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South Fellowship Church

Dwell | The Power of Pistis | 1 John 5:1-21 | Week 6

I can remember sitting outside of Poudre High School in a car with my friend.  I was in college at the time, volunteering and serving with an organization called Young Life.  We would go onto high school campuses and talk with high school students and strike up friendships.  Our hope was that we would eventually have the chance to share Jesus with them and point them to the great God that we know.  It was the very first time I was walking onto a high school campus with that purpose in mind and I was paired up with, what I considered to be and he would admit, not the strongest of our leaders.  We saw a group of high school guys standing in a circle talking.  He says to me—this was his training for me—I think you should go up and talk to that group of guys.  So I went up and I sort of busted in their circle and said, “Hey, guys, how’s it going?”  That was as far as I thought.  They looked at me and I went, “Big gulps, huh?”  And none of them had seen Dumb and Dumber and none of you had either.  It was that moment with eight high school guys.  I remember walking to him and he says, “I don’t think that went all that well.”  No thanks to you, it didn’t go that well!  I can remember going back to the car, hanging my head in shame and thinking, “Why in the world do we do this?”  Why am I putting myself in this position, to be embarrassed and to be made a fool.  I don’t need this.  Why in the world are we doing this?

Over the last few weeks, I picked up a few books by a prominent author and out-spoken atheist named Sam Harris.  Listen to what he says in one of his books, The End of Faith:  “The power that belief has over our emotional lives appears to be total.  For every emotion that you are capable of feeling, there is surely a belief that could invoke it in a matter of moments.”  He goes on to write later in the book:  “The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.”  I was struck by Harris’s book because, while I disagree with much of his premise, I think he’s right.  I think Harris understands the nature of faith far better than many followers of Jesus do.  To answer the question ‘Why did I walk on a high school campus and talk to people I never knew and might never see again?’ well, it was this faith that was stirring in me.  It was this same faith that Harris talks about.   Not the same thing, but it’s the same type of conviction.  This is the way the world is.

One of the things Harris picks up on is this faith—that followers of Jesus have and that people of other faiths have—is powerful.  It’s one of the most powerful things in the world.  Faith is so powerful, it’ll cause people to do some pretty amazing things.  I saw a “Dateline” episode that talked about the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints Church’s leader, Warren Jeffs and his four wives.  The story was about one of his daughters who wanted to leave and was being abused.  She couldn’t bring herself to leave until she hit rock bottom.  I thought, “What in the world keeps a person in that situation?”  For one, faith.

In 2013 in Pakistan, there were 869, what they called, “honor killings.”   It’s when a person in your family brings disgrace or shame on a family.  They don’t brush it under a rug or pretend it didn’t happen.  When you shame your family, in a Muslim culture like Pakistan, you’re either stoned in the streets or mutilated or murdered by your family.  I read one story that happened earlier this year in September, about a girl who was raped.  She came back to her family and because of what happened TO her, her family “honor killed” her.  Why?  It’s this faith.  It’s this idea of this is what the world is like.

In the late ’30s and early ’40s, we saw what an idea, what faith, can do when 11 million people were murdered in concentration camps.

A day we will never forget in the United States….September 11, 2001….where two planes were flown into the World Trade Center buildings.  Listen to what Harris says about that event:  “The men who committed the atrocities of September 11th were certainly not ‘cowards,’ as they were repeatedly described in the Western media, nor were they lunatics in any ordinary sense.  They were men of faith—perfect faith, as it turns out—and this, it must finally be acknowledged, is a terrible thing to be.”

Now, while Harris’s stance on being a follower of Jesus is off, his perception about the power of faith is right on.  And it’s different from what you would hear in most churches.   It’s different than what you’d hear what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  Typically, we don’t attribute faith to having this kind of power, do we?  If you look at it, all around you, the fruit of faith—not necessarily faith in Jesus, but faith in something—is exhibited on every corner of the globe.  Faith has unbelievable massive potential and power.  For good.  Or, for evil.  But I would argue that John, in his letter of 1 John, understands faith to have the kind of power and significance and momentum and energy that Sam Harris describes that he has.  I think he’s spot on when he describes the potential and the power of faith.  It’s stronger than most followers of Jesus give it credit for.

Today I want to teach from the Scriptures what Pastor John, in the closing chapter of this letter that he writes to this series of churches that he loves, that he helped plant, that he is over, writes about the power and prominence and potential of faith.  Open your Bible to 1 John 5, that’s where we’ll be camping out today.  Listen as he writes about the power, prominence, and potential of faith.  Everyone who believes {This would be the same word as faith, as translated from this one Greek word, ‘pistis.’  That’s the word (pistis) , as we talk about faith, as we talk about belief.} …that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,  {He says okay, when you believe, something happens on the inside.  There’s this spiritual awakening.  The Bible searches for words and calls it a rebirth, of sorts.  As you believe.  John would say faith….unbelievable potential.}  …and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  (vs. 4)  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  John goes, oh man, church, don’t miss it!  By faith, you overcome evil, you overcome hate, you overcome lust, you overcome anger.  All the things that are intertwined with the way of the “world.”  Your faith is what empowers and what enables, by God’s grace and the Spirit at work in you, to overcome.  This is not an insignificant thing.

In verse13, John says this:  I write these things to you who believe….  {Here’s what he’s doing.  If you ever took a class in college where you were suppose to read this big, thick, boring book, but at the end of every chapter they gave a summary, and you got smart and thought, “What a second!  This is a succinct summary of everything I just read.”  You decide to just read the summary.  This is what John’s doing….he’s going, “Look up at me.  Don’t miss this.  I am writing these things to you.  The reason this letter to you who believe….”} …in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  He’s saying that when you believe, you have the kind of life in you that bubbles up and never stops.

When we read the words ‘eternal life,’ we typically think of heaven.  You can see that John does not talk about heaven in this chapter.  He talks about life in the here and the now.  When the Scriptures talk about eternal life, typically what they’re talking about is the kind of life that certainly lasts forever, but the kind of life that you would want to last forever.  It’s eternal in both quality—oh, this is good—and duration—this is good and it’s never going to end.  John says, “Oh, faith is the way that you step into rebirth and renewal.”  Faith is the way that you step into victory.  Faith is the way that you step into, what the Scriptures call, eternal life.  Here’s what John would say:  Faith is the doorway into the life God designed you to live.  Faith is the doorway into and the path to living in the life that God designed you, wired you, and longs for you to live.  John would say to his churches that faith has the potential to completely transform a life forever!

I grew up in a church, during my teen years, that ended the church service the exact same way every single Sunday.  The pastor would finish his message and then would add an ‘addendum’ of the sinner’s prayer.  If you want to put your faith in Jesus today, pray after me.   Every. Single. Sunday.  While it took a little bit of the mystery out of where we were going, it also caused me to wonder where we got this idea.  Where did we get the idea that faith is the equivalent of prayer?  As I look at the way of Jesus and as we study the words of Jesus, certainly Jesus invites people to receive him, and he invites people to confess their sin and have faith in him, but if we’re under the notion that he stops there, we miss the greater part of the New Testament.  If faith just ends with a prayer and we’re like “Alright, now we can get on with whatever we had going on,” we’ve missed the point of what this word means in the New Testament.  A profession of faith and a life of faith are two different things.  I think what Sam Harris points out is the power and potential of faith….he’s more on than just say this prayer and everything’s going to be okay.  When the Bible talks about faith, it talks about a life of surrender to Jesus as Lord, not just about saying a prayer.

If you have your Bible, flip over to Hebrews 11:1.  This entire chapter is a picture of what it means to live by faith.  The author of Hebrews uses this same word, pistis, that we’re looking at in 1 John.  Now faith is the assurance {Maybe it’s better understood as the substantiating, the bringing something that’s off in the distance into the present.  Bringing something that’s in the future into the now.  Faith pulls the future into the present.} ..of things hoped for, the conviction {The certainty.  It’s the ground underneath.} …of things not seen.    I think sometimes, from this verse, we get to this idea that faith is certainty, in the sense that we never doubt.   But if you read through Hebrews 11, you’ll find people who doubted.  You’ll find people who doubted but were unwilling to let go.  I think that’s a far better picture of faith.  Faith and doubt are not opposites.  They make way better dance partners than they do polar opposites.  Faith is saying no, no, no, no, no, I’m confident, God, in who you are and what you’ve promised, and even though I don’t see it and even though I may never see it, I’m going to continue to pull it into the present with the conviction that you are good.  Faith is about striving to remain faithful in the midst of uncertainty.

An affirmation of faith and the life of faith are two different things.  Faith in a moment and faith daily are two different things.  {Will you look up at me for just a second?}  Jesus is not inviting us or calling us to just say a prayer and check it off of our list.  He’s calling us to surrender a life and to find more joy….eternal life….than we ever thought possible.  Dallas Willard talks about the life of faith like this:  “The greatest issue facing the world today, with all of its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples — students, apprentices, practitioners — of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”  Steadily learning from him how to the live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.  THIS is the life of faith.  This is the invitation that God gives us.  THIS is powerful.  THIS….that type of faith can….HAS changed the world.

Let’s jump back into 1 John and ask what does this life of faith look like?  What does it look like exhibited in our lives on a daily basis.  Let’s start in verse 2.  John’s going to say a few things.  Here’s what it looks like.  Here’s the litmus test of faith and here’s what the life of faith continually pushes towards.  He says this:  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.    {He says listen, if you want to know if you love God, it’s pretty easy.  Do you obey Him?  Do you love the people around you?  Then you know.  Verse 3.}  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.  I love this!  Sixteen-year-old me didn’t believe this.  I was in high school; I was being dragged by my parents to church.  My summary of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus was you just tried to do everything that’s not fun.  That’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus — if it’s fun, you can’t do it!  And you shouldn’t.  For some reason, God loves that and he’s out for that.  He’s going, “Bet you can’t wait to get to heaven, huh?”  Sixteen-year-old me was like, “I don’t know if I like that.  I don’t know if I’m in.”  College me had that completely turned on its head because as I started to follow Jesus, I realized there’s no better adventure, there’s no better purpose, and there’s no better meaning that I could find in life.

John wants to push back and say, “If you think being obedient to Jesus is taking all the fun out of life, taking all the joy out of life, you’ve got it completely backwards.”  Following Jesus is not burdensome.  Literally, in the Greek, it’s not weighty.  A better picture is it’s not confining.  That’s what that word means.  Picture a strait jacket.  Oftentimes we think of commands like that.  All this stuff I really want to do, I can’t do.  The stuff I’m told to do, I don’t want to do.  We think oh man, this is the life of faith.  John says you’ve got it completely turned on its head.  It’s not burdensome, it’s actually….freedom.

Faith exhibits itself in delight driven obedience.  Listen to the way Jesus talks about this in John 8:31-32 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  {As you abide, you become disciples, apprentices, learning to live in the way of Jesus, with the heart of Jesus.  After you do that….}  …and you will know the truth, {Truth was subjective.  You get inside of it and go, this is the way you designed me to live.  This is what’s wired into my DNA as a human being.  I didn’t see it from the outside looking in, but from the inside…oh, now I get it.}  ….and the truth will set you free.”  Not put a burden on you.  It’ll free you to walk in the design that God has for you.  It’s why Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Rest for your soul.  My burden is easy and my yoke is light.  (Matt. 11:28-30)  It’s not burdensome.  It’s an invitation of delight-driven obedience.

John would say, if you’re a person of faith, what steps of obedience are you resisting?  Is there some sense of ‘this is what God’s called me to do, but I just have too much fear to step into it?’  Is there a sense of ‘I know God would have me be generous during this Advent season, but you have no idea what my calendar looks like?’  Is there the idea ‘I would forgive that person, if they asked for it and if they apologized?’  What steps of obedience are we resisting, because we’re really resisting delight, freedom, goodness.  This is what faith leads us to.  To say back to God, “God, I trust you, I have faith in you, so I’m going to walk in your way.  If you say to do it, God, I’m going to do it.”  Even if I don’t get it.

Jump down to verse 14, as we start to see what the life of faith looks like.  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.   John starts to dispel some of the roadblocks that you and I and his original readers have towards prayer.  It’s nothing new to wrestle with prayer.  It’s nothing new to ask questions like:  God, do you actually hear when I pray?  John goes not only does he hear, he hears you.  Peter would echo that not only does he hear, but he cares. (1 Peter 5:7)

You can pray and the life of faith is the praying life.  He hears us.  God moves through the prayers of his people. I don’t know the mystery of how it works — God’s sovereignty and humanity’s prayers.  I don’t know how those two things intersect and intertwine to shape and form the reality and the future that we live and will live.  I don’t presume to know the answer to that.  If anybody does claim to know the answer to that, be very, very skeptical.  Because it is a mystery.  Here’s what I do know:  I do know that in the Scriptures we are very clearly commanded to pray.  We’re commanded to pray with the confidence that God moves through the prayers of his people.

So my questions, if I’m asking about prayer, are God, do you hear me?  God, do they affect you at all?  God, does is affect our world at all when your people prayer?  To that last question, I think Karl Barth answers it pretty well:  “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”  Here’s what Barth would say….if you want to start a revolution, start praying.  It doesn’t start on the throne somewhere, it starts with somebody on their knees saying to God, “God, we need you to move.”  Prayer is a beautiful, subversive, and powerful act.  I think, when it all comes down to it, we really don’t struggle with prayer.  We struggle with faith.  Faith believes that we have His attention, He hears us.  And it inspires our petition.  So we cry out to God.  {Slide: Attention inspired petition.}

Listen to the way John goes on in 1 John 5:16.  I would add that verses 16 and 17 have no light amount of literature written on their meaning.  If you were to get ten commentaries on 1 John and read them all, they would all have a different idea about what this means.  But I’m going to solve that for you today!    If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death.  There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.  {Let’s close in prayer!}

There’s three primary views of what’s going on.  One is that there’s a specific sin that John has in mind that is an issue in his community that he’s addressing.  The second is that John is addressing apostasy—leaving the life of faith.  The third prevailing thought (this is probably where I’d land if you pinned me down) is he’s addressing what the Scriptures would call blasphemy against the Spirit.  You can read about it in Matthew 12:28.  Essentially what it means is you see God working, you see God moving, with eyes wide open you understand it as such, and you refuse to acknowledge it, and you vehemently push against it.

But, in all the scholastic things I’ve read, here’s the way I think I understand this and here’s the way I would apply this.  John is saying if they’re not dead, pray for them.  There’s a sin that leads to death and they’re dead, don’t worry about that.  If they’re not dead, pray for them.  Pray that they would come to know Jesus.  Pray that they would come to know freedom.  Pray that they would come to know eternal life.  Pray for them.  It’s what we call the ministry of intercession.  That’s what John’s talking about here.  Going to the throne room on behalf of somebody else, begging and pleading, “God, heal that marriage, we ask you.”  God, free that person from the anger and the lack of forgiveness and the bitterness that confines their soul.  Please!  God, heal that person, we pray.  It’s the ministry of intercession.  Here’s the way I would say it:  Prayer isn’t the thing we do when there’s nothing else we can do.  It’s the FIRST thing we do, because if God doesn’t move, it doesn’t matter what we do!

September 23, 1867, Jeremiah Lanphier was a Dutch Reform pastor in New York City.  His church was on the decline.  He started to sense from God that he needed to get outside of the walls of his church and start to minister to the people around him.  He started a one-hour long prayer meeting in a conference room in a business park in New York City.  He went on September 23, 1857, and he sat down at noon, after putting pamphlets and flyers out advertising this time.  He sat down in the boardroom and started to pray and started to wait.  He looked at his watch and five minutes in, no one was there.  Ten minutes in, no one was there.  Twenty minutes in, no one was there.  He said he committed to staying the entire hour to pray alone, even if no one showed up.  A half hour in, six men came in and joined him for the last half hour of prayer.  The next week, forty people came and sat down and joined him at this hour of prayer.  Within six months, 10,000 business people, in New York City, were gathering Wednesday from noon to one and praying.  Every single Wednesday.  Within two years, a million converts (people who put their faith in Jesus) were added to American churches all across the states.  It started with one conviction.  God moves through prayer.  It’s called the businessmen’s revival of the 1800s.

So maybe as we embark on this Advent season next week, maybe you decide prayer isn’t going to be a last resort but a first resort.  Maybe it’s just five minutes you decide to wake up in the morning and spend some time praying.  Spend some time intercessing.  Spend some time asking God, “God, move, work, redeem, show your hand mighty.”  The life of faith is the life of prayer, and maybe it’s doing exactly what John says to do.  We’re just going to pray for people who need it.  Let’s just pause right now and if God brings somebody to your mind, just spend a silent moment praying.

Here’s how this letter closes.  John is going to lead us through three convictions, framed as ‘we know.’  We know….we know….we know….that end his letter.  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, {If you have the Spirit of God in you and you’re walking with Jesus, to live contrary to the way of Jesus and the heart of Jesus just doesn’t make sense.  He’s going to continue to pull you back and pull you back and make you miserable and pull you back so that you surrender to Him for your joy and his glory.}  …but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.    He says we have this conviction that we’ve been born of God and live in the way of God.  The ‘whole world lies under the power of the evil one’ means that anyone who lives in the way of the world….he talked about in 1 John 2:15-16 — the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  When we choose that way we live under the power of the evil one.  He controls those things.  But our world is birthed in conflict—conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of his Enemy.  Conflict between the Kingdom of Love and the Kingdom of Hate.  We need to choose which one we live in, and when we live under the Kingdom of the World, we live under the power of the Evil One.  And he says finally:  We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, {Chapter 1–We’ve seen him, we’ve touched him, we’ve heard him, we’ve experienced him.}

Each of these words….we know, we know, we know….is the Greek word ‘oudia.’  It means book knowledge.  It’s the knowledge you can get if you read through the Encyclopedia Britannica that you have at home with dust gathering on it.  That’s oudia, that’s intellectual book knowledge.  Then John leads to we know and we know and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true;  Ahh!  Not oudia.  This ‘know’ here is ‘ginosko.’  It means experiential, first-hand, I’ve touched it, I’ve seen it, I know it in the depths of my bones, not just in my head knowledge.  We know, we know, we know so that we may know him who is true and good and beautiful.

John is saying objective truth is the ground for subjective, but very real, spiritual experience.  We know, we know, we know, but it doesn’t just end here, so that we may KNOW and experience the love that God has for us.  That’s what the life of faith leads to — intimate relationship with Jesus.  In 1 John 5:10, John said:  Whoever believes (has faith) in the Son of God has the testimony (witness) in himself.  They know.  They know God.  They know that even though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death they can fear no evil because He’s with them.  They can’t quantify it, but they know it.  They know that he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.  They know it.  They know that greater love has no one than this that he would lay down his life for his friends, and Jesus calls you friends.  They know it, it’s in them.  They’re walking with Jesus, they’re talking with Jesus, they’re meeting with Jesus, they’re living with Jesus.  They’re not living FOR Jesus, they’re living WITH Jesus.  John would say that this is what the life of faith does.  The question we have to wrestle with is have we intentionally cultivated this relationship?

One of my favorite authors is Henri Nouwen.  At the end of one of his great books, called Spiritual Direction, he writes about going to visit the circus.  He writes about being enthralled by the circus and going back another day and eventually introducing himself to “The Flying Rodleighs.”  People who would be launched into the air and have to grab the arms of another person—trapeze flyers.  Listen to what Nouwen writes:  “The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their greatest fans.  They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future.  I did, and we became good friends.  One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying.  He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher.  The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher.  He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.’ ‘How does it work?’ I asked.  ‘The secret,’ Rodleigh said, ‘is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything.  When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catch bar.’  ‘You do nothing?!’ I said, surprised.  ‘Nothing,’ Rodleigh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher.  I am not supposed to catch Joe.  It’s Joe’s task to catch me.  If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us.  A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.’  (Nouwen concludes by saying…) I want to live trusting the catcher.”  So do I.  I want to live trusting the catcher, not in a one-time affirmation, but in a daily walk.

Here’s what Sam Harris and his friends get right:  Faith has unbelievable power and unbelievable potential.  But here’s what they get wrong:  They don’t see that faith has been used for unbelievable good in the world, and followers of Jesus, you included, are responsible for making God’s world and even more beautiful place.  Let me give you one example as we close.  The Catholic Church is the largest (non-governmental) provider of health care services in the world.  They have 18,000 clinics, 5,500 hospitals, with 65 percent of them located in third world countries.  Why?  Faith.  Because they believe that’s what Jesus would do.  So do we.  Here’s the other thing they get wrong:  They think non-faith is an option.  Let me tell you, non-faith is a non-option!  We all have confidence and faith in something.  The question is is that something going to catch us?  We’re all flying through the air, and if we think our bank account, and if we think our reputation, and if we think our accomplishments, and if we think our other relationships, if we think anything else in the world is going to catch us, we are mistaken.

It’s interesting the John doesn’t end his letter ‘little children, keep yourself from unbelief.’  No.  He ends it by saying:  Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Not keep yourself from unbelief, but keep yourself from wrong belief, because we all have belief in something.  As we close this book and this series, here’s my invitation to you:  Would you ground your life on the God who says, “I am light.  I am life.  I am love.”  Would you live a faith, not just an affirmation, but an action.  That faith is powerful.  That faith has changed the world and it will change it again.  May it be our faith and God’s power through us that does that.  Amen?  Amen.

Dwell | The Power of Pistis | 1 John 5:1-21 | Week 62020-08-19T15:46:34-06:00

Dwell | Dialed In | 1 John 4:1-20 | Week 5

A number of months ago, I had a friend that gave me a gift.  I can’t figure out if it’s my favorite gift or my least favorite gift I’ve ever been given.  It was one of these Echo Dots.  It looks like a little hockey puck.  You sync it with your phone and your wireless in your home.  You can talk to it; her name is Alexa.  You can have her do a number of things for you.  The thing I love about it is my kids can talk to Alexa and tell her to play songs.  The thing that I hate about it is that my kids can talk to it and tell her to play songs.  Many days I come home and there’s a dance party going on in our living room.  My four-year-old son is the DJ; Alexa, play The Final Countdown.  Alexa, play Came in Like a Wrecking Ball.  My kids have the inability to listen to an entire song.  They jump around so much.

I can’t imagine growing up as a kid with an “Alexa” in my home.  When I grew up—-back in the day—-I can remember driving in my dad’s 1970’s Honda Civic listening to this thing called a radio.  Not only that, it didn’t have anything that lit up on it in the way of numbers.  You had to turn this dial and the dial would sync up with different radio stations.  Some of them came in really good, and sometimes there was static.  Sometimes you had it going good for a while, then you drove a little bit and it got out of sync.  The station you had it programmed on was no longer programmed on.  There was this constant—not science—art of listening.  Not creating but listening to music.  Some of you may remember growing up and gathering around one of these radios and listening to shows that came on.  It was the form of entertainment a number of decades ago.

I think life is more like this radio than it is Alexa. I think there’s moments when we’re synced in and then there’s moments where there’s just static.  I think our assumption is that if we’re here this morning and we’re a follower of Jesus it’s really simple that we just trust Him and then we sync up and that’s that.  But you and I know that the dial slips, doesn’t it?  Sometimes we’re hearing the voice of God and it’s clear and, what the Bible would say, in step with the Spirit, and then there’s time where it’s either static or it’s a different station altogether.  When Pastor John wrote to the series of churches, he identified and spoke into their lives about how important it is to make sure that you’re dialed in.  To make sure that you’re hearing the right frequencies, that you’re listening to the right voices, because there are multiple voices that you could hear and that I could hear, and….{Will you look up at my for a second?}…..we ALL hear voices.

Will you turn with me to 1 John 3:24?  We all hear voices and the truth is our lives are shaped by the voices we hear and the voices we listen to.  Pastor John, writing to this series of churches…..John, who was loved by Jesus, who walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, touched Jesus, smelled Jesus, ate with Jesus, writes to his churches and says this:  Whoever keeps his commandments…  {We’ve talked about this already.  His commandment is to love.}  …abides in God, and God in him.  And by this we know that he abides in us, {They question they might be asking is How does God abide in us?  He says oh, this is how….}  by the Spirit whom he has given us.

John anticipates a question.  This happens all throughout, especially the New Testament epistles, the authors assume that the readers are going to have a question and he anticipates and answers the question.  The question he assumes you’re going to have when you read that?  How do we know we’re dialed in to the right frequency?  How do we know we’re actually hearing the voice of God and not just some other voice, or our voice, or the loudest voice in the world we live in, but actually hearing the voice of God?  Here’s the way John answers that question — Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.  {John is simply saying that there is a myriad of spirits, there’s a myriad of voices, there’s a myriad of messages, so you’ve to be intentional and not get swept away in the midst of all the different voices.}  By this you know the Spirit of God:  every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist, {The one who is against Messiah, against the King.}  …which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

John is writing to a church that’s at the crossroads.  They’re a church that has a number of different voices going on in their culture, in their day.  Some of them are more clear than others, but their question is man, in the midst of all these different voices, how in the world, do we know if we’re hearing the right voice?  In the midst of people dying for their faith, how do we hold on to that voice?  In the midst of this quasi-new religion that’s sprung up on the scene—that Jesus is Lord of all…..how do we sort through all these voices, some of which have been around longer and actually know this is the voice above all?  John is writing to (we would call it) a spiritual people.  We live in a material world.  This is the air that we breathe.  This is the zeitgeist of life in the West—-the physical world is all that there is.  That would not have been so with John’s audience.  They knew this was a spiritual world.  {Anecdotally, the majority of the world still knows that and still believes that.}  John says there’s other voices, there’s other spirits.  And he says do you want to know how you’re listening to the right spirit?  Here’s the one question, the only question, you have to ask—-What do they do with Jesus?  What is the spirit, what is the voice, what is the message that you’re hearing, do with Jesus?  He says listen, if Jesus is exalted as Lord, if Jesus is exalted as God, then that’s the Spirit of God.  If not…..  Notice, John is very black and white.  If not, if it’s not the Spirit of God exalting the person and work of Jesus, then it’s ANTICHRIST.   Not like….sort of wrong.  It’s EITHER the Spirit of God exalting the work of Jesus or it’s not.  It’s one or the other.  In fact, in the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul will write and say—Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ….. (Phil. 1:19)  All throughout the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is equated with the Spirit of Jesus, pointing us to Jesus.  John says that’s your litmus test.

Let’s just pause for a moment and recognize that while we may not live in what we’d perceive to be as “spiritual” a world as John is writing to, there are a number of different voices in our world, aren’t there?  There’s a number of different things that people say about Jesus.  Jesus was a good teacher.  Jesus was a prophet.  Jesus was a miracle worker.  Jesus was a nice guy.  Jesus is a figment of your imagination.  There’s a number of different things that the spirits, or people, or ideologies, or world views will do with Jesus.  That would be what the “religious” voices are and there’s a plurality of them.  But there’s also a number of voices you hear that you wouldn’t attribute to religion.  It’s just the air that we breathe, the world that we live in.  Some of the voices will say things like new, or better, or more IS the anthem of life.  This is the Solomonic quest—try to get more, try to get better, try to get brighter, try to get newer, and THEN, life will be okay.  I would add that the holiday of Thanksgiving speaks directly into that lie.  If you’re caught up in a world of MORE, the best thing you can do is pause to give thanks for what you have.

You don’t need to go much further than opening your news app to figure out that we live in a world that has a number of voices.  A number of things saying build your life on this.  Just recently, a number of people in Hollywood have been accused of crimes and we wonder how it could become so wide-spread.  And….shame on us for looking to Hollywood to be the bastion of morality in our society.  This should not surprise us.  And you don’t have to look too far in your news app or newspaper to see things like suicides or mass-shootings, or even in your own soul, to feel the escalating anticipation and anxiety associated with Christmas.  And these are all voices.  These are all things that we hear.

The invitation from John, through the Scriptures, and to these churches, and to us today, is step back from the noise and step into the voice….the voice of the one true Spirit.  Step out of the chaos and into the clarity.  Step out of the deafness and into the life.  There is a voice that speaks, a Spirit that speaks, above the noise and above the crowd and that’s what John wants to say.  So he’ll say ‘discern’ the spirits, test them out, and figure out if there of God.  Discerning the voice you follow is so, so important, because it determines the life that you live.  Determines the life that you live because we all hear voices.

We all hear voices.  What I’ve found as I’ve thought about my own life and I’ve talked with many of you, I think there’s one of two voices that is primary in our life.  There’s either the voice in the back of our head, the spirit that says…work, achieve, validate, earn, and prove.  Prove that you’re worth the skin and the breath that God gave you.  There’s another voice.  Some of you hear it.  Some of you march to it.  Some of you stay in step with it and it’s a beautiful thing, because this voice says, “You’re my beloved with whom I’m well pleased.”  There’s a spirit of the world and that spirit says, “Earn, prove, validate, achieve more, more, more, in order to be okay.”  And there’s the Spirit of God that says, “You’re loved.”  And it’s THAT Spirit that I want to invite you into today.  I think even in a “Christian” world, even in the church, we get this wrong so often.

I’m reading a book with a few friends right now that came highly recommended and has been popular for the last few months.  The book is called The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher.  St. Benedict was a monk back in the fifth and sixth centuries.  He founded twelve different monasteries.  He created this rule of life that many followers of Jesus have ascribed to over the years.  The rule of life is actually beautiful and a good thing, however, while reading the book, I found out that most of The Benedict Option is based around fear.  Retreat.  Get out of the world, because the world is going downhill really quick.  Have you been around Christians who, when they listen to God, their first inclination is to run?  To retreat?  To fear?  That’s the premise of the book.

We also have other ways we interact with the world.  One of them might be retreat.  Another may be retaliate.  If I’ve been wronged, I’m going to be wrong and that’s what the Spirit of God says to me.  You also may hear this voice in the back of your head….I hear this one often.  It doesn’t say retreat and it doesn’t say retaliate, it just says…..recline.  Praise Jesus!  Just go along with it.  This is where it’s going, just go with it.  Which makes the question all that more significant—-What does the Spirit of God say?  And how do we know if we’re listening to his Spirit?  Just turning the switch and becoming a follower of Jesus can give us a ton of voices.  What does His Spirit say?

Let me jump in and answer the question from this little letter that John writes to these churches.  How do we know that we’re listening, that we’re in step with the Spirit of God, with the voice of God.  Discerning the voices we hear is so important because it leads to the life that we live.  The voices we hear lead to the life that we live. Here’s what Pastor John says:  Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)  John is suggesting that there is a competition going on for the space between your ears and your heart.  There’s a competition going on.  Have you ever played the game “King of the Hill” as a kid?  John’s saying that the same type of interaction is going on with the narrative that you put in your brain, and that you hear, and that you live in.  What station are you going to dial into?  Which spirit are you going to listen to?  John says that the Spirit of Jesus is stronger, is greater, is bigger, is better.  His point is that when we listen to the Spirit, when we walk in step with the Spirit, it convinces us of God’s strength and of his victory.  You go, hey, Paulson, I want to believe that but the reality is there are some things that I believe in my life that have power.  Not Jesus.  There’s some things that play in the back of my mind that make me anxious.  There’s some things that play in the back of my mind that make me want to retreat.  There’s some things that play in the back……   That’s why what John is writing to these churches is so important, because he goes I get it!  I understand that!  There’s competition for that space in your brain and in your heart.  I get it.

He would say that those other voices certainly have power, but they only have the power you give them.  The Scriptures are going to teach us, they’re going to press on us.  The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 about us being both physical, material people living in a physical world, but engaging in a spiritual battle.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.   {A stronghold was a picture of a fortified city where troops gathered to prepare for war.  He says you’ve got those things in your mind and in your heart.}  We destroy arguments…  {That’s the spiritual battle.  What are you listening to?  That’s the spiritual battle.  You want to fight that battle?}  …and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.   Those other voices only have the power you give them.

I think Paul would say three things.  You’ve got to recognize the voices playing in your head.  The spirit of the antichrist, John would say.  The anti-Messiah, the one who’s against Jesus.  You’ve got to identify, you’ve got to recognize it.  The second thing is to rebuke it.  You’ve got to tell it it’s a lie.  Martin Lloyd Jones, on his essays on spiritual depression, says that we spend way too much time listening to ourselves.   We got to spend more time talking to ourselves.  Identifying lies and pointing them out.  We recognize it, we rebuke it, and then we redirect it.  John says we’ve got to make every thought captive under the lordship of Jesus.  What does this tell us about Jesus?  How does this fit under the work of Jesus?  How does this fit under the victory of Jesus?  We would call this renewing our mind.  It’s what the Spirit longs to do in you.  Victory is possible.  Other voices have power, but only power we give them.  Because the Spirit of God lives in us, John would say THAT Spirit is greater.  Can you see his church going, “Oh, man!  That’s a game changer.”

Here’s what he says next.  He wants to push back against a generally conceived notion about what God is like. So he says this:  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)  You may have heard it read at a wedding.  You may have heard it from a devotional — God is love.  It’s sort of this nice, warm feeling.  John is speaking into a lie.  He’s speaking into a lie that many people in his culture believe. Growing up in a Greco-Roman culture, their view of the gods would have been very different than this view of God.  The very world was birthed in a cosmic battle, according to them.  Human beings were simply created to serve god, and if they did a poor job, they should expect to be struck down.  So when John writes God is love, his original audience would have been scratching their heads.  He’s love and……what else?  He’s love and he’s angry.  No.  He’s love and he’s vindictive.  No.  He’s love and he’s going to crush his enemies.  No.  He’s love PERIOD.  What John doesn’t say is that God is loving.  As if to say that’s one of the attributes or characteristic that we could attach to God.  Certainly he is loving, but he’s loving because he is love.  It’s the very essence of his character and that’s what John wants to point out.  As the Spirit of God works in your heart and life, and mine, what it points out to us is what God is like.   And God is love.  It’s his very essence.

Let me describe it like this.  As a father, I love my kids.  When I’m healthy, everything I do flows out of my love for them.  I get messed up and twisted sometimes, just like you do, and I get angry, but even my anger flows out of my love.  Even my discipline of them flows out of my love for them.  I want them to become the kind of people who love the life that God’s invited them to live.  I don’t want them to be jerks!  It’s because I love and because I can see the writing on the wall.  If you keep going down THAT road, it’s going to lead to a place you don’t want to go.  The limitations I put in their life are because I love them.

The same is true of God.  If you were to get down underneath everything, here’s what you’d learn about God:  He’s love.  The reason for creation?  Love.  The reason for redemption?  Love.  The reason for incarnation?  Love.  The reason for it all?  Take a deep breath right now.  The reason you’re able to do it?  Love.  That’s what’s behind it all.  John goes a little bit further and says listen, I want to describe it even better.  (Verse 9)  In this the love of God was made manifest… {It appeared.  The veil was pulled back on the extravagance and extent of the love of God, the reckless love of God.}  …among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.    He says do you want to know the extent and extravagance of God’s reckless love?  Look no further than the person and work of Jesus.  Exhibit A.

Here’s the thing.  If God’s angry, if God’s simply out for retributive justice, Jesus makes no sense.  And that’s John’s point.  Jesus makes absolutely no sense if God is simply angry and wants justice.  You can’t get to Jesus if that’s God’s motive.   Not only that, but he says that Jesus does something else.  (Verse 10.)  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.    Here’s John’s point—don’t start to think, don’t let the spirit inside you start to say God loves you IF.    If that’s the voice you hear, I can assure you, it’s not the voice of God.  Why?  Because God, in his very essence and nature, is love.  It is impossible for God to do anything except love.  Let that sink in for a moment.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE for God to do ANYTHING outside of love.  Because that’s who he is.  He goes okay, even the people who were against him…..not that we’ve loved God.  That’s not the narrative we share in the back of our head, that’s not the story we tell.  Even people who DIDN’T love him, he loved.  Why?  Because he’s love.  Is that the voice you’re hearing?  This is what God is like–through and through.  Always and forever.  For all of eternity, God will be (not loving) love.

Therefore, all throughout this passage he says things like verse 7—Let us love one another….   Verse 11—-We also out to love one another.  Verse 12—If we love one another…  Verse 20—-Love you brother.  He goes listen, the bar’s not all that high, just don’t hate the people around you.  Because that’s what God is like.  He doesn’t hate his enemies, he dies for his enemies.  The Spirit not only reinforces the victory that God has for you, not only does He remind you of the character of what God is like, but he says follow me and charts the course of what it looks like to live in the way of love.  Early followers of Jesus got this.  They were like this is our anthem.  We’re people who love.  Before they had a Bible, they had a command.  Love the people around us.  Everyone.  Period.  Always.  There’s no footnote.  There’s no choose your own adventure.  As a follower of Jesus, you don’t get to choose IF you’re going to love, you just simply get to choose HOW. It’s what the Spirit would stir in you, if you’re listening.  The soundtrack to the world says hate.  Get revenge.  Get yours.  Defend yourself.  Come out on top at all costs.  The Spirit of God says:  Love.

Here’s how John ends this section.  The Spirit’s affirmation into our fear.  (1 John 4:17-19)  By this is love perfected (completed, fulfilled) with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.   Notice, the anthem of Christianity, the calling, the command above it all, is to love, but John says if you get the character of God wrong, you’re going to get the command wrong.  If you don’t recognize that God loved you first, you won’t live in the way of love.  But if you do, you are released into that way.  What John claims….this is a great verse….verse 18.  It’s an amazing verse!  There’s no fear in love.  We apply it in a number of different ways.  I think there are applications of it in other ways, but John’s specific and unique application is this:  If God is love, and you know that in the depths of your bones because you’re living in the way of love, you don’t need to fear standing before God.  You can do so with confidence.

So many people live their lives afraid of God.  They live their lives under…..what I would claim to be sort of this experience of Dante’s Inferno. Epic poem written in the 14th century.  Virgil takes this journey through the nine rings of Hell.  In each one, somebody’s being tortured for their sins.  I think a lot of our view of God comes more from Dante than it does from the Bible.  Here’s what John would say to you and to me:  Knowing the Spirit calms our fears.  It casts out our fears.

Some of you are saying, hey, Paulson, I’ve read my Bible and I know that the Bible says that we should fear God.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….   It’s in there….over 100 times.  What do we do with that?  We always read the Bible through the lens of Jesus first, because Jesus is ultimately what God has to say.  That’s where we start.  We start with Jesus.  Then we try to figure out what it means to fear God.  It means awe, it means reverence, it means worship, it means ascribing and attributing the power that’s due to him.  He created it all.  John is saying that while God certainly has the power and ability to crush us, instead he chooses to use that same power and ability to love us.  He uses that power to speak into our lives and to calm our fears.  Some of us need to listen to that voice today.  We’ve been living the narrative of self-rejection.  We’ve been living the narrative of fear.  We’ve been letting those voices of the things that we’ve done in our past and the failures and the shortcomings speak a word over us.  Today, the Spirit of God wants to speak a better word.  I love the way Henri Nouwen put it: “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that declares we are loved.  Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.  We are loved as creatures with both limitations and glory.”    The voice of self-rejection is what John would call antichrist.  Anti-God.  Anti-Love.  Anti-Goodness.  The question is which tape are you listening to?  Which story are you hearing?

Four different times in this passage…..live in the way of love, live in the way of love, live in the way of love.  It was what the Spirit was saying to the church back then and it’s what the Spirit of God says to South Fellowship Church today.  Let the Spirit invite you into victory.  Let the Spirit invite you into recognizing the character of God is love at his very essence.  That’s not what he does, it’s who he is.  It’s why he does everything he does.  To chart the course forward with us, for us.  To affirm over us a calming of fears as Romans 8:15-17 would say:  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, {That’s not what’s inside of you.  It might be what you’re listening to, but it’s not the Spirit of God.} …but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons….

So here’s what we get the opportunity to do as St. Augustine so poignantly put it:  “Love and say it with your life.”  Don’t just love with emotion, anybody can do that.  Love in action.  Love when it’s easier to hate.  Let the Spirit empower you.  Love when it’s easier to hate.  When it’s easier to say it’s us against them.  When it’s easier to say they’ve hurt me, they’ve wronged me, therefore I’m going to lob grenades back towards them.  When it’s easier to hate, choose, allow the Spirit to prompt you into the way of love.  When it’s easier to fear, love.  When you’d rather retreat and just be around people that you perceive can’t hurt you, love.  Love requires proximity.  You can’t love from a distance, you can only love intimately.  Finally, love when it’s easier to concede.  Lest you think that love just means sitting back and letting people around you do whatever they want to do.  Speak a better word.  Speak a word of hope.  Speak a word of resurrection.  Speak a word of life.  Speak a word of love.

As the worship team comes back up, I want to you put your stuff away and I want to carve out a few seconds for you to listen.  For you to listen to this God who speaks.  Jesus said my sheep hear my voice.  Now that you have this grid, we know what the Spirit of God wants to lead us to, to recognize the victory we have, so maybe the word that you hear as you listen is a word of God speaking victory into some of your fears right now.  Into some of the things that you’re carrying that you think you’re never going to get over.  Maybe you hear the Spirit speak a word about God being love.  Maybe your view of God is different than that.  Would you let Him speak to you this morning?  Maybe the word’s more specific….maybe it’s about the way that you’re living.  Would you be open to his loving correction?  Maybe you’re afraid.  Afraid of God.  Afraid of this world.  Would you let love speak a better word?  Jesus, we’re listening.

1 John 4:12 says — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.    John is saying that as you listen to the Spirit of God and as you live in the way of God, while people may not be able to see God literally around them, they will see God through you.  They can’t see him literally, but they can see him through you.  If He’s love, when you love, you point to your God.  The only way we do that is if we first know that we’re loved.

Jesus, I pray as we listen to your voice, your voice above all the others, your voice above the crowds, our prayer is that you would speak a word of love that would release us to live in the way of love.  Spirit, speak over our fears, speak into our anxieties.  Spirit, speak into the lies, break down those walls, we pray.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Dwell | Dialed In | 1 John 4:1-20 | Week 52020-08-19T15:45:20-06:00

Dwell | Our Great God and His Glorious Goal | 1 John 2:28-3:10 | Week 4

Over the past few months I’ve had the privilege of preaching at a small church down in Castle Rock that’s looking for a new pastor because their former sr. pastor retired at the end of June. It’s a healthy little church that has a lot of life and some really great people. And one of the people that I’ve been able to get to know is an 84 year old guy named Dick.  He and his wife Bonnie are core members of the church, they always sit in the 2nd row and are really attentive so one Sunday morning, after worship, I asked Dick what he had done for a living. He told me that he was in the insurance business but then he quickly spoke of the time when he was 40 and he and Bonnie, at the invitation of some friends, started to attend a church in Lakewood where the pastor was almost as good of a preacher as Ryan Paulsen. Dick said that one Sunday the pastor gave an invitation to come forward and receive Christ and he felt this overwhelming compulsion so he got up, walked down the aisle and made a personal commitment to the Savior. And then he said that from that day on, everything in his life began to change.  His marriage become more intimate and committed, he saw his insurance business not just as a way to make money but as a way to serve others and he became very concerned about the spiritual condition of his friends while paying attention to the future of work at the same time, his employees and people around the world. Eventually, he and Bonnie got involved in a ministry called Evangelism Explosion and they had Xian tracts printed up and sent out with all their insurance literature and, over time, they traveled to over 20 countries to give out Bibles to those people in their own language. A few weeks ago, Dick and Bonnie, missed a Sunday and the following week when they showed up I told em’ we missed them and Dick said, ‘Well, one of our grand-daughters was helping to lead worship at her church and so we had to go support her.’ I don’t think there’s any question whatsoever that when Dick made that personal commitment to Christ 44 years ago his entire life went in a new and better direction that impacted him, his family and innumerable other people in a positive way. Transition/Curve/Go Slow Dick’s experience illustrates the biblical truth that when you become ‘born again’ as Jesus said in John 3 – you get God’s spiritual DNA – and that will shape your life and determine your destiny. That’s true for you and that’s true for me. Our spiritual DNA determines our destiny both temporally and eternally and I’d like to show you that from our passage in I John. And to make the really personal I want to ask 3 questions and then have all of us here answer those for ourselves. So let’s start with the first question, which is ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ and now let’s look at I John 3:4-8 which forces us to wrestle with some important truths. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9

  1. Who’s Your Daddy?

 

  • John says a number of interesting & provocative things in these 5 verses.
  • For starters, in v. 4, he describes sin as ‘lawlessness’:
  • WS: anomie – means a reckless disregard for the things and ways of God; the word describes an arrogant attitude of radical autonomy that rejects and disobeys God because it’s natural to do that.

ILL.-  Augustine of Hippo:  (Picture)  pecae non peccare; non-pecae non-peccare and we have their fallen nature. ILL.-  G.K. Chesterton:  *’What’s Wrong with the World?  ‘Dear Sirs:  In response to your editorial ‘What’s Wrong with the World?  I am.  Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.’

  • In our natural, fallen state we automatically live in lawless rebellion against God and, therefore, we’re part of what’s wrong with the world.
  • Then, in v. 8, John says something else that gets our attention: The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
  • He says that the father of anomie – this lawless attitude of rebellion – is the devil, otherwise known as Satan.
  • The Bible talks quite a bit about Satan, who was the pre-eminent arch-angel who opposed God and was thrown out of heaven.
  • And from various hints in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, the Gospels and Revelation we get the strong impression that the devil’s core sin was pride and self-sufficiency; it’s this notion of radical autonomy that by nature opposes God.

ILL.-  Perhaps the 17th century English poet & Puritan John Milton described it best in Paradise Lost:  Satan says ‘It’s better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.’

  • And ever since Satan set himself up in total opposition to God, his work has been to destroy God’s creation, starting with people – & in our natural, fallen state we go along with him – either consciously or otherwise – & make a mess of things.

That’s the bad news of this text.

  • But the Good News is that God wants to free us from the control of Satan, the chains of our sin and the penalty of death – and then transform the way we live.
  • To see how God has done this, let’s look again at what John writes in v. 5 and the 2nd half of v. 8.

But you know that he (Christ) appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

  • God’s response to the enormously destructive work of the devil and the horribly fallen condition of humanity was the Incarnation:
  • The Incarnation was the event where the eternal Son of God was born as a baby to Mary and Joseph and then grew up to become Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Jesus lived a perfect life and then died on a Roman execution rack to destroy the devil’s work and deliver us from our sins.

ILL.-  Fleming Rutledge (Picture) The Crucifixion:  Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ.  16 years to write, thinking @ this since she was 14.  Goes into a brilliant and sophisticated discussion of Christ’s Incarnation/Atoning Death on the crow so that our sins could be paid for, their power absolved & the devil’s work undone.

  • Those laid the foundation for His resurrection from the dead, His ascension to heaven and the gift of His Spirit that allows us to be born again and receive His spiritual DNA.
  • And that’s what John talks about next. Look at v. 9-10.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.  10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

  • John says that when we accept Christ – we gain His spiritual seed (WS – sperma) – we get HIS nature – proving that we are born of God.

ILL.-  When children are conceived they get their DNA from their father and mother

  • John is using that biological reality as a metaphor to say that when men, women and children come in faith to Christ they’re spiritually born of Him & have a new DNA.
  • And over time that begins to change everything about them because NOW they have a new nature at work in them.
  • And this answers the question that arises in our minds about John’s statements that ‘no one born of God will continue to sin’ and ‘they cannot go on sinning’:
  • He’s not saying that those who know God – who are born again and have his Spiritual DNA – don’t ever sin again.
  • He’s saying that the children of God can’t live in sin; they can’t habitually & consistently practice it because it violates the new nature of Jesus that now resides in them.
  • Friends, if you and I know Christ and have HIS SPIRITUAL DNA – we’re going to sin (that’s a reflection of our old nature) – but because we now have a new nature we’ll feel bad about our sin & be motivated by the Holy Spirit to repent & move towards maturity.

ILL.-  Jamison Ward and Angie:  He’s got His Heavenly Father’s spiritual DNA   APP.- So, as we summarize this portion of the text, it forces us to address the question… Who’s Your Daddy? Who’s Spiritual DNA do you possess? If you’re here and you don’t claim to be a follower of Jesus we just want you to know that we’re SO GLAD you’re here and this is free information for you to consider and think about. But if you’re here & you know Christ John wants you to know that God is your Father & that will determine where our lives go now and where we end up when we die. Our spiritual DNA does determine our destiny. Transition/Curve/Go Slow Let me show us one of the implications of that which revolves around our 2nd Question: What’s your calling? Look at 2:28-3:1 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

  1. What’s your calling?

 

  • In this section, John says that we can acquire the Father’s DNA and be called His children because of the AWESOME LOVE that He has lavished on us.

ILL.-  The Wal-Mart Commercial on TV where the parents are surprising their kids with special gifts that they really wanted on Xmas morning.  The marketers want us to know that if we really love our kids we’ll drive the extra mile to Wal-mart & buy that perfect, special gift that will cause them to explode with joy!

  • John is exploding with joy because of the Father’s love that has been expressed for us in Christ’s Incarnation, Death & Resurrection and His incomprehensible willingness to make us born again and give us His Spiritual DNA.
  • That’s why we can be called His children.
  • But what’s really interesting and really, really important in this portion of our text is v. 28 where John says ‘dear children, continue in Him….’
  • This is an imperative – in other words – it’s a command.
  • The word ‘continue’ can be translated remain, abide, or DWELL.
  • It means, as Ryan noted last week, to follow Jesus and practice the life HE HAS CALLED US TO LIVE.
  • To continue OR DWELL IN JESUS means that we follow His call in every aspect of our being – relationally, sexually, financially, occupationally, intellectually – AS HE LEADS US THRU THE COURSE OF OUR LIVES.

ILL.-  I’m a student of Leadership and I came across a great Quote on Leadership by historian and teacher Nancy Koehn via the writer David Foster Wallace: Real leaders are those individuals who help us overcome the limitations our own weaknesses, laziness, selfishness and fears and get us to do harder, better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.

  • I love that definition of leadership because it describes Who Jesus is.
  • He leads, inspires and helps us to do what’s best in spite of our weaknesses, failures & limitations – AND that’s WHY OUR CALLING is to DWELL in Him, Abide in Him and follow Him throughout the course of our lives.
  • Friends, that does NOT mean perfectly: It does mean persistently.

APP.-

  • Some of you here this morning are Tired – you’re in or you’ve just come thru a weary season of life and you emotionally limped into the worship center today
  • Others in this room are Hurting – you’ve suffered some sort of relational breakdown and are heartbroken and in pain & you’re just trying to get thru the weekend.
  • Many of us are Anxious – we’re concerned about kids, or the stress of the holidays and nervous about the state of our country/culture – especially with all the mass shootings – and those feelings can overwhelm us and sometimes cause us to shut down.
  • Wherever you’re at today – whether you’re in a good place or a tough place – I want to encourage you to do exactly what John commands here and that is dwell in Jesus.
  • He’s our Savior, our Lord, and the Best Leader who ever lived.

 

  • He’s the One who said ‘Come to Me, All who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

PI:  If we have His DNA & follow Him persistently He’ll help us navigate the challenges of our lives now. Transition/Curve/Go Slow And then He’s going to do something even more astounding than that.  Look at 3:2-3 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

  • Where’s our Hope?

 

  • This takes us to our 3rd Question: Where’s our Hope?
  • This portion of the passage shows the absolute necessity of having the HOPE of our eternal destiny with Jesus at the very center of our souls

BECAUSE HOPE IS THE FUEL THAT OUR LIVES RUN ON.

  • We need Hope in Jesus when we get really sick & need His healing touch
  • When our marriages or families get tangled – we need HOPE that the resurrected LORD can help get things untangled so we can have healthy relationships
  • In the midst of a culture of division and political dysfunction we need Hope that Christ is in control & redeeming people, building His church & advancing His kingdom.
  • And friends, since Jesus is going to return someday and take those of us who have His Spiritual DNA & are His children to be with Him forever – can I suggest that by His grace we do our best to live as the most HOPEFUL PEOPLE AROUND?

ILL. – Did you know that Hope has actual healing power?  In one study, 122 men who had a heart attack and survived were surveyed on their degree of hopefulness or pessimism.  Of the 25 most pessimistic, 21 died within 8 years.  Of the 25 most optimistic on 6 had died.  Loss of hope increased the odds of death by 300%.  It predicted death more accurately than any medical factor including blood pressure, degree of heart damage or cholesterol.  You know what that means?  IT MEANS IT’S ALWAYS BETTER TO EAT DONUTS IN HOPE THAN BROCCOLI IN DESPAIR!

  • And John stresses the incredible hope we have as Xians when he says ‘we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
  • When Jesus returns – those of us who have died in Him will be resurrected & those believers who are still alive will be raptured.
  • And all of us will be transformed into these beautiful, marvelous creatures who have resurrected & glorified bodies just like Jesus has now!

ILL.-  I don’t know about you but that is becoming increasingly important to me.  In my opinion, one of the greatest meals ever invented is a really good pizza along with a delicious craft beer.  I love that but I get these bad headaches & can no longer drink beer.  But someday, in my resurrected & glorified body in the kingdom of God, I’m going to be able to eat as much pizza & drink as much beer as I want. And the same is true for all those who have the Father’s DNA and dwell in the Son. Our destiny has been determined and it is glorious. So, let me ask you, Where’s your Hope? When this life comes to an end, and at some point it will, where do you want to spend eternity? Conclusion Back in the fall of 2003, some friends of mine and I felt led of the LORD to start Aspen Grove Community Church. The leadership of South Fellowship so gracious and generously allowed us to use the ELCenter on Thursday nights for our worship services and children’s ministries.  And so on Thursday night, January 15th, 2004, we started with 47 people and continued to meet every Thursday night thru the winter and on into the spring. Well, Easter began to approach and we wanted to do the best we could to reach out to our family members and friends who didn’t yet know Jesus and so rented out two large rooms down at the old World Venture headquarters for Sunday, April 18th.  And everyone pledged to pray for their family members and friends and then invite them and see what God might do. And by God’s grace, we had a Great Easter Service – we had a brunch that was great; the worship was fantastic, the kids program was really positive, I thought the sermon went pretty well and we had almost 175 show up.  And when it was all over, I was on a HUGE HIGH – I thought ‘Lord, this is exactly why you called us to start this church!’  And I think I was just about the last one to leave the building. Walked into the parking lot and my sister, Becky, who had come to the service was standing by my car.  She was 4 years older than me and had had a difficult life for a lot of reasons and she didn’t know Jesus in any kind of a personal way so when she came that Easter Sunday I was really excited. And as I get up close to the car I can tell that she was crying and I remember thinking, ‘I didn’t think the sermon was that bad.’  And when I got to her I gave her a hug & she said thru sobs how great the people were and what a great service it was and that she wanted to come back. And she did.  She came back the next Thursday night and then the one after that and the one after that.  Something spiritual had happened in her heart that Easter Sunday morning.  She was born again and got the Father’s DNA, and she became a child of God. And then she started to dwell in Jesus and she began to grow spiritually and she began to serve and even give some of her $.  And while life continued to throw some pretty big challenges her way she became one of the most faithful members of Aspen Grove Community Church where she worshipped Jesus every single week. Over the past 2 years she struggled with some serious health issues and little over two months ago she got really sick and we put her in the hospital and then the ICU. But the LORD wanted to take her to be with Him and so, on Thursday, 9/14, she entered the arms of the Savior. Her Spiritual DNA – which she got that Easter Sunday back 2004 – determined her destiny – an eternity of glory of with our mighty God and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. May that exact same thing be true for me and may it be true for all of you as well.

Dwell | Our Great God and His Glorious Goal | 1 John 2:28-3:10 | Week 42020-08-19T15:44:00-06:00

Dwell | Booths and Tables | 1 John 2:15-27 | Week 3

The Israelite people were a people committed to memory. They were committed to remembering the journey that they’d walked as a nation and as a people. They had wired into the rhythm of their year certain mile-markers that they’d cross that were reminders for them….to not forget the story. One of those mile-markers is called The Feast of Booths. It would happen around late fall, every year. The command came out of Leviticus 23:42-43. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Every year, an Israelite family would build a booth. It was a temporary structure, one that they would decorate with some of the fruits of Palestine. They would make these booths—they would call them tabernacles or, in Hebrew, Sukkot, which is the name of the festival or celebration. They would take them into the wilderness and they would camp for a week. And they would remember. Remember when we were enslaved in Egypt and God miraculously brought us out. Remember when He parted the Red Sea. Remember when we walked through on dry ground. Remember when He preserved us for forty years in the wilderness. Remember.

Can you imagine being a little kid with your family, your parents and your grandparents, and building a booth and going and putting it in the wilderness, and sitting around the fire and recounting the stories? Telling of the faithfulness of God? When I was growing up, my family and I did a few camping trips, not too many. I can remember each of them. I can remember sitting around a fire outside of Lake Tahoe. My dad, with his guitar, taught us the song “It Only Takes a Spark to Get a Fire Going.” I was wondering, at the time, why it was taking us so long to get OUR fire going, but that’s a whole other story! I can remember it. You have to think of yourselves as….back in their shoes….they were so committed. These are going to be things that we pass down from generation to generation. These are going to be stories that we tell. We refuse—the nation of Israel said—we refuse to forget the faithfulness of God. Because there’s going to be times that it could happen. There’s going to be times when His provision in the desert seems like it’s a really, really, really, long way off. There’s going to be times when it feels like we’re running out of water in the parched land. It’s going to be these stories that preserve us.

It should come as no surprise that when the Apostle John starts to write to the churches, in the region of what’s now modern-day Turkey, in this letter we have that’s known as 1 John, this pastor, this friend of Jesus, this person who’s been brought up and steeped in Judaism, would say this in 1 John 2: 24 — Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. {Some translations will say….Let the story that you heard abide in you. Let the story remain in you, because…..} If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. Notice this great emphasis John is placing on abiding and how important it is. He’s saying listen, if what you heard, if the story that you heard……and that’s the way some translations will translate this. They’ll say let the story you’ve heard from the beginning abide in you and IF and WHEN it does, you too will abide in the Father and the Son. Here’s what John wants you to get. He wants you to understand that the stories that we tell ourselves have significant power. This story, uniquely, this gospel story, this grace story, this Jesus story, has an unbelievable power to connect you to the God of the universe. So he says abide in it.

You can literally translate ‘abide’ as ‘remain.’ Remain in the story. Or you could translate it ‘stand in the story.’ Or you could translate it like Eugene Peterson does, in his paraphrase version of the Scriptures called The Message, ‘make your home in the story.’ Listen to the way he (Peterson) says it in John 15:7 — “If you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.” John puts great emphasis on abiding and he paints the picture like this is a decision. You and I have to make a decision…..where are we going to make our home? I don’t know about you, but as I think back on this last week, there’s a number of places I’ve made my home. I’ve made my home in anxiety. Anybody with me? I’ve made my home in fear a few times. Some of us have made our home in perfectionism. If I get it right, ALL THE TIME, then I will be okay. Some of us have made our home in shame and we’ve made our home in guilt.

Here’s the reality: You WILL abide in something. All of us do. The question John wants to ask is will you abide in THIS story? What you’ve heard from the beginning, will you let THAT sink in? Will you let THAT take root? Will you let THAT shape the life that you live? It’s possible to HEAR the story, but not make your home in it. It’s possible to hear the story, but not abide in it. This is what we would call in the sort of landscape of the church in general….it’s conversion to Jesus without formation to become like him. That’s what it means to hear the story but not let it abide in us. {Will you look up at me for just a moment?} We want more for you than to just hear the story. We want it to make a home in you. We want it to find a place where it rests in your soul. At South, here’s how we envision spiritual formation happening. Here’s what it looks like. There’s three prongs that you and I have to push into to let the story abide in us. The first (in no particle order) is practice. We take seriously the invitation from Jesus to follow Him. It’s not just hearing the words of Jesus, it’s actually living in the way of Jesus. It’s becoming generous people. It’s becoming people who forgive our enemies, who love those who hate us. Who (as we heard last week) bandage the wounds of our enemies who would want to destroy us. It’s people who are grounded in Scripture in a way that it starts to change them. Who practice prayer and silence.

The second thing is teaching. We gather around the Scriptures and say, Jesus, we want to know how to live in your way? The main way we do that is by diving into the Scriptures and asking Lord, how have you shaped and formed Jesus’s people for centuries? We want to find that out here. We take that really, really serious. Most models of spiritual formation typically stop there. They say….practice and teaching. We want to say that, as we read the Scriptures, we see community and fellowship together being really, really important for our formation. In gathering together on a Sunday and being involved in a Life Group, we’re saying that we want the story to abide in us and we believe that that happens best together. Not as singular, solo, isolated people spinning out there worshiping Jesus. No. Love is practiced in community. Fellowship is practiced in community. I love the way Eugene Peterson said it: “Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it. We take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.”

When John says abide in THIS story, here’s his invitation: Remain. Remain in the story of grace. Remain in the story of love. Remain in the story of Jesus. Retell it to yourself in the same way that the Israelites got into booths, went into the wilderness and camped, every single year, to remember our God provided for us in the desert. Remain in that story he says. Because the story leads us to relationship with divinity and life eternally. {Slide: Remaining in the story leads to relationship with divinity and life eternally.} Did you notice that that’s what John said? If you remain, you become connected to God in a way that allows you to find your home in him. What a great promise! What an unbelievable promise! The Apostle Paul will pick up this idea that man, what you think about matters. What we think about matters. The place that we set our mind matters. Listen to the way he says it in Romans 8:5-6 — For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. So maybe his question after to his churches would have been so where’s your mind set? Where’s it fixed? What are you abiding in?

Maybe the best example we have of abiding, in our culture today, is our phones! Many of us, myself included, abide in our phones. It’s the last thing we say good night to at night—-Good night, sweetheart, I’ll see you in the morning. Oh yeah, Kelly, good night to you also! It’s the first thing we say hello to in the morning. When it runs out of batteries, we become practically frantic, don’t we?

This is what it looks like to abide. To retell the story over and over and over and over. John says there’s such a great promise attached to this — As the gospel dwells in you, then you dwell in God. And he echoes it in John 17:3 — And this is eternal life… {The promise that he made to us is eternal life as we abide and he explains what he means.} …that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. When John says listen, abiding in the story leads to abiding in God which leads to eternal life, sometimes we have a vision of that eternal life that we don’t get all that excited about. I would term it saying we envision it as ‘the kale kind of life.’ It’s the kind of life that’ll help us live forever but want to die immediately! That’s what kale is, right? It’ll help you live forever….but it’ll make you want to die immediately. I think a lot of us envision the eternal life Jesus offers in the same type of manner. Well, I know I’m going to live forever and it’s going to be in some ethereal existence, playing the harp on a cloud, and everything I did enjoy at one point in time is going to be in the rearview mirror, but I guess I get this forever so I should be excited about it. It’s not the way John envisions eternal life, at all, nor the way that Jesus paints the picture. Eternal life, in the Scriptures, is the kind of life that lasts forever, AND the kind of life that you’d want to last forever. It’s eternal….in both duration and quality, and it doesn’t start when you die. It starts right now!

It’s this kind of life that Jesus invited his followers to. It’s THIS story that he says let it sink in. Let it remain. Let it abide. Make your home in that story. Just like the Israelites would gather in the desert, after they had taken their fall harvest and gathered fruits and gathered vegetables and remembered God’s provision for them, they went on this camping trip and told of His faithfulness in generations before and generations before that and generations before that. Because the story matters. Because where we put our mind matters. Because memory, in many ways, shapes our relationship with God. So John pleads with his churches, remain! Remain in that story. Remember that story. Don’t get dragged away from it. There’s power in staying with it.

He then goes on to unpack what starts to happen as we remain. If you have your Bible, turn back, just a little bit, to 1 John 2:15-17. That’s where he really starts this thought. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides (remains, makes their home) forever. It’s an interesting verse. I can remember hearing passages like this growing up, going to church as a high school student and going, “Ah, yes! I remember! God doesn’t want me to have any fun!” Needed that weekly remind. Some of us hear ‘do not love the world’ and what we hear in our head is man, God is the great killjoy. It couldn’t farther from the truth. Let me first tell you what John is NOT saying and then I’ll tell you what he is saying. John is NOT saying that you should try your best to avoid enjoying the things that you find in this world. When you go up and stand on a mountain peak and watch the sunrise, you should probably begrudgingly think to yourself, “I could have done better.” Or when you sit in front of a beautiful and intentionally-made meal, and get ready to cut into it and put it in your mouth, you should try your best not to enjoy it, even though it’s screaming at you that it’s to be enjoyed. Your senses and taste buds are going, “THIS IS AWESOME!” Followers of Jesus, we try not to enjoy it. Or maybe it’s our sexuality—the intimacy we enjoy between husband and wife should probably NOT be enjoyed because we’re suppose to not love the world.

People have taken this and run with it to some really crazy places. I want to tell you, that’s not what John means at all. We can go to other passages in the Scriptures that talk about God giving us everything for our enjoyment. You only have to read two chapters into the Scriptures to know that God is into delight. In fact, He names the place he plants them the Garden of Eden, which means ‘delight!’ John actually tells you what he means right in these verses. Look at verse 16. For all that is in the world {Let me tell you what I mean by that.}—the desires of the flesh….. This is the sexual lusts, sexual urges that we have, that we want to use people to meet, outside of the covenantal bond of marriage. John is saying don’t USE people, LOVE people. That’s the way of Jesus. Don’t try to just feed your own desires, actually think about other people.

Then he goes on. The desires of the eyes…. This is greed. This is the lie that we often we believe. If I had better, newer, brighter, shinier, or more, then I would be happy. He goes oh no, no, no. That’s a worldly system of thinking. That’s the world’s way, that’s not kingdom way. Kingdom way recognizes that we’re eternal people and that no amount of STUFF will ever be able to satisfy us. He wants us to think about which system we’re operating in and which view we’re putting our hope in and building our life on.

He finally says….the pride of life. It’s the idea that we can stand next to somebody and believe that we’re better than them for fill-in-the-blank whatever reason you want to measure by. John says that’s the world’s way of operating, but as those who follow the way of Jesus, and as those who find their home in His story, in His grace, in His love, and His mercy, we don’t live in THAT way, we live in the kingdom way. But John’s point is that these are things that are affection and love driven. He’s saying that the story we believe, and the story that we tell ourselves, shapes our affections.

Let me press into your life a little, if you’ll invite me. There is a war going on for your loves. There’s a war going on for your affections. The Puritans would write about what it means to be formed spiritually. They wrote a lot about our affections. One of those persons was John Owen. He wrote a lot on feeding our affection for Jesus and a lot on trying to starve our affections for other things. He said: “Fill your affection with the cross of Christ that there may be no more room for sin.” The problem, when we choose the love of the world, is that the love of the Father hasn’t sat on us long enough to satisfy us. So we push back towards God, because…. {Will you look up at me for a moment here?} All spiritual formation is affection formation. It’s allowing the loves that God has designed us to push into, actually to control us and to lead us.

Let me give you three truths right out of this passage of Scripture that I think may have the ability to sit on us in a way that will help us live into this. Here’s the first truth: You are in complete and total control of your affections. Total control. Pastor John says, “Do not love the world, but love the Father.” He tells us that because we have control over this. In fact, John, forty-four times in his letter of 1 John alone, talks about love. This is the only time he talks about it in a negative or love-not-these-things type of way. He’s going, “You have complete and total control over this.”

The second thing he says is there’s no such thing as divided affections. You either love the world and the things in it OR you love the Father. That’s your two options. He really pushes hard and so does Jesus and so does James in his letter (James 4:4). You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. {How many of you are glad you came today?} His point is that this is real serious. What he’s not saying is completely detach and completely pull back out of the world. There are certain cultural liturgies that shape our loves. James K.A. Smith wrote a great book called You Are What You Love. In it, he talks about the cultural liturgies that shape our hearts. He says listen, going to a mall is a cultural liturgy….it shapes us. You don’t need to stop going to the mall, but just know that when you go there’s certain things that are coming at you that are telling you a story. Going to a football game shapes us. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go and I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch it on DVR when you get home. I fully plan on doing that; I’ve got my Bronco socks on today. I’m in that with you, but just know that as we start to cheer and root something happens in our hearts. As we update our Instagram or FaceBook or SnapChat or whatever you do. It’s a cultural liturgy. It’s shaping us. When we gather on a Sunday morning, we do not just gather to sing songs together. We do not just gather to hear Scripture together. We gather to say, “God, form our loves more and more around who you are, around what you’ve done. Let us get in this story.” We’ve had a lot of other influences throughout the week and there’s a lot of things tugging at our heart, but we want to remember, most of all, that You are love, You are light, and in You is mercy, and in You is grace. We want to remember, above all, this is the story that we’re founded in as followers of Jesus.

We gather to have our affections shaped and pointed back to Him. John pleads with his church. Then he continues in 1 John 2:18 — Children, {Notice that this is very pastoral in tone.} it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. {This time period—in between when Jesus ascends to the Father and when Jesus comes back.} They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. Anybody confused? John uses this word that has no small amount of baggage attached to it. He uses this word ‘antichrist.’ In the Greek it is ‘antichristos.’ It simply means one who is against or opposed to Messiah, to the anointed One, to the Christ, to Jesus. If you go on the internet and Google antichrist and image, after you get through all the pictures of Donald Trump, Barak Obama, and Oprah, you’ll find something like this. {Shows image.} That’s typically the picture we have in our heads. Something demonic. Something completely evil. Sort of devilish with horns, a tail, and a pitchfork. What’s really interesting is that John tells us what he means by antichrist. Here’s what he says in verse 22: Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. He’s going don’t think devil with pitchfork; think person who lives contrary to the way of Jesus.

If you read through the New Testament, you find the Apostle Paul pleading with churches, you find John pleading with churches—Continue with what you’ve heard. People would come in after them and go, “Jesus is a nice addition to your life. He’s a nice hood ornament on your car, but you really shouldn’t base your entire life on one man’s love and one man’s sacrifice and one man’s resurrection.” Paul will write to the church at Galatia: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. (Gal. 1:6) In Galatians 3:1 — Who has bewitched you? Who came after me and bewitched you? In Galatians 5:7 — You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Who cut in on you?

Here’s his question and here’s John’s question, each and every time — What are you doing with Jesus? Where does Jesus fit? Does he have your affection? Does he have your devotion? The story we abide in is of the utmost importance because opposition, friends, is a reality. John’s making a really distinct point. There’s some who are part of this faith, and then there’s some who aren’t. Here’s what he says: The story we believe—-the story of grace, the story of mercy, the story of Jesus, the Jesus story that we believe and that we abide in—-determines our allegiance. You almost get the picture that Paul writes this with a sense of heaviness and a sense of lament. The same heaviness and the same lament that you’ve had when friends, relatives, family members have walked away from the faith. He’s brokenhearted. They were people who were part of their community and have decided to walk away this beautiful, abundant love that was found in Jesus. If you’ve walked through a journey like that, if you’ve seen people you’ve prayed for and seen people who have become family and who you love dearly love walk away from the way of Jesus, John goes, “I get that.” But he would also would say, “Don’t think any of us are above it.” Make your home in this story because it determines your allegiance, it determines where you find your home, where you find your sustenance, because we live in a world of competing narratives.

Here’s the two questions I typically ask myself, when I’m talking about what I do with Jesus. I try to self-diagnose and go alright, am I really living in this story? The first question: Are there things in my life that are trying to displace Jesus as Lord? Are there other things in my life that ask for my allegiance above my allegiance to him? Above his kingdom? Above his way? The second question: Is Jesus the end or the means to an end right now for me? Am I trusting in Jesus to get something other than Jesus? Am I trusting in Jesus because of what I hope or think he’ll bring my way? If I am, it may seem like I’m living in the story, but when it comes down to it, it’s a different story altogether. These are the questions I try to ask myself.

Jesus made an interesting claim. It wasn’t a popular one, but one that he made nonetheless. He said: Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? {Certainly he’s the Prince of Peace. I would have said yes!} No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51) He’s saying listen, there are people who are part of this family of faith, that are found in me, that abide in this story, then there are people who are not. But, here’s the unique part about those who follow the way of Jesus: unlike other religions, other ideologies, and other paths, people of Jesus believe that those who are not part of the family are to loved, are to be cherished, are to be valued, and are to be pursued. Like a shepherd who’s lost a sheep. Like a woman who loses a coin and sweeps her house. Like a father who loses a son and runs to meet him along the road. This is the way of Jesus for the people of Jesus (to treat) those who are outside, right now, of what we call faith. John paints that picture. Some have left and it breaks his heart.

John says when you abide in this story, it not only shapes your affections, it determines your allegiance, and then it says this in 1 John 2:21-23 — I write to you, not because you do not know truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. He starts to write about this idea that he calls anointing. You are anointed…..you know the truth. It’s this Old Testament word. The background is that people would anoint both prophets and kings as a way to signify and lead them into the calling that God had given them. It was a unique thing for a unique calling for a unique time. John starts to pick up this idea and says listen, you have been anointed. You don’t need somebody to teach you, you’ve been anointed. He’s saying the same thing Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1: 21-22 — And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

In the Old Testament, anointing was for a special person, for a special occasion. In the New Testament, anointing is SO special that it’s given to every single believer upon the profession of faith in Jesus. Paul says listen, it’s simply the Holy Spirit that is put into your heart as a seal. You are, if you’re a follower of Jesus, anointed. You are one who’s been “Messiahed.” The Holy Spirit lives in you. As we start to remember that we’re in the story of grace, and we’re in the story of mercy, and we’re in the story of love, and the story shapes our affections, and the story determines our allegiance, we’re reminded that His Spirit lives in us and we can hear His voice, and we can commune with Him intimately, and He knows our name. Think of how significant that would have been for people in John’s day and think of how significant that should be for us today. If you’re a follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you.

John goes on to say (1 John 2: 26-27) — I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. {The “antichrists.”} But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—-just as it has taught you, abide in him. And if you’re going hey, if we’re anointed and we don’t need a teacher, then what in the world are we doing here right now? You should also ask that question about the letter that John’s writing though. All he’s doing is teaching and that’s what he’s given his life to. We see all throughout the New Testament that God gives some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be pastors, and some to be teachers, and some to be evangelists. He takes this idea of teaching the people of God really, really seriously. Here’s the truth of the matter, friends, you don’t need to hear MY voice today. More than anything else, you need to hear God’s voice. My voice can’t change you. The Spirit of God is THE voice that can change the human soul, and that’s what John is pointing out. He’s simply echoing the promise of Jesus (John 14:26) — 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 have said to you. As D.L. Moody so poignantly stated: “The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sun-dial by moonlight.” Luckily for you, follower of Christ, you have the Spirit.

So, these followers of Yahweh, would gather in the wilderness and retell the story. They would gather the bounty from that year and remember that just in the same way God preserved their nation in forty years of wandering in the desert, He’s still preserving them and He’s still providing. They’re in the story, not of self-sufficiency, but of God-dependency. And He comes through. Can you imagine being in a booth with your family, sitting around a campfire in the wilderness, and seeing the Temple of Jerusalem up on a hill? And at this time of the year, they would light sixteen massive pillars of fire and it would light up the entire area because of the darkness that surrounded it. Imagine being in that wilderness, looking off at that Temple, being reminded that God is light. On the seventh day of that Festival, the seventh day of camping in the wilderness, they would all journey into Jerusalem. The priests would take two pitchers. One of them would be filled with wine, as a reminder of God’s goodness and the bounty He provided. The other would be empty and the priest would ceremonially march down the streets to the pool of Siloam. He would dip the pitcher in the pool of Siloam and pull it out full of water. The nation would stand and sing Psalm 118 — The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. They would march back into the Temple. The priest would take the wine and pour it out into a basin and then he would take the water from the pool and pour it into another basin. It’s on THIS day that Jesus stands up in the temple courts and makes a statement: If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) And they went, oh, this whole time we’ve been reminding ourselves of provision in the wilderness. This whole time we’ve been pouring this water out signifying this God who made water spring forth from a rock. This whole time we’ve been telling THAT story, it’s actually been pointing to His story….the One who would come, the One who would redeem, and the One who would save.

We don’t gather in booths anymore. We gather around the table. We gather around the table to retell. We gather around the table to re-enact. We gather around the table to abide. Because we believe that when this story abides in us, we abide in Him. As we abide in Him, it overflows to springs of life abundantly and life eternally. Friends, we’re making our home somewhere. The question is where? And the invitation this morning, to come to the table, is to tell that old, old story again and to plant our lives in it. So…. Tell me the story slowly, That I may take it in—That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin; Tell me the story often, For I forget so soon, The “early dew” of morning Has passed away at noon. So let’s tell each other that story. As we come, let’s remember that story. Let’s not just hear it, but let’s say we want to find our lives in it. That’s the invitation of the table. It’s open to anyone who’s following the way of Jesus. If that’s not you this morning, it’s real simple. You can just put your faith in Him and come and celebrate this God who says, “In me, there are springs of living water.” Let’s pray.

Jesus, this morning, we want to remember that story. The story of your grace and mercy and love. And we just don’t want to hear it, but we want to abide in it. We want to make our home in it. We want it to shape us and define us and make us and mold us. This morning, we say back to you, “Our hope is in you.” Our allegiance is to you. Our affections are to you. We believe that You live in us. Remind us of it as we come to this table. Help us to retell and remember and replant our lives in your love. It’s in your name we pray. Amen.

Dwell | Booths and Tables | 1 John 2:15-27 | Week 32020-08-19T15:39:37-06:00

Dwell | Guarding the Goal | 1 John 2:3-14 | Week 2

In 1918 the United States government finished the construction on Fort Knox.  Fort Knox is where you want to go if you’re interested in stealing 5000 tons of gold.  It’s the only place in the United States, or in the world, that you could do that.  But here’s the problem—if you tried to break into Fort Knox, you would find that the sides have granite walls that are four feet thick.  This would prevent you from getting into the sides of the building.  If you say, okay, I will tunnel my way in.  I’ll dig under, then dig up.  Good luck!   Down underneath it is a number of feet of concrete.  After you get through the concrete you have ten feet of granite that this building sits on.  Let’s hypothetically say you made it in.  Once you got in, you’d find a vault.  The vault itself has a 22 ton door that blocks the way to get into that 5000 tons of gold that you’re looking for.  If you say, “Well, I’m not going to break the door down, I’m just going to pick the lock.”  You would need ten employees who work at Fort Knox, and each one of them have A portion of THE code that allows you to get into the door.  None of the others know the other parts of the code, they just know their own.  You need all ten parts of that code.  Let’s say, hypothetically, that you actually made it into the vault, in order to get out, you would have to get passed the 30,000 military people who are stationed there.  Good luck!!  There’s a reason why that at the beginning of the second World War most European nations stored their gold here.  The Magna Carta was stored there.  The Declaration of Independence was stored there.  The Crown Jewels from the United Kingdom were stored there. The vault is said to be atomic bomb proof.

We protect the things that are important to us, don’t we?  We guard the things that are important to us.  It’s the reason that it takes an hour to get through the security line at the airport.  We guard the things that are important to us, don’t we?  We put a hedge around them and we protect them.  Here’s the thing, if you’re a follower of Jesus this morning, the Scriptures are going to talk to us about guarding the things that are most important to us.  If you’re not a follower of Christ this morning, you get to look in on what OUR Fort Knox should be as followers of Christ.  We’ve made it a lot of different things.  If you were to do a straw-poll — What’s the most important…..what’s the thing we’re suppose to guard above all else, as followers of Christ?  You’d probably hear….well, it’s important for us to guard good theology.  Totally agree.  It’s important for us to guard having the right world view.  Totally agree.  It’s important for us to guard the religious liberties and the rights that we have.  I agree.  But it’s not our Fort Knox.  It’s not the thing that we’re called to guard above all else.  If you want to find out what it is, open with me to 1 John 2.

We’re going to pick up where we left off last week.  John is a friend of Jesus.  He’s leaned against Jesus.  He’s cared for Jesus’s mom.  He’s a pastor of a number of churches, sort of oversees them, and he’s writing them this letter about what it looks like to hold onto the things that are most important in a world that’s pressing in.  In a culture that’s pluralistic.  In many ways, anything goes and spirituality is held up as something to be pursued, but has very little impact on the way that they actually live.  John writes this letter to those churches, and here’s what he says (1 John 2:3)  — And by this we know that we have come to know him {He says, and we know that we know that we know that we know him IF…..   IF.  Not if we believe the right things, and if we can pass a doctrinal exam, and if we’ve read the entire…..   We know we know we know him…..}  if we keep his commandments.  John has zero place for “I’m a spiritual person but it doesn’t impact the way that I live.”  He says no, no, no, when we believe in the Jesus who came and lived and died, that John touched and saw and heard, then it absolutely changes the way that we live, and we know that we know him if it does.

This word ‘keep’ in the Greek is a real interesting word.  It could be translated ‘protect’ or ‘guard’ or even…..you could imagine putting something under surveillance.  In our life, we put this thing, this one thing, under surveillance.  We put it above everything else.  It’s our ‘Fort Knox.’  But what is that?  Well, we keep his….commandments.  There’s a lot of those.  Yeah, there’s 613 in the Old Testament.  You go man, where’s our checklist?  Is there an app for that where we can load it in and go well, I kept that one, kept that one, did that one, did that one…..?   If there’s that many, how do we really actually know?  John is going to zoom in on one commandment.  He’s going to zoom in on one……just one, and it’s the commandment to love.  Here’s what he writes in verses 7 and 8.  Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, {He goes from commandments to just one.}  but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word that you have heard.  At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and true light is already shining.

Okay, raise your hand if you’re confused.  This is not a new commandment, it’s an old commandment.  And it’s a new commandment.  You want to go hey, John, you’re inspired and all, so I get it.  You can say what you want to say.  You’re under the power of the spirit…..    I get it.  But, no new commandment……this is a new commandment.  Seems like it contradicts itself.  Is the command to love new or is it old?

A few years ago, my friend invited me to go to the BMW Invitational Golf Tournament that was hosted here at Cherry Hills Country Club.  It was an amazing experience.  I play golf….I play three or four times every year.  I love getting out there and playing golf.  I really do.  I’m no good, but I love being out there.  I think I know a thing or two about golf.  I went and I watched Rory McIlroy step up to the ball.  I watched him tee off and I watched his body torque in a way that I would need to go and live in a chiropractor’s office if I did that myself.  I watched him hit the ball 340 yards—because it is Colorado—straight down the fairway and here’s what I realized:  I don’t golf.  I don’t golf like that, that’s for sure!!  Do I know how to golf?  Well, sure.  But not like that.

William Barclay, a commentator, wrote:  “A game may become a new game when we see the master play it.”  Is it a new command?  Or is it an old one?  Well, it’s ancient and yet, the extent and the application that Jesus of Nazareth takes love to makes it completely new.  It’s completely different.  No one, on the face of the planet, had seen love defined like this.  In fact, when Jesus—after he washes his disciples’ feet—gathers them around him and says:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you  {So he says, I’ve just washed your feet and I’m about to go to the cross and here’s what I’m asking you to do.  I’m asking you to love one another, JUST AS I have loved you.}  you also are to love one another.  (John 13:34)   So he changes the ballgame.  He changes the way we live out this ancient command.  You can read about it in Leviticus 19:18, the Old Testament says it there.  The Jews would say the Shema every morning  —  Hear O Israel….love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.  What Jesus does is that he takes it to a completely new level and a completely different degree.  Love.  And John says to keep this, guard this, protect it, put it under surveillance in your life.  Because it’s going to be really easy to get off track.  It’s going to be really easy to go down a different road.

In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus picks up a command from the Old Testament.   I’ll show you how he took these commands to different levels and different extents.  You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth.  {Quick time out.  It was a really good command back then.  It meant that you couldn’t take retribution beyond the level that you were wronged.  It was a way of prohibiting somebody from killing another person if they just knocked out one of their teeth.  If you knock out someone’s tooth, you just get your tooth knocked out.  Jesus says that’s not a bad command…..}  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.   He’s taking what was a good command and saying, okay, we’re not even going to be about retributive justice at all anymore, we’re going to do good to those EVEN who would wrong us.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t read the words of Christ and the command of Christ to love alongside of the 612 other commands.  We’re followers of Jesus.  We read the commands of Jesus above everything else and everything else runs through them.  It’s why the Apostle Paul writes to the church of Galatia —-  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:  You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself.  (Gal. 5:14)    Guard this.  Guard it above all.  KEEP. THIS. COMMAND.

Here’s his point.  Relationship with Jesus results in (or SHOULD result in, if it’s genuine) loving like Jesus.  Relationship with Jesus results in loving like Jesus.  Perfectly?  No.  Imperfectly?  Absolutely.  But mean, hateful, bitter, vindictive, violent Christian should be an oxymoron.   Because our way is the way of love.  Friends, true love for God is not expressed in sentimental language.  It’s not expressed in ethereal experience.  It’s expressed on the ground, in love.  In love for those who love us and in love for those who don’t.  It’s the reason that the early followers of Jesus were not called ‘The Belief.’  They were not called ‘The Theology.’  Early followers of Jesus were called ‘The Way.’  Why?  Because they lived in His way.  It’s what a disciple is.  It’s someone who lives in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  It is what a disciple is.  It’s what you and I, if we claim to be followers of Christ, are called to.  So here’s the question we need to wrestle with this morning:  Am I living in the way of love?  John’s going to unpack (in the second chapter of this letter) a number of things that start to rise up in us as we live in this way.

He continues in 1 John 2:4-6.  He’s going to talk about what comes out of us as this gets into us.  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, {He’s already repeating what he said….we know that we know that we know that we know him if we love like him.  Because relationship with Jesus leads to loving like Jesus.}  and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  Anybody else and you’d read that and go, wow, that’s quite the statement John.  As we walk in the way of love, God’s love is perfected in us?  That’s quite the bulls-eye on the board, isn’t it?  We get this word ‘perfected’ wrong often.  There’s not a great English translation of the Greek word.  The Greek word is telos.  It means to complete or fulfill a goal.  You could picture it as a marathon runner getting across the finish line, throwing their arms up in the air and going, “I did it!”  It’s the idea that we become who God dreams and designs and intends that we would be.

There’s this interesting—and this is for all the Greek nerds in the room—play on words that’s going on in the Greek.  We read this word ‘command,’ and that’s what we’re intended to keep.  This word ‘telos’ is the Greek word to finish or to complete.  We translate it, in the Scriptures, ‘to be perfected.’  The word for ‘commandment’ is entolé.  It’s two words put together — “en” and “telos.”   It’s literally “in the end” commandment.  In the end or keeping the end in mind.  What John wants to say is protect this, guard this, above all else, because by it you are going to be the types of people that God dreamed that you would be.  So you hold onto “in the end.”  You keep the end in mind, because you’re becoming a type of person, an eternal being.  And you have to keep that in mind.  The decisions that you make in your family.  The decisions that you make in your work place.  The decisions you make in your home and your relationships.  Keep the end goal in mind.  Commandment forces us to zoom out from the immediate and to focus on what’s really important and what we really want our lives to say in the end.

Here’s what John says — Love is the fuel (it’s the motivation) and it’s the finish line.  It’s where we’re leading to.  It’s the love of God perfected in us.  Of growth.  {Slide reads:  Love is the fuel and finish line of growth.}  We have this growth chart in my son Reid’s room, and every once in while, every few months, we’ll go and put our kids up against it.  We’ll mark it and put a date.  Anybody else do this?  We love tracking their growth.  It’s interesting, though, as adults we don’t track our growth in the same way, do we?  We don’t want to go up when we get older, do we?  Because we’re not growing up as far as height.  We’re only growing one direction if the numbers go north, right?  We track our growth down.  That’s what we want as adults, right?  John’s saying no, no, no, no, no, we want to grow as followers of Christ.  We want to develop.  We want to mature.  There’s only one way we do that.  It’s not a myriad of things.  There’s one thing that causes us to grow.  Good theology’s important.  Good programs and activities are helpful, but EVERYTHING that moves towards maturity in the Christian life, moves towards LOVE.  That’s it.  All Christian growth and maturity is a result of love.  All Christian growth and maturity is a result of love and progress in love.  If you want to grow, decide to love.

There’s no Plan B.  We don’t grow beyond that.  It’s not like….okay, now that I’ve nailed love, what’s next?  More love.  That’s what’s next.  Grow deeper into it.  Grow more because of it.  If you want to grow love, it’s that simple — Love when it’s difficult, love when it’s inconvenient, love when it means having a hard conversation, love when it means speaking truth, love when it means serving when you’re exhausted, love when it means forgiving when you’ve been genuinely wronged. If you want to grow as a follower of Jesus, there’s one bulls-eye you’re shooting at and it’s……LOVE.  That’s it.

The Apostle Paul will write to the church at Ephesus and say:  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up  {We’re going to mature.  We’re going to get bigger.  We’re going to get stronger.  We’re going to have our feet under us.}  in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Eph. 4:16)  If you want to grow into Christ, live in the way of Christ and it’s the way of love.  John says it’s the motivation, it’s the fuel, and it’s the finish line of maturity, of growth.  So here’s my question for you:  How would you chart your growth in love?  Are you a more loving person at this time, this year, than you were last year?  If you’re not, can I give you just a few things that might help.  Oftentimes, the reason we refuse the way of love is because we doubt the Great Lover.  The Scriptures are clear…we love because He first loved us.  If we are on uncertain ground when it comes to God’s love for us, the way that comes out of our lives is that we are uncertain in the way that we love others.  The first step is to abide, as John 15:9-10 says.  We abide in His love.  We make our home there.  It starts to be what we give to other people.  Maybe there’s one situation you’re staring at right now.  One really hard thing you’re looking at….a decision you have to make, a relationship that’s gone awry.  What does it look like to bring love to bear on that situation?

John gives us a second result of living in the way of love in 1 John 2:9-11.  Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  But whoever 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.   John is saying that love is the guidance and protection on the journey.

This last summer, we had the chance to go to Mount Hermon, which is just outside Santa Cruz (CA).  It’s in the mountains with massive redwoods.  When we first got to that area, my family went on a hike on a well-worn trail that thousands of people had walked that same day.  My oldest son Ethan, who’s 8 years old, kept running ahead and coming back to us.  He kept leaving the pack.  My wife and I kept looking at each other and looking at this massive redwood that had a hollowed-out trunk.  We thought the four of us—me, my wife, and our two youngest—could fit inside that hollowed-out trunk.  The next time Ethan ran away, we all hid inside the tree.  We’re peeking out and watching him as he runs back to where we were and starts looking around.  It’s the look we did this for.  It was the terrified, where-are-my-parents-I-really-do-love-them look.  And the I-never-thought-I’d-this-but-I-want-them-back look.  He’s looking around.  A normal person, at that point, would have come out and said okay, game’s over….   We kept hiding.  He goes up to somebody and they ask, “Are you okay?”  I’m like YES!  He’s like, “I’m looking for my parents.”  We see him jet down the trail at a fast run.  At that point, we came out and yelled for him.  Ethan! We’re over here!  But this picture of him, terrified, is stuck in my mind….in all of its glory and splendor.  Totally lost!

John writes hey, if you choose hate instead of love, you stumble.  It’s the Greek word ‘skandalon.’  It means you get stuck in a snare.  When you walk in the way of love, you know where you’re going.  When you walk in evil, when you walk in hate, you’re like my son who’s looking around.  You have no clue where you’re going.  The foundation of the very cosmos is love, and when we choose to live against that, we live against the God who loves us and created us and we get lost.  When John claims that walking in the light leads to no cause for stumbling and knowing where we’re going, he’s pleading with us.  You guys, there’s a better way.  There’s a better way than anger.  There’s a better way than bitterness.  There’s a better way than lack of forgiveness.  There’s a way to know where you are, and to know whose you are.  To know how to move forward in His world.  There IS a BETTER way.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself slipping back into believing that issues are more important than people.  If I win an argument, that’s the end goal.  Winning the argument isn’t the end goal, friends.  People are the end goal.   When people become a problem to solve rather than people to love, we’ve lost.  We’ve lost what’s most important to us.  We’ve lost our first love.  We’ve lost our Fort Knox, if you will.  When we become obsessed with power over influence…..you get power through position, you get influence through love.  You want to impact the world around you?  Love the world around you…..in the way just as Jesus did it.  I get lost sometimes in my own pain and the way that people have wronged me, in the way that they’ve hurt me.  It’s easy for me to get off that path and to justify some of the things that stir up in my soul.  Here’s what John says:  Love.  It is the guidance and the protection, it’s the true North on the Christian pathway walking with Jesus.

He gives one final result.  In verses 12 through 14 (1 John 2), it sort of looks like a poem.  It was either a poem or a song, probably, that the early church would have sung.  I’m going to sing it for you today.  Just kidding.  He says this:  I am writing to you, little children, {There’s going to be ‘little children,’ ‘young men,’ and ‘fathers.’  There’s no shortage of debate about what John is actually talking about here.  Some people think he’s talking about stages along the spiritual growth continuum.  Some people think he’s talking about literal children and fathers.  I tend to think he’s talking about different places you can be as you walk with Christ in general.}  ..because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.  I write to you, children, because you know the Father.  I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

For some reason, John, in the early church, wanted to get these truths into peoples’ lives.  They wanted to get the truth of forgiveness in deeply.  They wanted to get the truth that they were part of no new thing, but that God  is from the beginning.  They’re jumping in a stream that’s been moving since the beginning of time.  Those are both things he’s already addressed in this letter.   But there’s one thing he addresses that’s new.  …you have overcome the evil one.    He says it twice.  He says it to young men, or to people who are in the everyday battle of what it looks like and what it means to follow the way of Jesus.  Here’s his reminder to them:  You want victory in the Christian life?  If you want to hold on to the One who’s holding you, if you want to walk in the victory that He’s already purchased…..you walk in the way of love.  Love is both the weapon….it’s the way that we fight, ironically….AND it’s the prize at the end of it all.  {Slide:  Love is the weapon and prize for victory.}

The old way said that you gain victory through power, you gain victory through coercion, you gain victory through might, and you gain victory by having your way.  Whatever it takes, in order to do those things, you use.  If it takes violence, you use violence.  If it takes manipulation, you use manipulation.  Whatever it takes, you use.  So Jesus is walking down the road, leaving a town in Samaria, a town that didn’t accept his teachings, and his disciples (Luke 9:54-55) turn to him and say, “Hey, Jesus, we’ve got an idea.  Let’s call fire down on that town!”  All they’re doing is reading their Old Testament (2 Kings 1:10).  Elijah did the exact same thing.  He called fire down.  They’re going, “Hey, let’s do that!  That was awesome!  That worked!”  They’re quoting the Bible to Jesus.  But a new day is dawning.  Jesus says: And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  {Don’t you just love the scene?  Do you want us to tell fire to come down?  Hey, Jesus, should we call a fireball down right now?  Jesus is probably like, “You think you have that kind of……   Oh my gosh!”}  But he turned and rebuked them.   That’s not my way.  When Peter takes out a sword, on the night that Jesus is betrayed, and he cuts off the ear of a Roman soldier, I’m guessing that Jesus just buries his head in his hands and goes, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have anymore time to teach these guys!  I’ve only got one more thing to demonstrate the way my kingdom comes.”  Picks up his ear, puts it back on his head, and walks to the cross to show them what victory really looks like.   It doesn’t come with a sword.  It comes with a cross.  It doesn’t come with putting people on them.  The Jesus way is He hangs on it himself.

I’m not sure that we’ve gotten this, you guys.  I don’t know that we believe this, I really don’t.  I was reading a book by a prominent atheist.  His name is Sam Harris.  In the beginning of this book he says:  “Since the publication of my first book, The End of Faith, thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God.  The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians.  This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own.  The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism.  While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible.”  I wish he would have written….I couldn’t agree any less with these people, but the way that they respond, and the way that they treat me, and the things that they’ve said, actually reinforce the fact that they believe in the way of Jesus.  They believe that the way that we fight is with the weapon of love.

Is it the way that we fight?  Is it our Fort Knox?  Is it the thing we’re going to protect at all costs?  And defend?  The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Rome, says:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.  {I love that!  You want to win?  LOVE.}  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)  Friends, this is the way of Jesus.  In Romans 5:8, Paul says it as succinctly and clearly as it’s said anywhere in the Scriptures:  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   His marching orders for His church is to do and to live in the exact same way.  I love the way that the great theologian, Miroslav Volf, says it:  “To triumph fully, evil needs two victories, not one.  The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned.  After the first victory, evil would die if the second victory did not infuse it with new life.”  All around the world, we have followers of Jesus who are emulating this way.  We have brothers in Pakistan right now.  One church is led by a man named Munawar Rumalshah.  He is leading the charge to love ISIS, to love the Taliban, to love people who are literally killing his congregation members.  Here was his quote in a recent NY Times article:  “We clean the wounds of those who hate us and those who would kill us.”  This is not a theory for them.  It’s on the ground.  They’re saying no, no, no, no, no, there’s a lot of things we don’t understand, but there’s one thing we’re called to.  We know that we know that we know that we know Him, if we love like Him.  So that’s what we’re going to do.  When it’s difficult, that’s what we’re going to do.  When people spit in our face, that’s what we’re going to do.  When they literally put Bibles in the middle of the street and urinate on them….which they do there….what do they do?  They love and they continue to love and they continue to love and they continue to love.

Two questions for you as we close.   1) What hatred am I justifying?  I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to justify hatred.  I dislike somebody because they don’t like me.  I don’t like them because they hurt me.  I hear followers of Jesus who say, “We don’t like those people because we’re convinced that God doesn’t like them either.”  Here’s the thing….if you want to use who God likes or loves as a grid, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.  You never laid eyes on a person whom God didn’t love.  Is there anyway that you’re justifying hatred?

The second question is:  What does love demand of me?  Maybe it’s just one situation going on in your life right now, where you know…..the Spirit of God is just going, “This is that situation for you.”   Maybe it looks like serving somebody.  Maybe it looks like confronting somebody, because love isn’t always soft.  Love says what’s true even when it’s hard, but it says it with a seasoning of mercy, grace, and love.  Maybe it’s a confrontation.  Maybe it’s being generous when you’d rather not.  What does love demand of you?

Yesterday, as a family, we were carving pumpkins in our kitchen.  I noticed as I cut the top off the pumpkin for my kids and I took off the top, the inside of it was just goopy and nasty and gross.  We hollowed all that stuff out and put it in the trash can.  In place of all the gooey, nasty junk that was on the inside, we put these little candles, these little lights.  It struck me that Jesus wants to do the same thing with us.  By the power of his Spirit, he wants to dig into our soul and take all of those things that cause us to walk, not in His victory, but in our own flesh….that cause us to walk and to stumble along the way….He wants to take all of those things and he wants to, by the power of his Spirit, carve them out.  He then wants to put the light of his love in place of it.  My prayer is that you and I would surrender to that love today.  Friends, relationship with Jesus….it always, always, always looks like loving like Jesus.  Imagine if we were that church.  I’ll tell you what would happen….because we can see in history the way that it’s happened.  Those kind of movements change the world.

Father, I pray that by your Spirit’s power, you would move us in the direction of love….just as You love.  It’s in your name we pray.  Amen.

Dwell | Guarding the Goal | 1 John 2:3-14 | Week 22020-08-19T15:38:20-06:00

Dwell | Touching the Light | 1 John 1:1-2:2 | Week 1

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There are times when it’s hard for us to believe that the authors of the Scriptures actually were real people.  That they lived real lives.  They had real struggles.  They had real joys and real successes.  The author of 1 John is a man by the name of John.  He was a real person who had some pretty unique experiences in his life.  He was one of the best friends of Jesus while Jesus walked the earth.  He was one of the twelve disciples, but he seemed to have been in the inner circle.  He had access to things that not everybody got access to.  The evening Jesus was betrayed, he had his disciples around the table.  They would sort of lounge, in those days.  John was the one who leaned right on Jesus.  Pause for a moment and imagine what that might have been like.  To smell Him.  To have Him rub up against you.  To hear Him laugh.  To hear Him chew (maybe with his mouth open).  John goes on to write in that same chapter of his gospel that he was the one that Jesus loved.  Evidently, the Apostle John and Jesus had a fairly unique and deep and meaningful friendship.

In fact, it was John in John 19:26-27 who records the words of Jesus as Jesus hangs on the cross.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved {He’s talking about himself here.}  standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”   Here’s what’s going on — Jesus is hanging on the cross, dying for the sin of humanity and he looks down at his friend, he looks down at his mom and says, “Hey, John, from now on, you’re taking care of my momma!”  John takes this seriously.  I almost expected to read, “Um, excuse me, could you repeat that?!”  What would somebody have to do to let their mom move into your house?  Probably die for you!  But even then, some of you are going, “Well, I’m not even sure I’d do it then.”  But here’s what John does:  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.  From that moment on, John is caring for the mother of the Messiah.  Do you think he heard some stories?  Moms love to tell stories about their kids; if you think Mary was any different, you’re wrong!  To hear the stories about what Jesus was like when he was a little kid.  To hear the stories about the way he frustrated her.  Can you imagine telling somebody, “Oh, that Jesus really frustrated me one time!”  Can you imagine what John has seen and what John has been through?  The fact that Jesus says, “Hey, John, will you care for my mom?” tells us something about the character of the person who’s writing this letter.

Would you open with me to 1 John?  For the next six weeks, we’re going to be walking through this letter, this epistle.  It’s John who’s now Pastor John.  He’s writing to a group of churches that are in the region of Ephesus, where he lives.  There’s a number of them around and John is sort of seen as the patriarch.  He’s the one who’s walked with Jesus, he’s the one who’s talked with Jesus.  He’s writing to churches that are in a bit of a pluralistic milieu….much like the society we live in today.  There’s a number of people looking at them going, “Well, we’re not so sure that we really believe that Jesus actually came and lived.  We’re not so sure it has any sort of implications for our life today.”  In light of that, in light of the sort of status of the culture that the church was not only birthed in, but living in, John picks up the pen and he puts it to the parchment and he records this letter that’s intended to be read by the churches in that region.  Here’s what he says:  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…  (1 John 1:1-2)

What you can’t see in the English translation of this passage of Scripture is that verses one through four are all one, long run-on sentence.  It’s as though John is sitting there, in his study or wherever he was in Ephesus, and he picks up his pen and he starts to write.  It’s like this almost word vomit type of writing where he’s going, “You guys, you guys, you guys….we’ve seen him, we’ve touched him, we’ve heard him.”  I leaned up against him at dinner.  I took care of his mom.  It was……all of that.

Last week, Kelly and I watched our son, Ethan, who’s eight years old, perform in their third grade performance at Runyon Elementary.  It was a shadow play, where they use backlighting to act out Aesop’s fables.   They’re taking Aesop’s fables, which are essentially morals.  You’ve heard of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare,’ right?  The long, steady, slow eventually wins the race.  They’re all made-up stories; the tortoise did not actually race the hare.  It’s what we’d call fable with a moral attached to it.

When John starts to pick up pen and parchment and says, “We’ve heard him.  We’ve seen him.  We’ve touched him,” he presses on us, as people who now read the Scriptures, to not have the option to put Jesus in the category of fable.  We don’t get the option to moralize Jesus.  To say He just came to give us an example of what it looks like to live an exemplary life.  We don’t get to do that.  Because He actually came!  And He actually lived!  And He actually walked!  John’s writing to address two misconceptions people had in the first century, and specifically in the region in which his churches are starting to be birthed.  Here’s the first misconception, the narrative that people had about spirituality.  It was called docetism.  The docetists believed and taught that Jesus only appeared to have a body.  That he was not actually incarnate.  That you couldn’t actually touch him, you couldn’t actually pat him on the back.  He didn’t actually smile or eat, those were all figments of the disciples’ imaginations.  The second heresy that John is addressing is related but nuanced.  It’s called Gnosticism.  The Gnostics asserted that the physical (matter) was inherently evil and spirit was good.  The Gnostics believed that anything done in the body—even the grossest, most heinous, most evil, most vile sin—had no meaning in life, because real life existed in the spirit realm ONLY.

Imagine that there is a group of people saying that they walk God, saying that they interact with God, and then using it to justify all sorts of crazy, ridiculous things.  Can you imagine that?  It’s not that far off, right?  We often go to the Scriptures and go, “Man, a lot’s changed since then.”  Certainly a lot has changed, but not everything.  They want to claim that they are spiritual and they may even want to be spiritual, but in a way that has zero impact on their every day, actual lives.  That’s what they want!  In the most recent survey done of Americans, 27% of Americans would say that they are spiritual but not religious.  In large part they’re saying, “We want to be spiritual.  We believe that at the core of who we are, wired into the fabric of our being, we’re spiritual people.”  But, we don’t want a spiritual being to be above us and tell us how to live.  We just want it to be beside us, and to pat us on the back, and to give us encouragement, and to make our life, whatever we decide we want to do with it, better.

It’s the exact same thing that was going on when John in writing to the churches at Ephesus.  Part of what they want and part of what we want is something that makes our life better, but that doesn’t tell us actually how to live.  I remember a number of years ago when I was standing in line at DIA waiting to go through the security checkpoint.  I walked past a guy and I read this tattoo he had on his neck.  The tattoo said carpe diem….seize the day.  I thought, “This guy’s hard core!”  Carpe diem tattooed on his neck, and his shirt said, “I’m allergic to mornings!”  Carpe afternoon!  Carpe evening!!  I think a lot of people want that same thing.  They want the best of both worlds.  I want to say that I’m spiritual, I even want to BE spiritual, but when it comes down to it, I do not want that spirituality to impact the way that I live.  I want to be able to do whatever I want.

John wants to say that it doesn’t work like that.  You don’t get to incorporate Jesus into whatever life you want to live.  Why?  Because he actually came, he actually lived…..we saw him, we heard him, we touched him.  John would say that true spirituality is not some figment of our imagination, it’s not some ethereal ascent to some cognitive belief.  Genuine true spirituality is experienced in reality.  In the every day.  In the normal, ordinary, talking, hearing, seeing, every day.  Here’s the way he says it (1John 1:5) — This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If a Hebrew mind would have heard ‘God is light,’ they would have immediately gone back to the very first chapters of the Bible.  God speaks light into existence and it starts to shine.  A Greek mind would have been a little more philosophic and they would have heard (and it’s certainly true) ‘God is light’ in the sense that God is goodness, and God is love, and God is beauty, and God is meaning, and God is truth.  It’s a multi-dimensional term.

Isaac Newton started studying light centuries and centuries ago.  He started to make some discoveries that eventually Albert Einstein built upon.  Albert Einstein found that light is one of the most complex things in our universe.  Scientists have a hard time pinning it down.  It’s slippery to try and describe light.  Here’s why.  Light, unlike most other things in the cosmos, is both wave and particle.  Light is both matter AND energy.  When John starts talking about light, imbedded in what he’s saying is that there’s an energy coming from God, but it doesn’t just stay in that ethereal, hypothetical plane, it actually intersects with our every day life.  He goes…..it’s BOTH!

Would you agree that knowing about something cognitively and experiencing it in reality are two different things?  When you walked in you received a Snickers bar.  Will you take that out?  I want some interaction here.  Describe to me the Snickers bar.  Delicious!  It’s brown.  It’s chewy.  It’s fun.   If you were to describe a Snickers bar to someone, you might say it’s a nougaty inside that has peanuts on top of it, caramel on top, and it’s covered in chocolate.  Now, open it up and take a bite.  Now, if tasting a Snickers bar is fundamentally different than having it described to you, will you just raise your hand?  Yeah.

That’s what John says.  That’s John’s point.  Experiencing Jesus is way different than just hearing about Jesus.  It’s way different than just having the stories passed down to us.  The invitation of the Christian life, as the psalmist says in Psalm 34:8, is to taste and see that the Lord is good!  The Christian journey of understanding  the heart of Jesus and living in the way of Jesus is always, always, always more than an experience.  There’s something transcendent, there’s something true, that goes beyond your experience.  {Will you look up at me?}  But being a follower of Jesus is never less than an experience.  It’s always more, but it’s never less.  You can see this in John 9:25.  There’s this man that’s born blind and he’s healed by Jesus.  Everyone goes up to him and wants him to explain how it happened.  He goes, “Listen, I don’t know how it happened.  I don’t know the mechanics of it.  I can’t explain it to you.  All I know is that I was blind, but now I see!”  I’ve experienced it and it’s changed everything!  That’s what John wants to press on to this community……that when you taste it, when you touch it, when you see it, it fundamentally changes everything.  I think too many followers of Jesus today have the opposite anthem — I’m still blind, but come and read what I read.  Come and believe what I believe.  Come and hear what I hear.  But early Christians have this anthem — We’ve experienced the living Christ.  We saw him, heard him, touched him.  We saw him die.  We saw him rise and it’s changed everything!  We don’t get the option to just believe in the morals and fables of Jesus.  We either believe that he came and lived, and died and rose, or we don’t.  He doesn’t give us another option.  When we believe, the Scriptures say that when we live in his way, it changes everything.

If I’m you, here’s my question:  Well, that’s really good for John, the friend of Jesus.  He ate with Jesus, he talked with Jesus, he high-fived Jesus, he heard stories from his mom.  That’s great for John, but…..what about for us?  Jesus has been ascended for roughly 2000 years, what are we suppose to do?  I’m so glad you asked that.  John’s going to explain to us how we experience the light.  1 John 1:3-4 — That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  John is saying that you and I, by faith in Jesus, have the unique, beautiful ability to step into fellowship with God.  Fellowship in the Greek is the word ‘koinonia,’ and it literally means ‘to share life together,’ to have things in common.  So before he ever gets to alright, we should have fellowship with one another, he wants to set a foundation for our fellowship as a church, as a community of faith.  He says that our fellowship is based on the fact that you and I, together, have shared-life with God.  Before we go on, will you just pause for a moment and let that sink in.  The Scriptures say that you, in all your humanity and all your frailty, have shared-life.  He also says that we would have shared-life, or fellowship, with each other.  He says that that fellowship is for your joy.  You and I experience the light when we taste genuine fellowship.

Early followers of Jesus were all over this.  This was a huge calling card for their communities.  They shared life together.  They took seriously the words of Jesus as he’s praying for his disciples that would come after him.  You and I.  Here’s his prayer for us:  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, {You’re a glorious person.  You’re filled with glory.  You’re filled with beauty.  You’re filled with a weightiness about you, because has spoken over your life.}  ..that they may be one even as we are one. (John 17:22)  So you go and read the book of Acts and you see in Acts 2 & 4 that the early church had this ethos, where if there were people in need in their community, others sold property and cashed it out and shared with people who had needs that they just couldn’t meet on their own.  You see people gathering in homes and praying together.  You see people studying the Scriptures together.  You see people eating together.  You see people looking at Caesar, who claimed he was lord, and saying, “Hey, Caesar, we don’t need you to care for us, we’ve got each other.  And this just in, Jesus is our Lord!”  It was a community that turned the world upside down.  You start to fast forward a few hundred years, and in the 200s and 300s, the early church was KNOWN as a community of love.  When the plagues were ravishing the world at the time, followers of Jesus would go and would take who their own families had cast into gutters because they had the plague and were afraid of dying.  They would go and say, “We do not fear death.”  They would care for the sick and bring them into their homes at the cost, oftentimes, of their own life.  You know what happened?  People started to go, “That’s light.  That’s love.  That’s totally different than anything we’ve ever seen.”  It turned the world upside down.  They had extreme influence and no power.  Extreme influence, zero power.   I’d argue that in our current status, right now, we have a lot of power, and I don’t know if we have the type of influence that Jesus would say his church was intended to have as light.

I know, we hear ‘genuine fellowship’ and we go, “That would be real easy if everyone were exactly like me.”  Or, fellowship would be amazing and joyful and fun if weren’t for the people!  We love the idea of sharing life, we just don’t like when it actually gets on the ground.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his great little book entitled Life Together, says that actual true, genuine Christian community only begins when the ideal dies.  Community only really starts when you want to leave and decide to stay.  Genuine Christian community only begins when people hurt you and you choose to forgive them.  That’s when it actually begins.  It’s this type of community—in friendships and marriages, in churches, in neighborhoods, in workplaces—that have changed the world! So here’s the deal—-When we say, “Would it be possible for you to come to one service and attend one service?” it’s not so that we can fill a slot that we need filled.  Our hope and our prayer is not to get something FROM you, we want something FOR you.  Our hope and our prayer is that you would experience the Light.  His name is Jesus.  Maybe it’s shaking hands at the door, realizing you’re part of a mission bigger than your own.  Maybe it’s holding a baby who’s crying.  Our hope is that you would experience light.  We don’t want to just have a bunch of life groups; we want to have a bunch of people doing life together.  We believe that you actually taste and see the goodness of God as you live in community with one another.

After saying that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all, John goes on to make three ‘if we’ statements.  He’s going to start verse 6,  verse 8, and verse 10 with this phrase ‘if we…’ and he’s going to draw out one of the biggest inhibitors to walking in the light.  Here’s what he says:  If we say we have fellowship (or shared-life) with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.    He’s not talking about the ways we all genuinely screw up, the way we all make mistakes, he’s talking about a pattern of life that exhibits a continual darkness rather than being in the light of Jesus.  There’s a word that Jesus would use to describe that kind of a person.  You can read about it in Matthew 23.  He would use the term ‘hypocrite.’  Someone who says one thing but actually goes and lives in a completely other type of way.  Oh yeah, we believe that Jesus is Lord, but then it doesn’t get out of their life in any way, shape, or form.  The great pastor and author, Brennan Manning, put it like this:  “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”  The first century term for that was the Gnostics, it was people who just wanted the spiritual experience, but had no intention of actually living it out. {Will you look up at me for a second, friends?}  The unbelieving world around us is longing….is longing….for the church to actually live out what we say we believe.  And they’re looking on.  It’s either our greatest apologetic or our greatest detractor.  Will we say we believe one thing and live in light of it?

Here’s the second ‘if we say…’ that John points out.  If we say have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  John was dealing with a number of spiritual elitist types of people.  They believed they climbed the ascension to the point where their lives no longer were impacted by brokenness, or impacted by sin, and that they were just living in the way of God all the time.  John goes that’s not who we are as followers  of Jesus.  We do not claim perfection.  If you’re new to a community of faith who believes in Jesus, can I just tell you right up front, we are a bunch of people who and messed up and saved by the grace of God.  We’re people stumbling and struggling along the road, knowing and convinced that God loves us, but also knowing that we fall short of his beautiful, glorious invitation and he’s there every time to pick us up.  That is who we are.  If you think you have not sinned, can I encourage you to….maybe there’s some friends you have around…or maybe you’re married and you say, “Hey, are there any ways you see sin in my life?”   Then just get a real clean notebook and a good pen and just…..    Good friends can do this to.  This just in—the reason we call them blind spots is because we cannot see them ourselves.  This is where community comes into play.

John lands this and says:  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  This is an unwillingness to be honest. See, you guys, it’s the light of coming to terms with who we actually are that leads us to experience Jesus.  If you want to keep wearing masks and you want to keep pretending, then you’re going to go through your entire life playing a charade with the King of kings and the Lord of lords, when the invitation is in front of you the whole time.  John gives you the invitation in 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We do not confess in order to pry something out of God’s hands, we confess in order to remember that God is a forgiving God.

So, we experience the light when we walk honestly and forgiven.  The light both exposes and extinguishes sin.  It’s the beautiful, refining fire by God.  It points it out and it kills it.  Confession does two things for the life of the believer.  One, it says that there is always, always, always a platform to be honest.  This is what I’m wrestling with.  This is what I’m struggling with.  This is the darkness in me.  And it also reminds us that there’s a pathway home, as verse 7 says:  …the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  Literally, has made us pure and clean beyond anything we could possibly imagine.  Ironically, Christian fellowship is formed around the light of forgiveness, not around the facade of perfection.  We’re all broken and we’re all on this journey together, which is why the Apostle Paul will write:  …bearing with one another….   {I love this verse because it’s so un-idealistic.  There’s times when you’ve just got to bear with each other.  It’s like he’s saying, “You’re not going to like everybody all of the time.  Get over it!”  You’re not circled around liking each other, you’re circled around Jesus.}  …and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col. 3:13)  

I heard a story this summer about Corrie ten Boom.  In 1947, she had just given a talk in Munich.  If you know anything about Corrie ten Boom, she was in concentration camps and her sister died there, along with a number of others.  The guard her worked at the concentration camp she and her sister were in happened to be at the talk that she gave.  He had come to know the Lord.  He walked forward and he held out his hand to her and said, “Corrie, will you forgive me?”  The person who took the life of her sister!!  She writes that she knew that forgiveness was an act of the will, as much as it was an emotion, and she said, “I didn’t feel the emotion, but I knew that I could step into the moment without feeling it.”  She said she reached out her hand and said, “I forgive you.”  As she described in her book, as she reached out her hand and he reached out his and they locked hands, a feeling tingling in my shoulder moved all the way down my arm into my hand and I felt a rush over my entire like nothing I’ve felt before.  Her concluding thought was this:  I have never known God’s love as intensely as I did right then!  Do you want to experience the forgiveness of God?  FORGIVE!  Forgive those who’ve wronged you and step into the light.  John would argue that we’re a band of imperfect people forgiven by a perfect God.  We’re a community striving to be honest and living in the light of grace.  We reject the narrative of perfection and cling on to his mercy.  It’s all we’ve got.

He concludes with this:  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  {Notice, he’s pushing back against the Gnostics and docetists who said it doesn’t matter how you live.  He’s going I want you to live in light, I want you to live in truth, I want you to live with God.}  But if anyone does sin,  {In the Greek, the mood is the subjunctive and you could read it ‘WHEN you sin.’ }  we have an advocate…  (1 John 2:1-2)     We have someone who stands at our defense.  We have Jesus the Messiah who says no, no, no, no, no, they’re with me and all of their sin has been carried into the ground and I rose out the other side.  We have an advocate who stands at our defense.  It is so important that you recognize you have an advocate because you also have an accuser.  You have an enemy of your soul that actually hates the fact that Jesus is your advocate and so he whispers things in your ears like, God’s angry at you, or He could never that sin, or you’re always going to be on the outside, you’re always going to be lonely, you’re always going to be rejected, you’re always going to be this….   The extent to which you trust and know you have an advocate determines the volume of the voice of the accuser.  He’s for you.  He’s good.  In Him there’s no darkness at all.

John goes on to say that when we sin on this journey that we’re all on together, we have an advocate that stands at our defense — We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  The word propitiation is a Greek derivative of a Hebrew idea that meant ‘the mercy seat.’  It was the place inside the Holy of Holies in the temple, where blood of an animal was sprinkled in order to have forgiveness, or cleansing, from God.  The pagans had this idea about propitiation too.  Their conviction was that something perfect had to die in order for an angry god to be not angry with you anymore.  You made god happy by killing something, then he was okay with you.  The Christian idea is starkly different.  John Stott writes:  “Such ideas are rightly dismissed as pagan and inconsistent with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.”  It was NOT that God was angry and killing something or someone made him happy.  It’s that humanity was dead and Jesus carried our sin into the ground to make us alive.  That’s the beautiful truth of the gospel, friends.  He takes the wrath of God, which IS death and banishment and exile, and takes it upon himself into the ground and walks out, creating a new humanity.  Lest we think this is limited to some, John would say this is the most inclusive exclusive group in the entire world.  He didn’t just bury OUR sins, carry them and bury them, He carried the sins of the whole world!

We experience the light when we trust that it is finished.  As John writes this, I wonder if he thinks back to the cross, sixty years before, looking back and remembering the words of Jesus as Jesus is on the cross when he says not well, I’m mostly done…    He says no, no, no, no, no.  IT. IS. FINISHED.  When you get that it turns out it’s light.  It creates a light in people that is impossible in any other way.  Friends, I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that this morning.

In January of 2002, a friend of ours, Bob Easton, who’s in our congregation today, got a phone call from a friend.  It was a friend who worked for the City of Littleton and was organizing the security for the Olympic torch being carried across Colorado.  It left Greece and was on its way to Salt Lake City.  They asked Bob to carry the torch for a stretch of this journey.  It was lit in Greece and made its way here.  When Bob got it, he lit it and it was this symbol of the Olympic games.  When John writes in 1 John 1 that God is light, implicit within his statement is that you and I are also people of the light.  We have common life with the light.  For 2,000 years, followers of Jesus have been passing this light down from generation to generation.  They’ve been passing this love, they’ve been passing this beauty, they’ve been passing this goodness, they’ve been passing this conviction that Jesus really does change the way that we live on an everyday basis, and you can experience Him as you walk in fellowship, and as you walk in forgiveness, and as you walk in His finished work.  Friends, as you and I experience the light, we also get the chance to extend it to the world around us.  John would say that being a follower of Jesus, living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, is a feet-on-the-ground not thing-in-the-air experience.  My hope and prayer for you and I is that as we study this book and as we live life together, that we would taste and see that He is good.  And that we would hold out that light and that love to the people around us.  Amen.

Lord, we long for that to be true of us.  To be a community that’s gathered around the Light, experiencing it, touching it, seeing it, hearing it….in each other, in your creation, in your Scriptures, by your Spirit, that it would be all around us in a way that we wouldn’t be able to help but let it get out of us.  Father of Light, we pray that you would illuminate us, that you’d light us up like a city on a hill that we would shine of your goodness, because we believe that there is no darkness in you at all.  May we live in your way, with your heart, we pray.  In the name of Jesus.  And all God’s people said….Amen!

Dwell | Touching the Light | 1 John 1:1-2:2 | Week 12021-04-12T12:46:25-06:00
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