washington,DC - Management - BS Chemistry and various continuing education courses

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bible Study – Glue (5) – Stick with Humility – May 24, 2015

This is lesson five (5) in our series entitled “Like Glue: Making Your Relationships Stick."

Our focus scripture is Philippians 2:1-5, 13-15.

Humbly place the needs of others before your own.

On Paul’s second missionary journey, the LORD called the Apostle Paul and his team to go to Philippi, as we read in Acts 16:6-15:

6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in • Asia. 7 When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.

Lydia’s Conversion

11 Then, setting sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for a number of days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we thought there was a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. 14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. 15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Notice that the Holy Spirit prevented them from going in one direction to guide them to an area in need of the Gospel of CHRIST at that moment in time (opportunity). Humility gives us the ability to flex and not seek our will but to do the will of the Father as led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke, it is believed that Doctor Luke joined them on their journey and made up the missionary team.

Philippi was an important city in the region of Macedonia (northern Greece today). It was about 10 miles from the Aegean Sea. It was named for Philip II, Alexander the Greats father. Octavian (Augustus) made Philippi a Roman colony for retired Roman soldiers and gave those who occupied the city full Roman citizenship.

It was on Paul’s first visit to Philippi that he established the first church in Macedonia. Lydia was the first convert to Christianity in that area. She had the gift of hospitality and insisted that Paul and his team come to her house.  
Paul’s letter to the Philippians was a letter of love and affection, which focused on humility and unity for the Christians to focus on the needs of others. Do you think that it being a retirement center for Roman soldiers was one of the reasons for the need for Paul to focus on humility?

Philippians 1:21-30: (Lead-in to our focus scripture)

Living Is Christ

21 For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better— 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, 28 not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance —and this is from God. 29 For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, 30 having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.

The Apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Philippi to reflect on what CHRIST had given them by HIS faithful obedience and what such a great inheritance awaited them through their faithful, obedience to GOD. I think Paul had a glimpse of what awaited Christians when they leave earth and enter Heaven. There was the great joy of obediently serving GOD while they still remained upon earth.

As you recall, it is believed that Paul died and went to the third heaven as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-5:

2 I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know, God knows. 3 I know that this man —whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know, God knows— 4 was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak. 5 I will boast about this person, but not about myself, except of my weaknesses.

Paul knew what heaven would be like when he departed his earthly body. He struggled with whether he wanted to leave his earthly body and be present with the LORD or remain upon earth to do the will of the LORD. He chose to minister, as led by the Holy Spirit, because he knew and had experienced truth in being a Christian. He challenged fellow Christians to stay the course because what awaited them was beyond the comprehension of the human mind.

Let’s read Philippians 2:1-4:

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. 3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

In verse one, “If” can be read as “since” or “assuming that” in each place where “if” is used. Paul was confirming that “since” there was:
     Encouragement in CHRIST – The word “encouragement” is translated from the Greek word related to the word “paraklesis” used for the Holy Spirit. It carries the idea of solace, peace and comfort resulting from CHRIST coming along your side in times of need.
    Consolation of love – The word “consolation” also carries the idea of comfort. Such consolation comes from the love of GOD through your relationship with CHRIST.
         Fellowship with the Spirit – The word “fellowship” comes from the Greek word “koinonia” and carries the idea of intimate communication, communion and participation. It is about an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is “knowing” the presence of GOD within you.
   Affection and mercy – Affection and mercy come from the core of a person as brought about by the renewing of the mind as a Christian’s obedient walk with CHRIST. Some translations translate “affection and mercy” as “tenderness and compassion”, “affection and sympathy” and “bowels and mercies.” These traits come from the very depths of our hearts or being which reflect the work of GOD in our lives.
       Fulfill – Fulfill means to make complete. When these attributes which Paul listed are present in a person they reveal that the Holy Spirit is active in his or her life which brings about this completion and results in an unspeakable “joy.” Such “joy” comes from the unity of Spirit, with singleness of purpose in obediently serving CHRIST and focusing on one common goal. The goal is not stated but when there is unity then the goal would be mutual.

When these various attributes come together in Christians, there is unity and harmony of purpose. There is no rivalry or conceit but humility. Humility carries the idea of not thinking more highly of one’s self than he or she should. Humility is “lowness of mind.” It is not a person going around with a dark cloud hanging over his or her head. Humility comes about when a Christian realizes and understands his or her relationship with CHRIST and places others before him or herself. This comes about through sanctification. To “consider others” is to “deem” or “count” others as more important than ourselves. This comes from knowing that you are secure in CHRIST and are confident of your relationship in CHRIST. Such an attitude comes about naturally from the internal working of the Holy Spirit. Such a manufactured attitude is unfulfilling and does not produce “joy.”

Christians are to look beyond their own interest “but also for the interest of others.” This is not neglecting our interest but looking beyond our interest to the interest of others as led by the Holy Spirit.

This includes, if we see a person about to do something that will lead him or her into trouble, we are to try to give him or her wise counsel. That can be a ticklish area and needs prayer for the opportunity to counsel. This is where we have to trust, when the LORD reveals the need, HE will provide the opportunity.  We must look for it.

How is that possible?

Let’s read Philippians 2:5: Christ’s Humility and Exaltation

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

How does a Christian “make his or her attitude that of CHRIST?”
The goal of GOD is for every Christian to be made in the image of CHRIST. 

Romans 8:29:

29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

Every Christian has the opportunity to have the attitude of CHRIST but it is a process of yielding his or her will to GOD. Salvation is just the beginning step in the process of obediently serving GOD and that is the process of sanctification. Christians are called, at the moment of salvation, to obediently serve GOD but Christians are free to choose.  As we grow and mature Spiritually in CHRIST through the renewing of our minds, as brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit, we are being made more like CHRIST.

As stated several times in this series, JESUS never did or said anything unless HIS Father revealed it to HIM. That is the attitude and mindset of CHRIST. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:12-16:

12 Now we have not received the spirit of the • world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. 16 For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Christians have the mind of CHRIST but will we use it? Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to all truth by being obedient to HIM in every aspect of your life. 

Proverbs 3:5-6:

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (King James Version)

In order to trust the LORD we must yield and trust HIM. Through our journey with HIM we build an intimate, personal, trusting relationship with HIM. We replace our mind of flesh with the mind of CHRIST.

Let’s read Philippians 2:13-15:

13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. 16 Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.

Having the mind and attitude of CHRIST allows Christians to obediently function according to GOD’S plan and desire. When they allow GOD to work through them they see the handiwork of GOD being manifested. Living life upon earth is not easy but when Christians see GOD working through them it brings joy and purpose to their lives. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20:

20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

CHRIST is the reality of things to come rejoice in that fact, as we obediently serve HIM. Unity of purpose! Blessings!!!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bible Study - Glue (4) - Stick with Service - Galatians 5:13-15; 6:1-5, 10 - May 17, 2015

Bible Study – Glue (4) – Stick with Service – May 17, 2015

This is lesson four (4) in our series entitled “Like Glue: Make Relationships Stick.”

Our focus scripture is Galatians 5:13-15; 6:1-5, 10.

Seize the opportunity to serve.

Today how do we view service in the world and in the church? How often do we walk into a business and employees are talking to each other or texting and ignoring the customer? As members of a church do we as church members reach out to visitors, the community around us and within our congregation with an attitude of service? As Christians, do we serve as the result of our relationship with CHRIST with a loving attitude or out of necessity or begrudgingly?

Consider the attitude of the conscientious employee versus the employee who is just filling a spot and the Christian who is obedient to the calling of CHRIST versus a Christian in name only.  A person whose desire is to serve seeks the opportunity to serve and is vigilant.

JESUS came to earth to serve. HE did not do HIS will but HE did the will of HIS Father. HE set the example of obedient service for all Christians.
The key is for Christians to look around to see where GOD is working and when they see GOD working it is their invitation to join HIM in HIS work. GOD opens the eyes of opportunity.

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Galatia. After establishing the church in Galatia, Paul left but while he was gone the Judaizers came to Galatia. The Judaizers were Jewish Christians who taught that a person had to first become a Jew and obey the Mosaic Law and be circumcised before he could become a Christian. 

Paul was greatly concerned how the Gentile Christians were so easily duped into accepting the teaching of the Judaizers. The Judaizers taught that JESUS only came for the Jews, therefore, a person had to first become a Jew before he or she could become a Christian. This was an issue with the Gentiles.
Paul had taught that faith in CHRIST was all a person needed to become a Christian and he or she was free from the ritual of following the Mosaic Law. But Paul cautioned that although free from the dictates of the law they were not to follow the dictates of the flesh. Through their love relationship with CHRIST, they, in turn, would love their neighbor as themselves thus fulfilling the desires of GOD for their lives. Let’s explore!

Let’s read Galatians 5:13-15:

13 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.

Paul made it clear that Christians were called to freedom but not to be free to serve the flesh but to serve one another. When Christians have the attitude of loving others as they love themselves their attitude toward others will change. They will have unity and will not be hostile to others. They will see others as opportunities to obediently serve as led by the Holy Spirit.

How do we as Christians look at our neighbor? Some we love and adore but others?

Our love for others reflects our relationship with GOD through our relationship with CHRIST. If we consume one another then we cease to exist. So what is important? The Apostle addressed this in the following scriptures:
Galatians 6:13-15:

13 For even the circumcised don’t keep the law themselves; however, they want you to be circumcised in order to boast about your flesh. 14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The • world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. 15 For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation.

Romans 12:2:

2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Transformation into the image of CHRIST is to be the focus of all Christians.
Our focus scripture fast forwards to clarify how Christians are to deal with issues among the church body as we read our next scripture. Christians were not to allow fellow Christians to live like they wanted, even though they had freedom, but there were times when discipline was necessary.

Let’s read Galatians 6:1-5:

1 • Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. 2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else. 5 For each person will have to carry his own load.

The Apostle Paul addresses fellow Christians by referring to them as “brothers.” If a fellow Christian was “caught” in any “wrongdoing,” those who were Spiritual should restore the perpetrator with a gentle Spirit. Christians must be held accountable by “those who are Spiritual” not the Spiritually blind.

Here we have several things:
-         The word “caught” can mean that the one caught was surprised that he or she ended up entangled in wrongdoing. It can also mean that someone suspected that a certain Christian was doing something wrong and a trap was set and it caught the Christian. The idea is not to catch the person to do him or her harm but to restore.
-         Wrongdoing captures the idea of either an unintentional or purposeful offense.
-         Restore carries the idea of counseling and helping the perpetrator bring the wrongdoing under his or her control.
-         A gentle Spirit. This Spiritual person is not to be judgmental but to focus on restoration as he or she seeks wisdom from GOD to counsel the perpetrator. Usually a person who has a gentle Spirit has been caught up in wrongdoing and gotten through it a much wiser person. Such a person has compassion for others and desires for the perpetrator to be restored. It captures the essence of “but for the grace of GOD there go I.” Just living in the world can teach us to avoid certain things in life; we don’t necessarily have to experience them.
-         Keeping a close eye on ourselves lest we be tempted to fall victim to temptation is critical. When the blind lead the blind both fall into the ditch. If the person trying to help another person is tempted, then he or she is little or no value to the person he or she is attempting to help. All Christians are sinners saved by “grace.” Christians are not to measure themselves using another Christian as their standard but the true measure and standard is CHRIST.
-         Carry carries the idea of “removal,” “to take up,” “endure,” to come along the side of the perpetrator with wise counsel and support. The purpose of being available to the perpetrator is to help lighten his or her load or burden. Often having someone to talk to helps relieve the struggles in dealing with situations.
-         Paul wrote that carrying one another’s burdens fulfills the “law of CHRIST. What is the “law of CHRIST?” CHRIST summed it up in Matthew 22:37-40: 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” It is all about relationship. First, Christians must be in an intimate relationship with GOD through faith in CHRIST. Such an intimate relationship produces unity because the Christian is intimate with the true vine, CHRIST, which produces fruit. The Christian is ready to serve because he or she realizes that GOD’S handiwork is flowing through him or her. Christians realize that the results they see being manifested, is not about them but they are about GOD’S plan and purpose being achieved.
-         The greatest danger of all is for the Christian coming to the aid of another person caught in wrongdoing is for the Spiritual person to pat him or herself on the back and think “I do not have that problem.” That is when the restorer must keep a very close eye on him or herself. A Christian should never become complacent or think he or she can never fall victim to sin or wrongdoing. That is when Christians are the most vulnerable.
-         Each Christian has his or her hands full just taking care of his or her burdens and often need help.

The Apostle Paul segue ways to application.

Let’s read Galatians 6:10:

10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

Seize the moment. Opportunities give Christians an entry point to become involved in the lives of others. Christians must work for the good of all, especially fellow Christians. But the statement “good for all” applies to all humans as GOD gives the opportunity but giving special attention to fellow Christians.

Working for the “good of all” is often a very tall order. It is doing the right thing when it comes to discipline and counsel but in a wise manner so as not to cause major harm in the true Spiritual body. Working for the “good of all” is doing so at the right moment in time. Christians are to seize the opportunity at that instant because the opportunity may never open up again.
Christians need to have such an intimate relationship with GOD that as they see HIM working, they are ready to seize the moment when the opportunity presents itself.

GOD’S desire is for every Christian to be made in the image of CHRIST. 

JESUS said that HE did or said only the things GOD told HIM to do or say. 

JESUS was intimate with GOD, HIS Father and that is why Christians must be intimate with GOD their Father through faith in CHRIST. As GOD speaks and shows us what HE is doing that puts us on alert to respond as HE gives opportunity. It is exciting to see GOD’S hand at work through us as HE leads us.

Once Christians have this experience, they must be careful not to rush headlong into situations which they need to wait upon the LORD. That knowledge comes with growing and maturing Spiritually through the process of sanctification. Blessings!!!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Bible Study - Glue (3) - Stick with Forgiveness - Matthew 18:21-33 - May 10, 2015

Bible Study – Glue (3) – Stick with Forgiveness – May 10, 2-15

This is lesson three (3) in our series entitled “Glue: Making Relationships Stick.”

Our focus scripture is Matthew 18:21-28, 32-33.

Relationships grow deeper with forgiveness. It is easy to tell someone to forgive but often very difficult when it falls upon us to forgive.

Our lesson today focuses upon the forgiveness of an impossible debt for a person to pay. The debt was so large the person could never pay it in his lifetime under the best of circumstances. JESUS told about this debt using a parable, which JESUS intended for HIS followers to compare to the impossible sin debt they owe to GOD for their salvation.

JESUS often used parables for teaching Spiritual truths. Parables were being used before JESUS used them. 

One example is found in 2 Samuel 12:1-7:

1 So the Lord sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up, living with him and his children. It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; it slept in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest. 5 David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.” 7 Nathan replied to David, “You are the man!

Parables are earthly examples used to help convey Spiritual truths. Let’s explore!

Let’s read Matthew 18:21-22:

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.

JESUS had been teaching and preparing HIS disciples for HIS death, burial, resurrection and ascension. They would be the ones to help spread the Gospel of CHRIST.  They needed to know truth.

JESUS’ disciple, Peter, had a question regarding forgiveness. The teaching of the Jewish Rabbis regarding forgiveness was for a person to forgive a person up to three times with four being the upper limit. When Peter asked JESUS the question, he went beyond the three-four upper limits to seven times. In Jewish culture, the number seven was considered the perfect or complete number.  
JESUS went beyond Peter’s number of seven times to, as the scripture states, “but 70 times 7.” Some Bible scholars claim that the proper translation is “77 times.”

JESUS knew the Old Testament scriptures and some Bible scholars point out that JESUS may have used “77” in reference to the Old Testament reference regarding Lamech avenging anyone doing him wrong as found in Genesis 4:24:

24 If Cain is to be avenged seven times over, then for Lamech it will be seventy-seven times!

The idea JESUS was conveying was that HE wanted HIS disciples to have the opposite attitude of Lamech rather than seeking vengeance there is no limit when it comes to forgiveness as long as the person asks to be forgiven.  HIS disciples were to have a forgiving attitude and forgive and keep on forgiving.

JESUS set the example when HE spoke the words when HE hung on the cross as recorded in Luke 23:32:

34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

The idea was not to place a ceiling on the number of times to forgive but when a person genuinely repents of an offence and asks to be forgiven to forgive him or her. This attitude reflects the nature and character of GOD. In essence, when an offender is forgiven, the count is reset to zero. GOD forgives and forgets as recorded in Hebrews 10:11-17:

11 Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. 12 But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. 13 He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after He says: 16 This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, 17 He adds: I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts.

The key is for the person committing the offense to genuinely ask to be forgiven and when he or she is forgiven, the count is reset to zero. It is all about the heart. This in no way condones abuse.

JESUS immediately followed HIS statement to Peter with a parable to help elucidate this Spiritual principle.

In most parables when there was a reference to a king, the king referred to “GOD” and slaves or servants referred to those under the authority of GOD. In this parable, the use of the word “slave” renders the idea of a subordinate official in the king’s administration but Spiritually to all of mankind who owe a sin debt to GOD. 

Let’s read Matthew 18:23-27:

23 For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his • slaves. 24 When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him. 25 Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. 26 “At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ 27 Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

Forgiveness is the hallmark of GOD’S love for mankind which JESUS willingly fulfilled when HE gave HIS life on the cross to pay the sin debt, in full, for all who place their faith in HIM. Those who reject JESUS will face GOD on judgment day and will be held accountable for their sin. The parable JESUS told was depicting judgment day and the need for every person to look objectively at his or her life and the fact that he or she will be held accountable for his or her debt of sin.

JESUS told of a king settling accounts among those accountable to him. The king calls for an audience with a slave who had great responsibility in his kingdom. This slave owed him an impossibly large debt to pay. The debt was 10,000 talents.

The talent was the highest known denomination of currency of that time period. It is interesting that “ten thousand” was the highest number for which the Greek language had a word. Ten thousand talents can be compared to the national debt of a country and this slave who owed it was a hired hand without the means to ever pay it off.

The king demanded payment or his wife, children along with everything the slave had accumulated would be sold to satisfy the debt. The slave fell upon his knees begging the king to be patient with him while he paid off his debt. It is obvious to the king that the slave could never pay off the debt, so the king takes pity on him and forgives him. Oh what a relief it is to be forgiven for something so impossible to ever pay or satisfy in full.

I am sure that slave left with a since of great relief and gratitude. But did it have a lasting effect on him? Let’s read on.

Let’s read Matthew 18:28-31 and 32-33:

28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 • denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’ 29 “At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 But he wasn’t willing. On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. 31 When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened.

You would think the slave who was forgiven would have looked differently on a person who owed him money. But did he?

What Spiritual truth is exposed in this parable? Does it reveal the hypocrisy in Christians who judge others?

It seems that since the king was having an accountability session, the forgiven slave thought he would have his own accountability session. He found a fellow slave who owed him 100 denarii. A “denarii” was a Roman silver coin and equivalent to a day’s wage. In comparison to 10,000 talents the 100 denarii could have been paid by working 100 days. But the forgiven slave grabbed this fellow slave and began chocking him.  Notice that the slave who owed 100 denarii began pleading with the slave to whom he owed the money using the same words “begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’”

But this fellow slave’s pleading fell on deaf ears and he was thrown into prison until he paid the debt.

Fellow slaves witnessed what had happened and they went straight to the king. We often do things without considering that others see our actions, which reveals our hypocrisy. So fellow slaves reported the actions of the forgiven slave to the king, as we read in our next scripture.  

32 “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. 35 So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.”

The king summoned the forgiven slave. The king had forgiven him because he begged him and the king had compassion on him. But when the tables were turned, the forgiven slave’s fellow slave begged him to be patient with him; he had him thrown into prison. Of all people, those who have been forgiven of a debt they cannot pay should be merciful to those who owe them a debt. The king explained this principle to the slave.

The king turned him over to be tortured in prison until he paid his debt in full.
JESUS then turned the parable into a learning experience applicable to all people, especially Christians. Notice, forgiveness is not superficial but comes from the heart. That is, forgive and mean it.

Do you want to be forgiven and not face judgment? JESUS said it best in John 5:24:

24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.

JESUS forgives all who place their faith in HIM because HIS shed blood paid in full their debt of sin which is impossible to be paid by human effort. Christians, in turn, need to show that same compassion to their fellow man when they are asked to forgive. They are also not to judge others. That is GOD’S business. Christians must keep in mind that they are all sinners saved by grace.

JESUS stated in the model prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:12:

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

We are all sinners saved by grace and are in debt to GOD for our sins but to GOD be the glory, JESUS paid it all when HE gave HIS life upon the cross. How do we know that? GOD raised HIM from the dead as proof that HE conquered both sin and death for all who place their faith in HIM to have eternal life and to experience life upon earth more abundantly as JESUS stated in John 10:10:

I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

Sunday is Mother’s Day and next month we celebrate Father’s Day. If you have not forgiven your parent or parents for something, consider doing that. Forgiveness is the best gift you can give them. This includes siblings, relatives, friends and others who you may need to forgive. All Christians have been forgiven of a debt they could never pay.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bible Study - Glue (2) - Stick with Encouragement - Acts 9:26-28: 11:21-16 - May 3, 2015

Bible Study – Glue (2) – Stick with Encouragement – May 3, 2015

This is lesson two (2) in our series entitled “Like Glue: Making Relationships Stick.”

Our focus scripture is Acts 9:26-28; 11:21-26.

Encouragement strengthens relationships.

Our lesson focuses on Joseph of Cyprus or we know him better by his nickname “Barnabas” which means “son of exhortation” or “son of encouragement” and on early years of the Apostle Paul after his salvation experience.

We studied a few weeks ago Saul/Paul and his encounter with JESUS. Paul had a special encounter with JESUS on the road to Damascus. Paul was on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of JESUS and take them to Jerusalem to be tried before the Jewish religious leaders. These early Christian believers were called “the Way.” It was later, as we will learn in this lesson, that they were called “Christians” which the non-Christians labeled them.

After Paul’s conversion from Judaism to being a follower of JESUS, JESUS called a disciple in Damascus named Ananias to go to Paul. Ananias knew Paul’s reputation and was reluctant but Ananias was obedient to the LORD’S command and laid hands on Paul and prayed with him. Something like scales fell from Paul’s eyes and he was anointed with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Paul immediately began preaching the gospel of CHRIST in Damascus and many people, especially Jews became followers of CHRIST. This upset the Jews and they plotted to kill Paul. Those wanting to kill Paul posted people, day and night, at the city gates of Damascus to be on the lookout for Paul. But the followers of CHRIST knew of their plot and slipped Paul out of Damascus at night by lowering him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

Scripture reads as if Paul went directly to Jerusalem from Damascus at that time but he actually went to Arabia for three (3) years. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Galatians 1:15-24:

15 But when God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know • Cephas, and I stayed with him 15 days. 19 But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 Now I am not lying in what I write to you. God is my witness. 21 Afterward, I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I remained personally unknown to the Judean churches in Christ; 23 they simply kept hearing: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

After three years, Paul went to Jerusalem and spoke to the Apostle Peter and James, JESUS’ brother. I think Paul was gathering intimate details of all they knew and had experienced regarding JESUS.

We read in our scripture that when Paul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to associate with the disciples of JESUS but the reputation of his life before his salvation proceeded him. Was Paul trying to appear to be a follower of JESUS just to identify those who were followers of JESUS in order to arrest them? Christians must beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul’s life had been changed by his encounter with CHRIST. Let’s go on a journey and explore!

Let’s read Acts 9:26-28:
·       26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. 27 Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that He had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the • brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Incidentally, Jerusalem was 175 miles from Damascus.

The disciples rejected Paul as a follower of JESUS because they were afraid of him. As stated earlier, they thought he had ulterior motives.
As Christians, do many of us have ulterior motives when we become a part of a certain Christian fellowship – such as business, social, ego and the list goes on?

GOD has a plan and purpose for every Christian. Here we have the opportunity to witness GOD’S plan and purpose of Barnabas and Paul in these early days.
Barnabas had to have the reputation such that when he vouched for Paul, the other disciples would listen and take to heart the words of Barnabas regarding Paul.   

Barnabas vouched for his conversion experience on the road to Damascus as evidenced by his life following his salvation, which was the Spiritual fruit that was being produced through his life. This was evidenced by Saul’s walk and talk.

The authenticity of Paul’s encounter with CHRIST on the road to Damascus needed to be confirmed. JESUS’ disciples knew the truth as taught to them by JESUS and they needed to confirm that Paul was speaking and living these truths.

That is why Christians must know the truth, as taught by JESUS and should they encounter someone not speaking or living that truth to know that could be wolves in sheep’s clothing. So beware! But the key is that you know the truth so you can discern the truth. Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

The disciples allowed Paul to minister with them while keeping a close eye on him and the gospel he was preaching. In time, their confidence in Paul was satisfied.

Once the disciples were convinced that Paul’s encounter with JESUS was real, they accepted him into their midst by the phrase “Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the LORD.”

Once accepted by the disciples, Paul seems to switch into high gear and debated with the Hellenistic Jews. Saul spoke “boldly.” When we are convinced of truth and know truth, we have a burning desire to let others know that truth. If we knew a person was dying of a terrible disease and we knew the cure, we would want him or her to know the cure. The sick person would then have to discern if he or she would take the cure.

Paul had been a Hellenistic Jew. He had been trained in the best Jewish schools and he knew Judaism like the back of his hand but now he knew the truth regarding the coming of the promised Messiah, JESUS.

Hellenistic Jews were Jews who grew up outside of Jerusalem and generally spoke Greek. Paul debated with them and his bold presentation managed to tick them off and they plotted to kill him. But GOD watches out for HIS own and Paul’s fellow JESUS followers found out about the Hellenistic plot to kill Paul and took Paul to “Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.”

Why Tarsus? Simply, that was Paul’s home area. He should be safe in that area and with the passion he had for spreading the gospel of CHRIST, it would be a ripe area for him to preach and minister.

I know, I can look back at my life and see the hand of GOD moving me from one area to another for my good and to learn more about HIM.
Let’s Read Acts 11:20-24:
·       20 But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 Then the report about them was heard by the church that was at Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of the heart, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord.

The Apostle Paul was ministering in his home area of Tarsus. The gospel of CHRIST was spreading in other areas as well, specifically Antioch. It was roughly 100+ miles by land from Antioch to Tarsus and about 490 miles from Jerusalem to Antioch.

Antioch was a melting of people and cultures and would become the base for spreading the gospel of CHRIST to the Gentiles.
Jews and Gentiles alike were responding to the gospel of CHRIST. The disciples in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to check out what was happening in Antioch. When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he witnessed the “LORD’S hand at work.”

GOD’S desire is for every human on the face of the earth to become a Christian and HE works to bring their salvation about. But since HE made mankind with the freedom to choose, the decision whether or not to accept CHRIST as their Savior is left to them. GOD’S hand or power intervenes in each person’s life to bring him or her to a saving knowledge of JESUS. GOD works in the most secret place of each person and that is the “eyes of the heart.”

Notice the word “turned.” “Turned” is an action. When GOD’S Spirit touches the life of a person, he or she has a choice. Those who accept CHRIST as his or her Savior experience a life changing moment. Such an event was taking place in Antioch which resulted in the Christian church leaders in Jerusalem hearing about it. The Jerusalem Christian church leaders wanted to know more about what was taking place there, so they sent Barnabas to Antioch to evaluate the situation.

The church leaders chose Barnabas because he had been a Hellenist Jew. A Hellenist Jew is a Jew who lived outside of Jerusalem and often spoke Greek. He could deal with the struggle the Jews had in understanding the relationship between Christianity (grace) and Judaism (law). The Christian leaders in Jerusalem gave full authority to Barnabas to settle any issues because they had confidence that he would settle them responsibility and in accordance with early Christian church doctrine.

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he saw the “grace of GOD” at work in the lives of the JESUS followers. He encouraged them to keep doing what they had been doing and to stick with what they were being taught. His basis was that he witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of those JESUS followers. He saw fruit being produced in the lives of those Christians. If it works and is ministering, then leave it alone.

Barnabas had the credentials. He was an obedient Christian, “full of the Holy Spirit and of the faith.” He witnessed large numbers of people being added to the Lord.

Others being added to the Christian faith is good but putting our faith into action is a vital step. Christianity is more than seeing large numbers of people come to know JESUS as their Savior. Salvation is just the beginning of a life long journey with CHRIST. It is all about building the right relationship with JESUS and, in turn, GOD. Knowing CHRIST is the path to knowing GOD. JESUS said it best in John 14: 6:

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Let’s read Acts 11:25-26:
·       25 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, 26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.

Barnabas saw opportunity in Antioch and thought of his Hellenist friend Saul. So Barnabas leaves Antioch and went to Tarsus to search for Saul. He found him and brought Saul to Antioch, where they ministered for a year.

To be chosen to minister for CHRIST and to be able to use your Spiritual gifts is always such as blessing. Sometimes Christians have to take a time out before GOD can use us. Being in timeout does not mean we do nothing but often that is where we gain perspective. Could Saul being in Tarsus be giving him a timeout to gain the proper perspective and learn? But how encouraging it is when Christians who have run into a rough spot have an opportunity to serve and are chosen to continue their work for the LORD JESUS. I am sure Saul was ready to serve.

It was in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians. It is interesting that the followers of JESUS did not call themselves “Christians” but the non-Christians called them “Christians.”

The word “called” means “were called after their business.” Thus a baker, baked and the shoemaker, made shoes, the carpenter built things, etc. The non-Christians watched the CHRIST followers, they described them based upon what they observed thus “Christians.”

“In the Gentile world the name “CHRIST” was thought to be the proper name for JESUS.” (Page 126, Leaders Guide, spring 2015, published by LifeWay.) The term “Christ Ones” also distinguished the “followers of CHRIST from the Jewish sect.

Before Antioch, Christian movement was referred to as “The Way.”

When others observe us, what message do we send? Christianity is more about what we do and what we say. It is vital that our talk match our walk. Do we measure up? No! Christians realize that we are saved by the shed blood of JESUS and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit but we also fail because of the rule of the flesh. But that is where GOD’S grace comes in and our confession of the wrongs we do against our fellow man and GOD. Confession and repentance equals restoration.

1 John 1:9:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Look back over our scripture and identify those who were encouragers beginning with GOD.

As Christians do we encourage others and come to their defense when church leaders turn against them? I am not saying that Christians a turn a blind eye to sin and wrong doing. But do we investigate to know the truth? Blessings!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bible Study - Glue (1) - Stick with Love - John 15:9-14 - April 26, 2015

Bible Study – Glue (1) – Stick with Love – April 26, 2015

This is lesson (1) in our series entitled “Like Glue: Making Your Relationships Stick.”

Our focus scripture is John 15:9-14.

In this new series of study, we will explore various scripture selections for the next six (6) weeks, which act as glue in relationships: Love, Encouragement, Forgiveness, Service, Humility and Acceptance. We begin with love. The source of love is GOD.

Let love permeate every relationship. Mutual love brings unity. We were created to live in relationship with GOD. GOD made mankind to love and fellowship with HIM. We read in Genesis 1:26-27:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.

Another look at GOD’S formation of mankind in Genesis 2:7-9:

7 Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being. 8 The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. 9 The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Life was good in the Garden of Eden until disobedience, which resulted in sin entered the Garden. Sin changed the dynamics of mankind’s relationship with 

GOD as we read in Genesis 3:8-9:

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

What an intimate, personal relationship mankind had with GOD until sin separated them and the death penalty came upon them. But GOD loved mankind and had a plan to redeem mankind as we read in John 3:16-18:

16 “For God loved the world •in this way: He gave His •One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

As you recall in last week’s lesson, we studied in Ephesians 1:4, GOD had HIS redemptive plan in HIS mind before HE created the world.

What is love? Today, many young people confuse lust with love. The Greek language has four words for love:

Agape – Self-giving love. It is a love that does not require or demand love in return.
Phila – Brotherly or love based upon friendship.
Eros – Erotic or sexual love.
Storge – Family love.  It is the love that family members have for each other. The love parents have for their children.

We will focus upon agape or self-giving love.

In general, a person cannot be made to love another person. There are exceptions such as the “Stockholm Syndrome.”

So what produces love? Love can begin as a friendship and develop into a deeper relationship. But there is usually an attraction. I do not mean a sexual attraction but an interest in a person, subject, work, etc. Love for these things is manifested in many different ways.

Our focus is upon the love GOD has for HIS Only Son, JESUS, and the Son’s love for HIS Father. This is the example and goal GOD and JESUS desire for all who place their faith in CHRIST as their Savior to have.  This love for Christians begins at the moment of salvation and grows and matures through the process of sanctification as we build our relationship with CHRIST. Let’s explore!

Those who experience an intense event in their lives bond with each other quickly. Those in the military form lifelong friendships based upon the situations they experience and live through as a team. They form bonds that often cannot be broken.

When we consider love, let’s think of the love a mother and dad have for their child. No one has to teach normal parents to love their child or children.  Their love began even before their child was conceived in the desire to have children or when the child was conceived or adopted.

Consider marriage. Every marriage gives the opportunity for love which develops as a couple work together to build their lives as one in harmony and unity.

Salvation is just the beginning process of every Christian building a new life with CHRIST and GOD based upon knowing and doing the will of the Father. It is a relationship of trust. Ground zero is confession to JESUS anything that we attempt to hide or withhold from HIM. HIS desire is for us to be honest with HIM as we walk with HIM.

GOD desires each Christian to develop such a bond with JESUS that through that relationship, each Christian will develop that same intimate, personal relationship with HIM. When Christians are in unity with JESUS and GOD they are also in unity with fellow Christians, who are in that same relationship with JESUS and GOD.

How do Christians develop this bond? It is all about getting to know CHRIST and trusting HIM to lead and guide you in the direction GOD would have you to go through the indwelling Holy Spirit. When you take a step of faith, HE will give you another step of faith. As you gain experience through obedient service, your bond with HIM will grow. It is all about trusting GOD in obedient service.  But ground zero is being grafted into the source and that comes as the result of salvation. JESUS said it best as we read our next scripture.

Let’s begin by reading John 15:1-8: (Foundational)

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He (GOD) removes, and He (GOD) prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already • clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.

Salvation grafts Christians into the true, living vine, CHRIST and obedient service keeps them grafted into the vine for the purpose of producing fruit. 

Christians are to remain or abide in CHRIST through Whom all blessings flow. All Spiritual nutrients flow through CHRIST, the true vine, to Christians who are the branches and the fruit bearers.

The Apostle Paul identifies some of the fruit that is produced in Galatians 5:22-23:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
There is no law that can force a person to manifest these attributes; such attributes are the result of abiding in the true vine, CHRIST as his or her life source.  

Let’s read John 15:9-10:

9 “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.

This is JESUS talking. The same love the Father has for HIS Only Son JESUS, JESUS has for all who place their faith in HIM. JESUS admonishes Christians to “remain” in their relationship.

How do Christians “remain?”  They abide in HIM. They are obedient to HIM as the Holy Spirit leads them and they take the time to learn of HIM and from HIM through Bible study, prayer and Holy Spirit led activity.

Will remaining in JESUS mean that I will be a religious nut? Was JESUS a religious nut? HE was obedient to the commands of the Father. HE knew the scriptures and HE stayed in contact with the Father through prayer. HE only took action and spoke as the Father gave HIM direction and revealed to HIM. Yet, HE functioned among those seeking truth and since HE was truth, HE revealed truth. Not notions but truth. Do you know the truth and do you speak the truth or speak those things that sound good?

JESUS is the example which we are to follow.

Let’s read John 15:11-12:
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.

What is joy? Joy denotes gladness and happiness which comes from favorable circumstances. In this world, circumstances can change on a dime and that is why Christians must remain in relationship to GOD through their relationship with CHRIST. GOD and CHRIST’S love does not change. It is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. But for Christians to continually experience that unfailing love they must remain in obedient relationship to CHRIST.

This is not a work your fingers to the bone relationship but an abiding relationship. It is “Here I am dear JESUS, as I am, but willing for You to use me according to Your plan and purpose for my life. You must be my strength as I obediently walk with You each moment.” It is not the magic of using specific words; it is all about the attitude of the heart. But when the opportunity is presented, take action.

JESUS’ greatest joy is for Christians to know and experience the “JOY” HE experienced in being obedient to HIS Father. HIS desire is for Christians to experience “HIS Joy” to the max, full and overflowing. When our joy is overflowing it spills over to others and others see CHRIST in us. The Holy Spirit gives Christians balance but the joy of the LORD is apparent. Then others see that CHRIST is the light of the world. Not to bring glory to them but to bring Glory to CHRIST and GOD.

When Christians know they are being used by GOD, they are the happiest.
Christians are to love one another “as I (CHRIST) have loved you.” This statement reflects the “ongoing” nature of CHRIST’S love for us. HE loved us so much that HE gave HIS life for us in that while we were yet sinners, HE died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Love is the glue that holds things together.

I know when my dear wife experiences something of great joy; she wants to share it with me as I want to share with her the things that being me joy.

Let’s read John 15:13-14:

13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.
JESUS defines love in verses 13 and 14. To love like JESUS is to love unconditionally and sacrificially. The Apostle John captures this idea in 1 John 3:16:

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.
Humans are made up of body, soul and spirit. Life refers to the essence of a person’s being and to “lay down his life for his friends” means he or she is willing to die for that person.

JESUS leads by example. HE gave HIS life for each person who will place his or her faith in HIM. JESUS paid the penalty for sin in full. But HE has called each Christian to die to self and to give his or her life to obediently follow HIM that others may get to know HIM as his or her Savior.

Do you want to be a friend of JESUS? If so, remain in HIM and do what HE commands you. Blessings!!!