Archive for August, 2018

1 John 2:1-2

1 John 2:1-2 has the Apostle continuing his exhortation around sin. “My little children, I am telling you this so that you will stay away from sin.” We know from the prior chapter that sin is a fact in the life of every person, hopefully an occasional fact, but fact none-the-less.  And we also know that there is forgiveness from that sin through Jesus.  But John wants to be clear that as Christ Followers we need to be concerned about sin.  And more importantly, we DO NOT have to sin.  We choose to on our own.  God does not make us sin.  The devil does not make us sin, contrary to the saying ‘the devil made me do it’.  In fact, we sin and need to stay far away from it.

That’s one of the lessons around sin we need to learn.  The best way to not sin is to stay far away from the temptation that causes us to choose sin.  All the resources for spiritual victory are ours in Jesus Christ and that resource is never withdrawn. Yet we will fall. “But if you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. His name is Jesus Christ, the one who is all that is good and who pleases God completely.” The great news is that God not only knows we will sin, but He put a fix in the grand scheme of things to cover our shortcomings with the One who ‘pleases God completely’ – Jesus Christ.  We’ll never make it to eternal life with God any other way.

So God’s desire is that we don’t sin. Yet when we do, there is provision made – an Advocate, a defense lawyer on our side. Our Advocate is Jesus Christ Himself. But He is far more than an advocate as He stands in our gap between our lack righteousness and God the Judge who will stand in judgment when we leave this earth. Jesus is our defender, even when we sin now. God is not shocked by human behavior. He has seen it all in advance. So God made a way for sinful man to have eternal life with God. When we stand as the accused in the heavenly court, before our righteous Judge, God the Father. Our Advocate stands up to answer the charges on our behalf.

He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.” A human defense lawyer argues for the innocence of his client. But our Advocate, Jesus Christ, admits our guilt – and then enters His plea on our behalf, as the one who has made an atoning sacrifice for our sinfulness that should lead us to eternal separation from God, save His death on the Cross. Alford wrote “Christ has, as our sin-offering, reconciled God and us by nothing else but by His voluntary death as a sacrifice and has by this averted God’s wrath from us.” That’s our Savior’s love for us.  And He did it for the whole world!

1 John 1:7-10

In 1 John 1:7-10 we see some of the most revealing truth in scripture around sin.  John begins by painting a picture of what the future could be.  “But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.”  The positive outcome we can all experience is ‘fellowship and joy and cleansing’.  But there is a big IF….we have to be living in the light.  We know that on this side of eternity, sinless perfection is not possible. Yet we can still live in the light, so John does mean perfect obedience.

So perfection is not the goal.  The Christian life is described as walking, which implies activity. Christian life feeds upon contemplation, but it displays itself in action. “Walking” implies action, continuity, and progress. Since God is active and walking, if you have fellowship with Him you will also be active and walking. The question is will you walk with Him, or on your own path.  We need to admit we’ll miss the perfection required for salvation, but know that Jesus came to take care of that if we’ll walk with Him.  “If we say that we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.” We are sinners in need of a Savior.

So we need to admit it and follow the path to being forgiven.  Confess, repent, receive God’s grace, be saved.  It all begins with the recognition that we are sinners and need to be forgiven.  “But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” God has offered forgiveness.  He paid the maximum price to be able to give it to us freely – Jesus, His only Son, went to the Cross carrying our sin – and the result is God’s gift of grace.  It is ours for the taking, but it does require us to take action.  We have to be willing to take the act of faith and receive Jesus Christ as Savior.

God had a perfect plan, and He executed it fully. “And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.” That was the sole purpose for Jesus coming to this earth.  He came to live among us as a human for 33 years, but ultimately He came to carry our sin to the Cross and defeat death and sin and provide victory for eternity.  It boils down to us being willing to admit we are a sinner.  We are.  Scripture is clear that all of us have sinned.  Just a quick glance around the world, or the room validates that truth.  But the positive result of faith in Christ – eternal life based on God’s gift of grace – can only happen when we admit our sin and take the step to have that forgiven through Jesus’ death on the Cross.  “If we claim we have not sinned, we are lying and calling God a liar, for he says we have sinned.” Are you lying to yourself?  We all need a Savior.  Are you sure of your eternity?

1 John 1:4-6

In 1 John 1:4-6 John makes a pretty bold statement about the power of relationships and obedience. “And if you do as I say in this letter, then you, too, will be full of joy, and so will we.” The result of fellowship is fullness of joy. This joy is an abiding sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on who God is, as opposed to happiness, which is a sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on circumstances. John makes clear that Jesus’ intent was to be sure the disciples were full of joy, even as He faced crucifixion on the Cross.  Jesus talked with them about joy in the chapters leading up to His cruel death.

Having joy is definitely possible for us as Christ Followers, but it is not certain.  The reality is that joy is a choice.  It is attacked from many places, but true joy does not come from the things of this world.  External circumstances, moods and emotions, or sin can all chip away at our joy.  But these external factors cannot prevent it.  Joy results from our relationship with God through Christ, and we need to focus on having a vibrant relationship and staying fixed on Jesus rather than the things happening around us.  We can choose joy.  In every situation and circumstance, the choice is ours.

John gives us the reality about our relationship with God. “This is the message God has given us to pass on to you: that God is Light and in him is no darkness at all.” This is a claim to authority. John isn’t making this up; these are not his own personal opinions or ideas about God. This is God’s message about Himself (which we have heard from Him), which John reveals to us.  In God there is no sin.  God is light and therefore is devoid of darkness.  God Himself is light; and light by definition has no darkness at all in it; for there to be darkness, there must be an absence of light. God is always light and drives away the darkness.

The hard truth is that if there is a problem with our fellowship with God, it is our fault. It is not the fault of God because there is no sin or darkness in Him at all. We can claim whatever we want, but if there is darkness anywhere, it is because of us, not God. “So if we say we are his friends but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying.” John tackles a pattern of living. This does not speak of an occasional lapse, but of a lifestyle of darkness.  We all sin, that is a given.  But when we allow sin and darkness to permeate our life continually, we are deceiving ourselves. The issue here is fellowship, not salvation. The Christian who temporarily walks in darkness is still saved, but not in fellowship with God.

1 John 1:1-3

We’ll continue with John’s writings as we read through his work as translated in The Living Bible (TLB).  In 1 John 1:1-3  John gives us his pedigree in the faith and reminds us that he was there with Jesus. “Christ was alive when the world began, yet I myself have seen him with my own eyes and listened to him speak.” The beginning John wrote of is not the beginning of this world; nor is it the beginning of creation. It is the beginning of it all, the beginning there was before there was anything, when all there existed was God. Jesus was there for that, and yet, John tells us that very same Jesus came to this earth and became man and John was able to experience His life with Him.

It wasn’t a viewing from afar.  John was right there. “I have touched him with my own hands. He is God’s message of life.” Jesus has been audibly heard, physically seen, intently studied and looked upon, and personally touched.  He is the real deal.  But more than being a human, God sent Him to earth with a message of hope and life for all of us.  John’s words have the weight of eyewitness evidence. He did not speak of a myth, nor was it a matter of clever story-telling. He carefully studied the eternal One, and he knew what he was talking about.  Jesus came to bring life, and He did it through relationship.

God became accessible to man in the most basic way, a way that anyone could relate to. This eternal One can be known, and He has revealed Himself to us. “This one who is life from God has been shown to us, and we guarantee that we have seen him; I am speaking of Christ, who is eternal Life.” John makes the equation very clear: Jesus=eternal life.  There isn’t any more to it than that.  Guzik writes ‘the important things in life are not things at all – they are the relationships we have. God has put a desire for relationship in every one of us, a desire He intended to be met with relationships with other people, but most of all, to be met by a relationship with Him. In this remarkable letter, John tells us the truth about relationships – and shows us how to have relationships that are real, for both now and eternity.’ He points the way to Jesus and the eternal life that a relationship with Him will bring.

John continues to testify to the reality of Jesus.  “He was with the Father and then was shown to us.” God didn’t just send a message of hope and salvation.  He sent His very own Son to this planet to bring to us the opportunity for eternal life.  It isn’t rocket science, it merely requires faith.  We can have eternal life if we meet and receive the gift of grace from God.  It’s ours for the taking, but we do have to take that step. “Again I say, we are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may share the fellowship and the joys we have with the Father and with Jesus Christ his son.” We can share in the hope of eternity through Jesus.  Have you taken that step of faith?

John 21:18-25

In John 21:18-25 Jesus gives Peter the promise that he’ll stand in his faith til the end. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” Jesus promises Peter that his life will end in utter faithfulness, that in the end Peter will make a faithful stand for Jesus and be crucified.  He may have denied Jesus three times before this, but now Jesus makes it clear that he will stand in his faith to his own death on a cross. If Peter’s principle of life once was a self-reliance, from now on his principle of life will be the cross.

History shows that Peter was also crucified, but he demanded it not be the same way as Jesus so they crucified him upside down.  Peter was faithful to the very end. “This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God. And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”  Jesus wants Peter to know that he hasn’t disqualified himself, but is a beloved disciple.  But Peter was focused on the wrong thing.  He was worried about John. “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”

Jesus gets after Peter for his worry about John. Jesus’ words apply to us. Instead of worrying about what He will do or is doing with other believers, our focus should be on His command to follow him.  That’s the focus. “Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” We can’t get caught up in comparing ourselves to anyone else.  What Jesus cares about is what we do with what we know we need to do to be a Christ Follower.  “So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” We need to focus on how we follow Jesus, not worry about comparing ourselves with others.

John finishes his book making a couple key observations.  First, this book is a testimony of accuracy around the life of Jesus.  It is truth! “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.” John was there and experienced it first hand.  But he also is honest and tells us there was much more that he didn’t capture.  “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” God’s works have no end, and the events are to continue as we obey Jesus’ command to follow Me. And so the journey continues…….

John 21:15-17

In John 21:15-17 Jesus has a very intimate interaction with Peter.  Jesus had met with Peter individually on the day of His resurrection, but a public restoration was also needed.  You’ll recall that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on the eve of the crucifixion.  So Jesus is now rebuilding the important relationship they had together before that series of events. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus waited until the entire group had finished eating before He takes Peter on a journey to discover their relationship again.

Jesus began by asking a simple question: do you love me more than these?  It seems like a strange questions He asks Peter to compare his love for Jesus with that of the other disciples.  Remember that Peter had earlier claimed a very deep and all consuming love for Jesus.  Peter answers as you would expect. “He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” But Jesus response was maybe not what was expected.  For Peter to follow through with his love for Jesus, he must give himself to the service of God’s people.  It isn’t enough to say he loves Jesus.  Love needs to be lived out.

Jesus goes on to probe again. “He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” The first time Jesus asks about Peter’s love He tells him to ‘feed my lambs’.  This time Jesus instructs Peter to ‘tend my sheep’ which is a deepening responsibility in the service of the people around him.  But wait, there’s more. “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

This time Peter doesn’t really like the question.  After all he’s answered it twice already.  What really grieved Peter was the three-time repetition of the exact same question focused on his love and commitment to the Savior, because it was a plain reminder of his previous three-time denial on the evening Jesus was being arrested before His crucifixion.  It’s painful stuff.  Jesus allowed Peter a three-fold public affirmation of love to replace a three-fold denial, and gave him a three-fold challenge to serve those in his patch by feeding and tending to those around him.  That’s how we show our love for Jesus.  We serve people just as He did.  We show love as we love others.  That’s how Jesus knows any of us love Him!

John 21:7-14

In John 21:7-14 Jesus had just told the disciples to cast their net on the other side of the boat and all of a sudden after a night of catching nothing their nets were full to capacity.  John immediately puts two and two together recognizing Jesus.  “That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.”  John figured it out first, but Peter took the first move.  He jumps into the water and heads for Jesus on the shore.  Peter wasn’t waiting to help the rest of the crew drag in the fish they had just caught.  He was off immediately to see Jesus.

The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.” The rest were left behind to drag the fish into the boat.  Jesus was on shore and had a fire started so He could cook them breakfast.  “When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.”  Jesus is often seen eating with His disciples after His resurrection. This is a picture of intimate, friendly fellowship. Remember that He has just risen from the dead days earlier, and while they may have thought He was a ghost or something else, He is going to eat with them.

There is plenty of speculation about the number 153.  Scholars have argued it for centuries.  The truth is that all we know for certain is that 153 stands for the number of fish that they caught! We must always be careful of manufacturing “hidden meanings” in the Word of God. “Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.” There were multiple miracles that happened when Jesus told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat.

  1. They caught fish at all
  2. There were many fish in the net – 153 in all
  3. The net was overloaded yet didn’t break
  4. They managed to get them all ashore

Once they got the fish on shore, “Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” There seems something unusual about the appearance of Jesus after His resurrection. Possibly it was a result of the beatings He endured at the cross, the scars of which remained at least in part. “Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.”  But Jesus was intent on serving them. “Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” Third time in a charm for Jesus to be with His disciples and show them the victory!

John 21:1-6

In John 21:1-6 Jesus has revealed Himself twice to the disciples and now He chooses to do it again. “After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.” He goes to their roots, as many were fishermen by trade before they followed Him, so he meets the disciples while they were doing their day jobs to which they had returned after His death.  We don’t know for sure why they had gone back to their boats. If they wanted to give up on the business of serving Jesus, it was bad; if they were providing for themselves and those near to them until Jesus told them what to do next, it would be fine.

Peter seems to be leading the charge as he usually was. “Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.” He was with a half dozen of his disciple brethren.  Peter tells them he’s going out. “Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” It was late in the day, and they were going to try and catch some fish. No matter what their reason was for returning to their fishing boats, their own efforts were futile. There was nothing in the nets.

They have been in the boats all night and caught nothing.  Jesus approaches as the sun is coming up, but they don’t recognize Him. “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” He engages wiwth them and asks the obvious question.  Catch anything?  Of course He knew they had not, but He asks anyway. “They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So what’s the obvious thing to tell a set of fishermen who have fished all night without success?  Tell them to drop the nets again, only on the other side of the boat.

When you are unsuccessful at fishing, you don’t welcome questions about your progress. Jesus asked anyway. It’s interesting that there is no record of them questioning the direction Jesus had given.  Remember, they still haven’t recognized Him as the Savior.  But they followed His suggestion anyway. “So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” All night with no luck.  Jesus comes and tells them to cast their nets on the other side and now, the nets are so full they can’t even bring them in.  Talk about a change of outcome.  It’s what happens when we are aligned with God’s plan.  Doing things His way always yields nets full of fish.

John 20:24-31

In John 20:24-31 Jesus has just revealed Himself as the risen Savior and released the Holy Spirit on them.  And He gave them the authority to impact the people they touched.  But one of the Twelve was not there when Jesus came, and Thomas is really struggling with Jesus as the resurrected king.  “But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.” He hears from the rest of the bunch that they had seen Jesus, and he just isn’t buying their story.  He has to see some evidence himself before he will believe.

Thomas, whom we often call doubting Tom, wants physical evidence. “But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.” Thomas is merely an unbeliever who will not accept the testimony of others. He throws down the gauntlet and wants proof.  So the doubting continues.  But then Jesus makes another appearance.  “Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” The proof begins when Jesus enters the room through locked doors.  No opening the door, just walk right through it.

Jesus takes on Thomas’ doubt head on.  He challenges Thomas to stick his finger into the wounds from the crucifixion.  “Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.” Jesus wants to make sure Thomas’ doubt is addressed so he can truly believe. Jesus repeats Thomas’ demands back to him word for word. This must have been very impressive to Thomas, and very convincing. Jesus also plainly commands him to cease his unbelief and to start believing.  And it works.  Thomas believes. “Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus makes a point that faith shouldn’t always require us to see things. “Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” There is a special promise blessing given to those who believe. The faith of Thomas is the climax of the book: Jesus has triumphed over sickness, sin, evil men, death and sorrow; now He conquers unbelief. But wait, there is more. “Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.” John captured the story of Jesus so that we can have life, and have it abundantly.

John 20:17-23

In John 20:17-23 Jesus has risen and just revealed Himself to Mary.  He gives her the task of going and telling the rest of His Followers that He has come alive. “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’” Jesus is pointing out a difference between His relationship with God and the disciples’ relationship with God. We can have a direct and meaningful relationship with God, but it isn’t anything like being God’s Son.  So Mary goes and tells the rest what she experienced. “Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.”

The fact that Jesus makes a woman the first witness of His resurrection is significant. The law courts of that day would not recognize the testimony of a woman, but Jesus did. This was a significant opportunity for her to shout it from the mountaintop. “Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.” The disciples were very gun shy of the religious leaders, fearing they would come after them next since they had successfully gotten rid of Jesus (at least they thought they had).

How did Jesus enter the room? We can’t explain it, but apparently resurrection bodies are not subject to the same limitations as our present bodies. We are told of five appearances in scripture of Jesus on the resurrection day:

  • to Mary Magdalene
  • to the women
  • to two on the road to Emmaus
  • to Peter
  • and here to ten of the disciples, Thomas being absent.

The Gospel of John tells of two of these five appearances. But the cat is out of the bag and Jesus is resurrected and now communicating with His Followers.  “The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Jesus is reconnecting with His people, and they are finally getting it.

Jesus quickly goes beyond the simple greetings.  After their desertion of Jesus on Friday, the disciples were probably expecting words of rebuke or blame. Instead, Jesus brought a word of peace and offered reconciliation to Himself. “Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” Jesus offers His Followers the gift that was promised – the Holy Spirit.  And equally important He tells them the power that comes with the Holy Spirit at work in them – that they are empowered to even forgive sins.  A new life is ahead for the disciples, and Jesus is getting them started!

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