Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

3 John 7-15

In 3 John 7-15 the elder continues to remind us that we are all part of the ministry of the Good News.  “For they are traveling for the Lord and take neither food, clothing, shelter, nor money from those who are not Christians, even though they have preached to them.” We all have a part by going or have a part by helping, but everyone has a part and should do it well. “So we ourselves should take care of them in order that we may become partners with them in the Lord’s work.” Our role in the ministry is vitally important at those who give themselves to do the work, need to be supported and cared for by those of us who are not actively in the trenches day to day.

John goes on, after giving us the positive example of Gaius, to a much less positive role model. “I sent a brief letter to the church about this, but proud Diotrephes, who loves to push himself forward as the leader of the Christians there, does not admit my authority over him and refuses to listen to me.” John publicly rebuked Diotrephes by name. He calls him out as one who wants to be viewed as leader, but refuses to submit to authority.  Those two actions are in direct contradiction to each other. The problem for Diotrephes was pride. In his pride, he did not receive the apostles such as John.

Diotrephes not only used his influence to forbid others from showing hospitality to John or others; he even tried to excommunicate those who tried to show hospitality. “When I come I will tell you some of the things he is doing and what wicked things he is saying about me and what insulting language he is using. He not only refuses to welcome the missionary travelers himself but tells others not to, and when they do he tries to put them out of the church.” Diotrephes not only used his influence to forbid others from showing hospitality to John or his associates; he even tried to excommunicate those who tried to show such hospitality.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do what is right prove that they are God’s children; and those who continue in evil prove that they are far from God.” How we live and act matters. It shows our standing with God.  John shifts yet again to a good example. “But everyone, including Truth itself, speaks highly of Demetrius. I myself can say the same for him, and you know I speak the truth.” Demetrius was so faithful to the truth that even the truth was a witness on his behalf.  John wraps up his letter, indicating that he hopes to come see them soon. “I have much to say, but I don’t want to write it, for I hope to see you soon and then we will have much to talk about together. So good-bye for now. Friends here send their love, and please give each of the folks there a special greeting from me.”

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2 John 1-4

In 2 John 1-4 the elder, likely now about 90 or so, writes a letter to a woman and her children who were important members of a local church. “From: John, the old Elder of the church.” The letter is likely targeting the entire church body rather than this one particular family which is how it appears here in the Living Bible version.  “To: That dear woman Cyria, one of God’s very own, and to her children whom I love so much, as does everyone else in the church.” The reality is that John was writing more broadly than just to Cyria and her kids.  He was admonishing the local Body.

This church had truth embedded into their hearts.  “Since the Truth is in our hearts forever, God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son will bless us with great mercy and much peace, and with truth and love.” If we know and love the truth, we will love those who also know and love the truth – the truth which abides in us also lives in others who know the truth.  Truth binds us together, and the love of Christ in us seals that bond.  John is quite focused on the idea of truth, as he was in all of his writings. He used the word truth some thirty-seven times in his New Testament writings.  This is a very important topic to us as Christ Followers to get our arms around.

Why does truth matter?  Because the truth does not change. The truth will be true forever, and we will have the truth forever in eternity. Many people today think that the truth changes from age to age and from generation to generation, but the Bible knows that the truth will be with us forever.  They want to base truth on their feelings or emotions or what seems fair.  That’s now truth in God’s world.  Truth is constant and unchanging.  It never moves.  And with truth comes great mercy (us not getting what we deserve) and much peace (God’s peace – that passes all understanding and goes far beyond what we can see or understand).

How happy I am to find some of your children here and to see that they are living as they should, following the Truth, obeying God’s command.”  John is full of joy to find the believers walking in the truth.  Obedience is one of the marks of a true disciple and warmed his heart to see that in the church.  Truth is not only important for its own sake, but also our walking in truth shows we are walking with the Lord.  John is referring to a straight and steady walk of obedience, not veering right or left, but staying the course and walking confidently with Jesus.  That brings joy to any shepherd of any flock!

1 John 5:12-15

In 1 John 5:12-15 John reminds us that God has declared Jesus is the Son and the only way to gain eternal life.  One option, one way, one Savior, one Lord.  God has a simple plan, and it is Jesus.  If we have Jesus, we have eternity. “So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son, does not have life”.  It is all about Jesus, and living in Jesus is the evidence of eternal life. “I have written this to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life”. Even if we already believe, John wants us to know that you have eternal life, so we can have this assurance, and so that you may continue to believe.

The need to hear the simple gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ does not end once we embrace the gospel. We benefit by it, are assured by it, and are helped to continue in it as we hear it and embrace it over and over again.  We need to soak in the reality of Jesus.  We can know our future.  We can have confidence in eternity. We can only know this if our salvation rests in Jesus and not in our own performance. If it depends on me, then on a good day I’m saved and on a bad day, I don’t really know. But if it depends on what Jesus has done for me, then I can know.  It is all about Jesus, not one thing that I might do on my own.

But the confidence related to our faith in Christ goes beyond eternity.  “And we are sure of this, that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will”. We can have confidence in Jesus.  It goes beyond eternity to power in prayer. John relates the idea of confidence in Him to prayer.  Guzik tells us that our prayer should include:

  1. God would have us ask in prayer. Much prayer fails because it never asks for anything.
  2. God would have us ask anything in prayer. Not to imply that anything we ask for will be granted, but anything in the sense that we can and should pray about everything. God cares about our whole life, and nothing is too small or too big to pray about.
  3. God would have us ask according to His will. It is easy for us to only be concerned with our will before God, and to have a fatalistic view regarding His will. But God wants us to see and discern His will through His Word, and to pray His will into action.

And if we really know he is listening when we talk to him and make our requests, then we can be sure that he will answer us”. If something is God’s will, why doesn’t He just do it without needing our prayers? Why would He wait to accomplish His will until we pray? Because God has appointed us to work with Him in this world we live in. God wants us to work with Him, and that means bringing our will and agenda into alignment with His. He wants us to care about the things He cares about, and He wants us to care about them enough to pray passionately about them. Prayer is us getting on God’s page, not us trying to make Him join our agenda.  When we get on God’s agenda, prayer is answered!

1 John 5:6-9

In 1 John 5:6-9 John reminds us how we know that Jesus is the only Son of God – because God said so.  Not in a quiet way, but in a bold, announcing way. “And we know he is, because God said so with a voice from heaven when Jesus was baptized, and again as he was facing death—yes, not only at his baptism but also as he faced death”. In fact, God said so twice.  When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and then when He was hanging on the Cross.  Jesus is God’s Son.  It is not debateable.  God has validated it and made sure we know.  Jesus is the Son of God.

There were some in this day that questioned that truth.  They were looking for excuses to disregard Jesus’ teaching.  They wanted to do things their way, not God’s way.  But pretending something is not true doesn’t change it.  Ignoring what God has said doesn’t make it false.  What God said defines truth.  And He has made it clear that Jesus is not only His Son, but is the Savior for the world. Jesus is the only way, truth and life that addresses the sin problem that we have as humans. “We believe men who witness in our courts, and so surely we can believe whatever God declares. And God declares that Jesus is his Son”.

Still some wrestle with the truth.  They just can’t accept the fact that Jesus is God’s Son and Savior for us all.  They don’t want to submit to the truth and the requirements of obedience that go with it.  So they deny it and attempt to destroy truth.  “All who believe this know in their hearts that it is true. If anyone doesn’t believe this, he is actually calling God a liar because he doesn’t believe what God has said about his Son”.  But they can’t truly dispute what God has said.  Their flimsy attempts merely turn out to be some name calling that God is a liar, but it doesn’t change the truth.  Jesus is God’s Son.

The message God gives us is simple and yet profound.  He has told us that we have a sin problem.  He’s told us that the sin problem will lead us to death, and that death means eternal separation from Him.  He’s told us that He loves us.  He’s told us that He made a way to deal with our sin, not by ignoring the price that sin carries of death, but by providing a sacrifice on the Cross to pay the penalty and provide us a way to eternal life with Him.  “And what is it that God has said? That he has given us eternal life and that this life is in his Son”. That solution is Jesus.  He alone is the source of eternal life.  He alone is the Savior of mankind.  God said it, and that settles it.  Jesus is the way!

1 John 5:1-5

In 1 John 5:1-5 John defines what it means to become a child of God.  It happens when we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.  That’s the moment we become God’s kid. “If you believe that Jesus is the Christ—that he is God’s Son and your Savior—then you are a child of God. And all who love the Father love his children too”.  It isn’t enough know about God.  It isn’t enough to have read about Him.  It’s when we believe and receive Jesus that we become God’s kid. That’s when we get a new eternal address.  That’s when we not only secure our future, but change who our Daddy has become spiritually.

The love God gives us through Jesus is amazing and powerful.  It lasts for eternity.  But it isn’t just for us.  That love has to flow to us and through us to those in our patch, and beyond.  And the love God gives us translates into obedience.  It causes us to DO something. “So you can find out how much you love God’s children—your brothers and sisters in the Lord—by how much you love and obey God”. While God doesn’t keep score, He does provide the means for us to love kike Him.  The power of Christ in us gives us the ability to love God’s way (agape love) and obey God’s commands.  That’s the measuring stick for our relationships in the Body.

John defines obedience as doing what God has told us to do.  It requires that we read the Word and know what it says.  It requires that we listen to God and the direction He provides through the Holy Spirit living within us.  “Loving God means doing what he tells us to do, and really, that isn’t hard at all; for every child of God can obey him, defeating sin and evil pleasure by trusting Christ to help him”. John says it isn’t hard, and it certainly shouldn’t be a mystery.  God’s commandments are not impossible to obey.  It just requires us to do what He has said.  We can live in obedience and defeat sin and evil by walking with Jesus.

On our own, trying in our own strength, we’ll lose the battle.  We don’t have to, but if we go it alone it is what happens.  But the good news is that Jesus is available and willing to stand with us against evil.  He’s already won the war.  So it’s a matter of us walking in His power and His strength and allowing Him to win for us. “But who could possibly fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is truly the Son of God”? It is all possible through faith, and knowing that He is indeed the Son of God.  We can know that through a deep personal relationship with Him.  But we have to receive God’s gift of grace and make Him our own Savior and Lord.  Have you done that?

1 John 4:18-21

In 1 John 4:18-21 John tells us that we don’t need to fear anything.  God is with us and loves us.  He is able, more than able, to care for us.  And while He is a God of judgment and righteousness and holiness, and His standard is beyond our ability to earn it, He has made provision for us through sending His only Son Jesus Christ to the Cross to bear our sin and gain victory over death for all eternity.  We need not be afraid any longer if we have accepted God’s gift of grace and made Jesus our Savior and Lord. “If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us”.

God loves us that much.  He loved us before we loved Him.  He made a way far before we deserved it.  In fact, we still don’t and never will.  But love caused Him to look beyond our sin and disobedient ways and caused Him to send His perfect and innocent Son to the Cross. So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first”. God started this love relationship.  In fact, without His love, we’d be heading to eternal separation and a life in hell.  We could never love Him enough to earn our way into heaven.  We could never live a life good enough to meet His requirements.  Love was and continues to be our only hope.

But love is more than something that happens between us and God through Christ.  Love has to permeate all that we are and do. If anyone says “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen”?  We can’t love God and hate others.  That is incompatible and shows that what we call love for God is not really love at all.  Real love, God’s love, doesn’t stop with Him.  When the love of Christ enters us, we can’t contain it.  It will spill out on those in our patch.  It will cause us to love others the same way that God has loved us.

So how’s your love of the world around you going?  Do you love God?  Then you have to love others.  We can’t have one without the other.  God’s love is more than we can contain.  It will leak and ooze out of us on those around us.  We can’t control it. We can’t put it in a box or hide it under a bucket.  It flows into us and out of us, in us and through us.  And God himself has said that one must love not only God but his brother too”. It’s not an option.  If we truly have love for God, we have to love mankind as well.  Anything less is incompatible with having the love of God in us.  It is like a river that flows!

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?

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