And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field. And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies." So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, "What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" Then they understood that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, "God has come into the camp!" And they said, "Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!" So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. Also the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, died. 1 Samuel 4:1-11
Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, "The glory has departed from Israel!" because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured." 1 Samuel 4:21-22
The lesson from this story is one which applies to us today:
WHEN GOD'S PEOPLE TURN FROM HIM WITH A DIVIDED HEART, HE CAN ONLY HAND THEM OVER TO DEFEAT.
We have been gazing intently at the Real Jesus Christ that John saw on the isle of Patmos.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. Revelation 1:12-16
This is the Jesus of the last days. This is the Jesus whom we will face one day. He has held the church in His hands all these years, and He has pleaded for us to love Him and love this world with His divine Love.
WE WILL ALL FACE THE BEMA
When we stand before the "bema" as Romans 14:10, it will be this Jesus Christ we face. We will behold His face shining in full strength, the full strength of His Divine Love. We will be judged by how we measured up to His Love.
We will be judged by whether we loved Him as it suited us or whether we loved with a love that risked it all, that gave all our comforts to Him.
We will be judged as the strength and endurance of our love, whether it endured the trials and testing’s.
We will be judged as to how we compromised our life to the things of this world.
We will be judged as to the strength of our righteousness
We will be judged as to the way we allowed Christ to distinguish our lives from the ungodly.
We will be judged as to whether our love was steadfast to the end.
We will be judged as to whether our love was zealous.
But most of all we will be judged as to whether we were conquerors!
Rev 2:7 - the one who conquers will eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God
Rev 2:11 - the one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.
Rev 2:17 - the one who conquers will eat the hidden manna, receive a white stone with a new name written on the stone.
Rev 2:26 - the one who conquers and keeps my words til the end I will give authority over the nations and he will get the morning star.
Rev 3:5 - the one who conquers will be clothed in white garments, and Jesus will confess his name before the father and the angels and his name will never be blotted out of the book of life.
Rev 3:12 - the one who conquers will become a pillar in the temple of God, and receive three names , the name of God, the name of the new Jerusalem, and the new name of Jesus.
Rev 3:21 - the one who conquers will sit with Christ on His throne.
THE LESSON OF THE JEWS AND THE ARK
The Jewish people had become divided in their love for God. Eli was the high priest, and yet he was not zealous in his love for God. He was not discerning in his love. His sons were evil and he did nothing about it. He was not distinguishing in his love. He was fat and lazy and was using the office for his own gain. There was a famine of the Word of God in the land. The people didn't understand the word nor did they seek to understand. They tolerated Baal worshippers, they were seeking their own comfort and interests. Sure, they worshipped God, but God was far from them.
So when they went to battle the Philistines, they were shocked that they were defeated! How could God have allowed this? We are his chosen ones! We are from Abraham! But God is always Holy as well as merciful! But at some point, His Holiness and His glory will always win out. His strength is in His righteousness. If you approach God with a selfish heart, a divided heart, you will suffer defeats in your life! God must be true to His nature! The Jews thought, well, let's bring the ark, and surely God will go to fight for us. But they were defeated and suffered great loss. The Philistines captured the ark. Hophni and Phineas were killed. Eli fell over and died! God's holiness and righteousness was vindicated. The people whom He loved needed to repent and turn to God with an undivided love. To this end God sent them Samuel!
THE LESSON TO THE CHURCH
The church must learn the same lesson. Christ accepts nothing less than a heart that loves Him completely. He will share no heart space with anyone or anything. We can never love Jesus with a but kind of love.
I love you but don't ask me to do this.
I love you but don't ask me to give this up.
I love you but I love this one just as much.
JESUS DESIRES OUR COMPLETE HEART.
Too often we are defeated by an addiction or a sickness or finances or relationships, and so we get our Bible out, we say a Hail Jesus prayer, we start going to church again, and we expect God to intervene and give us victory, or to at least get us through it without too much inconvenience or embarrassment.
But God is Holy, and sometimes these defeats are because He is Holy. Your heart love for God has become divided, diluted by your love for other things, and God is wanting to wake you up to get you to repent!
As Jesus told the Laodiceans: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”
THE REVELATION OF THINGS TO TAKE PLACE
We are in the last days! The letters were written in the book of the last days! The message to the church is that our love for Christ must be undivided, it must be centered upon Him! It must be based upon Him! If we are to escape the coming tribulation, we must prepare our hearts to love Him completely.
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 1 John 2:28
Now that doesn't sound like a good thing. Jesus comes back, and instead of rising to meet him in the air, we shrink back, we are ashamed. The Greek word for shrink back or ashamed means
"to have a feeling of fear or shame which prevents a person from doing a thing,"
It comes from a root word ‘aischos’ which means to be “disfigured”. Like the Phantom of the Opera who wears a mask to hide the deformity of his face. When Christ appears those who have not desired to be conformed to Christ but instead have disfigured their heart and flesh with the corruption of this world, will hide from Christ is shame.
FOLLOWING CHRIST IS ABOUT WHO YOU LOVE, NOT WHAT YOU DO!
The message of I John is this:
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. …Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us— eternal life. … And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 1 John 2:18-28
DIVINE LOVE IS ABIDING LOVE
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
The message of the letters to the churches is that there is no way to conquer in your fleshly strength. We must rely upon Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus was communicating to His disciples in John 15.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:1-11
JESUS SAID "ABIDE IN ME."
To "abide" means "to remain in union, maintain a living communion, to maintain unbroken fellowship with another
The Goal of the Vine is to bring Glory to the Father through much fruit from the branches.
The branches must rely totally upon the true vine for life!
The purpose of the branches is to bear much fruit.
The fruit is dependent upon the branches relationship to the vine.
The branch can do nothing apart from the vine.
The branch takes on all the characteristics of the vine.
Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 2 John 1:8-9
THE VINE-BRANCH RELATIONSHIP
1. Complete First Love
a. Branch can’t be half on, and half off.
b. Branch can’t say, I need some ‘me’ time.
c. It is all or nothing.
2. Suffering Love
a. The branch is totally dependent upon the Vine
b. The Vine withstands harsh heat, drought, extreme cold, harsh weather
c. The branch must rely totally on the strength of the Vine through those harsh conditions.
d. Without the provision of the Vine, the branch withers and is overcome.
. . In pruning a vine, two principles are generally observed: first, all dead wood must be ruthlessly removed; and second, the live wood must be cut back drastically. Dead wood harbors insects and disease and may cause the vine to rot, to say nothing of being unproductive and unsightly. Live wood must be trimmed back in order to prevent such heavy growth that the life of the vine goes into the wood rather than into fruit. The vineyards in the early spring look like a collection of barren, bleeding stumps; but in the fall they are filled with luxuriant purple grapes. As the farmer wields the pruning knife on his vines, so God cuts dead wood out from among His saints, and often cuts back the living wood so far that His method seems cruel. Nevertheless, from those who have suffered the most there often comes the greatest fruitfulness
3. Discerning Love
a. Without the guidance of the Vine, the branch wanders off into dangerous territory.
b. The Vine provides the proper nutrients for growth.
c. Without the Vine, the branch would be susceptible to foreign growths that could overcome it, or elements that could kill it.
4. Uncompromising Love
a. The branch has no life without the Vine
b. The branch has no fruit without the Vine
c. Any foreign object, plant, bird, cannot be tolerated, for it will diminish the fruit.
d. At times the branch must have parts pruned in order to produce more fruit.
e. We’ve got to get rid of the dead wood, because it can harbor insects and disease.
5. Distinguishing Love
a. The Branch is distinguished by its fruit.
b. The Branch reflects the nature and character of the Vine
c. A branch without fruit is not distinctive and purposeful, so it is cut off and burnt.
d. It’s not about the branch, lest too much of the life of the vine goes into the branch instead of the fruit.
e. Live wood must be trimmed back to prevent heavy ‘branch growth’-we are distinguished not by building ourselves up, but by abiding in the True Vine.
6. Steadfast Love
a. The branch clings fast to the Vine regardless of the season
b. When the time is right, the blossoms appear and the fruit soon follows.
c. If the branch clings tight, the fruit will follow.
7. Zealous Love
a. If the branch wants to bear fruit, it must zealously hold the Vine.
b. The provision and sustenance of the Vine is the only way the branch can live.
c. It is all about the fruit, and the fruit is all from the power of the Vine.
Campbell Morgan suggested the whole plant is the vine. Christ included in the vine not only the branches but the stem and root. When we are united in Christ we are one with Him. It is our identification with Christ. Jesus is the only source of spiritual life. When we are united with Him, we are identified with Him. The fruit of such a vine is the natural outflow of the life of the vine.
CONQUERING IS NEVER BY MEANS OF FLESHLY EFFORT
You cannot live the Christian life in the power of the flesh. The flesh always produces rotten grapes. The believer never ceases to be a branch no matter how barren the believer becomes. The works done in the flesh are thrown in the fire and burned up. Do you have some old fleshly branches God is cleaning up in His vineyard?
The Apostle Paul helps to distinguish our position in Christ and the production of fruit in I Corinthians 3:11–15.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
PROOF THAT WE ARE BEARING FRUIT (15:7–11)
1. God answers your prayers according to His will (v. 7).
You will see God at work in your life. If you are abiding in Christ your prayers will be "in the name" of Christ. They will be in accord with all that Christ stands for and desires.
2. You will demonstrate Christ–likeness (v. 8).
It is not activity that glorifies God, but a Christ-like character. You may be bedridden, or suffering from some debilitating disease, but you can manifest a Christ–like spirit. You are demonstrating discipleship. That is all He asks of you. You abide; He will produce His character in you. In this vital union there is much fruit bearing. We will "keep on bearing" much fruit.
3. You will have a growing experience of Christ's love (vv. 9–10).
What is your response to God's love? There must always be a response if love is to grow. When love is responded to it grows deeper and richer. If you are not feeling the depths of God's love you are not responding to it. You are not loving Him back. You have to feed any relationship to make it grow. Relationships don't grow automatically. Love has to be responded to. This is also true of our relationship with God. “We love Him because He first loved us,” says the apostle John. We keep on loving Him in response to His love.
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. John 15:9-10
Our love for Christ is the result of His sacrificial love for us. Are you growing deeper and deeper in God's love?
Abiding in Christ is an intimate walk with Christ. We are enriched by Christ. In verses 10 and 11 He adds, "my love," "my joy" and "my peace."
4. Your joy will be full (v. 11).
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11
It is creative joy. It is the joy of a finished work. Jesus calls us into His joy. We can have Christ's permanent absolute joy in our lives. It is the fruit of His life in us.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
Open the Door, he will come and Sup-have a full meal. Your life will be complete, satisfying. But you must open the door!
WHERE IS GOD AT WORK IN YOUR LIFE?
Are you in the middle of a pruning process? Where is God cleansing in your life? Is the Father using the sharp knife of circumstances to sanctify you with His Word? Are you going through changes where you are being forced to rely upon Him? Is He working on some old habits, behaviors or attitudes that have to go? Don't resist the Vinedresser's knife. Yield to Him, and allow Him to do His deep work in your life.
What kind of fruit are you producing? Are you beginning to look and smell more like Jesus? Is there a cluster of riche beautiful spiritual fruit that is looking more and more like Christ? Are your lost friends and family beginning to see God's love demonstrated more than ever before? Do you bear a resemblance to your Savior?
I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for meditation--but all without avail. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me.
I knew that if only I could abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I would begin the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye off Him for a moment, but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, and constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, caused me to forget Him. Then one's nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, had thoughts and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed "present with me," but how to perform I found not.
Then came the questions, is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end--constant conflict, and too often defeat? Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no longer, for faith and even hope were getting low. I hated myself, I hated my sin, yet gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God. His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, "Abba, Father." But to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless.
I knew I was powerless. I told the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength. Sometimes I almost believed that He would keep and uphold me; but on looking back in the evening--alas! There was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God. Sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord; but they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power.
THE QUESTION OF FAITH
All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was--how to get it out. He was rich truly, but I was poor; He was strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness, but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually light dawned, I saw that faith was the only requisite--was the hand to lay hold on His fullness and make it mine. But I had not this faith.
I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do?
CHRIST'S ABIDING PRESENCE
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. "But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."
As I read, I saw it all! "If we believe not, he abideth faithful." I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed)! That He had said, "I will never leave thee." (Hebrews 13:5)
"Ah, there is rest!" I thought. "I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I'll strive no more. For has not He promised to abide with me--never to leave me, never to fail me?" And, He never will.
THE KEY TO THE EXCHANGED LIFE
As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fullness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all--root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone--He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding too may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.
It is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves? No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus (i.e., not for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the limits of Christ's credit--a tolerably wide limit!
RESOURCES SUFFICIENT FOR ANY TASK
The sweetest part is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.
Do you want to be an over comer? Do you want to go forth conquering? Don’t try to win them yourself. Don’t even try to bring Jesus into the chaos of your problems and concerns. You simply go to Him, reach our your hand, grab hold of the vine and say Jesus, it’s all you now! I am going to rely on you!
We must realize that He is the vine, and everything we need to live this life is in Him! We must give Him our whole heart and everything it desires, for our sufficiency, our sustenance, our livelihood comes as we rest upon Him!
Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 2 John 1:8-9
RUTH AND BOAZ
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth 2:1-23
As long as Ruth followed Boaz’s instruction and gleaned in his fields and stayed among the young women, she would be safe, and well provided for. The result of her abiding in Boaz was much fruit, much food for her and her family.
This is the lesson for us today.
Our divided heart will lead us to defeat. Our abiding heart will allow us to conquer with Christ, and feast in His presence. Our joy will be full! We will never shrink back from Him in shame! We will be transformed by His face!