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Category Archives: 1 John

1 John 5 – This is Love For God

Reading through 1 John has made realize how overly simple what John is calling us to is…yet how much we struggle with it. We want to personalize Christianity and make it about whether or not I do “Christian things” and do them correctly. John places the Christian walk in community and gives the simple commands of “love” and “quit sinning.” As God’s Children, those who have faith, we are called to love God and to love our siblings. In addition to this, God wins. We are his children; we win. In faith, because of Jesus, we now live out our lives fully. We relive our baptism daily. We live in love. We live in obedience. The victory has been one…so act like it!

John reemphasizes the importance that Jesus came both in water and in blood. He did come in the flesh, as man. He did humble himself to become like us in every way. Jesus had to become human. He became like us and showed us how to live. He demonstrates what it looks like to live out the love that John has called us to in this letter. We follow him, not just in salvation, but in life.

The letter ends in an odd way but it ends with a strong message that we need to continually remember: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” I like the way Kent captured this command last time we were in 1 John: “Dear Children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” In a world that bombards us with things we “need” and images they want us to take one, we have to constantly examine our hearts and see who/what is sitting on the throne. When something else has been placed on the throne it is time to do some cleaning. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2013 in 1 John, Bible Blog

 

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1 John 4 – The Example is the Command

We take for granted that Christians are supposed to live like Jesus.  Many of us have worn jewelry or clothing at some point that actually said WWJD…What Would Jesus Do?  The implication of course is that we should try to discern what Jesus would do and then do that thing.  This is not a normal way of thinking.  I had several great teachers when I was growing up and in school.  They taught me, mentored me, and were significant influences on me; but I never considered that I should try to live like them.  

Throughout the Bible there are people who are worthy of emulation.  We should all strive to have faith like Abraham.  We should seek to have the missional focus of Paul.  We should seek the voice of justice heard from the prophets.  And yet nobody really asks, “What would Paul do?”  Jesus set a standard of living that is not only worthy of trying to replicate, but the things that Jesus did are in many ways the equivalent of commands.  What’s also important is that the most identifying characteristic of Jesus that so many try to live by is his love.  For Christians, loving and living like Jesus are as much or more a part of their active faith than the 10 Commandments or any other rule for Christian living.

This is the major focus of John in this chapter.  Let us love one another.  Why?  Because love is from God.  Also, everybody who loves is born again of God and knows God.  If you don’t love, then you don’t know God.  How does God love?  By sending his son Jesus to die on the cross for us (the fact that this is said twice in a row means that it is super true.  Biblical repetition amplifies meaning).  So we should love one another.  God’s example in Jesus is as good as a command.  God loved through Jesus’ love so we should love.

Perfect love, John goes on to say, drives out fear.  When you love somebody enough to give anything for them, what do you have to lose?  If your love is complete, then you share in Jesus’ love and know that even death cannot overcome your love.

Two conclusions:

  1. As John says, he who claims to love God but hates his brother and sister is a liar.  Can you imagine telling God that you love him and having him look back and you and simply say, “You lie.”  If you have a grudge between a brother or sister…work it out.  The example is the command.
  2. The essence of God is love.  We were created in his image, and thus our essence should be love.  When we fail to show love, we are living counter to God’s will and counter to our own humanity.  Additionally, if we are baptized and clothed in Christ, how much more should we love as he loved.
 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in 1 John

 

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1 John 3 – Foundation of Christian Community

You’re either a Child of God or a Child of the Devil. There are no passive observers. John defines Children of God as those who do not continually sin. John draws the contrast between God and the Devil so that they will not be flippant about the actions of those who claim to be their Brothers and Sisters.

If you continue to sin, you are continuing the work of the Devil. This doesn’t mean that you won’t sin any longer but it means that you take sin seriously and are not flippant with it. You strive to stop sinning. You don’t do it willingly. You know that identity that you have taken on as a Child of God and you strive to live out that reality. Christ, the Son of God, came and destroyed the Devil’s work. He conquered death and all that is evil. Our tasks, being made and transformed into his image, is to make this the reality for the world.

Knowing that we are Children of God, what is the message that we are to live by? Love one another. This is a simple message that seems hard for us to live out. If you do not remain in love you are dead. Love passes you from death to life. How are we doing with this?

One of the things I love about working with teenagers vs. working with adults is that I can highly motivate (force) teens into putting themselves into situations where they have to learn to live out their Christian convictions. When we go on a youth trip and I room one of them with another teen that they do not like I am able to remind them that the cross of Christ overcomes their differences and they need to work on loving them. This is a lot harder with adults.

I’ve heard on a number of occasions, “I have to love them but I don’t have to like them.” I’m not sure this captures the heart of this passage like John would have liked. The early Church was persecuted and they had to look to one another for love and strength. When your family rejected you for becoming a Christian you knew that you had a Family where you were loved. Not being persecuted has brought us to a point to where the Christian community is merely a part of our life amongst other things. How do we develop a Christian community that becomes the center point of our lives? Love. This seems overly simplistic but we have to find ways to love one another to develop the kind of Christian community that matters. We do this at Northwest in a number of ways: monthly potlucks, life groups, praise nights, pants and pancakes, inter-congregational sporting events, family retreats, etc. We try to provide natural ways in which community is built so that when people do come to our congregation there is an overwhelming feel of love and acceptance.

The Christian community should be developed to the point to where there is no fear in death or persecution. Because of the Christian community we should have confidence that if something were to happen to us our families would be taken care of. We should have no doubt that when we step out on faith there is a net provided by our Brothers and Sisters who are there to catch us if we fall. This is the kind of Christian community that is developed because of love. This is the community that draws the attention of those who do not belong to Christ. Love is attractive.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in 1 John, Bible Blog

 

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1 John 2 – In the Light

In recent years the phrase “litmus test” has gained some ground in political discussion about court appointees. When politicians will only appoint judges who hold to a specific view on a specific issue they are said to apply a litmus test to them.  No matter how good they are on every other matter, based on the litmus test they might be either in or out.

John is doing something similar here in 1 John 2.  This standard for whether somebody is “in” or “out” in matters of faith is not a plan of salvation per say, in that it is expressing what you must do to be saved.  It does function in two other important ways though.  First, it provides Christians (then and today) with a metric for assessing their own obedience to God’s will in their own life.  Secondly, it provides Christians with a way to assess Christian leaders.  If somebody is behaving outside of what John says is Christian behavior, then their leadership and influence within the church needs to be questioned.

So what does it take to be “in the light as he is in the light”?  First, they must follow God’s commands because one who obeys God’s word has had their love for God made complete in them.  Also, whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.  For many Christians today, this might feel obvious.  But for many, obeying God’s commands and living like Jesus might not be the same thing.  After all, even though Moses had been respected and revered, nobody had ever suggested that to be a faithful Israelite you must obey the law and live like Moses.  The strong implication here is that living like Jesus is part of obeying God’s commands.  The standard had changed from “What does the law require” to include “What would Jesus do?”

John goes on to say that if you hate your brother or sister you are in darkness.  Remember that this is the same John who wrote about Jesus telling his disciples in one of their last meals together, “The world will know you are my disciples by this, that you love one another.”  John now boldly proclaims that the reverse is also true, that while love shows the world you are Jesus’ disciples, hatred clearly shows that you are not.  You have been blinded by darkness.

John goes even further by saying that some are so counter to the purpose and message of Jesus Christ that they are in fact antichrists.  These are plural and are not some mythical angelic opponent to God in the heavenly realms.  These are people who seemingly were part of this congregation who began teaching that Jesus was not the Christ, denying the Father and the Son.  This is dangerous to their salvation, to the salvation of others, to the church, and the message of the church.  As such, they are opponents of Jesus.

So John encourages these early Christians to remain in Christ, to refrain from teachings that are contrary to the Gospel, and to recognize that there are some who fail the Christian litmus test.  While they may claim to be connected to God, John makes it clear that you cannot have a relationship with the Father without a relationship with the Son.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in 1 John

 

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1 John 1 – Jesus is Really Really Real

John’s First Epistle is not written in a typical style where it would be widely distributed to a vast number of churches. It is written in a way to where it addresses specific problems of one or a few congregations which John would have been familiar with. It seems as though a crisis had arisen in the church due to heretical teachers who were advocating a Christianity that differed from that of John and the Apostles. John felt it necessary to write a careful letter regarding what Christianity is for the benefit of those who are being influenced by the teachers who seceded from the church.

The seeders were forerunners of the heretics who developed what became the “Gnostic sects” in the second century. These sects claimed to have fellowship with God and to be sinless (1:6, 8, 10) and that they knew God (2:4). They quite probably believed that God was light and that they were living in the light (2:9). The problem lies in their unorthodox views of Jesus. They denied that Jesus was the Christ or even the Son of God (2:22; 5:1, 5) and denied that he came in the flesh (4:2; 2 John 7).

John begins his letter with a declaration that he has experienced the Word of life with all of his senses. It is easy to read these letters and forget that these were real people writing them to real people who are dealing with real situations. When I first read “The Confessions of St. Augustine” the Bible became more real for me. I know that probably sounds odd. It was written at the end of the fourth century but Augustine openly writes about his the struggles in his life and the struggles in the church at the time. At one point he talked about reading a copy of the Gospel of John and things became real for me then. Though he was a few centuries removed from Christ, it opened my eyes even more so to the reality of Christianity throughout the centuries. John is doing the same thing for his readers. He was there! He heard the Word! He saw Christ! He touched Jesus! This was not a “spiritualized reality” but a very real physical experience. He writes to connect these Christians to this reality.

John then sets himself and the apostles apart from those who have left the church and teaching a false doctrine. They have true fellowship with God because they “walk in the light as he is in the light” and because of this they also have “fellowship with one another,” because of the blood of Jesus, who is God’s Son, that purifies them. The implication is that if someone denies Jesus they are not in fellowship with God and also not in fellowship with God’s Church. Claiming to not have sin makes God a liar and His Word is not in them.

In what ways have you connected with the reality of Christ’s existence? How has Jesus become more real for you? Don’t lose sight of the reality of Christ but become more and more connected to Him as we read the Word together.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in 1 John, Bible Blog

 

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