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Matthew 22:34-40
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here Jesus links together loving God with our all, and truly loving our neighbor. When you love your neighbor as yourself that is evidence that you love God with everything. If you love God with everything, you will be compelled to love your neighbor as yourself. Look at what Jesus Himself says about this idea, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

2 Corinthians 8:13-15
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.  Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality,  as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Abundance is God’s way of saying, “Take care of those who do not have what they need.” Our world has fallen far from this ideal, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow. The design is this: if God blesses you with an abundance (money, time, anything), then His hope is that you are generous in sharing what He has given you. In doing so we live and learn to truly love one another. This lifestyle is evidence of the grace of God at work in the lives of His children, and places the gospel on display for all that they might believe in the Lord Jesus. If you have more than enough, share it. If you don’t have enough, be willing to receive help from those who do. Let God take care of judging who is worthy.

John 15:1-4
“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.

There is a vine that grows along a fence next to my house. It latches itself onto every part of the fence, and grows up into the trees and latches onto that. This always reminds me that Jesus – as the true vine – holds us always tightly in His grip. Here Jesus encourages us to “remain in Him”. His grip is already tight, so we need to fight to get away – and even if we fight it is not as if grace no longer applies. Part of bearing fruit is our ability to receive the grace of God daily. Actually, grace is the foundation of bearing fruit, because we recognize that we only bear fruit attached to the true vine – Jesus.

John 14:22-25
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.  “All this I have spoken while still with you.

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Galatians 3:13-14
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit makes His residence with us by faith in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways that I do not fully understand, like being involved in the process of salvation. Who is it that has the power to turn our hearts from unbelief to faith? It is only by the power of God that the hearts of men radically change course, whether by instruction, crisis, encounter, emotion, or some other way. All of this is to reinforce that Christ is the Master Key to our relationship with our loving Father in Heaven, and the door to His heart cannot be moved by any other means. It is magnificent grace that even Gentiles could be restored to Him – and yet we are not merely restored, but empowered as well by His own Spirit. Thank you Jesus, for accomplishing the impossible work that only You could! You are worthy Lord!

John 13:31-33
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.  “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Devotion to prayer applies to our everyday lives and is vital to our relationship with Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Through prayer we share our hearts with God, and He wants to speak to us as well. It is a two way conversation, and a lifeline of our faith. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Galatians 3:1-3
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

We receive the Holy Spirit by believing the message about Jesus Christ. Romans 10:17 (NKJV) says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. Only in obedience to the gospel will we be able to remain in Christ and not fall captive to judgment according to the law. It is by grace through faith in Christ Jesus that we are saved and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. No amount of “following rules and traditions” has drawn the Holy Spirit to live in us. God loves us, and He wants relationship with us. It is the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross, His life, death, and resurrection. It is because Christ Jesus succeeded in His mission and took His rightful place at the right hand of God that we are able to share in communion and community with the Triune God. It is only by His blood, and only by His mercy.

Acts 9:4-9
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.“ I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

Saul, on his way to Damascus to persecute the church, is confronted with Jesus Christ. Saul’s response is to fall on his knees in utter helplessness before Him. Jesus charges Saul to enter the city of Damascus where someone will tell him what to do. Saul is blind, begins a three day fast, and now depends on his companions to make it anywhere. Saul’s encounter with Jesus changed his life and shook everything he believed. You cannot truly encounter Jesus and be left the same. Saul did nothing to be worthy of salvation in Christ Jesus. He persecuted the church to the point of murder and was throwing people in jail all over the place. If you knew Jesus, you were Saul’s enemy: until this day on the Damascus Road. From this point on, people would see a new man who has been born again in Christ Jesus. Jesus transforms your life.
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