1 John

1 John Chapter 5

I John 5 is full of explanations about the basics of our faith.  It starts with the explanation of who is a child of God: “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ.”  Staying a child of God is given more explanation.  “Through faith in Jesus, we defeat evil and as God’s children, we do not make a practice of sinning (v. 18).” “Jesus holds us as God’s children securely so the evil one cannot touch us.”

I found Verse 18 (to “not make a practice of sinning”) together with verse 21 to be helpful guidance for my everyday life: “…to keep away from anything that might take God’s place in [our] hearts.”   Every day I have good intentions to be kinder and more patient, and every day, I think and do things that are not kind and patient.  But for all of us as God’s children, with prayers to God, with God’s encouragement and forgiveness, and by our keeping God uppermost in our lives, God will help each of us.  He gives us a change of heart and a will to be that kind and patient person that forgives easily.  Over time, as we seek God’s help, we do not continue to make a practice of a particular sin.  As we pray for His help, we can be confident that God hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.  What a wonderful assurance to be listened to by our heavenly Father! 

Then the chapter also explains what it means to be a child of God:” to love God’s children.”  How do we love God’s children?  This explanation seems straightforward in the chapter.  We do so by “loving God and by obeying His commandments which are not burdensome.”  Though the explanation is straightforward, our obedience will require God’s help through prayer.  Jesus is our model as he continually wanted to obey God, the Father and was obedient to God’s will.  Thank God for sending us His Son who is our example of faith and obedience and who holds us securely.

1 John Chapter 4

“Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another.” ( I John 4:7)  

This is the heart and soul of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s what distinguishes us as Christians.  In the words of the old camp song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” God loves us, and we, in turn, love one another – that’s the essence of the Christian faith. Yet, when you try to put love into action, it’s a lot easier said than done.

Face it, sometimes we don’t feel very loving, and, to be honest, some folks are a lot easier to love than others.

The source of all love is God, for God is love. It sounds so obvious; yet it’s not, because, unconsciously, we believe that, somehow, the source of love is within us, that we have the capacity to love, separate and apart from God. This is the subject of endless songs, movies and romance novels – when a man loves a woman, and a woman loves a man. We talk about love of friends and family, patriotism and love of country.  Oft times it’s as if God doesn’t have anything to do with it at all.

 The Good News is, when we’re willing to place God at the center of our lives, God’s love fills our hearts and gives us the grace to love one another, not just in part and for the moment; but fully, intimately, completely, and for all time. Only love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ( I Corinthians 13:7)Only love such as this lasts forever.

And so, contrary to what the world would have us believe, the source of love is not within us; it’s within the very being of God, for “God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (1 John 4:16)

The death and resurrection of Jesus is the starting point. It’s the source of our ability to love God, neighbor and self. Because Christ died for our sins, we’re free to live in gratitude to God and share the Good News of forgiveness with others.   The truth is, in a nutshell,“We love him, because he first loved us,” (1 John 4:19)and the tangible proof of God’s love is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God is the source of all love, and the miracle is, the more you give away, the more God gives you in return.  Wow!!!

1 John Chapter 3

Identity. 1 John 3 opens with one of my favorite verses about Christian identity.

 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a

To me, this verse is a near-bewildered acknowledgement of the overwhelming, abundant love which God the Father has bestowed upon me, followed by a loud proclamation that as a Christian, I really am a child of God! Amazing!

I would like to dwell on this point, positively basking in wonderment. However, after the writer eloquently establishes our unfathomable identity, we are immediately checked into real world implications and application. Take a look at these excerpts from 1 John 3:

“But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.” (1 John 3:1b)

“Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)

One theme here is that, as believers, we are in the world, not of the world. This concept is echoed elsewhere in scripture (e.g., John 15:19, Romans 12:2). This in-but-not-of concept is so often repeated that it may seem trite. 

Pause for a bit. Let this sink in. 

So, Christian identity is as a child of God. Yet we don’t fit in this world. Still, here we are in this world. What shall we do to make it through? As 1 John 3:15–24 make perfectly clear, the key is true, brotherly love. Verse 18 sums it up nicely: “Dear children, let us not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

There is a so much depth in this passage. The love described is authentic. It is action-oriented. It displays or illustrates or illuminates the truth of the Gospel. Surely, this love is not of this world!

Brothers and sisters, be encouraged today! Be confident of your identity. Acknowledge how the world may act towards you. And put on a light-show of not-of-this-world love all around you!

1 John Chapter 2

In the “Cost of Discipleship”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” (p. 47)  Cheap grace means living without the demand of obedience.   In practice, where there is no call for obedience, then all things are tolerated.  Nothing can be sinful.  There is no clear right or wrong.  John calls us to obey the commands that God gave us (2:3) is the basis for assurance.

In light of what John wrote about human sinfulness and our need for confession, obeying God’s commands does not require perfect obedience.  The fact that no one can do this – “to live in Him (one) must walk as Jesus did”  doesn’t mean “perfect obedience” but Jesus’ life as a whole – to be consistent in our discipleship and not the individual acts in isolation.  For example, checking off a list of do’s and don’ts, or following a set of directions that humans have written.  Legalism, takes us back to negating the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Following Jesus means a commitment to who Jesus is and what He asks us to do.  This takes us back to Pastor Graham’s sermon on September 9 about what it means to be committed to Jesus as a believer.  There is a cost to discipleship.  That cost is our willingness to put a higher priority on living as a Christian  over that of believing we are Christians.  To me, God wants disciples that are willing to put aside our priorities to tend to God’s priorities first and then tend to ours.  To me, this is what it means  to strive to conform ourselves to the character of God.

1 John Chapter 1

“God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5b

The words of the Word – they often read eloquently and, especially in translations such as the King James Version, I am delighted as I read the prose and turn of words.  In the above statement “God is light”, it seems unnecessary to add “and in him there is no darkness at all”.  However, therein lies the eloquence, the reassurance of the truth that God truly is entirely “light”.

I think about us.  We too are to walk in the light, even as God is light.  I picture in my mind an attractive covered box with a lid, symbolizing us as we walk into church.  The box looks sturdy, well-kept, the lid nicely secured on top.  If all goes well, we think, we will leave the church exactly as we entered it.  Intact. Unchanged.  Secure.  

But what happens if we allow the lid to our covered box to be ajar?  What if we let the Holy Spirit come in and “rearrange” us as He will? What if we throw caution to the wind and let ourselves be changed if the Holy Spirit should nudge us?  That takes an agreement from us, a willingness to trust those around us, certainly trust in God that He has better ideas than we.

To go even further, what if we don’t just let the lid to our covered box be ajar?  What if we remove it altogether, letting the Light of God rush in and rearrange every corner, shedding light in every shadowy place? What I know for sure is that any secret corner of our box that we retain and restrain from surrendering to God becomes the shackles that bind us.  Whatever we resist giving up becomes our ball and chain from which the enemy can come in and trick us with lies and deceit.  The very things that we think keep us “in control” is what keeps us in bondage.  God’s way really is the best way and we can trust Him.  After all, God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.