Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (John’s Correspondence)

John’s Correspondence

2004-02-19 – “Introduction”

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. 1Jn1:1

I became a Christian because I went on a Students Christian Association leadership camp where I spent 5 days among people who had a real, living, and working relationship with God. What struck me about these folk was that they read the Bible. I asked my friend Noel where to start, and with God-given wisdom he said: “Read 1John twice a day for seven days.” There was more after that, but this initial “prescription” was right on the button because John’s first letter is a concentrated dose of core issues of Christianity and the fundamentals of faith.

Many people are not even aware that John not only wrote a gospel, but three short letters as well. The letters, like his gospel portray Jesus as the Word of Life who has come into our world to give us life in all its abundance.

For John, Jesus’ coming to earth was a very deliberate tangible experience of the character, nature, and person of God. We can relate to God and love Him because we have seen, heard, and touched Jesus. His portrayal of Jesus and the basics of the Christian life have the same “hands on” character. It is as though John experienced Jesus as “in your face” and that he is determined to present the issues on his heart to us in the same way.

So, our next devotional series is going to be an exploration of John’s letters. But, before we sink our teeth into 1John, I want to ask you to try to find time sometime today or tomorrow to read the whole book (only five chapters) through twice, so that as the devotions arrive, there is a sense of familiarity and a bit of the bigger picture as we enjoy the wonderful reality of a God who is not far away, but very near!

2004-02-23 – “Seen and heard Word.”

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. The life appeared: We have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, that that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make (y)our joy complete. (Some manuscripts have “our” and others “your”) 1Jn1:1-4

John had a knack for profound openings. His Gospel begins “In the beginning was the Word…” and now His first letter begins in a similar way. Why this emphasis on the “Word”? Part of the answer lies in the historical context that John found himself in where Gnosticism had had quite an influence.

Gnosticism was an interesting mixture of religion and philosophy. Taking from the Greek Philosophers, the gnostics differentiated between matter (which was “bad”) and spirit (which was “good”) Meaning and Purpose in life was found when one could purify the spirit (often being allowed to do whatever you like with your body) and embrace certain key truths (knowledge or “gnosis”.) The key to knowledge was the Word (logos). These words of knowledge were well-kept secrets in gnosticism which were whispered by an experienced “gnostist” to a new member or initiate.

There were times that Christianity was in danger of being incorporated into gnosticism and John’s introduction makes some profoundly important points in the light of the possibility of gnostic influences:
1. The truths of Jesus are not to be quietly whispered among a select few. They are openly proclaimed!
2. The heart of the gospel is not a collection of wise sayings or some obscure philosophical framework, but a _person_! Jesus is the em-body-ment (embodiment) of the good news of the Christian faith.
3. The message is not some lofty ideal that we have to aspire to but a person who came to us.
4. The result of our coming to know Him is not that we become secret members of some hidden group, but that we become part of a family whose members are not recognised through some secret ritual, but by their experience of and love for a person named Jesus Christ.
5. The sharing and receipt of this message brings us joy

The introduction to John’s letter leaves us with the impression that Christianity is vibrantly centered around a God who revealed Himself and His truth in a profoundly personal and intimate manner. Our joy comes from the fact that we too can experience this intimacy. It’s not about doctrine, rules, rituals, or traditions, but a Person!!!

2004-02-25 – “Reflectors”

This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1Jn1:5-7

The moon has no light of its own – it reflects the light of the sun.
We have no light of our own, we reflect the light of the Son!

John’s Gospel and Letters are full of the interplay between light and darkness. He describes God as light and in doing so He describes God as the Source of Life (“Let there be light” was the beginning of creation and if God is light, then creation is sustained by Him) But light also represents holy purity which is the antithesis of darkness. Greek and Roman gods were powerful beings who were capable of good and evil. The God of the Bible is Light: pure, spotless, and holy.

To have fellowship with Jesus is to allow His light to shine on us. If there is no reflection, then, guess what? There is no light shining on us. Knowing God implies that we allow His light – His holy purity – to shine on us. If there are no parts of our lives that can reflect that purity, then we have to wonder whether we have really understood or received His holy love.

The reflected light of Jesus is what we have in common with other Christians. We become divided when we major on _our_ goodness, cleverness, or importance but when Jesus is the shared and reflected light then we can get on with one another.

All of our “reflecting surfaces” are marred with imperfections and impurities that spoil and distort the reflections of Jesus that come from our lives. When the light shines on us we can identify these spots and begin to sort them out, but if we do not let the light shine on us, then these imperfections cannot be addressed because we cannot see them on our own. Then, in a sense, when we become aware of own sinfulness it is a good thing, because it means that we are being shined on!

2004-02-27 – “Weeds”

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and wil forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives. 1Jn1:8-10

Like an alcoholic who cannot be healed until he admits his problem, there is no hope for us until we admit that we are sinoholics. We can fool everyone else, but we cannot fool God. Our addictions to that which is selfish, harmful, and evil are powerful indeed.

As we strive to walk in the light, we have to deal with the imperfections that mar our ability to reflect the light of Jesus. John shows us how…

If we imagine that sin is like weeds that grow in our garden then the process works like this.
1. We have to admit that there are weeds in our garden
2. Then we need to _confess_ or sins. This means we come to a point of honest regret and a desire (however half-hearted it may be) to stop doing it.
3. Then God does two wonderful things:
- He forgives. This is like cutting the weed off at ground level
- He purifies us from unrighteousness. This is as though He starts digging out the roots of the weed so that it won’t grow again.

We are often discouraged about coming to God about the same old sin _again_ and _again_. The good news is that every time we _truthfully_ confess our sin, God takes away our guilt and digs away some of the root of the sin in our hearts. I have personally experienced the extinction of old bad habits that God slowly but surely dug out of the soil of my heart as I faithfully and honestly brought them to Him.

There is no escaping the repeated emphasis on truthfulness. God can help us if we mean business with Him. If we are going to pretend or play games or want to have one foot in darkness and one in the light then we cannot be helped. If we think that we can get away with it, then Jesus died for nothing.

2004-03-01 – “In case we still doubt…”

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1Jn2:1-2

This is the third section or paragraph in which John deals with sin.

In the first section we were reminded that God is light without dark, and that any darkness alienates us from Him. But there is hope in the purification available to us through Jesus blood.

Then we were urged to be honest about the darkness that is in us. Don’t explain it away or pretend it isn’t there. Confess it and God will root it out.

The third section is even clearer: Our goal is to be without sin.But if we _do_ sin then there is Someone who speaks on our behalf . And He can defend us because He made a huge sacrifice on our behalf.

In all three sections we have an assurance of forgiveness, but this forgiveness is not a licence to sin, but a motivation _not_ to sin! John’s goal is to motivate us to a life of walking in the light.

Imagine the picture: A man gets lost in the forest and it gets dark. As he stumbles in the dark, he gets mud on his clothes, grass-stains on his trousers, burrs on his jacket, and bloodstains on his shirt where the vines have cut his arms. But it’s dark – so he can’t see the mess he is in. Suddenly he spots a light in the distance and focussing on it he stumbles and sruggles through the bush. Eventually he lands up in a big clearing with a cabin on the far side. There is a bright light inside the cabin and the smell of a lovely meal being cooked. The front door is open and the light is pouring out. As he gets nearer to the cabin, the man begins to see the dark muddy patches on his trousers. “I’m a bit dirty…” As he draws nearer still, his predicament becomes clearer and clearer. “I’m really dirty”. As he gets close to the door he realises “I’m filthy!” But he keeps going because he has seen the tub of water, the towel, and the change of clothes – clothes just his size.

John has been pointing the spotlight at us – it _does_ reveal our dirt and our sin – but the light also reveals our Saviour.

2004-03-02 – “Reflecting Jesus”

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, “I know Him but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. 1Jn2:3-6

Just like a photographic film cannot remain unchanged by the light, neither can we. The problem is that many claim to be in the light, but the shutters of their hearts are closed tightly.

The absolute evidence of the presence of Christ is reflection – when someone begins to let the Light of Jesus into their hearts, they cannot remain the same – they begin to look like Him.

This is not just dry legalism – we do not obey in order to _earn_ God’s love. We do not even obey to open the shutters of our hearts! Obedience and Christlikeness are the results of our encounter with the Light of His Love.

We open the shutters of our hearts through faith and we get the focus right in worship and meditation. The clearer the picture we see – the clearer the picture we will be.

What are you reflecting?

2004-03-04 – “An old commandment renewed”

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am wiriting you new command; its truth is seen in Him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness;he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. 1Jn2:7-11

Jesus’ life and ministry brought a new emphasis on loving our fellow human beings. In this sense what John says is true: It _is_ and old command , but it has been renewed through the ministry of Jesus and the example He set by dying for us on the cross.

Loving one another is part of the task of reflecting the light of Jesus. When we love, we are allowing Christ’s light to transform us and as the light reflects from us, it guides us. When we hate, then the light of Jesus is not reflecting off our lives and, if we follow John’s image, we cannot see where we are going.

This is a point that John will come back to. We will be challenged about this again. There is no mistaking the clear implication: Christianity is not an individualised faith. The children’s hymn “You in your small corner and I in mine” is not accurate! Our faith is about relationships: Firstly with God and then with one another.

When we do not love, it is because the darkness has somehow blinded us. If we have properly received and understood the light of Christ, then we will know that He _is_ love and His example of self-sacrificing love will inspire us to do the same.

If we are not loving, then we haven’t properly grasped the light and to all intents and purposes are walking around in the dark.

The presence of love, especially love for others is the acid test for real faith.

Jesus said that the world will know that we are His disciples because we love each other. Someone else, commenting on this said: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

2004-03-05 – “Generations Poem”

I write to you, dear children because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.
I write to you, fathers because you have known Him who is from the beginning
I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father
I write to you, fathers because you have known Him who is from the beginning
I write to you, young men because you are strong, and the Word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1Jn2:12-14

Hebrew poetry does not work with rhymn but with rhythmic repetition of ideas in various patterns. John reveals his Old Testament roots here with this poem which serves as an introduction to the next sections.

The poem is addressed at children, fathers, and young men. The order (which is unusual – we would have expected children, young men, fathers) is our first clue that John is not simply talking about familial age groups, but spiritual age-groups. The reasons given for addressing each “age-group” are our second clue that this is more about growing up spiritually than it is about growing up in a family sense.

John addresses the children first. When we are new Christians, the excitement and reality of the faith springs from two very precious truths: My sins have been forgiven, and I can call God “Abba” (Father). The wonder, awe, and joy of forgiveness and relationship with God is the gift every new believer brings to the community of faith.

John repeats his reason for writing to the fathers. This is not because he couldn’t think of anything else to say. The gift that the fathers bring is very important: The fact that the spiritual fathers have known God who is from the beginning indicates that the fathers have a faith that has recognised God’s presence in all of their lives and in all of creation. They know from experience that God can be trusted, and from the track record of experience they know what God is like. They have learned that God is with them even when it feels like He is not there.

The young men come last and John recognises them for their energy and courage that makes it possible for them to overcome the evil one. If the Word of God lives inside young people, and if they are strong in His power, then God can use them to overcome.

The unusual order of the “generations” now begins to make sense: When spiritual children are brought into contact with spiritual parents, then they can grow up to be spiritual young people who can make a difference in the kingdom of God. John is looking for is people who will be strong, full of the Word, and able to overcome and people reach this stage by realising that they have been forgiven and that God is their Father. But they also need the help and guidance of those who have known God for a long time.

Each “generation” is important and if we are to have a crowd of “young people”, we need a crowd of “children” and “parents.”

2004-03-08 – “In but not of…”

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1Jn2:15-17

(Be warned – this is not a comfortable message…)
The Greek word that John uses is the word “Kosmos” In the New Testament it is most commonly used to describe the world “system” rather than the created world. We are not called to hate the world in an “ozone _unfriendly_” manner, but rather to dissociate ourselves from the world _system_.

John goes on to describe the world system he is talking about. He defines it in three points:
- The cravings of the sinful man (materialism)
- The lust of his eyes (sensuality)
- The boasting of what he has and does (pride, arrogance, and the idea of being “one up” on everyone else)

The worldview that emerges from these three points is what John is warning us against. If you look carefully at the values being touted by the media and in our workplaces, you will notice that these three points are at the heart of these pressures.

I am reading a fascinating book by a Christian Sociologist who is deeply concerned that the Church in America is floundering precisely because churches and their members do not have a Biblical worldview and that they have simply inherited the dominant worldview.

John is calling is to adopt another worldview. The three points of the world “system” make it clear that it is based on love of self rather than loving God and others. One can spend a lot of time trying to define the current worldview. Is it extensialist, new-age, post-modern, or something else? Rather than trying to wrap our minds around these kinds of definitions, John is much more practical: When the values that are before us espouse the endless pursuit of possessions, pleasure, or one’s own importance and when these values promote a love of self rather than the love of God and others, then these values should be rejected.

The days of blindly opening our mouths to unquestioningly accept the values that society would spoonfeed us are over. As Christians we must be much more discerning. Cosmopolitan magazine and Diesel clothes will not endure forever, but God’s standards will.

To which drumbeat will we march?

2004-03-09 – “Antichrist? (Part 1)”

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 1Jn2:18-19

This is the first of three places in this letter that John writes about the antichrists. In the other two passages it is clear that John saw anyone who denied the deity of Jesus as an antichrist.

The early church was convinced that they were living in the “last hour” – that many of them would not die before Jesus came again. If we look at what Jesus said about His second coming in Matthew 24 we read this: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of the birth pains.”

The process of birth is a cycle of pain (contraction) and then relief. Throughout the history of the church there have been periods of persecution, the uprising of evil, and the degradation of society. These are the birth pains, and one day one of these birth pains will herald the coming of Jesus.

What is typical of the periods of contraction is that there are many false prophets and doctrines that infiltrate the church. John shows us how to recognise them: Here he does not concentrate on their doctrine, but on their behaviour – they affiliate themselves to the church, but never belong. When the crunch comes they disconnect themselves from the church.

For John the issue is _belonging_. If they had belonged, they would have “remained” and not gone out.

There is an uncomfortable truth here: When people dissociate themselves from the church (very often speaking critically and negatively about the church) they may be saying much more about themselves than about the church.

Our attitude toward the whole church and our local church is a very telling aspect of our spirituality. The church is not perfect – if it were, we would ruin it by joining! If we have been hurt by the church we must get over it and try again! In this passage John makes it clear that loyal connection and involvement in the church will safeguard us from the trap of the antichrist.

2004-03-10 – “Antichrist? (Part 2)”

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1Jn2:20-23

The Gnostics who were the false teachers misleading the church in John’s day claimed to have special revelation and anointing. John has an answer to their claims: The title “Christ” means “Messiah” or “Anointed One”. The Christians, by virtue of their faith in the Anointed One, have access to the truth.

For John the truth was clear – Jesus is the Messiah – He is none other than God. The moment this truth is denied, then the person denying had left the fold of Christian faith. In our modern society where many people see all religions as leading to God, the key issue is the place we accord to Jesus. Jesus is either simply a good teacher and good example or He is the Son of God and the only One through whom we can be saved. If we believe the former, we are outside of Christianity while if we hold to the latter we are “anointed” and “know the truth.”

It is interesting to see how people try to complicate it and surround the claims of Jesus with all sorts of confusing theories and statements and controversies. The moment the reality of Jesus life, death, and resurrection are removed from the central point in our faith, we are at the risk of moving from faith to ideology or philosophy.

Just think about how you would explain Christianity to a visiting alien from Mars. Would you begin with the moral and ethical goodness prescribed by the Ten Commandments? Would you describe Christianity as regular church-going and the attempts to live a good life? Or would you begin with who Jesus is and what He has done?

2004-03-11 – “Antichrist? (Part 3)”

See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He has promised us – even eternal life.
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you: remain in Him 1Jn2:24-27

For the scholars one of the frustrating things is that John does not come out directly to name his opponents. All we have are some hints. Maybe John did this deliberately. The Gnostics are not the only ones we should avoid. Rather than concentrating too hard on the false teachers he gives us two clear guidelines to identify false teaching by, and in so doing emphasises two key issues that should keep our focus:
1. Membership and Involvement in the Church, the true body of Christ
2. Faith in Jesus Christ as LORD and Saviour

In small American towns the names of some of the breakaway churches tell one a lot about their focus. One church – I kid you not – was called the “Dodge the devil and go straight to heaven” church!! The tragedy is that they were so focused on the witch-hunt process of avoiding evil that they had lost focus on the core-truths of Christianity. They will never finish dodging the devil….

John does not make that mistake: In today’s section he makes what we _should_ be _doing_ much clearer, because we should not become obsessed with spotting or refuting evil.

Our core-business is maintaining our faith relationship with Jesus. The basic truths of the Good News of the Gospel are what our faith should be about. We should not miss out on this.

Many people who have gone “solo” in their faith use this idea of “not needing anyone to teach us” as justification for staying away from church or from other teachers. They claim that their “anointing” means that they have been given personal and full access to the truth. However, the “you” in the passage is plural and the context of this anointing has to do with the identification of the antichrist.

Our anointing comes from our fellowship with the Anointed One and we should remain in Him… Let us not become distracted with identifying evil, but rather focus on the goodness and the glory of Jesus!

2004-03-12 – “Reflecting what we know”

And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him. 1Jn2:28-29

Here, once again, John picks up the theme of reflection. This time John sketches the concept of the second coming and our needing to be ready to receive Jesus.

The key to being ready is continue being His reflection which is what continuing _in_ Him is all about. If we know Jesus then we will follow in His footsteps and reflect His character and nature.

It is tempting to understand righteousness as good behaviour, but John makes it clear in chapter one that no one is without sin. We can try to pretend that we are perfect but we would be liars and the truth would not be in us. If we have been paying careful attention then we know that there is only one righteous One and that His righteousness has been made available to us, firstly through the cross and secondly through the Spirit.

To be righteous is not so much about ethical and moral correctness as it is to be a reflection of Jesus. Righteousness is to have been restored by His forgiveness and renewed by His Spirit.

Righteousness is more about relationship than it is about rightness!

2004-03-13 – “Holiness and Reality #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 has been born of Him. 1Jn2:28-29

Verse 28 serves as the conclusion of the previous section and as the introduction and link to the next section. And with this verse we’ve come to one of the most difficult sections of John’s letter… We’ll spend a few days on the end of ch.2 and the first half of ch.3.

We’ve already talked about continuing in Jesus and reflecting Him. Now John takes it further. When we reflect Jesus, we will also reflect His righteous character. We will need to reflect His purity and holiness. In fact, this transformation will be the evidence of our new birth.

This is hard teaching. Even people who are real role models of faith to me admit that they feel far from being people who “do what is right!” Another valid question is: “Is this not going back to salvation by works – that we are saved by trying to be good people??” How can there be any hope for me when although I love Jesus passionately, I still sin and my sin frustrates me and trips me up all the time?

Before we begin to think that John esteems the law and righteousness very highly, we need to remember that John thinks even more about the power of the new birth and Christ’s working in us. Christ’s new life in me is _so_ transformative, so _resurrective_ (to coin a new word!) that I cannot be the same. Paul (in 2Cor5:17) rightly says that anyone who is _in_ Christ is a new creation – the old has gone and the new has come.

The point in this passage (and the ones that follow for this week) is that John is wanting to emphasise the life-changing power of being born-again. If we really have experienced Jesus, then we will, as a matter of course begin to look like Him.

As we will see, righteousness is a state of the heart and not a state of the record-books – our behaviour will one day catch up to what has been done in our heart by Jesus, but if there is _no_ change in our behaviour, then we will need to check whether we had a _real_ and _true_ encounter with Jesus, or whether it was just an emotional or intellectual thing.

2004-03-17 – “Holiness and Reality #2 – Starting right”

(There are four main parts to the passage – hence the asterisks)
* How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we will 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.
* Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
* Everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1Jn3:1-3

In this whole question about being holy, it is very easy to get the cart before the horse: Are we being holy to be saved or are we being holy because we have been saved??

John has no doubts. God has _lavished_ His love upon us. We are children of God, not because we have earned it, but because He wanted to give it to us! Our being God’s children is not based on our performance but on His lavish love.

What does John mean in the second part where he talks about the world not knowing us because it did not know Jesus? I have often heard people say that a child looks like a mom or a dad, when I know that the child has been adopted. Somehow aspects of the childs looks, character, and nature emerge that echo the love and care of the adoptive parents. If the world does not know us, and it does not know Jesus, then it must be that as children of God we begin to resemble Jesus! When we become God’s children, we begin to take on the family traits!

In the third section, John makes the destination very clear. Although we do not fully resemble Jesus now, there will come a time when we will see Him fully and _reflect_ Him fully. For John, the details of heaven – the when, where, and how questions all pale into insignificance. The goal, the purpose, the end-point of the journey is to look like Jesus!

Finally, with this good news that we are lavishly loved, that we have the assurance that we can be reflections of Jesus, and that this is the ultimate end and purpose in life, John then calls us to hard work which is that we strive to purify ourselves in His service.

Back to the horse and cart. Jesus died on the cross so that we might have life. It is His work that earns us the right to be His children that is the horse. The life we live striving for perfection is our reflection of His life in us and this is the cart.

2004-03-18 – “Holiness and Reality #3″

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. 1Jn3:4-6

While we are called to be holy, the reality is that we are sinful. There are times when we actively and knowingly sin, and other times when our brokeness comes to the surface and we sin almost instinctively and automatically.

John makes it clear that we start with actively-committed-to willful sin. We all have times where we commit ourselves to willful disobedience. This is lawlessness: we choose to behave, even if it is just for a moment, as though there is _no_ law. Where there is no law, disobedience snowballs into lawlessness.

Then John reminds us that Jesus came to take away our darkness – He is the pure picture of God’s goodness and grace. John’s starting point is that we cannot pretend to be free of sin. The reality of our sinfulness is a given and the wondeful truth is that Jesus was purpose-driven to deal with our sin.

Our lives are meant to be reflections of God’s light. Like the man in the muddy forest who saw more and more of his dirt in the increasing light, we must strive to become accurate reflections of Jesus.

Having described willful sin, John now reminds us that those who are striving to reflect Jesus, must reflect His holy nature. We cannot _continue_ in willful sin – if we do and there is no desire to become more like Jesus – in other words, if the mirror is not wanting to reflect the light – then we need to do some serious soul-searching and ask ourselves if we have truly met Jesus.

John is not saying that _if_ we sin we do not know God:- He is saying that if we _continue_ in sin to the point that we have no more discomfort at our brokenness, then we are in danger of having heard hearts that do not allow Jesus to transform us!

Put another way, habitual-willful sin blocks our ability to know Him and reflect Him. Jesus appeared to take away the brokeness that causes our addiction. The question is whether we will let Him?

2004-03-19 – “Holiness and Reality #4″

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous. He 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. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God. 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 a child of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother. 1Jn3:7-10

The key phrase in this intimidating passage is this: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.”

This is not salvation by works, but works flowing from salvation. When we are born again it is as if God begins to put a new spiritual “dna”(seed) in us and that this new “dna” starts transforming our lives. There is no way we can truly be born again without the new birth radically transforming our actions, our outlook on life, our attitudes, and our values.

The seed that is planted in us when we give our lives to Christ is a seed that transforms us to look like Him. Paul puts it like this: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion on the day that Christ returns.” (Phil 1:6)

If there is no transformation, no change, no emerging reflection of Christ in a person then the real question is: “Has this person _really_, in all sincerity and commitment, given their lives to Christ?” If we have had a real encounter with Jesus then the seed has been planted in us and we will grow in His image, because the seed He planted is His very own life that He sacrificed on the cross.

Of course we can hamper the growth of the seed in our lives. We can resist it, we can plant weeds and thorns, but the plant _will_ grow. If we nurture the plant we will be transformed. If we pull up the weeds then the transformation can speed up.

Twenty years after giving my life to Jesus, I think I look a little more like Him now than I did then. Some of it is because I have been faithful, but there are many times that I have failed, but He brings me back and continues the work of transformation.

This is the gift of grace!

2004-03-24 – “Back to a familiar theme”

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be suprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 1Jn3:11-15

I became a Christian in my high school years. On the rubgy field especially I had to put up with a lot of abuse. I endured a lot of dirty tackles and being roughed up in the scrum. The guys on the team wanted me to lose my cool and prove that I was just one of them. They might have succeeded if John hadn’t helped me.

Here John makes it clear that people will dislike us and give us a hard time for no other reason than that they cannot bear the fact that Christ is transforming us and making better people of us. It’s not personal – it’s not because of a flaw in my character – they are not attacking me, but Christ-in-me.

Many new Christians experience negativity and critical opposition from family, friends, and loved ones. It’s hurtful and painful and when we don’t understand that it is the response of darkness to the light that Christ has planted in us, we can become disillusioned and depressed.

John makes it clear, we should walk in the path of love. Our brothers and sisters in the faith are walking in the light. If we were unbelievers, we would respond negatively to the light in them which shows up our darkness, When we can love our brothers and sisters in the faith it is because the light in them is the same light that is in us and we are not threatened by it.

We must never be surprised when we receive negative attention from those who are not Christians. It is evidence that the light in us exposes their darkness.

This of course is no excuse to be arrogant or self-righteous or holier-than-thou. We know that it is Christ’s righteousness and not our own and so we can never take ourselves too seriously.

2004-03-25 – “Love is…”

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. 1Jn3:16-18

John 3:16 says “God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son…” Another 3:16 – 1John3:16 – says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us…”

In John’s book another word for “love” is “sacrifice.” The love John speaks of is not sloppy, soppy, or sentimental – it is strong, committed, devoted, and price-paying.

The acid test for God-like love in us is generosity. If we are not moved to action by the needs of others, then it is not Christ’s love working in us. You may have noticed that John speaks of seeing a brother in need. A clear part of John’s worldview was that the church would always begin by caring for each other. They would meet one another’s needs first and then extend their vision to those outside the church.

There are two reasons for this:
1. John’s audience found themselves in hostile circumstances. Many Christians who had businesses were being boycotted by the non-Christians and many found that they became unemployable when they became believers. There was great need within the church and so for John, charity began at home.

2. It also seems that John felt that care reserved primarily for believers made it desirable to enter the Christian community. This point of view must always be kept in balance by remembering Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. On the one hand we do have primary responsibility to the faithful, but we should never be guilty of walking past someone who is in desperate need. Paul writes: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to _all_ people, _especially_ to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Gal.6:10)

Love is not about words, but action. Are we wiling to make sacrifices?

2004-03-29 – “John waxes philosophical”

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God, and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us. 1Jn3:19-24

This passage is hard. I’ll try and lay out the gist of it:

In our previous passage we were told that Jesus’ sacrifice is the definition of love. When we love it is evidence that Jesus is at work in us.

The problem is that we are not perfect. Our hearts and consciences do condemn us from time to time because we are aware of our failure and sin and we know that God sees everything. The problem with condemnatory hearts is that they can cause us to do an “Adam and Eve” – i.e. to hide away from God…

When love is at work in us it sets us free from a sense of guilt and failure. Love is the ultimate divine fingerprint on our lives. Peter (1Pe4:8) reminds us that love covers over a multitude of sins. When we are free of guilt and condemnation we are confident in prayer and in His presence.

And here comes the circular part of John’s reasoning:
If we are confident in our relationship with Him, we obey His commands and please Him.
His commands are:
1. Believe in the name of Jesus (Love God with heart mind soul and strength)
2. Love one another
When we do this we have a relationship with Him by His Spirit who lives in us.

And so we have an upward spiral:
- As we love God and others we have a sense of His working in us
- Then our failures and sins don’t paralyse us because we know that His fingerprints are on us
- We are confident in our relationship with Him
- And we love Him and others
—–> And the loop begins again

2004-03-30 – “Body beautiful!”

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 1Jn4:1-3

As is his habit, John returns to a theme he has already raised, but brings another perspective.

When he spoke about the antichrists earlier, John pointed out that a true Christian recognised Jesus as the Messiah and as God. Here in this passage he goes further: As Christians we also believe that Jesus really become one of us (flesh and blood) – that He really entered into our world and into our suffering and redeemed the whole of existence through His physical death on the cross.

Why was this an issue? We have to go again to the Gnostics who were the false teachers threatening the church. Taking from some of Plato’s thinking, the Gnostics separated life into two parts: flesh and spirit. The flesh (your body and what you did with it) was temporary while your spirit was eternal. They believed that “flesh” was evil and discardable. It was what you did with your spirit that was all important. They would even go as far as to say that you could eat and drink and indulge in all kinds of immoral behaviour because these things only affected your body which was just a cage for your spirit.

That Jesus came in the flesh was unthinkable for the gnostics because they considered the flesh as evil. Even the resurrection was non-sensical to them because they could see no reason why we should get our bodies back.

John emphasises the fact of Jesus physical incarnation. His life on earth, the death and resurrection of His physical body is a magnificent truth. It has the following implications:
- The whole of life is sacred: Our bodies, our homes, our family life, our eating, resting, and touching are all infused with the holiness, glory, and wonder of God, because Jesus willingly embraced these.
- What we do with our bodies is important: We should not separate between spirit and matter and our bodies are not cages for our spirits but part and parcel of who we are. To truly love ourselves is to love our bodies too!
- Jesus has redeemed the whole of our lives and existence and His Good News should affect every part of our lives. Christians therefore are not just concerned with people’s spiritual well-being, but their physical well-being too. (Unfortunately many churches have spiritualised the Gospel and feel they’ve done their duty if they simply tell someone about Jesus even if they do not do anything about their physical needs.)

Are you guilty of spiritualising Christianity in your own life? Have you forgotten that Jesus took His earthly resurrected body into heaven with Him? Do you tend to seperate life into “sacred” and “secular”?
Jesus physical incarnation is a good antidote!

2004-03-31 – “Greater is He!”

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the the world and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. 1Jn4:4-6

When confronting evil and falsehood the temptation is to be fearful and afraid. John reminds us that we have seen the final chapter and we know that Christ will overcome and that evil will be destroyed. The ultimate power behind evil is Satan and because of our sinfulness he has been allowed to be the prince of the world. But Christ will return as the conquering king, and like the usurper Absolom, Satan will meet his doom.

What John sketches here is a picture of “us and them” and while one can approach this from many angles, the point of view that resonates most with me, is that of fellowship.

In the search for truth, fellowship is a key factor. If we are both on the right track, Christ-in-you will resonate with Christ-in-me and we will find the truth together. If I leave the right track, then what I am propogating will not resonate with those who are in tune with Jesus.

While this sounds very obvious and simplistic, it is a vital and necessary tool to staying on the right track. It is true that “majority rule” is not the only criteria for truth. Martin Luther proved it when he took on the corrupt Roman Catholic Church. There are other criteria like Scripture, tradition, and common sense; but the test of fellowship is very helpful and when it is combined with the other yardsticks I have mentioned here, then one has a fair guarantee that one will not be misled.

And all the time while we are faced with many and varying philosophies that are at odds with Jesus, we need to say again and again “Greater is He that is in me!”

2004-04-01 – “Love defined”

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one other. 1Jn4:7-11

I use this passage at the first session I have with a couple who want to be married. It is an intimidating and yet inspiring portrait of love! It makes some important points:

1. God is the source of love. If we do not know Him we will still experience aspects of His love which is freely poured out into creation, but we will not know it fully. The more we know God, and the more we are able to open our hearts towards Him, the more we know Love and are able to love.

2. When we love, whether we know it or not, there are fingerprints of God on our hearts and lives. What is more challenging is that if I claim to know God, but am lacking in love, there is something amiss with my claim!

3. God made His love visible through gift and sacrifice. God didn’t settle for a Valentine’s card, He came and He gave. His love was practical and experiencable!

4. Love takes the initiative. He didn’t wait for us to love Him after He gave us life. He reached out through the prophets and all the history of the Old Testament and then kept reaching out to us by sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So many people hold back waiting for the other person to make the first move or be the first to say “I’m sorry.” If we look at God’s example, He repeatedly makes the first move, again and again!

5. He made the ultimate sacrifice – true love costs!

This is what God means when He talks about love.

Is this what you mean when you say “I love you”?

2004-04-02 – “Revealing God”

No one has ever seen God,
but if we love one another,
God lives in us
and His love is made complete in us. 1Jn4:12

The more we love, the more we will know that we are loved.

If we want to receive His complete love, we must love.

We will see and experience His love when we love others.

We love because He has loved us, but the more we love, the more we experience His love.

I can’t say it any better than that!

2004-04-05 – “Knowing that we belong…”

We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit.
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God lives in them.
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like Him.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears in not made perfect in love. 1Jn4:13-18

“How can I be really sure that I am a Christian?”
“How can I really know that I belong to Him?”

These are not academic questions, but questions directed at me by people with intense eyes and longing faces. And we’ve all been there… We’ve tried our best, we’ve worked hard and yet it still feels like we are failing the grade. Our own brokenness and our failures leave us feeling so inadequate and insufficient that we wonder if God has _really_ heard us or accepted us.

This happens when we are achievement-based in our thinking…

John gives some guidance:
Firstly: We belong to God because of something _He_ has done: He sends His Spirit who opens our hearts and draws us to be His children. Because His Spirit is working in our hearts (even when He convicts us of our sinfulness!) we know that we belong to God.

Secondly: We belong to God because we _recognise_ Jesus as the Saviour of the world and _acknowledge_ Him as the Son of God. (Have you seen anything that is achievement-based yet?)

Thirdly: We rely on God’s love for us! “What?!? Throw yourself completely on the mercy of God? Don’t you rely on good deeds or good doctrine?” “No! We _know_ and _rely_ on God’s love for us!” The only achievement we rely on is His achievement on the Cross (Mel Gibson’s – “The Passion” makes this achievement loud and clear.)

Fourthly: We know we belong to God when we love. Divine love transforms us. The more I realise that I am loved, the more I become like the One who loves me.

The fear that I might not be God’s child is driven away when I simply understand that He really, truly, relentlessly loves me. The achievement paradigm brings reward and punishment with it. With this comes fear. When we are fearful, it is because we have not yet understood that God takes us “voetstoots” (as is) When we understand His love, then we need not fear.

2004-04-06 – “A fifth repetition”

We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1Jn4:19

Legend has it that just prior to his exile on the island of Patmos, John, already an old man, would be asked to preach from time to time and when he did, he would slowly shuffle to the front and gaze intently at the congregation and after a period of silence he would say “Little children, love one another.” And then he would sit down.

The repetition of the command to love one another should not catch us by surprise. When Jesus said that the disciples would be known by there love for one another, John heard Him!

Today people want their churches to be known for their purity of doctrine, their passionate worship, or their meaningful social action. Many churches are strong in these areas, but weak on love. Someone famous once said: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” What an incredible difference could be made if our churches could be places where we care and lift each other up. Unfortunately this does not happen often. Someone else has said: “The church is the only army that shoots its wounded.” Dear Lord, help us to be different!!!

John’s arguments are indisputable:
First: He gives a reason. We don’t love because it is easy, feels good, or gives good “karma.” We don’t love because people will then love us back, or because there will be some kind of warm fuzzy feel good… We love because He loved us. (Easter reminds us how _much_ He loved us and what love sometimes costs.)

Second: He warns us that this is not optional. If we really love God, our hearts will open up to others. There really is no option. If we don’t love others, there is heart trouble and it has to do with the extent to which we have grasped and received the love of Jesus.

Third: Jesus clearly instructed us to do this. It is not optional. The level of our love for God is pitched at the same level as our love for one another.

Finally: As this is the last time that John will “nag” us about this, I feel obligated to tackle some questions… Please be courageous enough to really engage with these too:
1.Does my life show any evidence of me spending myself (not just $$$) for others (not just family)?
2.Am I easily moved to tears about the plight of others, but not always easily moved to action?
3.I think many of us are willing to do big and noble things for others, but what about the little fiddly things?
4.Am I sometimes guilty of being too proud to let others love and help me?
5.Without making any policy changes or passing the buck to the minister (You know what I mean, “You know pastor, we really _should_ be more loving…”) what can YOU _do_ to make your church a more loving place? e.g. When last did YOU invite someone from church to tea?

2004-04-07 – “John’s endless loops”

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,
and everyone who loves the Father loves the Child as well.
This is how we know that we love the children of God:
by loving God and carrying out His commands.
This is love for God: to obey his commands.
And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory that overcomes the world – even our faith!
Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1Jn5:1-4

By repetition and stating the flip side of the coin often, John leaves no stone unturned and no loose end to be misinterpreted. Here is yet another _definition_ of what being in the faith is all about and here John approaches the gem of faith from another angle and reveals some more facets.

Let’s work through each of the phrases:
Christianity begins by faith in Jesus as the Divine Messiah. We have explored this aspect fully. BUT here he reminds us that we don’t just recognise or acknowledge Jesus – a true believer _loves_ Jesus.

Then John flips the coin onto its other side: – up to now he has told us that loving God means loving others, but now he makes it clear that we love others by loving God! This apparent circular logic _has_ a purpose. There are many humanitarians who are atheists and yet love people. As Christians our love for others springs from the recognition that they are God’s creatures who Jesus died to save and because we love Jesus, we love those He loves.

Being in the faith also means that we obey His commands – not because they are burdensome: not because we are trying to _earn_ favour, but because we have _received_ favour and the commands flow out of the favour we have received. The other reason for the commands not being burdensome is that our new birth means that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and He empowers us to overcome our brokeness.

Christianity is therefore overcoming: And we overcome through something as apparently insignificant as faith. So often religion is portrayed with images of weak people clinging to pathetic platitudes. John’s version is different: Our faith may seem small, but it is faith in Jesus the Son of God and by that faith we are transformed and changed and we OVERCOME!

2004-04-08 – “Three witnesses”

This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the Water and the Blood, and the three are in agreement. 1Jn5:6-8

How very appropriate that we reach this point on the eve of Easter!

John has been talking about overcoming the world through our faith in Jesus, and here he supplies additional evidence/motivation for us to take Jesus seriously.

He names three witnesses that confirm the identity and importance of Jesus:
1. Most scholars understand the water to be the water of Jesus’ baptism whereby His identity as Messiah and the One-sent-by-God is confirmed and where He takes on the sin of the world (John’s baptism was a baptism of repentence – sinless Jesus did not need to repent so His action is an identification with sinful, broken humanity.) But the water could also refer to Jesus’ birth where Jesus takes on our humanity.

2. The blood is of course a reference to His death by crucifixion. It refers to the fact that God-made-flesh _died_ for the forgiveness of our sin.

And so here we have Christmas and Good Friday brought together…

3. The final witness is the Spirit and here we think of the Spirit descending on Jesus at the start of His public ministry. This is not to say that the Spirit was not with Him before, but the Spirit came at His baptism to anoint Him for His task as Messiah and Saviour. Just like a King was anointed with oil as a sign of the Spirit’s anointing, Jesus is specially marked and equipped for His public ministry and death. In addition, Paul makes it very clear, that Jesus was raised by God _through_ the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now we have Easter Sunday too.

-Water: The Life and Ministry of Jesus
-Blood: The Death and Sacrifice of Jeseus
-Spirit: The Empowerment and Resurrection of Jesus
This is what the witnesses are telling us – what will we _do_?

Have a beautiful Easter!

2004-04-14 – “God’s testimony”

We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God which He has given about His Son.
Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.
Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1Jn5:9-12

Before Easter we looked at the testimony of water, blood, and Spirit as the three that testify to the work and person of Jesus. Our source for our information concerning Him is not just dried out historical fact. God’s testimony is not only in water and blood, but in _Spirit_.

The Spirit does not remain external: He moves in our _hearts_ (in OT thinking, the heart is not the seat of emotions, but the driving seat of life) In fact, the Spirit convicts and stirs the hearts of all people and when we listen, we discover Jesus. When we ignore Jesus, we are guilty of making God out to be a liar, because the testimony the Spirit _always_ gives is that Jesus is the Messiah: The Son of God.

Furthermore: The testimony not only has to do with the person and work of Jesus, but the fact that our lives can be wonderfully changed because we bring Jesus into our lives. When we embrace the Son, the wonderful effect is that we have life. This is the single greatest piece of evidence that we can ever offer in defense of the reality of God: When we embrace Jesus, we become and are people who are truly alive. (This does not mean that our problems disappear or that our sinfulness vanishes, but that we have _life_)

To say it more specifically – “God has given us _eternal_life_ and that _life_ is in His Son. He who has the Son has _life_.(i.e. _eternal_life)” So what is eternal life? Something we get after we die? No! In John 17:3 Jesus, while talking to His Father, says “Eternal life is knowing You…”

Eternal life is a relationship, personal and intimate with God. If we have come to Christ and we have an intimate relationship with the Father, then we have received the testimony in our hearts!

2004-04-16 – “What the book is all about”

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him. 1Jn5:13-15

I was tempted to do today’s devotion on verse 13 alone. But there is a sense in which 14 and 15 flow from it.

Toward the end of his gospel John says this: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) Here in his letter, his motive for writing is just as clear. What we have read thus far is to teach, inform, and encourage – but most of all it is to assure us that we have eternal life.

John has repeatedly reminded us of some core truths:
-1. faith in Jesus as God’s Son and our Messiah – Saviour and Lord – is the key to eternal life.
-2. He has shown us that love flowing from us is the fingerprint of God’s presence in our lives.
-3. We have seen that the presence of the Spirit in us is the guarantee of walk with Him,
-4. and that when we walk in the light it is because He is at work in us.

We do not have to wonder about eternal life. It is a surety. If we look at the criteria above, we do 1 and God does 2,3,4 in us and they are an outflow of our faith in Him.

But John takes it further – confidence in prayer is another result-and-proof of our relationship with Him. We are moved to pray and we have a sense of being listened to and heard. Stop and think about it for a moment: Sure we all have times when it feels like the ceiling is made of rubber and our prayers are bouncing off it, but there is a basic comfort in prayer that moves us to call on Him when we are in trouble or very grateful.

Furthermore, we can pray according to His will… How do we know His will? Well… partly from what we are taught and we we learn from Scripture, but there is also a kind of instinctive (Spirit given) gut feel for what God’s will is. This is another fingerprint of eternal life in us.

Finally, when we belong to Him there is a quiet assurance that He will do what we ask when our prayers are in line with His will.

Maybe you’re shaking your head and saying “No way! You don’t know how often I struggle to pray or know God’s will or how often I doubt God! How can you tell me that these things are proof of eternal life?”
Think about Adam and Eve – when they sinned and God walked in the garden, they _hid_. Our natural tendency is to _run_ from God just like Jonah did. When we keep coming back to God _in_spite_ of our doubts and fears it is because He has taken hold of us and He won’t let go!

2004-04-26 – “Sin that does and doesn’t lead to death”

If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.
I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death.
I am not saying that he should pray about that.
All wrongdoing is sin and there is sin that does not lead to death. 1Jn5:16-17

In these few verses John raises some very difficult issues:
- Can sins be divided into two categories as he has done here?
- Is there a time that we should not pray for those who do wrong?

Before we can continue, two things are important to note. Firstly, John is talking about believers – people in the church. (“If anyone sees a _brother_…) Secondly, the prayer that is offered for a brother who has sinned (a sin that does not lead to death) is a prayer of restoration and forgiveness.

Now lets try to clarify what John is saying here…
1. _All_ sin separates us from God and leads to our spiritual death.
2. When we become believers, Jesus blood covers our sin and we are alive.
3. Unfortunately we don’t become perfect overnight, and so we can still sin.
4. In this context, a sin that leads to death for someone in the church, is to deny that Jesus is Lord _and_ Saviour.
5. If we refuse to believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we cut ourselves off from the source of forgiveness, and this renders the prayer of restoration and forgiveness useless.
6. All our other sins: failure to love our brothers and sisters and disobedience to God’s commands can be forgiven – as long as we have faith in Christ who forgives.

When someone ceases to believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we cannot pray for their forgiveness as they have cut themselves off from the source of their forgiveness, but we _can_ pray that their eyes will be opened and that they will return to Jesus.

2004-04-30 – “Summarising Reality Check”

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.
We know that we are children of God and the whole world is under control of the evil one.
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1Jn5:18-21

The starts to John’s gospel and letters were well-crafted and attention grabbing. One would almost expect his conclusions to be similar. Instead, they are abrupt and a little bit disconnected. This conclusion is the same. It is as though John has reached the end of what he has to say and simply stops.

John’s conclusion is not so much a summary as it is a final reality check. Let’s look at his main points:

1.When we have been born again, Jesus begins to transform us in His image through the inner-working of the Spirit. This does not mean we become perfect overnight, or that we never make mistakes – John’s provision for confession in ch.1 makes this clear. But there is a clear and ongoing growth toward becoming more and more like Jesus. The wonderful comfort is that He works within us by His Spirit, keeping us safe and making us strong.

2. The world is not safe or even neutral – it is under the control of the evil one. This is a matter-of-fact reality that should not cause us to fear, but simply be a given. We should not be surprised at resistance or disappointment when we deal with the world system – it is not on our side. If we grow comfortable or dependent on the world system, there is a good chance that we are out of step with God. If we have a sense of being pilgrims passing through then we have the right balance.

3. In the light of this hostile world system we have Jesus who stepped into this world and willingly became its victim so that we may know Him – and knowing Him is Eternal Life – the greater reality!

4. It is so easy to put things on pedestals: fashion, status, what others think of us, wealth, or power. All of these pale into insignificance in the light of the True God who gives eternal life. Idolatry is subtle and isn’t only about statues and images.

So at the conclusion of the letter we have to say this: God’s light has shone into the world and we can reflect it.The world offers many “black holes” that will suck in the light (although they will _never_ overcome it) and we must keep our eyes on the True Source.
Hope this journey through John’s letter has been helpful! Any comments or questions?
Any suggestions for the next theme?

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