Sunday October 14th
We talked about last week how Joshua had an encounter with Jesus, but he didn’t know who Jesus was. In the same way, at different times in our lives we have all gone through difficult moments where we didn’t understand that Jesus was right there with us.
The process of Inner Healing allows us to go back to those painful times and re-experience them with a greater understanding, so that we can receive the peace and wholeness that comes by knowing that Jesus was, and is, and always will be with us not matter what we face.
Listen to this explanation from a CBN article on inner healing through prayer:
“If we learned to believe during hurtful life events that we were unworthy, not good enough, others cannot be trusted, etc., or as an abuse victim who feels terror, helplessness, dirty, and shameful, we will go through life interpreting situations through that grid. Therefore, what is needed is mind renewal, a revelation of truth at the core foundational memory level.
We need for the Lord to give us some Heavenly, corrective lenses.”
We believe that the corrective lenses that will release us from the lies of the past will come through God’s word.
As one person put it “Inner Healing Prayer is a way to invite the Spirit of Christ to minister to the inner parts of our person that have been damaged (by past hurtful experiences).”
In that CBN article “Soul Shepherding”, the writer uses this very insightful example of what needs to be done. He says:
“A computer analogy I use is that of typing in an e-mail address; before we can finish typing, the address or a similar address pops up. Why? Because the computer has been previously programmed with that address or a similar address.
In a similar way, when a person is triggered by a current life event, past programming pops up just like the e-mail address and all the pain floods in from earlier life programming or experiences. In these historical memories the person may have experienced being helpless and powerless. They believed they would be hurt if they told anyone. They may feel the emotions of fear and anxiety.
They may believe that they were bad, that it was their fault or that they were dirty and shameful as well as fearful and helpless. Even though in their logical, adult mind they may KNOW these things not to be true, they EXPERIENCE them as true.
The problem is that we go through life reacting and living from the experiential part of our mind. That is why we need a truth encounter in memory with Jesus so His truth can be revealed and expel the lies internalized in these earlier life events.”
In particular, Psalm 46 has proven to be very useful in helping believers to reframe past experiences. This Psalm is broken into three distinct sections. Each section ends with the Hebrew word Selah, which means to take a pause or a break, and maybe to take some time to reflect on what has just been said.
So let’s explore the first 3 verses and then take our first Selah:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
Those verses certainly describe times of great distress, and yet they remind us that we as believers need to “not fear” because God is our “present help” during our times of trouble. But maybe in our past we didn’t recognize that Jesus was “present” with us in the midst of our pain. So this is what we want to encourage you to do during this Selah (as written in the prayer guide called “Soul Shepherding”)
“Now it’s time to recall a painful memory or struggle and invite Jesus to minister God’s healing power to you. Ask God to help you as you imagine what happened. See yourself as a child or vulnerable person in that situation and deep inside of you today. (The child of your history may be the child in your heart today.) Feel your emotions and needs from that time.
Consider that during that painful situation the risen Christ was present with you in Spirit, but probably this was in ways that you didn’t notice or appreciate. At that time you weren’t able or didn’t know how to put your confidence fully in the Lord and enter into the spiritual reality that God’s kingdom truly is your refuge. God is in the eternal now, where past, present, and future are one, so ask the Lord Jesus to come to you in this memory and show you how he was and is present for you.
Now let’s move to the next section of the Psalm:
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Think of yourself in the midst of God’s river of healing. Let it wash over your entire being. Listen to these words from “Soul Shepherding” as we take our next Selah:
“Take as much time as you need to be quiet and still before the Lord. You’re offering your painful memory to God as if it were on a movie screen. Look and listen for Jesus there with you, paying attention to any images, thoughts, or sensations that He may bring into your awareness…
Now finally, let’s enter into the final third of the Psalm:
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
In many versions, verse 10 is written as “Be still and know that I am God.”
And to be still, or to cease striving, is harder than it sounds!
One writer declared that “silence is an act of war against the competing voices within us”!
It may help you to calm your thoughts and keep your mind and heart open to God if you start by just asking God to help you to “Be still”.
Sunday October 7th
Joshua 4 and 5
The main focus of Joshua chapter 4 is a memorial sign that God wants the people to establish after crossing the Jordan. We see this in verses 1-3:
Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’”
And then in verses 6 and 7 Joshua explains to the people what the significance of these stones is:
6 Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”
That’s the value of our testimony! We proclaim the power that God has displayed in our lives – for all to see!
In chapter 5 God asks them to remember another sign:
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.” 3 So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. 5 For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised.
This circumcision was necessary because the old generation of Hebrews that originally came out of Egypt wasn’t going to be allowed to enter into the Promised Land because of all their grumbling and complaining along the way. But in His great mercy and grace, God was raising up a new generation of Israelites to inherit the covenant promises. Keep in mind that God’s real desire was that His people would live with circumcised hearts.
Look at Deuteronomy 30:6 “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.”
Now look at what the Lord pronounces over them in verse 9:
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
When God says that He has “rolled away the reproach of Egypt”, He is indicating that He has removed their shame and their pain.
This was crucial for them to enter into the fullness of what God had promised to them. And it’s crucial for us as well, which is why we want to ask God for a greater measure of inner healing for our past wounds.
In addition to renewing the circumcision observance, the Israelites also remembered to keep the Passover feast. And an interesting thing happened the very next day:
12 The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.
The fact that the manna ceased was an indication that a new era has begun. God had provided food for the people in the wilderness, but now they would eat of the fruit of the Promised Land. Isn’t that true for us as well?
Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
In a sense, the manna was like milk. God had to hand-feed the people along the way, the same way that a mother feeds her baby. But now God was expecting the people of Israel to be mature enough to gather their own food in the Promised Land.
There is one more interesting encounter at the end of this chapter:
13 Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” 14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15 The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
This commander of the Lord’s army is actually considered to be an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. There are several times in the Old Testament when Jesus does that – shows up in the form of a human being.
One reason why we can believe that this was Jesus and not just some angel is that the “captain of the host” allows Joshua to bow down to Him, which is something that angels never allowed people to do.
We also see that Joshua is in the presence of the same God that appeared to Moses in the burning bush. That’s why Joshua is told to “Take off your sandals” - the same thing that Moses was told in Exodus 3:5.
But what’s important for us to realize when it comes to inner healing is this significant point:
Jesus was there with Joshua, but Joshua didn’t know that the Son of God was right there beside him!
Death is not the end it is the beginning of something new. We build on the lives of those who came before us. When someone dies those who were divinely connected to them receive their mantle. Not every promise will be fulfilled in one’s lifetime it is passed on and brought forth through the next generations.
Our God-given assignment is tied together with our spiritual fathers and mothers. It doesn’t mean we are a copy carbon of doing things exactly as they did it just means we are building on it even if it looks quite different.
Moses was directed to God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. Sadly, due to the rebellion of the Israelites, he only got to see Canaan but never really stepped into it.
Joshua was the one to lead the 2nd generation of the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua had faithfully assisted Moses for many years often lingering in the presence of God long after his Moses left. He also led the army to fight when enemies stood against them. He was prepared by God for such a time as this.
Life is full of tests which are opportunities for advancement. We pass or fail whether we apply God’s Word or handle it in our own way. Promotion is from the Lord and for those who are moving forward, overcoming trials, their time will come. We were all created for greatness, God desires us all to take ground, to grab hold of what He has promised us.
The transition can be scary, we get comfortable when we have been in a certain place for an extended time, for change brings a lot of uncertainties. To move up we have to move on and a greater level of trust is required. We can only transition smoothly if we lean on God, knowing He is with us and will empower us in our new role of leadership.
THE TIME HAS COME!!! CROSSOVER!!!!
Greatness in the Kingdom of God is not determined by an individuals superb strength and ability but rather on their union with Christ. When the Lord says to be strong and courageous to Joshua it means be one with Him. As Ephesians 6:10 says “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might,” and as 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.”
The world honors those who are the best at something, and people strive, giving their life to being better than others, but no matter how great someone is, someone greater will come, and their place in history will be pushed aside. No matter one’s accomplishments there are spiritual forces one can not overcome without supernatural ability that comes from God.
Spiritual strength increases through growing faith. Faith as Romans 10:17 says “comes by hearing and hearing God’s Word. Joshua 1:7-8 says “to be careful to not deviate from the instructions of the Lord, to meditate night and day on them, to be sure to obey everything in it, and only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
This is the key to our success the devotion we have to the Word of God. There is no other way we can be strong and remain in Christ unless we know how to walk hand in hand with Him. The courage we have is because no matter what test comes our way the answers we need are in the Word. This is why we shouldn't get discouraged because we know God and can trust Him to be faithful to His Word. He is with us, wherever we go, so there is no need for us to ever be afraid.
Many believers are suffering because they don’t know what has been promised them due to being spiritual illiterate. The bible is filled with promises of the inheritance we have in Christ, but if you don’t take the time to know what it contains you will never possess it. You may be saved but yet still deceived, living in Lo-Debar, when you are supposed to be in the Palace.
Sunday September 9th
2nd and 3rd John
So we finished up our study of 1st John last week and today we’re going to cover two letters - 2nd and 3rd John. But sometimes the second and third things are a little different from the first one. For instance, when it comes to having more than one baby, mothers will tell you that it goes something like this:
First baby: At the first sign of distress, even a whimper, you pick up the baby.
Second baby: You pick the baby up when their crying threatens to wake up your first baby.
Third baby: You teach your first child how to rewind the mechanical swing.
First baby: If the pacifier falls on the floor, you put it away until you can go home and boil it.
Second baby: When the pacifier falls on the floor, you squirt it off with some juice from the baby's bottle.
Third baby: You wipe it off on your shirt, pop it back in.
First baby: You change your baby's diapers every hour, whether they need it or not.
Second baby: You change their diaper every two to three hours, if they need it.
Third baby: You try to change their diaper when someone complains about the smell.
First baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Music class and Baby Story Hour.
Second baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.
Third baby: You take your infant to the supermarket.
First baby: The first time you leave your baby with a babysitter, you call home five times.
Second baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached.
Third baby: You leave instructions for the babysitter to call you only if she sees blood.
First baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
Second baby: You spend a good bit of every day watching to make sure that your first child isn't squeezing, poking, or hitting the new baby.
Third baby: You spend a good bit of every day hiding from the children!
So today we are going to compare 2nd John with 3rd John
For instance, 2nd John in verses 1-3 is addressed to:
1 The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
3rd John is addressed to:
1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
In both of these letters, the author identifies himself only as “The elder”. He doesn’t call himself by his name. But that shouldn’t surprise us, because John didn’t use his name in his first letter either, and he didn’t call himself by name in his Gospel either. There he just referred to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved”.
The second letter is addressed to “the chosen lady”, which might be a person, although some Bible scholars think it’s an expression that is a symbol for the church. That makes sense if you compare it to the final verse of the letter, verse 13: “The children of your chosen sister greet you.”
3rd John appears to have been written to Gaius, a personal friend of John. This would be similar to the Apostle Paul writing letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.
Now let’s compare verse 4 of 2nd John with verses 2-4 of 3rd John:
4 I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.
Okay, now compare that to these verses:
2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.
In the letter of 1st John, we saw an emphasis on “walking in the light”. In these next two letters, John uses the expression, “walking in truth”. I think we could say that these are essentially the same thing, since Jesus is the light of the world, and the way, the truth, and the life. So if we are walking in Christ, then we are in the light and in the truth!
Verse 5 and 6 of 2nd John are going to remind us very much of 1st John chapter 2:
5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.
As we said before, the commandment to love one another is something that we as believers should know from the very beginning. But it’s also a new commandment each time we choose to obey it by loving someone when conflict arises.
Does John address loving each other in his third letter? Yes, he does, but with a very specific focus:
5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.
John is particularly reminding the people who would be reading his third letter that they should show hospitality towards brothers and sisters in Christ who had traveled to visit them from other cities. He says, that, although these visitors were “strangers” in the sense that they had never met them before, they were all a part of the family of God, and “fellow workers” for the sake of the gospel.
In fact, John was very displeased with certain individuals who didn’t show hospitality towards some of the visiting believers that were sent by John. In 3rd John 9-10 he says:
9 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.
When John says “I wrote something to the church”, he is referring to letters of recommendation that he sent with the visitors, asking the church to host them. But this man Diotrephes not only wouldn’t treat these visitors properly, but he told others to shun them. John says, “When I arrive there, I plan to have a few words with him to straighten him out”!
One commentary says this:
“Diotrephes abused his position of leadership in the congregation by attacking other Christian workers. Evidently Diotrephes regarded other Christian teachers as threats rather than as coworkers. Proud and selfish, he turned away traveling evangelists and punished those who welcomed them.
Doesn’t shunning, or refusal to show hospitality to visitors, sound like very un-Christian behavior to you?
Well, then it might surprise you to know that in verses 7-11 of 2nd John, John actually INSTRUCTS the church to shun certain groups of people!
But there is a specific reason why he recommends this, and it has to do with the antichrist spirit that John spoke about in his first letter:
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
What we have to understand is that a lot of false teachers had been traveling through the Christian churches attacking the truth of the gospel—that Jesus is the Son of God who took on human flesh to purchase our salvation.
These deceivers were denying the reality of the human nature of Christ, saying that Jesus only came as a spirit in the appearance of a human. John says this is clearly a lie from the antichrist spirit. And John warns the believers not to receive people with that spirit into their houses or even give them a friendly greeting. Just avoid them.
Do you see the difference between this stern warning about shunning people who are walking in “antichrist” spirits and the exhortation in 3rd John to welcome fellow believers who come proclaiming the truth?
Possibly our friend Diotrephes got confused and thought he was supposed to shun ALL visitors, but in any case, John was going to set him straight when he gets there.
In contrast to Diotrephes, who is in trouble, John highly commends another guy with a D-name:
11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
In all likelihood, Demetrius was the one who was carrying this letter from John to Gaius. Since there wasn’t a Post Office back then, letters were carried by messengers. Some Bible scholars think that Demetrius may have also been a traveling teacher himself; and if so, John’s letter would have been a way of encouraging Gaius and the church to show hospitality to him, rather than shunning him as Diotrephes was trying to do.
John’s closing words from his second and third letters are very similar. Here’s 2nd John 12-13:
12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.
13 The children of your chosen sister greet you.
And this is the closing to 3rd John 13-15:
13 I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face.
15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.
Someone described these two letters, along with Philemon and Jude, as “New Testament Postcards” because they each have only one chapter.
In some ways, these short books served a similar purpose to postcards. The author had a short message he needed to get out quickly, and then the author expresses a desire and a plan to personally visit the recipient soon.
It’s kind of like “Here are a few thoughts, but I’ll tell you the rest when I get there. See you soon!”
And if that’s the case, then we should really key in on the things that John felt were important enough to include in his postcard!
And I think we could sum up these two letters together with a few quick phrases:
And in essence those are the main themes of 1st John too.
So here are three letters, three books of the New Testament, that are telling us to “practice” (do you remember that word from 1st John?) truth, love, and fellowship – and to stay away from those who practice evil.
That’s not a bad game plan for our Christian walk each day, is it?
Sometimes we think that following Jesus is a complicated process, but the gospel is really simple – love God and love each other!
I often think of God’s instructions to us in Micah 6:8
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah says that God has already told us what He wants:
Justice, kindness, and to humility – that’s it!
It so similar to what John has been telling us about truth, love, and fellowship. Just a few simple things that we should focus on.
That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 11:30
“My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Let’s not over-complicate what God expects from us each day.
John was able to fit it onto a post card!
Sunday August 26th
1 John 4
Three Blondes were all applying for a position with the Detective Bureau.
The detective conducting the interviews opened a file drawer and pulled out a folder. He opened it and pulled out a picture, and said, "To be a detective, you have to be able to detect. You must be able to notice things such as distinguishing facial features, such as scars and so forth." Then he stuck the photo in the face of the first blonde for about two seconds.
"Now," he said, "did you notice any distinguishing features about this man?"
The blonde immediately said, "Yes, I did. He has only one eye!"
The detective shook his head and said, "Of course he has only one eye in this picture! It's a profile of his face!"
The detective then turned to the second blonde, stuck the photo in her face for two seconds and said, "What about you? Did you notice anything unusual about this man?"
"Yes!” she said, “He only has one ear!"
The detective put his head in his hands and exclaimed, "Didn't you hear what I just told that other lady? This is a profile of the man's face! Of course you can only see one of his ears!"
The detective turned his attention to the third blonde and said, "This is probably a waste of time, but..." He flashed the photo in her face for a couple of seconds and said, "All right, did you notice anything distinguishing or unusual about this man?"
The blonde said, "I sure did. That man wears contact lenses."
The detective took another look at the picture and then began looking at some of the papers in the folder.
He looked up at the blonde with a puzzled expression and said, "You're absolutely right! His file says he wears contacts! But how in the world could you tell that by looking at his picture?"
The blonde shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well, with only one eye and one ear he certainly can't wear regular glasses."
In the fourth chapter of 1st John, we are also told to be ready to do some testing and to be tested:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
So that’s the test that we have to use for things claiming to be from the Holy Spirit. The second test is one that we can apply to ourselves to answer the question, “How am I doing in my Christian walk?
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
In an old Peanuts comic strip. Linus tells Lucy that he plans to become a doctor. Lucy stops to offer her usual sarcastic criticism: “That’s a big laugh!” she says. “You could never be a doctor! You know why?”
Then,she offers her analysis of Linus: “Because you don’t love mankind, that’s why!”
Linus shakes his head and comes back with this defense: “I love mankind…its people I can’t stand!”
There is a basic need felt by all of humanity – a need to be loved, valued, and accepted.
In one of the daily devotionals that I use, the author says that one of the great questions that each person asks as they find their way through life is – “Will I be loved?”
There was a famous millionaire who lived in seclusion and became a hermit. He had an ugly old dog that kept biting the few people who did come to visit him. One of his visitors told him, “You’ve got to get rid of that dog.” But the man refused. He said, “That dog loves me… and he doesn’t even know how rich I am.”
According to John, as Christians we are supposed to be the ones who are answering that significant question to the world around us – “Yes, you are loved! God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die in your place, so that you might live with Him forever! And because God loves you, and I am a follower of God, I love you too!”
That’s the test that I’m talking about. John says in verse 12: “if we love one another, God abides in us.”
Well, do we? Because if we aren’t loving one another then maybe it’s because God isn’t abiding in us!
There’s a reason why we have trouble with love, and we’ll get to that a few verses later.
14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
So we see that when we feel God’s perfect love, we have confidence. Why? Verse 18 explains it to us:
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
God’s love is perfect, and it brings us the promise of perfection as soon as we receive it. But because we are being made perfect over the course of time, the remnants of our old fears may temporarily coexist with God’s love in our hearts and minds. But the “Perfecting love” of God “casts out fear” progressively more day by day as we embrace the reality of it in our lives, and in each other’s lives as well.
Here is a fantastic true story about a man whose fear was completely erased by coming to know God’s love. It’s told by an old man from the mountains of Tennessee:
"I was born not far from here -just over the mountain. My mother had never been married, and the shame that fell on her fell on me. When I went to school they called me such horrible names that I would take my lunch and eat alone.
I hated the rejection and the ridicule. On Saturdays when I go into town, I could hear people whispering behind my back, “Who do you think his father is?”
We didn’t go to church because we didn’t feel we were good enough. But when I was 14 years old, a minister came to speak at a school assembly. He moved my heart. He was so warm and inspiring. I decided to go and hear him preach in his church. I thought I would go and then leave immediately after the service was over. I didn’t want to stick around because I didn’t want anyone to say to me, “What’s a boy like you doing in church?” I dreaded rejection more than anything else.
But after the service ended, I didn’t get out of my pew fast enough. When I got to the door, people were blocking my way out, so I had to stand in line. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I turned around, and there was the preacher. I felt like his eyes were burning into my soul, and he said, “Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?"
I said to myself, “That question that has haunted me all my life. And, now again, I will be rejected.”
But the preacher said, “That’s all right, son. Don’t answer. I see a family resemblance in you. Yes, you are God’s son. God in heaven is your daddy, boy! Go out in pride. You’re God’s child!
He said, "Those words –“You are God’s child’ - were the most transforming words I’d ever heard. They changed my life forever."
At the core of the Christian Faith is this simple but profound fact: God loves you just as you are! Nothing you or I could ever do will change the heart of God toward us. Regardless of who we are, or where we came from, or what we have or have not done with our lives, God loves us, and He always will. That’s the kind of perfect love that drives away all fear!
Sunday August 12th
1 John 3
Here is a cute assortment of selections from the book “Children’s letters to God:
Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not have killed each other if they had their own rooms. That’s what my Mom did for me and my brother.
Dear God, I bet it is very hard to love everyone in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I’m having a hard time loving all of them.
Dear God, Are you really invisible or is it just a trick?
Dear God, Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?
Dear God, I went to this wedding and they kissed right in the church. Is that OK?
Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.
Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was pretty cool.
What’s also cool is that we’re called “children of God”.
That’s the wonderful news that opens up 1 John 3:
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
Starting on the very day that you accepted Jesus as your savior, you became a son or a daughter of God. Ephesians 1:5 tells us that:
“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will”
And as God’s adopted children, we are being made to look more and more like our older brother, Jesus, every day. John put it this way in verse 2 “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him”.
And Romans 8:29 puts it this way:
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son”
Then notice what John says in verse 3 about those who are called to be God’s children:
“And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? Jesus is pure and sinless, so if I am a follower of Jesus, and God is making me into the image of Jesus, then I should be seeking after purity too.
Now John is going to draw a line, using purity as the measuring stick, distinguishing what the children of God look like in comparison to those who aren’t children of God:
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
We saw the contrast between light and darkness that John has been focusing on since chapter 1, and now the contrast between the children of God and the children of the world is being explained here as a contrast between those who sin and those who do not. That’s because Jesus came to take away all of the sin from our lives. John describes sin as “lawlessness”. And lawlessness simply means disobedience to the moral laws of God.
John is saying that once we are born again, sin should have no more control over our lives.
However, he isn’t saying that we can be completely without sin.
In fact, back in chapter one, he said that anyone who says that he never sins is basically a liar!
The wording that John is using here could more accurately be translated as “no one who abides in Him keeps on sinning”.
There is a big difference between a person who is pursuing righteousness and purity, but who occasionally sins, versus someone who just continually and habitually commits the same sins over and over, with no real effort to change their behavior.
John is essentially saying that it’s not really possible, if you are truly abiding in Christ, to keep on doing what you used to do before you were saved. He goes on to emphasize this in verses 7-8:
7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
John reminds us that Jesus came to earth to destroy the works of the devil. And the devil’s work is sin. The battle between Jesus Christ and Satan began way back in Genesis when the serpent tempted Adam and Eve into disobeying God. That’s when sin entered the world. By accepting onto Himself the penalty for all of mankind’s sin, Jesus destroyed Satan’s plan to take humanity down.
9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
John says that it’s pretty obvious who has accepted salvation and defeated Satan in their lives, and who still follows the plans of the devil. Christ-followers live righteous lives, even if they might still occasionally sin. The ones that John calls the “children of the devil” are people who continue to practice sin willingly.
These are the same people that The Apostle Paul is taking about in Romans 1:32 when he says:
“Although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
And these people have another tell-tale sign of being the devil’s children, according to verse 10 – they don’t love their brothers!
This has been a major theme of John’s letter – that true disciples of Christ MUST love each other! Because that’s what Jesus commanded us to do! And in verses 11 and 12 he uses an Old Testament example of someone who didn’t show love towards his brother – in fact he hated his brother:
11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
Cain Killing his brother is the first recorded murder in the Bible. But it certainly wasn’t the last! One commentary puts it this way:
“The history of the world is the story of hatred, right back to the conflict between Cain and Abel. John traces Cain’s hatred to the difference of his motivations from those of Abel, a difference that will always exist between the world and the people of God.”
Think about it this way, Abel’s motivation was to please God with a pure offering.
Cain’s motivation was self-centered – he wanted God to be pleased with him - and therefore he was jealous when his brother found favor with God. That’s the same distinction that characterizes the children of God versus the children of the world even today.
The children of God seek to please Him, and the children of the world seek to please themselves.
We all should know that, because at one time we were ALL self-seeking children of the world. It’s only by God’s grace that we have become His adopted children instead!
Now John wants to remind us that once we have crossed over from the world’s family to God’s family, the world that we used to belong to may not take too kindly to the new version of us:
13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
Jesus laid down his life for us. Literally! He accepted a painful death on the Cross so that we might be saved from eternal punishment. Our love for one another may not be that drastic, but it should at least involve a willingness to care for each other and to take action when a need arises.
Compare what John is saying here with James 2:15-17
“If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
John continues to emphasize this in verse 18:
18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
These next three verses are a bit difficult at first glance:
19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
The question you might ask is - why would our heart “condemn us”?
I’m not certain, but maybe it’s because when we compare ourselves to Jesus, who completely “laid down his life”, we might feel like we aren’t doing enough for others. But even if that’s the case, God is greater than our hearts. He knows our hearts. And if He isn’t condemning us why should we be condemning ourselves?
Verse 22 also needs a bit of clarification:
22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
Do you see the tricky part of that verse? If we don’t read the complete verse, we might be tempted to quote only the line that says “whatever we ask we receive”.
But that’s not the complete verse, is it? There is this other word that connects that promise to the rest of the words, and that word is “because”. That word means that the promise is conditional – it depends on what I do.
Can I receive whatever I ask from God? Yes, I can, but only BECAUSE I am keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight.
What if I’m NOT keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight? Can I expect to receive whatever I ask for? Absolutely not! The answers to my prayers depend on my obedience to His will and His ways.
And what is the commandment that God is expecting me to follow in order that I might receive His promises?
That’s not hard to figure out, because John spells it out for us in the final 2 verses of this chapter:
23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
The two parts of this commandment remind us that our relationship with God is connected to our relationship with our neighbors. Our faith in Jesus puts us in a right relationship with God, and then it’s His grace that enables us to love other people.
We see the same thing expressed by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 when the Pharisees ask Him which one is the greatest commandment:
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Keep in mind that we will never truly be able to love other people if we don’t receive from God the knowledge and the ability regarding how to love another human being.
Without God’s grace we are destined to operate from a perspective of selfishness and self-centeredness.
That’s why both Jesus and John put “loving God” as the first step, then loving one another. It is step one that allows us to have the supernatural ability to take the second step.
We’re going to see that truth reinforced when we look at chapter 4 verse19:
“We love, because He first loved us.”
Some the circle of love looks something like this: