Archive for September, 2018

1 John 3:6b-9

In 1 John 3:6b-9 John continues to explain the truth that if we keep sinning, we aren’t truly Christ Followers. John’s message is plain and consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. It tells us that a life style of habitual sin is inconsistent with a life of abiding in Jesus Christ. A true Christian can only be temporarily in a life style of sin. “…but as for those who keep on sinning, they should realize this: They sin because they have never really known him or become his.” In some ways, the question is not “Do you sin or not?” We all sin. The question is, “How do you react when you sin? Do you give into the pattern of sin, and let it dominate your lifestyle? Or do you humbly confess your sin, and do battle against it with the power Jesus can give?” If we are truly Christ Followers, we will not continue in sin.

To live a lifestyle of habitual sin is to demonstrate that you have not seen Him and that you have not known Him. It is just incompatible with being a true Christ Follower. But the other side is equally as true.  If you are continually doing good, it is because you are good. “Oh, dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: if you are constantly doing what is good, it is because you are good, even as he is.” If we are made righteous by our faith in Jesus Christ, it will be seen by our righteous lives.  We can’t help but leak goodness and righteousness if Jesus is truly our Savior and Lord.

John goes further in describing the truth of who we are if we continually keep on sinning. “But if you keep on sinning, it shows that you belong to Satan, who since he first began to sin has kept steadily at it. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the devil.” This is a classic good versus evil battle. Satan is the author of sin – he wrote the book on how to do it and continually gives us ideas and reasons as to why we should keep on sinning.  His goal is to trap us in sin and keep us at odds with God.  It is his mission on this planet.  But Jesus came for a different reason.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and free us from our bondage to the devil. John gave us one reason why Jesus came in 1 John 3:5 (He came to take away our sins). Now, John gives us another reason: that He might destroy the works of the devil. Something happens in us when we bring Jesus into our life.  Sin no longer is in control and we have a new opportunity to live born again.  The old is put aside and the new comes in. “The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now God’s life is in him; so he can’t keep on sinning, for this new life has been born into him and controls him—he has been born again.” Have you been born again?

1 John 3:3-6

In 1 John 3:3-6 he reminds us that we know our eternal destiny, and should live in the hope that will purify our lives. When we know our end is to be more like Jesus, it should make us want to be more like Jesus right now.  It should have a purifying effect on us right now.  We should be focused on serving and pleasing Him now as Christ Followers. “And everyone who really believes this will try to stay pure because Christ is pure.” Jesus set the example of how we should live.  Our hope is not ultimately in heaven, our hope is in Christ and Him alone.  We should never set our hope on a relationship, on success, on any mutual fund, on our health, on our stuff, or simply on our self. Our only real hope is in Him.

Yet we are human and struggle with this thing called sin. “But those who keep on sinning are against God, for every sin is done against the will of God.” As a Christ Follower, we should end our sins and walk in God’s will.  John defines sin as disregard for the law of God which ultimately means we have a disregard for the Maker of the Law Himself – God the Father.  We often fail the battle against sin because we are unwilling to call it what it is – a lawlessness or offense against God.  We water down how we view sin and make excuses as to why it really isn’t all that bad.  To change the tide of sin, we have to begin by admitting exactly what it is – intentional disobedience of God’s will, ways and law.

Remember that Jesus came to ‘take away the sin of the world’.  That was core to His mission.  “And you know that he became a man so that he could take away our sins, and that there is no sin in him, no missing of God’s will at any time in any way.” Guzik described how Jesus does that in three ways:

  1. Jesus takes away our sin in the sense of taking the penaltyof our sin. This is immediately accomplished when one comes by faith to Jesus.
  2. Jesus takes away our sin in the sense of taking the powerof sin away. This is an ongoing work in the lives of those who walk after Jesus.

iii. Jesus takes away our sin in the sense of taking the presence of sin away. This is a work that will be completed when we pass into eternity and are glorified with Jesus.

He came to earth as a human to take away our sin.  That is the core to why He came, but it requires us to respond to His efforts.  We can’t take away the penalty for sin as only His shed blood can do that.

On our own, we’ll never be able to deal with the power of sin in our life.  Only His work in us through the power of the Holy Spirit can give us the ability to stand against sin and resist temptation.  Sin will always be present in the world around us.  We’ll have to deal with it until our time on earth is over. But we can have victory over sin.  John tells us how: “So if we stay close to him, obedient to him, we won’t be sinning either.”  Jesus had no sin to take away; therefore, He could take away our sin, taking it upon Himself. If we learn to abide in Him and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we won’t sin either.  To abide in Jesus means we can overcome our desire and choices that lead us to sin.  Are you victorious in overcoming sin?  Is Jesus truly leading?

1 John 3:1-2

In 1 John 3:1-2 John begins by reminding us just how much God loves us.  It’s not just a simple relationship – God has bestowed His love on us. “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children—think of it—and we really are!” John speaks in amazement about this manner of love that makes us children of God. His love has been lavished upon us. As believers we become God’s children no matter our race, age, health, gifts and talents – none of that matters.  All that is required is that we receive the gift of Christ and become His through love.

Guzik asks an important question about this amazing promise of becoming God’s children. ‘ What is it that makes us slow to believe the love of God?’

  • Sometimes it is pride, which demands to prove itself worthy of the love of God before it will receive it.
  • Sometimes it is unbelief, which cannot trust the love of God when it sees the hurt and pain of life.
  • And sometimes it just takes time for a person to come to a fuller understanding of the greatness of God’s love.’

Whatever keeps us from believing and receiving this gift needs to be pushed aside.  There is no greater gift we will ever be given.

God showed His compassion on us by going so much further than having pity on our sinful state and offering us a plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.  He could have stopped there saving us from hell and eternal damnation, which we bring on ourselves through our sinful choices.  But He went much further and calls us His children.  It demonstrates His unending and deep love for us, not based on whether or not we deserve it, but based on the fact that He has chosen to give it to us freely. “But since most people don’t know God, naturally they don’t understand that we are his children.” Here’s the problem – it’s not a God issue – it’s a human issue.  Most don’t know God.  So they can’t understand what He did to allow us to be His children.

Our present standing is plain. We can know, and have an assurance, that we are indeed among the children of God. “Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is.” Though our present standing as children of God is plain, our future destiny is clouded. We don’t know in the kind of detail we would like to know what we will become in the world beyond. In this sense, we can’t even imagine what we will be like in glory. We have to trust God’s goodness and know that someday we will experience an amazing future as we become like Jesus!

1 John 2:26-29

In 1 John 2:26-29 John continues to remind us that there is a real enemy that wants to deceive us and lead us astray.  He wants us to stay connected with God’s truth through His Word and not follow the deception around us. “These remarks of mine about the Antichrist are pointed at those who would dearly love to blindfold you and lead you astray.” The good news is that we’ve been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within us and guide us.  John told us earlier in this chapter that the Spirit is not the private property of a few special or spectacular Christians. All Christians have the presence of God’s Spirit within them.

That Spirit gives us the ability to know what is right and to grasp God’s truth because the Spirit teaches us in every way, if we’ll only listen. “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, in your hearts, so that you don’t need anyone to teach you what is right. For he teaches you all things, and he is the Truth, and no liar; and so, just as he has said, you must live in Christ, never to depart from him.”  The Spirit guides us into truth. We are guided into truth on a one-on-one level, God confirming it to our hearts. And that same Holy Spirit will guide us into a deeper fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father – the Trinity of our faith – if we’ll only listen and follow His guidance.

John wraps this chapter reminding us to stay close to Jesus.  The word used here is to ‘abide in Him’ which means to have an intimate relationship with Jesus as our deepest companion. John gives us good reason to live in that ‘happy fellowship’ with Christ – so that we’ll intimately know Him, and therefore we can have confidence at His coming.  John paints a rather unhappy picture for those who fall away and living worldly, unfruitful lives. In one moment, the understanding of their failure to walk with Jesus will overwhelm them when He comes again and they will realize that everything else they accomplished in life doesn’t matter, they did not abide in Him as they should have.

We can prevent that shame and be ready to stand in confidence before Christ by merely walking with Him daily and abiding in Him. “And now, my little children, stay in happy fellowship with the Lord so that when he comes you will be sure that all is well and will not have to be ashamed and shrink back from meeting him.” John gives us the ultimate test for whether or not we’re truly walking with Jesus.  Are we practicing righteousness and living with that as the filter for how we live.  “Since we know that God is always good and does only right, we may rightly assume that all those who do right are his children.” If we’re truly born again, we will seek righteousness over sin. We will not perfect righteousness until we are glorified with Jesus; but we can practice righteousness right now.  It is the mark of a true believer!  Is righteousness (following God’s direction and standards) your goal?

1 John 2:22-25

In 1 John 2:22-25 John exposes the greatest of liars – those who deny Jesus as Savior and Lord.  While we may think of the Antichrist as one individual who will lead the charge against Christ and his church, John makes it clear that anyone who denies Jesus is an antichrist.  The spirit of antichrist identifies itself by its denial of Jesus and its denial of the Father.  “And who is the greatest liar? The one who says that Jesus is not Christ. Such a person is antichrist, for he does not believe in God the Father and in his Son.” We can deny Jesus while praising Him with our words; we can deny Him by offering a substitute Jesus or by ministering in a manner that denies the character of Jesus.

Belief in Jesus is directly connected to believing in God.  You can’t have one without the other.  They are connected as part of the Trinity and there is no separating them.  “For a person who doesn’t believe in Christ, God’s Son, can’t have God the Father either. But he who has Christ, God’s Son, has God the Father also.”  If we believe in one, we have the other. There are many people who seem rather spiritual or religious, yet reject Jesus Christ. While their religion or spirituality may seem to serve them well in this life – giving them a basis for morality and good behavior – it does them nothing before God, because in rejecting Jesus they reject God.  When they stand before God at judgment day, they will come up short.

So how do we respond to this pressure to deny Christ?  John makes it simple – we need to keep on believing the Word of God and the core message of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus.  “So keep on believing what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will always be in close fellowship with both God the Father and his Son.”  Humans, by nature, are almost always attracted to something just because it is new. We almost always think of new as better. But when it comes to truth, new is not better. That which you heard from the beginning is better. We need to cling to truth and not be swayed by a different view or approach to our relationship with Jesus.

Knowing about Jesus is not enough though.  We need to live in close fellowship with Him.  This doesn’t mean just knowing it, but living in it. When we are living in the simplicity of the truth of Jesus Christ, then we will abide in the Son and in the Father. Why does it matter?  John gives us the amazing answer. “And he himself has promised us this: eternal life.” It’s pretty straight forward.  If we have a relationship with Christ, we have eternal life.  This is not mere immortality. Every human being, made in the image of God, is immortal, in the sense that our souls will live forever, either in heaven or in hell. So, eternal life doesn’t just mean a life that lasts for eternity. It describes the kind of life that God, the Eternal One, has in Himself. Spurgeon summarized it this way: “You must be in a living, loving, lasting union with the Son of God, or else you are not in a state of salvation.”  Are you sure of your eternal life?

1 John 2:17-21

In 1 John 2:17-21 John tells us that the world will not last forever.  It is not a prayer, not a wish, and not a spiritual sounding desire. It is a statement of fact.  What we invest into the world will someday be gone.  We must live our lives with that awareness.  We need to invest into that which is eternal.  “And this world is fading away, and these evil, forbidden things will go with it, but whoever keeps doing the will of God will live forever.”  Scripture shows us examples of this.  Consider Lot, who put all his eggs in the wrong basket and was burned by a world that did not last for him because of his choices.

There are only a few things that will last forever.  God’s Word, the souls of people, and the Holy Spirit.  We have the opportunity to be in intimate contact with all three, and if we want to yield an eternal reward, we need to invest our time, talent and treasure there.  Of course the world, and the enemy of God, won’t take this truth quietly.  So John warns of the pending attack. “Dear children, this world’s last hour has come. You have heard about the Antichrist who is coming—the one who is against Christ—and already many such persons have appeared. This makes us all the more certain that the end of the world is near.”

The Antichrist is the “opposite Jesus”; he is the “instead of” Jesus. There is debate as to whether this Antichrist will be an individual or a political system. This is really a small distinction, because it will in a sense be both a person and a political system. The Antichrist is an individual, but he will also be associated with a powerful government. And support will come from surprising places – like the church. “These “against-Christ” people used to be members of our churches, but they never really belonged with us or else they would have stayed. When they left us it proved that they were not of us at all.” They may have tried to sell themselves as Christ Followers, but their true colors come out when they switch sides.

But true Christ Followers have one distinct difference from all the rest of the world – the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is common to all believers and makes it possible for true followers to detect the difference between things of God and things of the world.  “But you are not like that, for the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you know the truth.” John warns Christ Followers to leverage the gift of the Holy Spirit to be discerning because the deception is coming.  We do not need to be deceived if we cling to the truth. “So I am not writing to you as to those who need to know the truth, but I warn you as those who can discern the difference between true and false.” It is up to us to leverage our spiritual guide – the Holy Spirit – to know truth!

1 John 2:14-16

In 1 John 2:14-16 John talks with fathers (who have a deep and strong relationship with God) and young men (not only have they overcome the wicked one, but they have done it through the strength that comes to them through the Word of God. God’s Word is our source of spiritual strength). “And so I say to you fathers who know the eternal God, and to you young men who are strong with God’s Word in your hearts, and have won your struggle against Satan:….” He writes to an audience of fathers and young men who are walking with Jesus.  And remember that Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, said that he counted all his previous spiritual achievements as rubbish, compared to the surpassing greatness of just knowing Jesus.  This is the pinnacle of success as a Christ Follower.

But John goes on to rebuke these spiritually mature folks that they need to stop loving the world. “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God”. The world is not the global earth. Nor is it the people living on the planet as a whole. Instead it is the community of sinful humans that are rebelling against God. We are not to love either the world’s system or its way of doing things.  By loving the world we can gain earthly stuff, but it costs us our time, talent and treasure and the reward is no where near the cost when compared to God’s plan for us.

John calls out three key ways the enemy gets us to love worldly things:

  1. Sex (lust of the world)
  2. Stuff (lust of the flesh)
  3. Power (pride of life)

His efforts are to get us to focus on things of the world rather than the things of God. “for all these worldly things, these evil desires—the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you, and the pride that comes from wealth and importance—these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself.”

The world tries to buy our love through the stuff it offers us.  We get sucked into the race for status.  But loving the world never lines up with loving God.  It is impossible to love both. We seldom admit how much the world dominates how we think and act, but often the world is far more in control that the ways of God.  We need to carefully consider our thinking to be sure it aligns with God’s standards.  This reinforces what Paul taught that we need to be careful not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by a renewing of our minds.  We have to lift ourselves above the messages and lure of the world to be focused on what comes from God – His Word and the truth that is contained in it.

1 John 2:10-13

In 1 John 2:10-13 John continues his discussion around what it means to love each other.  “But whoever loves his fellow man is “walking in the light” and can see his way without stumbling around in darkness and sin.” Love turns on the light in our life.  The point is plain. If we lose love then we lose everything. There is nothing left. Sometimes we get caught up in how we want to love and serve others.  It is too easy for people to place “ministry” or “being right” above love in the body of Christ. We must do ministry and serve people, and we certainly need to be right, but we must do it all in love. That has to trump all else.

John goes on to make it clear that if we aren’t letting love be our way of life, we’re living in darkness. “For he who dislikes his brother is wandering in spiritual darkness and doesn’t know where he is going, for the darkness has made him blind so that he cannot see the way.”  In fact, failure to love means we are blind to the truth and we cannot know our way.  Remember that Jesus set this standard, not John.  The Apostle is merely making clear just how important it is for all mankind.  Without love, we are living in darkness and lost, we will not be able to find our way because of a lack of light.

John then launches into some discussion that relates to spiritual maturity.  His letter is to all levels, but he is clear in what they know.  He addresses four different levels of maturity:

  • Little children
  • Older men (fathers in some versions)
  • Young men
  • Younger boys and girls

With each he gives a trait of their understanding spiritually:

 

Little children Your sins have been forgiven
Younger boys and girls You have learned to know God our Father
Young men You have won your battle with Satan
Old men (fathers) You really know Christ

All of us begin our walk as Christ Followers as little children. “I am writing these things to all of you, my little children, because your sins have been forgiven in the name of Jesus our Savior.” We’re in a very immature state spiritually and all we typically know is that we are sinners in need of a Savior and have no way to conquer that sin except the forgiveness through Christ.

As older men, we have walked with Christ and have the opportunity for deep experience.  “I am saying these things to you older men because you really know Christ, the one who has been alive from the beginning.” There is time for our roots to go deep and to establish a relationship with strong fellowship because of all that has been lived through together.

Young men had experienced spiritual victory.  They are on the front lines of God’s work and are the soldiers for God in the world.  “And you young men, I am talking to you because you have won your battle with Satan.” They certainly are under attack from the enemy.  From them we expect the greatest effort, the greatest cost, and the greatest strength as the warriors of serving God.

And then the younger boys and girls, who have grown beyond just receiving the gift of grace into learning about and knowing God.  “And I am writing to you younger boys and girls because you, too, have learned to know God our Father.” John uses different words for little children in verses 12 and 13 (teknia and paidia, respectively). Teknia has more of an emphasis on a child’s relationship of dependence on a parent, while paidia has more of an emphasis on a child’s immaturity and need for instruction. Both little children and younger boys and girls, as translated in the Living Bible here, indicate that these stages of maturity are all about knowing God and His love and salvation for us.

1 John 2:7-9

1 John 2:7-9 has John reminding us that no matter what seems to change, the commandments of God remain the same. “Dear brothers, I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before.” What John is referring to here is Jesus’ commandment to love – to love God, and to love people – the first and greatest commandment and then the second he gave to His followers.  The ‘new’ part of this is how Jesus demonstrated that love and His willingness to put aside self and give all in a way the world had never seen before.

Guzik points out that Jesus’ love like the Cross, points in four directions and shows us what that love should look like:

  • Wide enough to include every human being.
  • Long enough to last through all eternity.
  • Deep enough to reach the most guilty sinner.
  • High enough to take us to heaven.

This is a new love, a love the world had never really seen before the work of Jesus on the Cross.  It wasn’t a new commandment but a new understanding of what God’s love is like, and now the picture of how we should also live.

John is clear that we live in a world covered with darkness, or without the love Jesus demonstrated.  We have to intentionally make the choice to love each other if we want to drive that darkness out of our lives and let the light of Jesus shine in us and through us.“Yet it is always new, and works for you just as it did for Christ; and as we obey this commandment, to love one another, the darkness in our lives disappears and the new light of life in Christ shines in.” Love is not a feeling, it is an act of obedience.  It is an act of the will that we choose to make – to love one another.  It isn’t always easy or convenient, but Jesus’ example of love on the Cross was neither of those.

If we want to see how we are doing in our walk with Christ, we can take a look at how we are handling sin and obedience as a measure.  If we want to see how we’re doing with loving like Christ, we can look at how we interact with people around us.  “Anyone who says he is walking in the light of Christ but dislikes his fellow man is still in darkness.” It is impossible to be obedient to Christ’s command to ‘love one another’ and live in hatred of mankind.  Guzik writes ‘The point is plain. If we lose love then we lose everything. There is nothing left. You can do all the right things, believe all the right truths, but if you do not love other Christians then all is lost. The three tests:

  • moral
  • doctrinal
  • love

….all stand together, like the legs on a three-legged stool.’  Where are you when it comes to loving people?  Are they a priority in your life?

1 John 2:3-6

In 1 John 2:3-6 the apostle asks a penetrating question: And how can we be sure that we belong to him?” Exactly how do we know that we are His? How do we know that we truly love anyone or anything for that matter?  The answer seems too simple to be true.  It is by how we act.  And that’s what John tells us. The evidence of someone knowing God, and fellowship with Him is that they keep His commandments. A simple, loving obedience is a natural result of fellowship with God. “By looking within ourselves: are we really trying to do what he wants us to?” The test for whether or not we truly belong to God is our desire to live in obedience.

We may try and convince ourselves and others that because of grace, we don’t have to be obedient to God.  But that is definitely not true. The truth of this is so certain that if one does not live a life marked by obedience, their claim to fellowship with God can be fairly challenged. “Someone may say, “I am a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ.” But if he doesn’t do what Christ tells him to, he is a liar.” John calls the a liar, which is pretty strong language.  But it is that important.  We can’t pretend to be a Christ Follower and not do what He tells us to do.  We can’t claim to be a Christian and not follow God’s commands.  We won’t always do them perfectly, but the desire will be there if we are truly His.

The good news is that when we walk in obedience with Jesus, our love grows deeper and deeper.  A perfected and mature love for God will express itself in obedience, and the presence of this obedience and love gives us assurance that we are in Jesus. “But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God more and more. That is the way to know whether or not you are a Christian.” Guzik writes ‘when one becomes a Christian, there is a change in their relationship with sin. Sin is not eliminated in the believer until he comes to glory, but their relationship to sin is changed when they truly become a Christian.

– A Christian no longer loves sin as he once did.

– A Christian no longer brags about their sin as he once did.

– A Christian no longer plans to sin as he once did.

– A Christian no longer fondly remembers his sin as he once did.

– A Christian never fully enjoys his sin as he once did.

– A Christian no longer is comfortable in habitual sin as he once was.’

John boils it down to a simple statement. “Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ did.” It can’t get much clearer than that. Jesus is the example by which we should live.  We aren’t called to imitate the way Jesus walked on water as that is humanly impossible. But we are called to follow His every-day walk with God the Father. The spiritual power evident in the life of Jesus flowed from a faithful, regular, disciplined life of fellowship and obedience. The one who knows God will increasingly lead a righteous life, for God is righteous. It does not mean that we will be sinless; John has already told us that anyone who claims to be sinless is lying. It simply means that we will be moving in a direction toward the righteousness of God.

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