Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Revelation 3

Revelation 3 has John continuing his analysis of the final three of the seven churches that are addressed.  He writes about Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  He begins with the church at Sardis where he writes “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead”.  This church had the external appearance of life, but under the covers they were really dead.  A good reputation is no guarantee of true spiritual character.  God’s message is that they need to “Wake up, and strengthen what remains….remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you”.

Appearances mean nothing to God.  He knows the state of our heart.  He knows whether we are truly alive or are secretly dead.  And if we have fallen away and are dead, there is one solution – to repent and return to what we know as truth.  Philadelphia had been built with the deliberate intention that it might become a missionary city. The church at Philadelphia had a different problem.  While the Sardis church had the outward signs of life, they were dead.  Philadelphia had impostors in its ranks that were pretending to be part, but really were not.

Jesus was completely pleased with this church. He had nothing negative to say to the church at Philadelphia. The church of Philadelphia is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His Name.  The church at Sardis doesn’t have the same review.  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth”.  In this spiritual sense, lukewarmness is a picture of indifference and compromise. It tries to play the middle, too hot to be cold and too cold to be hot. In trying to be both things, an individual ends up being nothing.

God is committed to helping us become more like Christ.  That is His plan for us as Christ Followers.  “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”.  God is in the business of growing us up and maturing us into Christlikeness.  He will move us toward that if we don’t make those choices on our own.  He won’t allow us to continue on a bad path, or to live a lukewarm life.  He is continually pursuing us.  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”.  We have a willing Savior who is ready and able to take action in our life.  He doesn’t force His way in.  He patiently waits for us to open the door and allow Him to move in our life!

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Revelation 2

Revelation 2 begins the letters to the seven churches which all share a similar structure. In this chapter four of the churches are addressed. In each letter John gives:

  • An address to a particular congregation
  • An introduction of Jesus
  • A statement regarding the condition of the church
  • A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
  • A command from Jesus to the church
  • A general exhortation to all Christians
  • A promise of reward

We can see the condition of each of these seven churches and then apply those learnings to our own walk with Jesus by examining what Jesus has to say to each church.

The good each church has or is doing is called out.  The church at Ephesus gets this review.  “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary”.  Some glowing and positive comments.  These kinds of statements are made about each church.  But then comes the reality on the condition of the churches.

Again, for the church at Ephesus John writes “you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first”.  John’s charge is for the church to return to their first love – a passion to walk closely with Christ.  He tells them to:

  • Remember how you used to spend time in His Word?
  • Remember how you used to pray?
  • Remember the joy in getting together with other Christians?
  • Remember how excited you were about telling others about Jesus?

Each of the four churches in this chapter, have similar areas they need to change.  In some, there is sin that needs confessed and repented of.  But in all, there are areas where the church has fallen away and in order to get things back on track some repentance is needed.  John tells us to “hold fast” to the Truth of God’s Word and walk in obedience to His commandments.

Lest we think this doesn’t apply to us, John ends with these words.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.  The lessons we can learn here in how these four churches (and the other three in the next chapter) are confronted is important.  This letter applies to each of us as Christ Followers.  The struggles these churches faced are similar to ours.  We’re all human after all, and sin is a very real threat to our faithfulness in walking with Jesus.  We all need to confess, repent and return to our first love for Christ.  He lives in us and wants to live through us, but we must clean up our lives and allow Him to have control.

Jude

Jude writes to warn the church of some bad people that are leading folks astray.  “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our  common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”.  His intention was to write about salvation, but the church was struggling and he wants to address it head on.  “But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively….they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain”.

Scripture is filled with prophecy warning about those who would come and work to tear down the church.  The enemy has been trying to do that since God banished him in the Garden.  “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters,  showing favoritism to gain advantage”.  The common thread for those who destroy the church is a focus on self and what they can gain, rather than serving and focusing on others.  Being a Christ Followers is not about what we get for ourselves, but how we can love one another.

Jude warns “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people,  devoid of the Spirit”.  Those who are set on causing destruction and division are not filled with the Spirit, but are focused on our own world view of self.  “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”.  The secret of a successful life as a Christ Follower is being connected to God and His love through Christ.  It’s not about us.  It’s about being plugged into Him.

Jude reminds us what the mission is – “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy  with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh”.  We are to snatch those who are struggling from the fire and restore them to their faith.  We can’t do it on our own, but we can be His instrument that brings them back.  “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless”.  Jesus can keep us on the path and will present us blameless when we stand before God.  But we need to follow Him, and to receive His free gift of grace.  He is our salvation and truth.

3 John

John 3 has our writer talking about following good examples in life.  He focuses on those who are walking as Christ Followers should.  “I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth”.  Nothing pleased John more than to know that his children walk in truth.  How we live matters, not only to us, but to all those around us.  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”. To walk in truth means to walk consistent with the truth you believe. If you believe that you are fallen, then walk in awareness of your sinfulness. If you believe you are a child of God, then walk like a child of His. If you believe you are forgiven, the walk like a person who stands pure before God Himself.

But Gaius, the recipient of this letter, was doing more than walking in truth. Gaius practices the command to love one another. “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God”. John praised Gaius for his hospitality. This may seem somewhat trivial to us, but it is not to God. This is a practical way to live out the command to love one another; it is love in action.  Love is not a feeling.  It is action.

John challenges Gaius to also be a sender.  He’s not only praised for receiving those who came to worship in truth, but is to send people out to carry and share the good news, not merely with a farewell, but with support so they can carry on the mission of Jesus Christ.  “We ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth”.  John prays for the prosperity of Gaius because he used his resources in a godly way, being a blessing to others. If God blessed him with more, others would be blessed more also.

John warns of some bad eggs in the church.  It’s never easy to be a Christ Follower, as the enemy is always stirring things and trying to disrupt the world we live in. John warns us to walk in the truth, just as he started with praise in the first part of this letter for Gaius. “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God”.  John winds down his letter with a stern warning to do what is good – it should be an outcome of our faith.  How we live doesn’t save us, but it does indicate our heart and where we are in relationship with God.

1 John 5

1 John 5 has the author giving us some straight truth about Christ and God the Father.  “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him”.  It’s pretty simple.  If you believe in Jesus you are a child of God.  But John goes on to describe what our life should look like in regard to being a child of God.  “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome”.

Obedience is definitely an outcome of loving God.  When we receive Christ and become God’s child, our hearts should be impacted and changed in a way that we no longer are drawn to sin but do all we can to put that aside.  Obedience isn’t a burden we carry.  It is a privilege we have.  “For  everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”?  Faith is our victory.  The power of Christ in us is what enables us to choose not to sin.  That becomes ours when we believe in Jesus.

John goes on to give us two promises that enable us to live in victory.  “This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life”. It’s as clear as can be from John here about who will spend eternity in heaven.  It’s all about Jesus.  We have a decision to make.  We are all sinners and will stand before God as such and come up short in our efforts to enter heaven on our own merit.  We will fall short.  So our only option is a relationship with the Savior, offered to us freely through God’s grace.  If we receive the shed blood of His Son on the Cross, we can have our own sin covered by His blood and enter heaven.  If not, if we don’t have Jesus in us, we are not going to make it.

God also wants to interact with us as we live. “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And 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 answers prayer.  He promises to not only hear, but act.  That’s a promise that we need to cling to with all we are.  We face a very real enemy who is out to destroy us as Christ Followers.  But “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”.  We are on the winning side as a follower of Jesus.  We not only know our roots, but the outcome of life.  Jesus died to make that certain and secure!

1 John 4

1 John 4 has the author writing much to us about God and the love that we have because of Him.  He first reminds us of the power we have as children of God.  “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”.  As Christ Followers, we are on the winning side.  That’s the outcome of being a child of God.  “Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us”.  If we follow Christ, we must listen to God and the truth of His Word.  It is our guiding light.

John goes on to teach us the importance of love as a sign of being a true Christ Follower.  “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. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him”.  Love is the sign post of being a Christ Follower.  We begin with loving God, but it goes much further to loving those in our patch.  We are to love one another because God is love and His love is in us as believers.  It has to come out to those around us.

It really isn’t optional.  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another….if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us”.  If we don’t love each other, God won’t be around.  He lives in us when Christ is alive and received as our Savior and Lord.  “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God”.  God moves in when we get off the throne of our life and receive His gift of grace.  “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”.  Love is the outcome of faith.

Love is strong.  In fact, it is stronger than fear.  “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”.  If we truly love, we know that it is more powerful than anything we could fear.  God loved us when we didn’t deserve it.  “We love because he first loved us….whoever loves God must also love his brother”.  God loved us way before we even considered loving Him.  And as a result, we need to love not only Him but those in our patch.  God is love.  If God is in us, we must love one another!

1 John 3

1 John 3 has our author reminding us that we can be a child of God.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called  children of God; and so we are….Beloved, we are God’s children now”. Becoming a child of God isn’t some future event – it happens whenever we receive Christ as our Savior and Lord.  We instantly become His.  As a result, our life should be different.  Sin should become less and less. “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him”. So one mark of a true believer is that we begin to live with a focus on reducing and eliminating the sin from our life.

That isn’t so we can be saved.  It happens as a result of our salvation and our desire to serve and please God and each other as Christ Followers.  Jesus came to set the world free from the author of sin – the devil himself.  “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 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”.  If we are truly a child of God, our desire will be to end our sinful ways and walk in God’s ways.  John reminds us that “whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother”.  Our faith walk is about action and living God’s ways!

John boils it down to a simple reality.  “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  It’s how Jesus modeled life for us.  We need to continually love each other.  The love we need to demonstrate is not lip service or convenience.  It requires us to be all in.  “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”. That’s God’s love – a love where there is no consideration of the cost, only of the person being loved.  John challenges us to “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth”.  Love requires action.  It is not a passive thing, but something we intentionally do for one another.

So what will it look like when Christ is in us? We’ll have His power at our disposal.  “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 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. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us”.  When we love God, we live for God in obedience.  We abide in Him.  And His Holy Spirit is abiding in us.  Being a Christ Follower means we live differently than the world.  We walk with Him and love those in our patch.  And when we do, God’s power and truth is ours.  What a promise He has given us!

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