Want to perfect God’s love?

24 May

Wisdom for the week

It almost slipped by me, this wonderful truth: “Whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected,” 1 John 2:5. Does that excite you or what? Let’s unpack this.

Whoever—including you and me

keeps his word—does what Jesus and his Apostles command

in him—overflowing from inside of us

truly—this actually happens, it’s no joke

the love of God—not merely our love, but God’s amazing love

is perfected—achieved, finished, made absolutely complete.

I’m beside myself in desire to fulfill this. All that I need do is keep his word—do it, live it, model it. For example, enabled by the Holy Spirit,

I “ought to—

walk in the same way in which he (Jesus) walked,” 2:6;

love my brother, 2:10;

abide in Jesus, the light, 2:10, 27;

not cause others to stumble, help them to stand, 2:10;

not be enamored by the world and its toys, 2:15;

do what lasts forever, rather than indulging in the temporary pleasures and highs and prideful powers offered by the world, 2:16-17;

know the truth, 2:21;

let what I heard from the beginning abide in me, 2:24;

be assured that as I practice this right living I am God-birthed, 2:29.

You and I have a choice here, i.e., to do and be an achiever, completer of God’s love or to brush this off as high-sounding and undoable Sunday school talk. As for me, through Christ, it’s do-able and be-able, I want it. Count me in.

Is darkness increasing or passing away?

17 May

Wisdom for the week

Doesn’t it seem as if darkness is increasing? Let’s start with the most obvious—politics. There has always been wrangling, sometimes in-your-face contention in our political life. But we were willing to abide by the voters’ choice and work all the harder for a change via the next election. But now each side has so demonized the other that each side believes we dare not leave the country in the other side’s care. Why? It would be national suicide, we think, so we are approaching mob rule as people take to the streets in an attempt to ‘save our country from the disaster of the other side’s evil agenda. The tyranny we fear might become reality if we continue this chaotic course.

But the politics are a sign of deeper conflict. We are divided over what law is. Some think law is the will of the people. It therefore can change as people and their felt needs change. Others believe law is unchanging. How we apply it may change, but the law remains and should be applied according to how it was originally understood.

It seems that the people who disregard law if it conflicts with their lifestyle, but tout it when it backs up their wishes, are winning. The darkness of the fickle rule of the majority is replacing the rule of law.

But who is to say that the rule of the people is better or worse than the rule of law? That question points to an even greater conflict. Do we abide by our declaration of independence and our constitution which recognizes that we have been created and therefore are accountable to the one who created us? On that question hangs the fate of our culture. And it looks like we as a nation are increasingly ignoring, denying or even mocking the idea of our having a Creator to whom we must give account.

If there is no one over all, then it’s all over. Read that again, because it’s true. No one over all…all over! It’s simply a matter of time before a God-denying society dies. Why? Because we’re cut off from our Source.

Change the metaphor. We have entered the tunnel of demanding our rights to have and be anything we wish, even if what we want is offensive to our Creator. Look back! You’ll see the fading light of understanding our rights to be endowed, that is, given to us by our Creator. (These rights should be received and defended with gratitude rather than carelessly denied or added to and then demanded without regard to God or fellow man.) Behind us, is the only light in this tunnel. Look ahead—nothing but darkness.

Notice that the tunnel has two tracks. One has a train heading back to the light of ‘under-Godness.’ The train on the other track goes to the black hole of ‘under man-ness.’

For those going back to the light, what John says is true and so-ooooo encouraging: “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining,” 1 John 2:8.

Thank you, Father, for the brightness of this message you gave to John for our comfort. Help me to alert as many as possible to leave the train heading into outer darkness. Fill to the brim the train leading back to the light. May it be true for billions that their darkness passes away as they come under you, the Father of lights, 1 John 2:2; James 1:17.

Do we have to sin?

10 May

Wisdom for the week

I cringe when I hear a sincere believer in Jesus say, as if it were axiomatic or automatic, “We sin every day in thought, word or deed.”

Implied in that statement is this corollary: So get used to it, accept it as a fact, and realize, friend, that your depravity has you in its grip, so limp along and praise God for his mercy.

I’ll grant that we are far more broken and therefore sin more than we can ever realize. But, in Christ, more than we can ever grasp, we are blessed with purity, i.e., his holiness. We are thereby enabled to serve him more powerfully than we allow.

John had a reason for declaring the truths about our fellowship with God, walking in the light, and the blood of Jesus cleansing us from all sin. Listen! “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” 1 John 2:1.  Do you see a comma or a colon after the last word in the preceding sentence? John says that he’s writing these things to us so that we won’t sin. Period. Full stop. Don’t go on until you let that sink in. Doesn’t that tell us that we don’t have to sin? I can wake up to the fact that because Christ is my life, I can live in obedience to Christ’s commands today, cooperating with his Holy Spirit.

Only when we have reverently and gratefully contemplated the first sentence of 1 John, chapter two, can we understand rightly the “But if” of the next sentence. That is a true ‘if,’ which tells us it’s not necessary nor inevitable for us to sin. With Christ living in us and our lives surrendered to him, we can live in holiness on the one hand, but if we sin, Jesus becomes our defense attorney. He stands between us and our Father, offering his blood as the sufficient payment for our sins, 1 John 2:1-2.

Lord, there’s power in purity*—power to convince a stumbling brother that he can have victory over sin, power to serve you boldly, confidently. I want to live in that power by delighting in and obeying you today.

____________________________

* Luke 8:46 says that power, which can also be translated as ‘virtue’, went out from Jesus to heal the woman who touched the hem of his garment. In Christ’s power is virtue and in his virtue is power.

Who opens scroll? Lion or Lamb? Might or Meekness?

8 May

Wisdom for the week

In God’s right hand is a message, Revelation 5:1. Obviously, God wants to say something to us and to the world, but no one in all of heaven and earth is worthy to bear God’s message. Then a lamb walks out on the stage. He is worthy. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the only one in all creation worthy and able to open to us whatever God has to say (John 14:6, 15:15).

Is anything strange about this lamb? Find at least three unusual things about this lamb as described in chapter 5? Whatever you discover about the Lamb keep in mind he is also the mighty Lion, King of Judah. So the one worthy to open the scroll is not either Lamb or Lion, but both Lamb and Lion. His might is meekness, that is, as he in meekness does all the Father desires he is demonstrating great strength. This is the power of God with man. He doesn’t ordinarily overwhelm with irresistible might, but conquers our hearts with loving meekness.

According to 5:9-10, what makes the lamb worthy to open the scroll?

What’s the loudest applause you’ve ever heard? That shouting and clapping and whistling would be like hearing a glove fall into soft snow in comparison to the applause given to Jesus in heaven. How many angels speak out their love for and praise of the Lamb?[i] Try to imagine how loud their united voices would be, 5:11-12.

[i] Look up “myriad” to find what John means when he counts the angels praising Jesus. Are people and creatures in heaven excited about Jesus or what? Why?

Verse one shows the scroll of judgments in God the Father’s hand. He passes the scroll to his Son, 5:7. Why do you suppose that Father, Son and Holy Spirit assigned the Son, Jesus, to be mankind’s judge?

 

Embarrassed by defeat? Get closer to the Victor

3 May

Wisdom for the week

Don’t you feel embarrassed to be defeated in situations in which you think you should have attained consistent victory by now, but you haven’t? I’ve wondered at times if we each have an Achilles heel, Satan’s foothold or tripping block, which he uses to make us stumble. James says we all stumble in many ways, James 3:2. And John who says “whosoever is born of God does not make a practice of sinning,” also says “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” 1 John 3:9, 1:8.

Frankly, I’m tired of trying to analyze and figure out why I keep sinning. Instead, I’d rather spend my effort getting closer to Jesus. Loving him, thanking him for his grace and mercy, depending on him, watching him work in others and in me. I try to keep in mind that he’s not sullied by my sinful filth, but rather he welcomes me into his holy arms when I feel the filthiest. And rather than my filth brushing off on him and contaminating him, his holiness rubs off on me, giving me his purity. I guess what I am saying is that holiness, which I am to pursue, Hebrews 12:14, often comes not by my trying to be holy, but via my seeing, enjoying, delighting in, and welcoming Jesus, the Holy One. All this is another way of saying, “If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7.

So formal, yet so familiar

26 Apr

Wisdom for the week

I’m mystified by the way John introduces Jesus, both in his gospel and here in his brief letter, I John 1:1-10. He could have said, “I lived with God for three years. Yes, God, but God become man. My eyes watched him in all kinds of situations—out in public, meeting the demands of needy multitudes as he healed the sick, fed the hungry, set free the demon-possessed. We saw him in private, raising a 12-year-old from death to life, explaining to us the nature of his kingdom, etc. He got tired. He had irrepressible joy, took pleasure in beauty, showed disappointment in man’s ugliness.”

But John didn’t talk in familiar terms about this man who was God and whom he had befriended. Instead he introduces Jesus in a way that emphasizes his awesome transcendence: That which was from the beginning… He is life eternal… He is ‘unshadowed’ light in which is no darkness at all.

He was truly human. From his conception in Mary’s warm womb to his burial in a cold tomb. “We touched him,” John reports.

But he was never not God. He was light. He was from the beginning.

Though John was the beloved disciple and probably more emotionally, intellectually and personally connected to Jesus than anyone, he doesn’t talk about Jesus in chummy terms.

Where am I going with this? I don’t know exactly. But may I suggest that for the purposes of his letter it was important that the readers be thinking about their relationship with Jesus Christ as God. And me-thinks I need to curb my own chumminess and see God for the almighty, all-knowing, everywhere present person that he is.

Lord Jesus, as I meditate on who you are in all your divine glory, develop in me the fear of God I so desperately need.

Don’t get carried away.

19 Apr

Wisdom for the week

“Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability,” 2 Peter 3:17.

Q: Who are the lawless?

A: Those, no matter how moral and nice, who believe there is no Lawgiver to whose rules we are subject.

Q: What is their error?

A: They think that man, not God, but man is the measure of right and wrong. So if man says thus and so is right or wrong, that’s the way it is, at least until ‘studies show’ something better. They make up their own truth, rather than looking to the Holy Scriptures for truth. They use domineering language rather than facts to back up their claims.

Examples are: Ninety eight percent (or some other high percent) of all scientists accept without question that humans play a large, if not major role in global warming. Or therapists now agree that homosexuals need to be assured that they are okay. Therapy that aims at repairing a homosexual would be harmful.  Now people who reject their God-given gender are celebrated for their courage to change genders. We are told that government schools are the best resource for preparing children for the real world. These are but a few of the wrong-headed notions that are considered good; or good beliefs that are considered evil.

Peter warns us not to be carried away. Even though everyone seems to think and act a certain way, we must not go along with what the Bible clearly forbids. It’s so hard to wade upstream, especially when the rush of evil increases exponentially. Good laws are overturned daily. Evil is not only tolerated, it’s legislated and enshrined as good law.

We wake up to a world that has made faithful Christians and Jews criminals. If we faithfully preach the whole Bible we are guilty of hate speech, because the Bible clearly says that homosexual behavior (as well as any kind of sexual union outside of marriage) is sin. Christian businesses that refuse to provide services for same sex marriages or pay for birth control are hauled into court. More and more it is becoming criminal to oppose evil.

I’m tempted to hide or soft-pedal my ‘offensive’ beliefs, but how can I abandon Jesus?

Cheer up! There’s a good effect to all this. When it’s no longer easy to be true to Jesus, when it is impossible to stand against the torrents, then we’ll know who truly loves Jesus and who trusts God to do the impossible.

In the end only those people will be standing. Will I, will you be among them?