Archive for March, 2011

Revelation 1

  Revelation 1 is the beginning of the final book on our walk through the New Testament in chronological order.  John pens this from his location on Patmos where he has been held because of “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus”.  The leaders thought they could silence him by banishing him to that place – but God used him anyway to deliver this letter to the seven churches about what is to come.  John reveals to us this revelation “which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place”.  It is written to give us some understanding of things to come but also contains some instruction on how to prepare. 

He starts with preparation as he tells us “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near”.  We are to read, hear and keep God’s Word.  Did you catch that?  If you want to be ready for the end – which John tells us is near – you have to be in God’s Word.  You have to know what it says and live it.  God did not pen the words in the Bible as an exercise to see if it could happen.  They were written by people directed by His Spirit with the intent of giving us guidance for living.  They only work if we read and follow them.  That is our charge through this letter – get into the Book – know it and live it.

John then sets the foundation for all that will be – the truth about Jesus.  He tells us that Christ is:

–       “faithful witness

–       Firstborn of the dead

–       Ruler of the kings on earth

–       Loves us

–       Freed us

–       Made us a kingdom

–       To him be glory and dominion forever

This is who Jesus is.  He was there in the beginning.  He is the key focus as John writes about the end.  Jesus is the center.

In fact, Jesus never ends.  I love what scripture says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come”.  This is the reality of the Triune God.  He is, He was, and He will come.  This is the past, present and future.  It is all about Jesus.  John tells us we should “fear not”.  Jesus has won the victory.  He has paid the price.  The war is over.  It certainly doesn’t mean there will not be battles along the way.  But here is what we know: “I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades”.  Want to cling to something – that is it.  Jesus has overcome death.  He has the keys to eternity in His hands.  The relationship with the Savior is the paramount thing we need to focus on.  Are you ready for the end?  Have you got your relationship with Jesus in place?  If not, now is the time!

3 John

 3 John is a short chapter but contains some important lessons for us.  John tells us there is “no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”.  What is the report your life bears?  Are you walking in the truth?  Is the Father smiling about the way that you lived yesterday?  How about with your plans today?  I think we often take far too flippantly the impact of our life.  We tend to find Jesus – get saved – and then just live anyway we wish.  We think we have a get out of jail free card and the day to day living isn’t really that important.  It is not so.  God cares how we live.  God cares that we have read His Word and are lining up with it as we walk each day on this earth.  He cares whether or not we are becoming like Jesus – godly and holy in our living.  It brings joy to His heart.  It matters for our eternity – not where we spend it – but how we do.  Are you truly walking as a Follower of Jesus?  In His truth? 

John reminds these folks that some will go and serve in sharing the gospel with others.  He challenges them to “send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God….they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles….we ought to support people like these”.  Do you have anyone you partner with in the ministry?  They don’t necessarily have to be overseas, but they may.  They don’t have to be part of some formal ministry, but they may be.  The reality is that all of us need to be involved in sharing the truth of Jesus.  First in our own patch – through the way we live (walking in the truth) and through the words we speak.  That task starts at home and moves to those around us.  But we also need to be part of God’s heart to reach people everywhere.  He has a heart for the nations.  He won’t return until all have heard the message of grace through Christ.  We are part of delivering that.  We need to be involved in praying for, encouraging, supporting and loving others who have answered His call to go to the ends of the earth with His message.  Are you involved in supporting someone (or many) who share God’s gospel?  Having someone close to us that has been called has certainly brought this close to home.  Fundraising is not the hard part – staying encouraged, prayed for, and loved half a world away is.  Find a way to encourage someone who is serving our Lord today. 

John then takes a hard line against a couple folks who just get it wrong.  Diotrephes is not living in a way that is worthy of God. He “likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority”.  Hmmm….that sounds sort of like many of us today.  The battle of self didn’t start this year – it has been the struggle since God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  We can’t serve when self is on the throne.  We can’t be effective as Christ Followers when we are unwilling to submit to authority.  Submission and selflessness are related.  When we are selfish we too would “refuses to welcome the brothers….stops those who want to…..puts them out of the church”.  You can’t serve God when you are focused on serving yourself.  Far too many live that way – putting self first and giving God the scraps should there be any.  The warning is clear: “do not imitate evil but imitate good”.  What is your testimony?  Are you living for God?  Is He truly Lord of your life?  Or has self crept onto the throne so you are putting self first and refusing God’s authority in your life.  That is a bad place to be.  We need to be like Demetrius, the other example John uses here, that “received a good testimony from everyone”.  That is God’s desire.  Our ultimate desire should be to hear Him say “well done good and faithful servant”.  Are you living a life worthy of that?

2 John

2 John is a short chapter.  It gives us a couple reinforcements of things that John has told us previously, so they must be important.  He begins with a statement that seems a bit strange at first glance: “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth”.  How can he have joy that only some of the folks are walking in the truth?  Because the reality is that not all of us are going to follow Jesus.  Not everyone will make God’s ways our ways.  That is what we should do – but John knows it will be a select few that will actually live life that way.

So what does that look like.  It really is pretty simple.  John tells us that we should “love one another”.  Three simple words – one simple task yet one so difficult to actually live out day by day.  Some people just aren’t all that loveable.  Some people really aren’t the folks we want to love.  So what does that really look like?  “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments”.  It comes down to once again loving God, and loving people.  It is about obedience and walking according to His will.  It isn’t really rocket science – but it is about the heart.  It is about putting God where He belongs. 

John goes further and shows us the two faces of obedience.  “Everyone who…. does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God”.   Abiding means that we have Jesus’ teaching in the center of our life.  It means that He is central to all we know and do.  But the opposite is also called out by John: “whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son”.  If you ever wonder how important God’s Word is and how much it impacts our life – this pretty much says it clearly.  Abiding in God’s Word is critical to walking with Him.  It matters.  It is a success factor to walking as a Christ Follower.  How much are you abiding? You can’t abide if you are not in God’s Word reading and studying it regularly.  Are you?  Do you?  Will you?

1 John 5

1 John 5 defines how a Christ Follower lives.  “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments….this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments”.  Is this how you live?  You love God – you obey His commands?  That is the definition of a real follower.  John goes on to tell us that “we know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning”.  Sin is not part of the life of a Christ Follower either.  It boils down to obedience.  Are you living that way? 

We do see the power of being a Christ Follower.  “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world…..Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”.  We are overcomers as Christ Followers.  We have the One inside us that allows us to live victoriously.  Do you live that way?  Are you an overcomer?  “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son”.   We have been given a gift – an awesome gift.  And the source – is Jesus Christ.  He paid the price on the cross to set us free.  He bought us eternal life.  That is how we can be overcomers – because Jesus has won the victory over evil. 

So what does it matter?   “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son”.  Jesus is the issue.  If you believe in Him – there is testimony within you – if you don’t – you have called God a liar and have written off the power of Jesus.  It all boils down to what we think about Jesus.  It all comes down to faith?  Where are you with Jesus?  John reminds us that God hears our prayers when we are walking in relationship with Him.  “If we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him”.  God hears our prayers.  Always.  He doesn’t always answer them the way we want – but He always hears – and He always answers.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes wait – but scripture is pretty clear – He hears and is listening.  Are you asking in faith?  Are you letting Him be part of the life you live?

John ends the chapter with this short verse: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”.  While these words may seem a bit out of place compared to the discussion about Jesus and faith and our life as a believer – it actually calls out one of the biggest issues we struggle with when it comes to how we relate to Jesus.  We let other things take our focus and become an idol in our life.  It replaces the spot where Jesus must sit – right smack dab in the center of our heart.  An idol takes away our focus and our attention.  It pushes Jesus off the throne of our life.  Here is the reality – Jesus is not into sharing what is His rightful place.  He is serious about being King in our life. Do you have Him in the place that is rightfully His?  It matters.  It is important.  In fact – it is the most important thing about our life.

1 John 4

1 John 4 is all about love.  John tells us a number of things about God and our relationship with Him, but it is really the character of God’s love for us that is core to His lessons here.  He begins by reminding us that we can tell what truly is of God because they will confess “that Jesus Christ has come”.  It is a characteristic of one who is truly of God – they focus on Jesus.  We are reminded that we are overcomers – John tells us “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”.  Do you live like that?  As a victor and one who belongs to the greatest power in the universe.  As a Christ Follower’s have access to the One whom is the ultimate power in our world.  Jesus is the top of the heap – king of the mountain – there is none who has more power.  Yet sometimes we act like we are defeated.  We allow circumstances to overwhelm us.  It doesn’t mean life will be easy – but if we plug in – we will not be short of power!

The next thing John reminds us is that we identify ourselves by how we respond to God’s truth.  Either we are listening and living according to it – or we are ignoring an going our own way.  “Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error”.  There is only one source of truth in our world.  It is God’s Word.  It is what He has written and we need to listen and live by it.  Often we act like kids – we respond to God’s Word by sticking our fingers in our ears and humming loudly – that is what the reality is when we don’t read and study His truth.  God has given us His Word – it is up to us to take it in.  Are you listening.  “God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him…..He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.  God has given us His Word and His Son.  We need to get focused on both.  Jesus came to give us life and to free us from sin.  God’s Word was given to show us how to live.  We need to cling tightly to both!

John tells us over and over the power and the need for love.  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”.  Those are the words to a great little worship song – but here is the reality – we are to LOVE.  It is the mark of one who knows God.  It is what we are called to do.  “We also ought to love one another….if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us”.  Remember the words to that old hymn “they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love”?  That is what John is telling us here.  Love is the way we know that God is alive in us.  We can’t be in relationship with Him without love flowing in us and through us.  Why?

Because “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen….whoever loves God must also love his brother”.  Do you wonder where you are in your walk with Jesus?  Just answer this question – do you love your brother?  If you don’t then you can’t truly love God.  Love is to be our way of life.  It is to be the thing that marks us as His.  It is scary for many, but John addresses that as well.  Here is the reality, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us”.  Often people are afraid to love.  It is a lot of work, costs much of us personally, and takes time and effort.  But if we are truly His, we can’t run from love.  We have to live love.  We have to be love.  That is what God is.  And His love overcomes fear.  His love overcomes every objection and is the ultimate power in life.  Are you experiencing God’s love at work in your life?  Is that who you are?

1 John 3

 1 John 3 is filled with truth that we can cling to, and also truth that we need to pay close attention to.  John begins by reminding us to “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God”.  Have you considered that truth lately – that you are truly a child of God.  He is our Papa, our Daddy, and He loves us more than we can imagine. This is a powerful truth because once we become a child of God through our salvation based on a faith relationship with Jesus – we are in His family eternally.  While we can do things that break the relationship and cause some separation from God – we will still be His child.  That is the assurance that we have in salvation – we are His child even when we mess up.  Just because you violated things your human father expected did not change the fact that he was and always will be your dad.  Even through divorce and death – he is and always will be your dad.  We have a spiritual Father like that as well once we come into the family of God at salvation.

But speaking of separation – John is clear that as Christ Followers we need to deal with sin.  He makes some strong statements about sin we all need to take a look at:

–       “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him

–       Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning

–       No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God

Do you see a pattern here?  If we are truly a member of God’s family – sin can’t be ignored.  We have to clean it up – repent and go the other way.  It just doesn’t fit – sin does not compute in the life of a Christ Follower.  We can’t just close our eyes and pretend it doesn’t matter because if does to God.  He expects – no He demands – righteousness.  It is not optional.  Do you have any sin in your life you are just letting slide?  God won’t let it slide.  It can’t be part of how we live.  He will clean it up – and it is far better for us to do it when we are aware of it.

John clearly tells us what we need to be focused on: “we should love one another”.  Realize that this is a lot easier than it sounds.  Everyone wants to love folks.  But the reality is that “the world hates you” – just because we are Christ Followers doesn’t mean we will top the popularity charts.  In fact, we will likely be far from it.  People are not going to like us because we will cause them to feel guilt in how they live.  We will challenge their lifestyle and their thinking if we are living as true Christ Followers.  They can’t just slide by.  The kind of love John refers to here isn’t simple and easy stuff.  It is the love that Jesus showed us: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…. let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth”.  If you think love is easy – then you haven’t really understood what John writes.  Love costs you everything.  It is to be applied to everyone.  It requires us to be all in.  It’s not convenient, or easy, or quick.  Real love is never about me – it is always about others.  This world we live in gets it all wrong.  The world says love is about me getting what I want when I want it from whom I want it.  Oh how wrong that approach is.

John reminds us that “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything”.  There are no secrets from God.  If you think you are going to pull a fast one, or get away with something – it isn’t going to happen – even if it may momentarily seem like it.  God knows, God is watching, and God will deal with us.  But the chapter ends with clarity about what we are to do as we live as Christ Followers.  Check out what John writes here: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us”.  We are to do two things:

–       believe in Jesus (love God)

–      Love one another (love people)

Life really shouldn’t be all that complicated.  We are assigned two tasks to do and everything else in life flows around that.  How are you doing loving God and loving people?  If that is how you are focused and spending your life – you are on track.  If not it is time to make some course adjustments!

1 John 2

1 John 2 begins as John talks to those he calls little children.  This chapter gives us a look at the progression of spiritual maturity as he speaks to four distinct groups or levels and each has some unique qualities.  He begins the chapter this way: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin”.  If you ever wondered if you have the opportunity to live without sin – this should answer that question head on.  We can be sinless, but scripture elsewhere tells us we won’t be without sin.  But the good news is that we are not slaves to sin – the devil won’t make you do it – sin is a choice that we can control and overcome.  John goes on to say “if anyone does sin” – which he knew we would – that we have an “advocate….Jesus Christ….the propitiation for our sins….and also the sins of the whole world”.  Jesus is God’s answer to our sin problem.  He is the remediation and payment.  Propitiation can be defined as “covering” and Jesus blood covers our sin when we accept His love and grace. 

If you wonder if you are living as Jesus desires – John makes it clear when he says “by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar….whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected….whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked….Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness….Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling….whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness”.  Do you see a pattern here?  Whoever does a particular life action shows what their relationship is with Jesus.  How are you doing with the whoevers?

Then John shows us the different levels of spiritual maturity.  You’ll recall he began the chapter with “little children”. Now he shows us the other levels:

–       “little children your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake

–       children you know the Father

–       young men, because you have overcome the evil one

–       young men, because you are strong

–       young men the word of God abides in you

–       young men you have overcome the evil one

–       fathers you know him who is from the beginning

–       fathers you know him who is from the beginning

We move through maturity as we grow in our relationship with Jesus.  We start as children, become young men, and then become fathers.  It is very interesting that when John writes about fathers – he uses the exact same description – that “you know Him”.  Maturity means we have a strong relationship.  We have become sure of who God is and know Him intimately.  Do you truly know Him?

John then reminds us that we should be different than the world.  In fact he warns us “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world”.  This is a very important couple of verses.  It describes where the battle is going to take place.  John tells us three things that will trip us up:

–       “passion

–       Power

–       Possessions

These will get us into trouble if we are not careful to stay away from the world.  The world will pull us into these areas where we are controlled by our passions, we fall prey to power, or we fall into a race to accumulate possessions.  How are you living in the world but not becoming part of it?  That is the tightrope we must walk as a Christ Follower.  We should not just fit in.  We are called to stand out and be different.  John ends the chapter the same way he began – with instructions to the little children.  That is our secret for how to deal with our life in the world.  “Little children, abide in him”.  You want to live successfully as a believer in the world?  Abide in Jesus.  All day, every day.  This is our secret to being a Christ Follower – we need to be all in about abiding in Him!

1 John 1

1 John 1 is a very powerful letter from John.  He begins by reminding us that he and the others have real experience with Jesus and knowing what he is writing about.  They had “heard….seen with our eyes…. looked upon….touched with our hands….seen it…. testify to it….proclaim to you….made manifest to us”.  John and the other disciples had first hand experience with Jesus.  They lived it – and knew Him intimately.  He spent years of His life pouring Himself into these guys and they know Him well.  For what end?  So John could tell us “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”.  And why did they want to proclaim it?  That our “joy may be complete”.  We are able to have joy because of the Word of God and His Son Jesus. 

Here is the truth we need to garner from John’s writing in chapter one.  “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all”.  He is the only true source of life.  He alone is all light.  He drives all darkness out.  John goes on now to give us five “if” statements that give us much insight into the impact of how we need to live.  Check these out and pay close attention.  They deal with darkness, light, sin, confession, forgiveness, and truth.  Look closely at what John teaches us here:

–       “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth

–       if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin

–       If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us

–       If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

–       If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us

Five key statements of truth that tell us how to live.

So what does John tell us?  We need to realize that we cannot be in fellowship with God if we are walking in darkness.  Light and darkness cannot coexist.  Where God is there can be no darkness.  If we walk in the light we are hitting God’s mark – and we have fellowship with each other and the blood of Christ sets us free from sin.  This is the spot we need to be.  This is where we need to live.  Failing to admit we have sin in our life is deception.  It shows that we are full of untruth.  If we confess our sin – God will forgive us – that is why Jesus went to the cross.  He will cleanse us and make us righteous.  If we deny sin in our lives – we are a liar and God cannot live in us.  Take a very good look at what John tells us here.  If is a big word.  If we do it His way – great things happen in life.  Are you living God’s way?  Or yours?

Jude

Jude writes a short letter that reminds us to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”.  Bottom line is our faith will be under attack.  There are many who will seem to be speaking truth but are going to be destroying the faith.  In fact they will “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality….deny our only Master and Lord”.  Folks will be working to destroy God’s Kingdom just as they did during Jesus day.  They will “defile the flesh, reject authority….blaspheme the glorious ones….abandoned themselves for the sake of gain”.  It always comes down to self.  We get in big trouble when we put self in charge of things.   Jude is writing to the first century church.  They have lived alongside Jesus.  Yet they really don’t get it.  They quickly forgot what they had been taught because self took control.  “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”  Self gets us in trouble.  Self makes us go stupid.  That is the battleground.  How do you deal with self?

This is all happening without regard to the fact that Jesus “saved a people out of the land of Egypt….afterward destroyed those who did not believe”.  We humans have a very short memory.  We can’t seem to stay focused – some days we all act like we have ADHD.  Jesus has saved and yet they did not believe.  How can that happen?  Because we forget where truth is and we begin to listen to other people or even ourselves.  When we do it will “cause divisions” because there will be numerous interpretations of what is truth.  When we lose sight of God’s truth – bad things happen.

Jude does go on to tell us how to be ready to live for Him.  Check out what he says:

–       “build yourselves up in your most holy faith

–       pray in the Holy Spirit

–       keep yourselves in the love of God

–       waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ

–       have mercy on those who doubt

–       save others by snatching them out of the fire

–       show mercy with fear

–       hating even the garment stained by the flesh

–       keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless

We can do a number of things that will keep us walking with Jesus the way He desires.  It requires us to work at it – and keep Him on the throne.  How is your walk with the Savior?  He is coming again.  Be ready!

2 Peter 3

2 Peter 3 reminds us of what is to come.  Peter tells us to “remember the predictions” of the prophets and realize that “scoffers will come in the last days….following their own sinful desires”.  We are going to have folks going around and teaching things that just aren’t so.  How do we know what truth is?  By knowing what the Bible says.  That is the only barometer we have.  These folks will “deliberately overlook….that the heavens existed long ago….the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God….the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished”.  They will ignore and revise history.  They do so willingly – not because they don’t know better – but so they can change it to fit their needs.  We must pay attention and know what is true so we are not led astray! 

Sometimes we get impatient but remember that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”.  He is not in a hurry – certainly not on our timeline.  God has a plan.  He will execute it in due time.  His motivation for patience is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”.  God wants all of us to be saved.  It won’t happen because we have free will and to be saved we must be willing to put self off the throne and put Jesus on it.  But God’s desire – and his willingness to wait – is driven by His heart of love.  He wants to save the world. That isn’t just a noble cause – it is His heart.  As we wait we must remember to “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace”.  We do need to live His way as we wait for His return.  In fact Peter tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”.  It’s about the relationship we have with Jesus.  We shouldn’t just coast and do whatever we want.  We need to be growing and becoming like Jesus.

When He comes – it will be a surprise to all of us.  Peter writes that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed”.  Big change is coming when Jesus returns.  We won’t have any warning – so we can’t just sit around thinking we will get our act together when we know He is on the way.  He will come unannounced and will take control of all things.  All things will be made clear – even those things we have hidden and even thought we got away with.  He will expose it all – deal with sin – and turn the world upside down.  Jesus is coming again my friends.  Are you ready?  Have you dealt with Him so you will be part of His return?

%d bloggers like this: