Be Not Ashamed: A Balanced Christian Approach to PRIDE Month and Other LGBTQIA+ Issues

Be Not Ashamed


Over the last several weeks at Idaville First, we were looking at the letter from James and gleaning the practical wisdom from within that is meant for the Church to use as a guide for living. Doing so brought us face to face with what things we should and shouldn’t judge. Within the realm of what we should never try to judge, especially where judgment implies condemnation were the heart of a person, people’s motives, and the person’s salvation. However, we are called and encouraged to make judgment calls, based on the authority of God’s Word in the areas of behaviors, belief systems, and ideas. As Christians, we are never given permission to condemn anyone. God alone is the judge and lawgiver. God alone has already condemned the world. However, God has also provided a way for restoration for the people of the world. Jesus came to save the world, but those who choose not to accept him are already condemned.

One of the most divisive topics we can deal with in the 21st culture that we live in is the LGBTQIA+ movement. It is not a topic that the global and eternal Church can ignore. It is certainly an issue that has polarizing sides between secular society and Christ-followers, but it also has a wide range of division for those who profess to be Christian. For those of you who may not have caught on yet, June is PRIDE month. I would say nearly everyone in America knows at least one family member, friend, family of friends, or even themselves who are not directly impacted by the PRIDE movement.

One of the questions that I frequently face as a pastor is “where do you stand, or where does your church or denomination stand regarding this issue?” For me personally, I usually answer this way. I believe in the inspiration and authority of God’s Word. What the Bible calls sin is sin. That being said, it is not my job to condemn anyone. It is my job to love and accept people as they are, teach boldly and without compromise from the Word of God, and trust Holy Spirit to convict an individual leading to repentance and transformation. I want all individuals to feel welcome. I want them to hear what the Word of God says. I want them to experience the true love of Christ in Christian fellowship. I do not want them to simply go somewhere else to hear what they want to hear and to be fed lies leading people astray. Of course, there are many who would disagree or question how that stance can be put into practice. However, Paul says in Romans 1:16-17,

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”’

Romans 1:16-17

Our eldership, our church, and our denomination also stand on the inspiration and authority of the Word of God as properly interpreted and taught. We are not ashamed to stand on the Truth of the Word of God. We are not ashamed of the full counsel of the scriptures. We are not ashamed to take a biblical stand when it comes to sin. Any sin. Our denomination puts out a guidebook of where we stand on a wide range of social issues. It is called, uniquely enough, “Here We Stand.” That guide as well affirms what the Bible calls sin is sin. When it comes to human sexuality, marriage, and relationships; the Bible has a lot to say. It gives us many examples of both good and bad behaviors, decrees many laws, and makes clear, all forms of sexual immorality are sin and against the very nature of how God created mankind to be.

So, what does the Bible say? Just a few of the references are going to appear on the screen behind me if you decide to take note…

God created man and woman to be complementary to one another. (Genesis 1:27) Jesus affirms this teaching in several other places, including the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Many of the letters to the churches also affirm this biblical stance.

“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” (Deuteronomy 22:5).

God forbids sexual intercourse outside of marriage, whether premarital or extramarital (Proverbs 6:27-29, 1 Corinthians 6:13-18, Ephesians 5:3). Male and female homosexuality, going so far as to call it an abomination in the Old Testament, (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:24-27), plural marriage (Leviticus 20:14), bestiality (Leviticus 20:15, 16), God’s Word condemns all immoral perversions and distortions of human sexuality, including incest, orgies, swinging (Galatians 5:19-21, Leviticus 20: 11-12, 19-21), etc…

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.’

(1Corinthians 6:18-20)

‘For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.’

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)

The loudest, little minority of the PRIDE movement is outright hostile toward any type of Judeo-Christian belief system. In some states, even saying that these behaviors are sin is considered hate speech. Although they certainly don’t speak for all, their voices certainly carry the most weight. They influence public opinion, educational systems, media in all its forms, and more…

For a movement that prides itself on inclusion and tolerance, it is very intolerant of Christianity or anyone else who will not endorse or affirm their viewpoint. Antagonistic to the scriptures, the PRIDE movement has made the rainbow its flag. After seeing the evil of mankind and destroying most of the life on the planet in the flood. Genesis 9:16 that the rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant to never to use a flood to destroy the all living things earth again. The PRIDE movement says, “love is love.” This driving division even within the Church, what does God really me in the three great commandments of love God, love your neighbor, and love one another. 1 John 4:16 says, God is love… John 3:16 says, God so loved the world… In the past we have talked the 22 different definitions of love in English, where Greek is very specific when it talks about different types of love.

At the heart of every facet of the PRIDE movement is an innate denial of who God is and the instructions that he has left behind for us. Even those who profess to be Christians must deny some portion of the inspiration and authority of God’s Word in order to justify a position the participates in, endorses, or affirms the PRIDE movement.

Target has lost over 13 billion dollars in two weeks. The silent majority was finally not so silent after Target released Pride clothing that included female-style swimsuits that have the option to “tuck” male genitalia. Other products in the line were labeled as “thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions.” The swim suits were being displayed on child-sized mannequins and marketed to children which also fueled the outrage. Target’s Gay Pride collection has been linked to Erik Carnell, who is an outspoken Satanist whose other brand apparel includes occult imagery and messages like “Satan respects pronouns.”

However, this is just another example of the PRIDE movement trying to normalize and groom behavior that the Bible clearly defines as sin. The indoctrination and grooming have already begun in public elementary schools, in Illinois and other states, elementary classrooms are supposed to have a PRIDE safe space, teacher training seminars that are mandatory for employment require sensitivity and inclusion training, middle school and high school sex education classes normalize these behaviors, even affecting organizations such as the Girl Scouts of America and pressing in on the Boy Scouts.

All that being said, how can the church show the love of Christ without compromising the Word of Truth? That is the question. In the past, the church has done a terrible job. Hatred and condemnation piled on top of homophobia and intolerance leading to violence and resentment has happened in the past. Yes, in the Old Testament, God’s punishment within the law for almost all sexually immoral acts was death. But, when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus in John 8, Jesus said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus did not condemn the woman, but he also told her, “Go and sin no more.” We must present the whole Gospel. The Gospel is love and forgiveness, it is also mercy and grace, it is also confession, repentance, and transformation of mind and spirit, it is also correction and obedience, and cleansing from all unrighteousness. We must present the Gospel with compassion and consideration. However, I know some very judgmental Christians who are quick to condemn anyone, they would likely have been among those to be holding the stones.

I know the story of a young man struggling with same sex attraction that went to his church elders for help and counsel. To be clear for us today, attraction and temptation are not sins. Giving in to the tempation and embracing the urge is sin. This young man worked up his courage to speak with his elders and was met with hostility. He was looking for hope and godly counsel. Instead, they condemned him. Told him his lifestyle was sin (even though he had never engaged in any homosexual acts), and the people who should have held him up in prayer and given him strength to fight away the temptation drove him away in shock and tears. I would say that was the wrong approach.

At one time a couple years ago, a church in Springfield, Illinois was checking to see if I would be a fit to serve as pulpit supply and maybe more. In the midst of those talks, the elder I was in communication with told me that their church was an “open and affirming” church. They performed gay marriages and supported the PRIDE movement. Obviously, not a good fit. However, I asked if he, as an elder, could tell me how their church came to that conclusion. This was his response…

“I generally avoid theological debates, but I will tell you we do not believe one mortal sinner has the right to stand between God and another mortal sinner. We do not know anyone who takes the entire Bible literally. Everybody picks and chooses which parts of the Bible they believe as written and which they “interpret” before applying to their lives. Finally, we do not believe God needs our help in determining who is a sinner and who is not. We love and care for one another and leave the judging up to him.”

It’s concerning that a church elder would generally try to avoid discussing theology, but at face value, the statement makes sense. It is true that one mortal sinner doesn’t have a right to stand between God and another mortal sinner. Scripture says there is one intermediary between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. It is also true God doesn’t need our help determining who is a sinner. The Scripture says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The problem lies with their view of the inspiration, authority, and application of biblical Truth in the lives of individuals. In order to justify their position, they refuse the responsibility to properly teach the Word of God, call the people to repentance, and equip the saints; instead, they have chosen to enable people to keep sinning to make them feel good and not make a stand on biblical Truth. The old adage, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. I would say this is not the right approach.

I know a father and fellow minister who attended his daughter’s wedding. He didn’t officiate her wedding. He sat in his row with tears streaming down his face as his daughter and her wife took their vows. They were not the tears of joy a father should have at his daughter’s wedding. They were tears of grief for the sin he knew she was committing. Not long after, another pastor chastised him for even attending his daughter’s gay wedding. Even though he certainly didn’t officiate the wedding, the other pastor claimed it gave the appearance of approval. His response was, “if as a father, I can’t show my daughter the unconditional love of God in the midst of my grief at her behavior, who is going to?” In my opinion, the other pastor was wrong to chastise him, and the father was right to continue to show his daughter his love even if he didn’t approve of the relationship.

My grandmother taught me there is a huge difference between acceptance and approval. A difference between tolerance and affirmation. A difference between condemnation and correction. A difference between freedom from sin and freedom to sin.

Years ago, I met an individual in the mail room of our mobile home park. She introduced herself as Tammy. We had many conversations over the years, she and her housemate would go for walks around the park and if I was outside, we would chat. Our conversations included all manner of things. At one time, I offered to help build her a raised planter. After a couple years, as I was in the mail room, an effeminate looking man I recognized walked in. He said, “Joe, I would like to reintroduce myself. My name is Thomas.” He said, “We never really talked about it, but you’re a Christian, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes.” Thomas said, “When we first met, I introduced myself as Tammy. As I’m sure you probably realized, I was a cross-dressing homosexual and had even looked into gender reassignment. However, I recently came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior. Under the conviction of the indwelling Holy Spirit, I have repented of that lifestyle. I knew you had to be a Christian. You always treated me with respect and dignity. You even offered to help me several times. You truly showed me the love of Christ while I was steeped in my sin. Thank you. If it wasn’t for people like you, I probably wouldn’t have ever become a Christian.” Thomas is the one who encouraged me to find a church home after I had become disillusioned and discouraged from mistreatment in other churches. Thomas went to Oak Tree Church with me the first time I went, to give me courage and so I wouldn’t feel out of place and alone. Oak Tree was my church home for many years before moving to Illinois. Thomas has also gone on to plant many churches throughout Africa teaching them about God’s love and righteousness.

We all are born with a genetic defect called a sin nature. How can we minister to LGBTQIA+ individuals? The CGGC Here We Stand statement says,

We must first recognize that many LGBTQIA+ individuals have been hurt by those they love, their families, and even their churches. They have felt the sting of rejection and that rejection has left scars. That acknowledgement calls us to love LGBTQIA+ individuals and show them kindness. While there is a time to confront a person with his or her sin, the person must first know that we love them. As with any other sin, however, we should lovingly call for repentance. After all, it is not love to hide the truth from someone, particularly as it relates to a destructive lifestyle. Further, we should celebrate and encourage those individuals who experience same sex attraction, yet resist the temptation to act upon those urges. Most importantly, we must never enable or encourage homosexual or transgender behavior, whether through conducting same-sex “marriages” or some other practice that could be construed to endorse sexually immoral behavior.

As for society generally, we should continue to speak the truth as to all sexually immoral behavior. In order to do this, we must ensure that our congregants, particularly young people, are trained early-on to have a well-reasoned biblical worldview. We will uphold the biblical and natural definition of marriage and encourage repentance from all sin, including all LGBTQIA+ related sin.

Here We Stand,

And this is where we stand. Unashamed.


Pastor Joe

Thrive Part 8: Be Spiritually Disciplined

Thrive Pt. 8

Be Spiritually Disciplined

This is the last week in our Thrive series, and so far, we have covered a lot of ground.

Oswald Sanders, a great Christian writer and teacher once wrote,

“It is impossible for a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God. Spend plenty of time with him; let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.”

This week begins the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday. In evangelical circles, my past self also included, Lent as a religious practice gets a bad rap. Usually because of the way we perceive the Roman Catholic Church observes Lent starting with an ashen cross on the forehead and six weeks of Friday fish fry and a return of resolutions to give up this or do more of that, that usually last less time than a New Year’s resolution. After growing up in the Catholic church and my long journey back to faith, although my wife would typically celebrate Lent and ask us to observe some of the tradition as well; I typically bemoaned the time. It is in more recent years that I have begun to see the benefit in celebrating the season in a constructive way according to its purpose, and it was most profoundly demonstrated to me last year by the massive amount of spiritual growth I saw in my wife as she spent 40 days in prayer, devotions, and fasting. And those changes have carried through from last year to today.

Lent is meant to be a time of repentance. These 40 days are set aside to praise and worship the Lord; to read the Bible more, and to pray more often. Christians who observe Lent correctly anticipate deeper intimacy with the Lord. It is a time of prayer, fasting, self-sacrifice, and rededication to the Lord. The time of repentance associated with Lent is not a feeling of shame, guilt, or condemnation, but an awareness that sin separates us from God and of what it cost Him to be reunited with us.

The history of Lent is connected with the 40-day fast that Jesus undergoes (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). Mark tells us that Jesus was tempted by Satan, but it is in Matthew and Luke that the details of the temptation are fleshed out. All three accounts say that Jesus went without food for the 40 days. One of the spiritual disciplines closely connected with the observance of Lent is fasting. We are not talking about medical fasting, or fasting for weight loss; nor are we talking about screen fasts, etc…

Fasting – not eating (and sometimes drinking too) for an extended period of time – is a practice that goes back long before Jesus. Ancient Jews fasted on certain days throughout the year. Mark 2:18–23 and Matthew 6:16–18, for example, both take for granted that fasting is a normal part of Jewish religious practice. Other Jewish texts from the Greco-Roman period depict fasting as an effective substitute for sacrifice. About a hundred years before Jesus, the Psalms of Solomon 3:8–9, which are a part of the collection of Hebrew literature from the Second Temple Period, describe fasting as a way to atone for sins and as a habitual practice of the righteous.

In the earliest years of Christianity, Christians seem to have observed the same fast days that Jews observed. Not eating and not drinking could be seen as a means of atonement, but it could also clear the way for an expected meeting with God. Moses, for example, fasted prior to going up the mountain to meet with God and receive the Ten Commandments in Exodus 34:28.

Jesus’s fast in the desert, then, would have been understood to prepare him to commune with God and to strengthen him against the devil’s temptations. It is little wonder, then, that later Christians began to associate fasting with being close to God.

Greater intimacy with God is the reward of sacrifice. His love and one’s salvation are not reliant on denying oneself chocolate or coffee, but idolatry stands in the way of worshiping the one true God. These 40 days are set aside to praise and worship the Lord; to be more spiritually disciplined, and to pray more often. They learn to practice various spiritual disciplines to assist them in their growth in the knowledge and love of the Lord and Savior. Those who celebrate Lent correctly gain deeper intimacy with the Lord, which is the blessing; they do not expect rewards such as more favorable answers to prayer or the resolution of health concerns, although many Christians have reported that, following Lent, they experience freedom from long-standing issues.

This morning, in preparation for the Lenten season about to start, we are going to spend some time looking at various spiritual disciplines and practices. Not every one of these suits every individual; for instance, I could never get into journaling. However, journaling has become a foundational part of my wife’s spiritual growth. Other things, like prayer, worship, confession, repentance, practicing good stewardship, regular, personal Bible study; those are universal to all believers and Lent is a great time to rededicate ourselves to diligence in those things.

Spending regular time in God’s Word is one of the most important spiritual disciplines the is. If we do not know God’s written revelation of himself to man; we really do not know God himself. Regular Bible study and hearing the Word of God taught in church are important but having a daily devotional time to spend with God’s Word in prayer and reflection is extremely important as well.

Here are five steps to devotional reading:

1. Pray—pray and release the chaos and noise occurring around you. Invite the Spirit to join you as you engage with God’s Word.

2. Read—Lectio means “listen.” Slowly read the passage out loud and listen to the text. When a word or phrase stands out to you, linger over it. Don’t overanalyze or justify it. Just listen and consider what the Lord may be saying to you in that moment.

3. Meditate—read the passage out loud again. Meditate on the words that stand out to you and reflect on their significance.

4. Respond—read the passage again prayerfully. As you talk with God about the passage, tell Him how your spirit is resonating with the passage and how this passage is stirring in you. Not every passage of scripture, particularly historical accounts and promises made directly to certain individuals or the descendants of Israel apply directly to us today, but we may consider replacing the pronouns in the passage with our name, or using the passage as a template for a personal prayer to God, particularly in the Psalms.

5. Contemplate—take some time to let the passage sink in. Jot down what stood out to you from your devotional that you want to be reminded of later. Throughout the day return to the passage and mull over what the Lord said to you.

Other people will ascribe to the SOAP method of Bible study and reading.

Scripture – What does it say? If it seems unclear or confusing, read several different translations. I prefer the NET for daily reading, but I will frequently compare it to the New Living Translation, the NIV, the NASB, and even the King James and the Greek New Testament (although I have gotten a little rusty). No, I haven’t learned to read Hebrew.

Observation – What did it mean to the audience to whom it was originally written within their historical and spiritual context?

Application – Primary. How did those people apply the lesson or instruction in their lives?

Secondary. Does this also apply to us today, and if so, how do we implement that in our lives?

Prayer – Holy Spirit wrote these words, ask Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and direct us into a better relationship with our Father through what we are reading and studying.

Memorizing Scripture is a great way for some people to tie the practice of Bible study and devotions into their daily lives. It is also our defense against the schemes of the Devil trying to sow lies into our lives. From the beginning when Eve was deceived, the serpent said, “Did God really say…” The Devil knows the Word of God and how to pervert it to lead us astray. If we don’t know the scriptures ourselves, it is easy to get sidetracked or dive head first into the rabbit hole leading to sin and disobedience in our lives. I admit, I also am not the best at quoting verbatim or remembering the address, the reference, chapter and verse; that is why technology like smartphones and the YouVersion Bible app are so great.

This week, I am making a printed Lenten devotional reading plan available on the welcome desk. I will also be posting a link on our Facebook page to a YouVersion Bible reading plan that can be accessed through or the Bible app on a smartphone or tablet. Feel free to participate with me through either or both of these reading plans. I will also be making a special printed reading plan available on Palm Sunday for Holy Week.

However, coming to church or reading God’s Word and not allowing Holy Spirit to direct you into correctly applying it to your life is like filling your refrigerator with expensive, healthy foods and allowing them to mold and rot; then eating them gets you sick or leads to death. But eating that same food fresh and prepared properly in correct proportion leads to a healthier body that will flourish and thrive.

Closely tied to Bible study and devotional reading would be journaling. Journaling is one of the spiritual disciplines that many people find deeply fulfilling. It is the discipline of reflection, a tool for slowing down and reflecting on how you see God showing up in the ordinary moments of your everyday life. It can also provide a way of processing your hopes, fears, dreams and emotions, especially in uncertain times. Providing a space where you can get real with God, journaling allows you to address what is going on at a heart level to see where you need Him the most, and the areas in which you have growth opportunities in your faith. Even a prayer journal, writing down your prayer requests and then going back over them later and recounting how God may have acted in those situations is a great bolster to our faith.

Over the last few weeks, we have spent a lot of time discussing prayer. Scripture says in Luke 6:12,

Now it was during this time that Jesus went to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God.

We frequently find times in the Gospels when Jesus separates himself out from the crowds and even his own disciples early in the morning or late at night to pray. Even the night he was betrayed, he set himself away from everyone, taking Peter, James, and John with him; then leaving them to keep watch went by himself to pray. We have also talked about the roadblocks and obstacles that can hinder our prayers before God. Oswald Sanders also wrote,

“The Bible is very clear on the reasons why prayers go unanswered, and every reason centers on the believer’s relationship with God. God will not cooperate with prayers of mere self-interest, or prayers that come from impure motives. The Christian who clings to sin closes the ear of God. Least of all will God tolerate unbelief, the chief of sins.”

Many may not think of good stewardship as a spiritual discipline, but obedience in our tithes, offerings, and management of our resources God’s way is very much a spiritual discipline. Good stewardship includes obedience to the tithe (Deut. 14; Lev. 27; Neh. 13; Heb. 7), the giving of the first ten percent of fruit of our labor, in our modern equivalent, our paychecks and earnings, back to the Lord. In 2022, only about 25% of a normal congregation give a biblical tithe. But of those that do, 77% give an additional offering of 1-10%. Historically, the tithe is not divided up among all those organizations and ministries you would like to support with “YOUR” money. The tithe is entrusted the administration of the local church (Mal. 3:10) and the leaders whom God holds accountable for the care of your soul. Good stewardship also includes sacrificial, generous giving (Luke 21; Deut. 15; Prov. 22) of our time, talents, and treasures in the form of our offerings to God in worship and service; our generosity in our offerings above and beyond the tithe to the local Body is where we support other “good” causes, or other ministries within our local Body as the Spirit leads. Good stewardship also includes handling our finances and resources in a God-honoring way as prescribed by scripture; avoiding debts, providing for our families, investing wisely to support generous giving, scripture even teaches such countercultural concepts as when you lend generously (Deut. 15:8) not to charge interest (Exodus 22:25, Lev. 25:37) and not to expect repayment (Luke 6:34), and not to store up treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matt. 6:19)… Some great resources for guidance in managing finances would be Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace curriculum and Larry Burkett’s Crown Financial ministries.

Other forms of spiritual discipline to focus on during Lent may be a concerted effort to further personal evangelism. To spend time in prayerful contemplation and self-examination where we can focus on areas of strength in obedience or weakness in sin and turning those over to the care and control of our Creator. We can focus on gratitude and thanksgiving as we talked about during the month of November, cultivating a heart that recognizes all the blessings God has for us.

When comes to any of these and other spiritual disciplines, while Lent is a great time to rededicate ourselves to a new practice or something we may have strayed away from; building the habit is meant to be carried through our daily lives in the form of transformation beyond just these 40 days. It is also interesting, Oswald Sanders also wrote,

“Most Bible characters met with failure and survived. Even when the failure was immense, those who [rebounded] refused to lie in the dust and bemoan their tragedy. In fact, their failure and repentance led to a greater conception of God’s grace. They came to know the God of the second, chance, and sometimes the third and fourth.”

When we meet with failure in our lives, we lean on the mercy and grace of our loving Father through the gift of his Son’s perfect sacrifice on our behalf to bring us into closest fellowship with him. We confess our weakness and shortcomings and we lean on the promise of 1 John 1:9, that he is faithful and righteous to forgive us and cleanse us from our unrighteousness, restoring us back into that most intimate of relationships with our Father through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We must remember, God is far more interested in our character than he is our comfort.

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Thrive Part 7: Abide in Christ

Thrive Part 7

Abide in Christ

         Last week, we continued our series, Thrive, with more on the topic of prayer. One of the most important tie ins with prayer is our connection with the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, tied together with us in our daily lives. Living inside us, guiding us, convicting us, comforting us, counseling us, teaching us, advocating for us through Christ before the Father, identifying us as children of God, adopted into the family of God, co-heirs with Christ, priests and priestesses, princes and princesses, empowering us to know God’s will and to follow it, and producing all the facets of the Fruit of the Spirit within us. It seems like Holy Spirit has a lot of responsibilities in our daily lives. Yet we hardly make use of that connection; we barely scratch the surface of what is possible, and it’s not because God isn’t willing to enter our lives. It’s because we don’t want him interfering with our plans, desires, and ideas. We want to bend God’s will to our own. In order to justify doing that, we change the very essence of who Jesus was and why he was here. We change the Word of God to suit ourselves. And we end up following an imaginary Jesus who is absolutely powerless to help us overcome the trials and temptations of life. Any time we pick and choose from the scriptures what we want to believe and what we don’t; any time we insert our “the Bible says, but…” We leave the path and begin following a false Gospel.

         When we reach John chapter 14, Jesus and closest disciples are walking in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives right after the Last Supper. Jesus begins to teach his disciples about the advocate, the other comforter, that God will send to them in his place, because he tells them he is going to be with the Father. He has predicted his death and resurrection, and he is telling his disciples what it’s going to mean for them going forward to follow him when he is no longer right in front of him. Hear the words of Jesus as he is speaking with his disciples.

         John 14:15-17,22-26

‘“If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.

“Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. “I have spoken these things while staying with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.’

In our lives, as we try to follow Jesus and know him better, we submit ourselves to God in prayer. However, as we talked about last week; we hit obstacles in our prayer lives that inhibit our ability to find fellowship with God. In order to avoid blockades to prayer, it helps to know prayer’s purpose. Wonderfully, Jesus explains this to his disciples during this same conversation with them on the working of Holy Spirit in their lives, he says:

         John 15:7-10

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

This passage immediately follows Jesus as he describes our relationship with the Father and himself as the Vine and the Branches. How many of you can at least quote part of this from memory? I am not putting it on the screen, but I am sure this will sound very familiar. Jesus said,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. ‘

John 15:1-6

By a show of hands, how many of you have heard a message preached at some point in your lives about “bearing fruit”? Okay, how many of you have heard a message about bearing fruit is to make disciples? The more disciples you make the more fruit you are bearing? I know I have heard many of those messages preached in my life.

         However, Jesus is teaching about Holy Spirit’s work in our lives to glorify God. He is teaching about obedience to his commands. He is teaching about the third great commandment. To love one another as he has loved us. He is teaching about how our love and obedience will lead to his joy and our joy being complete. Jesus is teaching about the Fruit of the Spirit. Paul says, the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

In English, to remain means primarily to continue in the same state or in the same place. To abide means primarily to remain, continue, and stay; it also means to reside or dwell, to make one’s home. The Hebrew idea behind these words is to tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. It was also the place the Spirit of God lived or dwelled for the Hebrew people. Within the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies; the place where to enter unclean meant death. Jesus says to live in him and he will live in us through his Holy Spirit.

So, the phrase “abiding in Christ” pictures an intimate relationship, and not just a superficial acquaintance.oHo

To abide in Christ’s love, we follow his commands, which means knowing Scripture, “the word of Christ” (Colossians 3:16). Listen to this passage of Colossians 3:15-17,

‘Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’

As we increase in the knowledge of Jesus, we will also increase in love for him, which drives us to our knees in repentance. When you know Jesus and what he has done for you, it becomes progressively easier to turn from the ugliness of sin to the beauty of the Savior.

As we come to know and love Jesus, our prayers will be increasingly transformed. This will change how, why, and what we ask of him. We will love what he loves, hate what he hates, and desire what he desires. We will learn to submit to his timing in answering because we are learning to trust him more.

1 John 2:24-29

‘As for you, what you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. Now this is the promise that he himself made to us: eternal life. These things I have written to you about those who are trying to deceive you. Now as for you, the anointing that you received from him resides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, it is true and is not a lie. Just as it has taught you, you reside in him. And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back. If you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been fathered by him.’

As our Father, God delights to give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:5-13). Knowing we ask according to his will, we can have faith that he will answer us, even when his answer doesn’t align with our understanding or timetable. When doubt still comes, we reject it and turn to our forgiving and compassionate God who will bolster our faith. We come to God humbly in prayer through Jesus, who opened the way for us to do so by removing all blockades to communion with God when he defeated sin and death.

Yes, we will still struggle with the flesh and the world; therefore our requests may be tainted, and our ability to notice God’s answers may be clouded. So we cling to Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Jesus has changed those who love him, delighting us in himself. Even when we don’t know how to ask or receive, he sees what we truly want—to know him, love him, and bear fruit for him—and knows how and when to provide and answer.

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