Sunday July 22nd
1 John 1
Last week was the end of our study of one book -Exodus, and today is the beginning of our study of a new book - 1st John.
John actually starts off his first letter by talking about what was happening “from the beginning”.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that John’s letter starts off talking about the beginning, because his Gospel starts off with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)
And those verses are actually an echo of the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The truth is that God had a plan in place from the very beginning of time, and that plan included sending Jesus to save the world, and that plan included saving YOU!
Look at what Ephesians 1:4 tells us:
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love”
When did God choose you? The day that you got saved? No, He chose you in the beginning, even before He laid the foundation for the world!
I think that makes you pretty special!
In verse 1 of this letter, John refers to Jesus as the “Word of Life”, just like he did in his Gospel when he said this in John 1:14
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Now compare that with what John says here in verse 2:
“and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”
What does manifested mean? It means that it became real.
The eternal Word, the eternal Life that was contained in Jesus, became flesh, became a man, and dwelt here on earth.
How can we be sure of that? Because John says “we have heard (Him), we have seen (Him) with our (own) eyes, we have looked at (Him) and touched (Him) with our (own) hands.”
This is important. Because John isn’t just sharing what other people have told him. He was there! He lived with Jesus. He heard Him teach. He watched the miracles. He touched Jesus. He saw Jesus crucified and then he saw Him resurrected!
Peter uses the same argument to make this same point in 2nd Peter 1:16-18
“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
The fact that John actually “touched” Jesus physically is especially significant.
Because part of the reason that John wrote this letter was to reassure some new Christians who were getting confused by a teaching called Gnosticism, which said that Jesus wasn’t a real person, not flesh and blood. He was just a spirit, like an angel.
John says “No way! I touched Him. I leaned back against Him at the Last Supper. I held His dead body. He was as real as you and me!”
In verse 3 John says that there is another important reason why he is writing this letter:
“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
So fellowship with God, with Jesus, and with each other is an important goal for John in writing this letter and that shouldn’t surprise us, because it was also an important goal to Jesus. Look at how Jesus prayed to His Father concerning us in John 17:21
“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
So John’s goal for believers is the same as Jesus’ goal, fellowship and unity.
Then in verse 4 John adds another goal:
4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
Once again, this isn’t just John’s goal for us, it’s also Jesus’ goal. Look at John 15:11
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
How are these goals connected? Because true fellowship with God and with each other should be a tremendous source of joy in each of our lives!
Do you see how many of the same themes in John’s letter are also found in his gospel? And this pattern continues in verses 5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Where have we seen this before? Look at John’s Gospel Chapter 1 verses 4-5
“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
And also John 1:9, which describes Jesus this way:
“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”
And this emphasis on light and darkness also reflects Genesis again, just like the phrase “In the beginning”. Here is Genesis 1:3-4
“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
So just like Genesis and John’s Gospel, this letter of 1st John emphasizes the contrast between light and darkness. Jesus is the light that came to shine in the darkness of a world that has rejected God.
John is reminding us that all of us as believers are faced with a choice: either “walk in the light,” by coming to Him and opening their hearts to Him, or “walk in darkness”. And walking in darkness, according to John, isn’t just committing sin, it’s also denying that we sin. Look at verses 8-10:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
So the conflict between light and darkness is linked to a conflict between those who “practice the truth” and agree with God that they need salvation, and those who say they don’t need salvation, thereby essentially calling God “a liar.”
The simple reality is that even believers sometimes still sin. But the good news is that the cure for sin—which is confessing our sins, and being cleansed by the blood of Jesus—is God’s continually available, irrevocable gift to us.
Because Jesus’ death has paid in full the penalty for sin, God grants forgiveness and cleansing through the blood that Jesus shed, no matter how many times we have to ask for it.
Hebrews 9:22 points out the importance of blood:
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
In the Old Testament it was the shedding of the blood of goats or lambs or bulls that provided a substitutionary sacrifice for the people of Israel. But this only provided a limited, temporary covering for their sins.
Under the New Covenant the blood of Jesus has paid in full the complete penalty for sin, once and for all!
Hebrews 9:27-28 explains it this way:
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
I truly believe that 1 John1:9 is one of most powerful and reassuring verses in the entire Bible:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
There’s only one simple step that we need to take when we’ve stumbled in our journey along the way. “If we confess our sins.” That’s it. No penance. No retribution. Just confess it. (Maybe we should make that Nike’s new slogan!)
Think about how wonderful that is! God’s forgiveness is given to us as soon as we admit our need for it, instantly!
It’s not based on anything we have done to earn forgiveness. It’s only because of His grace. And this free gift of forgiveness carries with it a total purification from our unrighteousness. Once we have confessed what we have done wrong, God accepts us and sees as righteous because He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. That is, the very righteousness of Christ is reckoned to our account.
Because Jesus is righteous, and we are covered by His blood – WE are now righteous!
The famous preacher D. L. Moody once said this:
“The voice of sin is loud, but the voice of forgiveness is louder!”
That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote in Romans 5:20
“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”
One of the worst lies that we can ever fall prey to is this one:
“God is fed up with your sins. You’ve used up all of His forgiveness. Don’t even bother going to Him again.”
God’s capacity for forgiveness is limitless, it is boundless, it is endless.
If you need to get something right with God, do it today. Do it now. There is absolutely no reason to hold onto it even one more day. Confess it and let Him cleanse you all over again.
Sunday July 8th
I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the Nike company was founded by a guy. That explains why its tagline says "Just do it!"
Because if "Nike" had been founded by a Woman, its tagline would have been:
"Just do it...if you want to...
I don't want to force you...
It's your life...
You don't listen to me anyway…
Just Do Whatever You Want...”
All throughout the book of Exodus, God has been giving instructions to the people of Israel through Moses regarding the construction of the Tabernacle, along with its equipment and the priest’s clothing. Now it’s time for them to “Just do it!”
So we see this in Exodus 36:1
“Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.”
God has given His people the skills and God has given them the instructions. Now they are told to “perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.”
Another way of putting it would be - you know what to do…now…just do it! And they do, as we see in verse 2-7
Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it. 3 They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. 4 And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, 5 and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.” 6 So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. 7 For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.
That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it!
The people were bringing so much gold and silver to donate for the construction of the tabernacle that the workmen asked Moses to tell the people to stop giving!
I’m hoping that the same thing will happen to our building fund for the new Welcome Center – but we haven’t reached that point yet – so please feel free to keep on giving! We will let you know when you’re giving too much!
I want you to think about what is happening here in relation to something that happened back in chapter 32:
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Do you remember that episode? The Golden Calf!
The thing I want to point out is that in both instances the people donated generously, but one time it was for an ungodly purpose and the other time it was for a Godly purpose. What does that tell us?
We each have a certain amount of resources that we’ve been given. It’s really up to us whether we’re going to devote those resources towards the building of the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of our own little world.
Every single dollar that you and I spend carries with it an indication of what is important to us. It’s been said that the most accurate barometer of your spiritual state is your checkbook.
That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6:21
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And even though the people of Israel were often disobedient towards God throughout their history, in this instance they were faithful, at least in their giving.
And the next few chapters also show the people doing exactly what God had asked them to do.
In Exodus 37 the Ark of the Covenant and the furnishings for the tabernacle, such as the lampstands and the table for the bread, were made exactly as God had instructed.
In Exodus 38 the curtains and the altar for the tabernacle were constructed exactly as God had instructed.
And then in verses 24-31 we see an accounting of the total cost of all of this work:
24 All the gold that was used for the work, in all the work of the sanctuary, even the gold of the wave offering, was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 25 The silver of those of the congregation who were numbered was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; 26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for each one who passed over to those who were numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. 27 The hundred talents of silver were for casting the sockets of the sanctuary and the sockets of the veil; one hundred sockets for the hundred talents, a talent for a socket.28 Of the 1,775 shekels, he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their tops and made bands for them. 29 The bronze of the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels. 30 With it he made the sockets to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and the bronze altar and its bronze grating, and all the utensils of the altar, 31 and the sockets of the court all around and the sockets of the gate of the court, and all the pegs of the tabernacle and all the pegs of the court all around.
Okay, so let’s do the math so that we can get a sense of this in terms of today’s dollars.
Based on the known ratio of three thousand shekels to one talent, and the fact that each talent weighed roughly 75 pounds, we can estimate that a total of 2193 pounds of gold, 7544 pounds of silver, and 5310 pounds of copper were donated by the people towards the work of building the tabernacle.
In today’s money, that gold would be worth about 58 million dollars and that amount of silver would be worth another 4 million dollars!
Just to show how accurate these figures are, the amount of silver, which is 301,175 shekels, is linked to the head count of the Israelites: half a shekel was given by every male over the age of twenty (603,550 men according to Numbers 1:46)
So those two chapters, 37 and 38, take care of the building and the furnishing of the tabernacle, and then in Exodus 39, the garments for all of the priests are now made according to the instructions that were given back in chapters 28-29.
And then finally chapter 39 closes out the whole building process, starting in verse 32, with these words:
32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was completed; and the sons of Israel did according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses; so they did.
Notice that there was nothing lacking, nothing unfinished!
“all the work of the tabernacle…was completed”
“the sons of Israel did…all that the Lord had commanded”
In verses 33 through 41 there is a description of what that ALL included:
33 They brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its furnishings: its clasps, its boards, its bars, and its pillars and its sockets; 34 and the covering of rams’ skins dyed red, and the covering of porpoise skins, and the screening veil; 35 the ark of the testimony and its poles and the mercy seat; 36 the table, all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 37 the pure gold lampstand, with its arrangement of lamps and all its utensils, and the oil for the light; 38 and the gold altar, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the veil for the doorway of the tent; 39 the bronze altar and its bronze grating, its poles and all its utensils, the laver and its stand; 40 the hangings for the court, its pillars and its sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court, its cords and its pegs and all the equipment for the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of meeting; 41 the woven garments for ministering in the holy place and the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.
So the ALL included the tent and the furniture and the garments for the priests, everything that had been discussed since the beginning of chapter 25.
And then the last two verses of the chapter sum it up this way:
42 So the sons of Israel did all the work according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses. 43 And Moses examined all the work and behold, they had done it; just as the Lord had commanded, this they had done. So Moses blessed them.
I think there may be no more beautiful words ever spoken that these:
“they had done it; just as the Lord had commanded, this they had done.”
The Lord commanded it – so they did it!
Isn’t that what it means to say that He is the Lord?
That’s why Jesus asks in Luke 6:46
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
I think that one of the things we need to do is understand the fullness of the meaning of the word “lord”.
Here is a commonly accepted biblical definition:
A name for God that means He has authority, or that He is our 'master'.
There’s nothing wrong with that definition. It’s very accurate. But the word lord actually means more than that.
Look at this additional definition:
A special name for God that his people use, knowing that He will do what he has promised them. That is what this name means.
Do you see how this more complete definition helps us to relate more intimately with God?
If my only way of seeing Him as my “lord” is that He’s my master and I must obey Him, then I may find that what He wants me to do and what I want to do are in opposition to one another. It’s easy to think that’s what Jesus was saying when He asked:
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
So, maybe Jesus is saying, “I thought I was your boss. Why aren’t you obeying me?”
But if we think of the other definition, that “He will do what he has promised”, then maybe what Jesus is asking is more like:
“When I tell you to do something, don’t you trust me?”
Because when my desires are leading me in a different direction from where God is telling me to go…
When my plans are different from God’s plans…
Then what I’m really saying isn’t just “I don’t want to do what my Boss is telling me to do”. We might as well add the full truth, which is “I don’t trust my Boss to take care of me.”
When the people of Israel built the tabernacle exactly as God had instructed them – When they made all of the furnishing and the priest’s garments exactly in the way that God had told them – They were proclaiming that “God knows what He is doing, and we trust Him to take care of us completely as long as we follow His instructions closely.”
Ultimately that what we have to decide for ourselves, over and over again, in each and every circumstance and challenge that we face.
Is Jesus really my Lord? Not just as a Boss who tells me what to do, but as a shepherd who watches over me and takes care of my every need.
How I answer that question is a reflection of how much I trust Him.
And there is no one who is more worthy of my trust!
Here in Exodus 35, the instructions that were supposed to be established previously, were now being taught, for a delay had occurred due to rebellion. God will keep His children in a place of punishment until restitution takes place. We must be right before God and the tribe of believers He has placed around before we can expect to move forward.
Moses calls together the whole community to share with them the Lord's commands. In western society we enjoy the freedom of individual choice, we are hardly forced to do anything. People from other countries long for this type of freedom and are willing to even die trying to cross over America's borders. Yet, regarding the Kingdom of God, it can be rather challenging. Believers come and go as they choose when they feel like it, which makes leading people difficult. How can we move ahead if due to inconsistency people have hardly a clue regarding God's direction?
God, yes, moves in us individually but yet we are connected to a corporate body, so our individual calling is tied into the community of believers where He has established us. Believers need to come together weekly to be in-tuned with God's will. It should not be a choice but a mandatory obligation. Not out of law but out of the desire to be supplied with the necessary grace to succeed in life.
The first instructions which are repeated throughout the old covenant, regard the Sabbath. Despite the Fall, God made a temporary way for people to commune with Him. Sin isn't so much the act it is the desire to live life separately from God. Sabbath is a time to do no work and to focus on one's need for God being present in their life.
In the New Covenant, in Hebrews 4, we see that we now have stepped into the greater promise of rest which is perpetual, continual, evermore. We can rest in the Lord as we work which lightens the load and removes the burden.
Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together weekly or harden our heart as the children of Israel did regarding entering the Sabbath rest that is now available through Jesus Christ, daily.
The Lord commanded the children of Israel in Exodus 35:4-5 to give an offering but He said "only those with generous hearts." We should not give to God out of a heart of regret.
Romans 12:1 says "to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices.....which is our reasonable service considering all He has done." God will not bless people no matter what they give if their heart is ungrateful. It is all about the heart! Leaders should not manipulate people to give and those giving should not do so unless they have joy in doing it.
Those who have made Jesus, Lord are living sacrifices, their talent, treasure, and time is no longer their own. If giving is a problem then you got to ask yourself, have you really made Jesus, Lord?
The rest of Exodus 35 deals with talent. When we give our talent to the Lord, He gives in return great wisdom, ability, and expertise. We should never fear to give to God because the return is so much greater than what is given. What we have will never be enough but those who give to God never lack.
Our talent will never be good enough, but through God, it will be able to accomplish above and beyond what any human can do.
When we give God our time what could possibly never get done, just somehow, someway, through God's hands, time stands still, and His will is fulfilled.
Our focus should not be on what we lose when we surrender but in what we gain. When we realize that in Him alone do we live and have our being (Acts 17:28), we have truly stepped into the abundant life that Christ has promised.