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:
Sunday August 5th
1 John 2
A circus owner happened to be walking down the street in a small town when he saw a crowd of people gathered around a table, watching a show. The show consisted of a metal pot on the table turned upside down, and on top of the pot there was a duck tap dancing.
The circus owner was so impressed by this act that he offered to buy the duck from its owner. After some haggling back and forth the owner finally agreed to sell the duck for $10,000.
A couple of days later the circus owner returned to the owner in a rage. “This duck is a rip-off!” He said angrily. “I put him on top of a pot in front of a big audience and he didn’t dance even one single step!”
“Well,” asked the duck’s former owner, “did you remember to light a candle under the pot?”
No light – no dancing!
In 1st John chapter 2, John is going to continue emphasizing the role that we as believers are supposed to play by being “in the light”!
He starts out chapter 2 by saying this in verses 1 and 2:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
John wants the readers of his letter to know that the only possible proper response to God’s mercy on us is to live a life of holiness and obedience, not one of sin.
But he also knows that no one is perfect, so he reassures us that when we do occasionally sin, we have an advocate on our side. So what’s an advocate do?
The Greek word for advocate is parakletos, which basically means a “helper,” and one form of help would be like an attorney to represent us with a legal matter.
Jesus is our advocate, our lawyer, to plead our case when we mess things up.
In the Gospel of John that same word is used for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 where Jesus says,
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever”
And again in John 14: 26 where he tells them,
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
And again in John 15:26
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”
So Jesus is our helper and the Holy Spirit is our helper, and Psalm 54:4 says,
“Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.”
So we’ve got plenty of helpers to get us through this journey of life! The Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
John also calls Jesus something else, our “propitiation”. What’s that mean? A propitiation was a sacrifice that was meant to take away the separation brought by sin between God and man.
Under the Old Covenant, bulls, goats, and sheep were the sacrifices of propitiation. For us, as Christians, Jesus is our propitiation. His blood has erased the sin that separated us from God.
John says that Jesus didn’t just pay for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. His sacrifice was sufficient for all people of all generations. It is a sacrifice so powerful that no additional price is required to be paid.
So how do I know that my sins have been covered by Jesus’ sacrifice? John explains that next:
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
When John says that true followers of Jesus will “walk in the same way in which Jesus walked”, it first of all shows us that John assumed that the readers of this letter also had knowledge about Jesus’ life and ways from reading John’s Gospel.
And since we know the ways of Jesus, and we call ourselves His followers, then we should be keeping Jesus’ commandments. If we aren’t keeping His commandments, then calling ourselves His followers is a lie.
And what are Jesus’ commandments?
Well, let’s start with this one from John 13:34
I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another.
That’s crucial for us to understand. Jesus told His followers to love each other. If we aren’t loving each other, then we’re not His followers!
In the next two sections, John is going to emphasize this commandment, saying that it is both old and new:
7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Listen to this commentary:
The commandment of Christ is both “old” and “new.” It is old, because believers had this command “from the beginning,” when Jesus began to teach. It is new because it is continually being reapplied in new acts of love, with their source in Him. Love belongs to the realm of light, as compared to darkness, where hatred still has sway. John speaks of love for the “brother,” which Jesus gave as a commandment to His disciples just before His death.
John has talked about old and new, light and darkness. Now he uses another contrast, fathers and children:
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
The “fathers” “young men” and “children” that John is speaking to in these verses are actually the same group of people, characterized in several different ways. They are called “children” because they have been made part of the family of God. But they are also called “fathers” because their personal knowledge of God and their relationship with Jesus qualifies them to pass this knowledge down to future generations. And they are also called “young men” because their rejection of the devil shows that they are strong and victorious.
In fact, John says twice in verses 13 and 14 “you have overcome the evil one”. This is a major theme of this letter that will be picked up again in Chapter 5. The victory John describes is resisting temptation and keeping faithful to God’s word. For John, our victory in the battle against temptation has already been won, since our fellowship with God cannot be broken.
The thing is that, even though the victory has been won, we still have to fight this ongoing battle against the things of the world. So John reminds us in verses 15-17:
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
What John is referring to as the “world” is the system of worldly rebellion that seeks to displace God and His rule. This worldly system is “not from the Father” and has already been marked for judgment and destruction
Those who love this world are self-centered, prideful, and short-sighted. They want their lusts to be satisfied and their pride to be honored now. In contrast, those who love the Father have a long-term perspective and wait for God’s reward in His perfect time.
Now, speaking of the world’s system, we hear mention of the ultimate leader of the world’s system – the AntiChrist!
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.
You’ve probably heard that the AntiChrist is coming.
You might have even heard some theories about who he will be or where he will come from. But don’t strain your eyes too hard looking because John wrote almost 2000 years ago that many antichrists had already appeared during his lifetime!
And in verse 19 John seems to indicate that these antichrists were actually part of the church at one point:
19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
Do you see that? “They went out from us”! These people left the church, which proved that they weren’t true followers of Jesus, or else they would have stayed connected to the church.
Does John want his readers to be all worried about these antichrists? No, he goes on to assure them that they are fully capable of discerning the antichrist spirit:
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
John also says that the presence of these antichrists, those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, is proof that “the last hour” is growing closer. Do we have people in our world today who deny that Jesus is the Son of God? I would certainly say so, wouldn’t you?
John characterizes the whole time between the first and the second comings of Christ as “the last hour”.
Some of God’s judgment against these antichrists was fulfilled in 70 AD, when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Other antichrists will face judgment as well, because as John said in verse 33, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father.”
The Christians who lived back in John’s day faced opposition from antichrists who denied that Jesus was God’s Son, the Messiah.
We face the same thing in our day, maybe even more so because of the internet, where people seem to take great joy in attacking Christian beliefs. But John’s words should bring us comfort, as he reminds who we are as he closes this chapter:
24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
When John says that “you have no need that anyone should teach you” he isn’t saying that we’re a bunch of know-it-alls. He is simply reminding us that as believers we have access to direct revelation from God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the Word for us and the truth of the gospel.
Can you trust God when He tells you that about yourself – that you can hear His voice through the anointing of the Holy Spirit?
John has given us several powerful keys to what it means to “walk in the Light”
Take heart in the promise that were are given by John a few chapters further in this letter, in 1 John 4:4
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.
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.