Tough Love – 1 John 3:11-15

Man, John just pulls no punches, does he?  Listen to some of this: “Whoever does not love abides in death.” “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  Tough stuff, but I read it very appreciatively.

Sometimes we are too polite in the Family of God.  We make sure that no one gets their feelings hurt and we find it so difficult to call someone out even when their very soul is at stake.  I know I have often suffered from this in the past and have worked diligently to overcome it.  Sometimes we need our cages rattled by someone who truly loves us, as John is loving us, so that we don’t take an unrecoverable fall.

John is clear that the world will hate those who are in Christ.  That makes it all the more imperative that there is love within the family to the extent that we’re willing and prepared to have someone mad at us by speaking the Truth.  It must be peppered with grace, but it must be clear.

Interestingly, that very thing also serves as yet another one of John’s tests of being in the Family.  Verse 14 says that, “we know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”  It is the compassion as well as the tough love that is willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of another.  In this, we’re told that others (outside of Christ) will know that we are Christ-followers, hopefully even leading some of them to long for and pursue after this kind of love.

Is it a wonderful life? 1 John 3:1-3

How many times have we wondered what it will be like when those of us who have trusted in Christ will enter into heaven?  Some of the popular notions include wings, essentially becoming angels (ala It’s A Wonderful Life), or spiritual beings with no real form or physical identity.  Others think it will be like a big party hanging out with friends and hugging on family members.

While the first two are pretty ridiculous, I can’t really speak on the last one.  There is a great deal of mystery involved with the specifics of heaven and life after we leave this earth (“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared”).  However, there is also a great deal of information.  Since this is a simple devotion-type post, I won’t go into all the various passages that deal with heaven and, instead, stick to what John says here.

We have great reason to look with anticipation to Christ’s return because we are told that “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”  What is that like?  Well, remember back when Jesus appeared to his disciples, having received a glorified body?  Scholars believe that He was in the state in which glorified Believers will be.  He was clearly identifiable, though there seems to have been some changes since he walked with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus and they didn’t even recognize Him.  Yet, he was clearly a human form (even bearing the scars from his crucifixion), though without the same physical limitations that we face (His mode of travel was a bit quicker than ours here!).

I like the way the ESV Study Bible describes it:

In eternity, Christians will be morally without sin, intellectually without falsehood or error, physically without weakness or imperfections, and filled continually with the Holy Spirit. But “like” does not mean “identical to,” and believers will never be (e.g.) omniscient or omnipotent as Christ is, since he is both man and God.

It is great for us to speculate and to try and understand what we will be like then, but we must be careful not to neglect what is important now.  That is what John is emphasizing because, rather than heavenly musings ending in trivial pursuits, they should lead us to a life of serious introspection, seeking to live a transformed life here and now.

Verse 3 says that “everyone who thus hopes in him [that is, if you have this hope that you will be like Him when He returns] purifies himself as He is pure.”  In other words, we should be driven towards living a life of purity from sin because we have this hope that one day we will be completely removed from sin as He is.  The kicker here is that we already have the indwelling Holy Spirit, so purity from habitual sin is already possible.  More on that next time.

PSI – Words, in the End, Are Still Just Words – 1 John 1:5-10

It is a popular notion, as Americans, to call ourselves Christians.  Ask just about anybody, regardless of lifestyle, beliefs or politics, and they will tell you they are Christian.  This just points to the fact that the word, “Christian,” has become meaningless.  As a matter of fact, many would hold that because they are Americans they are Christians as some sort of birthright into this “Christian Nation.”  I suppose that since words don’t really have meaning but usage, they may be Christians, but the word Christian no longer refers to a Christ-follower or disciple of Jesus.

John points out the error in all of this thinking about being a Christian in name or label only.  He mixes no words when he essentially says, “Hey, if you say you’re following Jesus but you’re living like the world, forget it.  You’re lying to yourself and everybody else.  If you think you’re ‘basically a good person,’ claiming you’re doing pretty well, you don’t even know the truth.”

John is very clear that it is impossible for us to follow Christ and walk in darkness, as though how we live makes no difference; as if simply claiming to hold to a belief system is enough.  Yet, that is where millions of people are today.  Scripture has no bearing on their lives and the call to holiness falls on deaf ears.

OK, so not to become judge and jury, it’s time for the whole “physician, heal thyself” thing here.  I can be just as guilty of living like this in a thousand little ways all the time.  My sins may not be so blatant and cavalier, but anytime I walk in darkness in even the smallest ways, darkness is still within me.  Whether it comes through “white lies,” unforgiveness, arrogance, pride, anger, etc., it’s still sin.  If, because I live an essentially “clean” life (according to what most would consider uncleanness), I say I have no sin, John’s words still ring true…the truth is not in me.

But, man, what great news this section ends with:  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Today, we all have the opportunity to live in that forgiveness and to not only claim to be in the Light, but to actually walk in it!

PSI – Living the Challenge: 1, 2, 3 John

Yesterday, I issued a challenge at The Gathering to begin to get into Scripture.  (Audio can be accessed through our website, the Sermon Audio page of this blog, or iTunes, if interested).  Looking at the Model Prayer in Matthew 6, we have spent the last three weeks on verse 11:  Give us this day our daily bread.  This last look was at the spiritual implications of the verse.  Because we often have such difficulty actually getting into the Word, my challenge was to read five verses a day in the Epistles of John (since that’s where we’re probably going next) between now and Christmas.

I thought I would jot down any quick thoughts or brief insights I had from the passages as we go along to hopefully provoke some thoughts for those reading along.  Today kicks it off with 1 John 1:1-5:

I love this great apologetic in the first 5 verses of 1 John.  One of the greatest proofs we have for the resurrection of Christ is the apostles, themselves. The fact that they lived such transformed lives AFTER the time of the resurrection of Jesus to the point of giving up their lives for Him is very strong evidence.  It is one thing to die for what you believe to be true and what you know to be a lie.  These guys would have known without question that Jesus was still dead if that were the case.  Instead, they went from complete devastation after His death to complete and utter excitement and joy, being filled with power and action.  Something had happened and there is only one thing that could have given them such enthusiasm for preaching about Jesus.

Here we have them saying, “Look, we experienced Jesus alive!  We touched Him, experienced Him, learned from Him.  This that we testify is true!”  Further, they talk about the completion of joy through expression.  We’re made that way.  The greatest joy we experience is in telling someone else something great that has happened to us.  It completes the joyful experience.  We can experience this same joy through our following these apostles examples.

What is the message they proclaimed?  God is perfectly holy which is great news to us all.  In essence:  He is good and He is in control.  With that truth, we can trust Him and follow Him without reservation!

PSI – Renewal to Transformation

Over this past week I’ve been meditating on and dealing a lot with the implications of Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I wanted to make sure I understood what that really meant.  Think about what it is really saying for a second.  Another way to say it is, “a life can be transformed (changed from one thing to another) by a mind being made new.”  The next question, then, is who or what actually does the renewing?  Do we do it?  After all, Paul starts this instruction with the word, “Be…”.  In other words, do it.  Yet, transformation comes through Christ alone, so it doesn’t seem the implication is that I can accomplish this under my own power and that there must be an element of God’s activity in us.

So, my conclusion on that it is that it begins with trusting in the Holy Spirit to do in us what we’ll be unable to do.  Namely, to renew our minds.  We have a work in it, of course.  I must, as Oswald Chambers once said, “work out what He has worked in” [expounding on Philippians 2:12].  Since I’ve never connected the rest of the chapter with this statement in verse 2 (after all, that’s the verse that matters in the Christian’s handbook on memorization!), I missed all of the rich unpacking Paul does on this idea.

Just look at some of the statements he makes following this idea:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. [8] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

These are counter-cultural ideas, aren’t they?  When I’m confronted with situations like these that are mentioned, my mind tells me to look after Number 1!  Yet Paul is saying to think differently, and by thinking differently enough, actions follow.  What I will find is that, as I think on these things and my actions begin to follow, my life will experience the transformation from a life conformed to the ways and things of the world to a life conformed to that of Christ.  That is Romans 12:2.

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