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… 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.