Showing posts with label First John. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First John. Show all posts

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Fellowship of Light

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so 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 our joy complete. (1 John 1:3-4)
Fellowship, intimate relationship with God, is what salvation is all about. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). “Eternal life,” which is the life of the age to come, is not merely something that is gained by knowing God, it is knowing God, and knowing Jesus the Messiah, who is himself life. Knowing God is the essence of eternal life.

John and his associates experienced this fellowship with God, but he also wanted those to whom he ministers in this letter to experience it, too. And he wanted to experience it together with them, for our fellowship with God unites us together in holy community with each other as well. It is in this community that we find our joy complete — loving God and each other, and being loved by God and each other.

That is why John writes this letter. Yet there is an issue he must address and it has to do with light and darkness: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 5:5). “Light” is about what is good and true and just. Darkness is about what is evil. John the Gospeler writes:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
Darkness is incompatible with light, evil is incompatible with good, for light overcomes darkness and good overcomes evil. When we have fellowship with God, he will not lead us into darkness but into light, and into good, not evil. John brings out an important implication:
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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. (1 John 1:6-7)
Our “walk” is our manner of living. If we profess to have fellowship with God, who is light, yet we practice sin and live in darkness, our claim is hollow because we are not living it out. The truth of our relationship with God is not just theoretical, something to know, but it is also practical, something we do. In John’s day, as in our own, there were people who thought it was sufficient to know or believe certain things about God, and if one had this knowledge, one knew God. But John shows us that if we are not living out the truth, we do not know God.

Now, our fellowship with God is not based on what we do but is revealed in what we do. A life marked by what is good and true and right — in a word, by godliness — is not the cause of divine fellowship but the fruit of it. When we have fellowship with God, even our doing is a gift of his grace. So if we walk in the light that God is in his very being, our fellowship with him becomes evident.

It is not only our fellowship with God that John has in mind. It is also very much about our fellowship with each other. The body of John’s letter is about how walking in light and keeping God’s commandments demonstrates that we truly know God and share in the divine life he brings. God’s commandments are here summed up very simply as faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and loving one another (1 John 3:23). If we have no love for each, we are living in darkness. But when we walk in love, we show that the life of God, the life of the age to come, is at work in us.

John adds that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, and this is very important, for it is this that enables us to walk in the light and share the life of God together with each other. For we are yet learning to walk in the light and live the life of love, and we often fail or fall short. But there is no condemnation in Christ, who manifested the love of God and gave himself up to the cross for our sake.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Drawn Up Into the Divine Dance

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
Our fellowship, says John, is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus. The Greek word for “fellowship” is koinonia, and speaks of partnership and participation, of community and what is shared in common.

The Trinity is its own community, its own koinonia. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have joyful and eternal fellowship with each other. Early Church Fathers referred to their relationship as a perichoresis, a divine interpenetration or interweaving with each other. Three persons, perfectly united in One — God.

How is it, then, that we could even begin to have fellowship with the Three-in-One? What could we possibly have in common that would enable us to enjoy partnership and participation with God? The answer is found in Jesus the Messiah. 
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. (1 John 1:1-2)
John and the apostles experienced him in his humanity. They could see him, hear him, touch him — he was as real to them as they were to each other — yet they came to understand that he is the Word of life who was from the beginning, who was with God and, indeed, is God (John 1:1). They recognized him both in his divinity and in his humanity, the two perfectly joined together in one — Jesus the God-Man.

Our fellowship with God, however, is not simply that Jesus participates in human nature with us. It goes much deeper than that: Through Jesus the Messiah, we participate in the divine nature.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4)
The Greek word for “participate” here is koinonos, from which comes koinonia, the word for “fellowship.” In Jesus the Messiah, we who were created to be like God in the first place now share in the divine nature — he gathers us up into himself. By his divine nature, the life of Messiah at work in us by the Holy Spirit, we participate in holy community with God, drawn up into the divine dance of the Three, to enjoy loving fellowship with them forever.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Darkness is Passing Away

The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:8)
The letter First John is about walking in light and walking in love and how these reveal eternal life. Light answers to darkness, love answers to hate and fear, and life answers to death and destruction. All three — light, love and life — are found in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John tells us, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5 NIV). Indeed, Jesus is “the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9 NIV). At the beginning of the epistle of John, he identifies Jesus as “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (1 John 1:2).

The true light is already shining in the world because Jesus the Messiah has come. And where there is light, darkness can no longer endure but must pass away. Darkness cannot overcome the light because darkness is nothing more than the absence of light.

The true light is still shining in the world because the Lord Jesus has gathered for Himself a people of His own. Paul reminds all those who believe in the Lord Jesus that God, who has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:12 NIV). And, “You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5 NIV). So the darkness is passing away because the true light is already shining through Christ and His body, which is the Church. But now let us look at how that light shines:
Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:8-10)
The light that conquers the darkness of evil triumphs by love. The “new commandment” John writes about is the one Jesus gave to the disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). If we are full of hate, we are living in darkness. But when we overcome hate by love, the light of Christ shines brightly through us and the darkness must pass away. Paul speaks similarly, in his letter to the Jesus followers at Rome, about how the light of love overcomes the darkness of the world:
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:10-14)
John says that the darkness is passing away. It has certainly not yet all gone, and we are often painfully reminded of its presence. Yet the assurance of the gospel is that it is being put to flight by the light of Christ, revealed through His Church. Wherever that light shines brightly through works of faith and love — faith working through love — the darkness begins to fade. That light is already shining, John tells us, and the darkness is passing away. And Paul reminds us that “the day is at hand” and “our salvation” is drawing ever nearer.

We are living between the times, between when the light of King Jesus first began to shine at that first Christmas and the time when He comes again and the darkness is completely dispelled. The season of Advent reminds us that it is “high time to awake out of sleep” and “put on the armor of light” — the life and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Assurance of “These Things”

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
We must take good account of “these things,” the two words with which 1 John 5:13 begins because it is by means of them that John seeks to offer assurance about eternal life to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a context that precedes, and “these things” connects us to that. The phrase, “that you may know,” is a purpose clause that connects us back to “these things,” which in turn connects us back to the preceding context.

What, then, are the “these things” of which John is speaking? They are the things John has written about in his letter up to this point — from 1 John 1:1 all the way up to 5:12. What are the things he wrote about? For one thing, he wrote about light, and walking in the light: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

He wrote about not loving the world: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

He wrote about a lifestyle of righteousness: “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God …” (1 John 3:10). Along with that, he wrote about the imperative of loving one another, not only in word but also in deed: “... nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:10-11). He continues on this theme of love quite extensively:
Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us (1 John 3:15-24)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
He also writes about faith in Christ — it is one of the two commandments John says that God has given us:
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:23-24)
Notice that it is not just in keeping the commandment to believe in Christ that we know that God abides in us, but it is also in keeping the commandment of loving one another that we have the assurance of God abiding in us.

First John 5:13 was not written in a vacuum but in a context — “these things” — and the context is about walking in light, living in righteousness and loving one another. These offer assurance that our faith in Christ is real and that eternal life — the divine life of God — really is at work in us.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Epistemology of Love


Epistemology is the study of how we know something. The apostle John understood the epistemology of love very well. So well, in fact, that he has sometimes been called “the apostle of love.” In his letter to the Church, he has a lot to say about love as a way of knowing.
  • “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:5). This is God’s work of love being brought to maturity and completeness in us. We see it at work when we keep His word, His commandment, which is to love one another. And by this love, we know that we are in God (and that God is in us), because love is the work of God in us.
  • “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Here again is the love of God being perfected in us and revealed through love for each other. And by this love we know that we have passed from death to life.
  • “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Here is how we know love itself — the Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life for us (even while we were yet in our sins and rebellion against God), and we manifest that love to each other in the same way, by laying down our lives for each other.
  • “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). Those who love are born of God, because it is God’s love that is being demonstrated through them. And by that love, they know God — for God is love.
  • “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments” (1 John 5:1-2). All who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are born of God, and we can know that He is in us because of love for all those who belong to God. And here is how we can know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandment. Love comes from God, and when we look to Him, He will work in us by that love. His commandment is that we love one another (1 John 3:21). Indeed, all His commandments are fulfilled through love. Paul said, “He who loves another has fulfilled the law … For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:8, 10).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Prayer and a Heart Without Doubt

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in sight and this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (1 John 3:21-23)
The secret to a prayer without a doubt is a heart that does not condemn. To condemn means to find fault with, or holding something against someone. If your heart is finding fault with you or holding something against you, it can wreck the boldness and assurance with which you approach God. But if your heart is clear, your confidence will be strong.

So what is John talking about here? If our heart does not condemn us — about what? It is about keeping the commandments of God, and according to John, that comes down to two things: Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and love one another.

1. Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

The apostle Paul declared, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If you have received the Lord Jesus, there is no sentence of judgment that rests on you—Jesus took that in your place. God does not condemn you!

2. Love one another

This is the commandment Jesus gave to John and the other disciples on the night He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Failure to love wrecks our confidence towards God because it shifts our focus off of God and onto ourselves. God showed His love to us through Jesus Christ, and He intends for that love to overflow to others through us. When we share that love freely with others, we are allowing God’s love to flow through us. But when we withhold that love from others, God does not withhold His love from us, but we stop the flow of His love from having its way in our lives. Then when the devil comes and whispers his accusations, our hearts begin to believe them.

Now, watch as James shows how failure to love can twist your prayer life and spoil your confidence towards God:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
Clearly, this is not loving one another. It is self-centeredness. Prayer is not about our own pleasures but about God’s purpose, and His purpose is to love, because God is love (1 John 4:8).

Prayer is a very powerful thing. Jesus promised, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). But then He added, “And whenever you stand praying if you have anything against anyone, forgive him” (v. 25). As powerful as prayer is, if we are unwilling to love one another by forgiving one another, it will seriously hinder our faith and keep us from receiving what we have asked. For as Paul concluded, faith works through love (Galatians 5:6).

A Heart That Does Not Condemn

The declaration of Scripture is that there is no condemnation for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not condemn us, but sometimes our heart does, especially when we know that we have not been walking in love toward God and each other. But there is a ready solution at hand, and it is found in Jesus Christ. As John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

To confess means to agree with God about it, that it is wrong and does not belong in our lives. When we do that, God promises, not only to forgive us our sins, but to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that is, to deal with sin in our lives and lead us into victory over them. Then we are free to love as we have been loved by God, and our heart will find anything against us.

Oh, the devil may still come and whisper in your ear, making accusations against you, and try to set your heart in confusion. But you don’t have to listen to him. Instead, you can take the promises of God and say:
“I have received the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is now no condemnation for me, because I am in Him.”
If there is any sin in your life, or if you have not been walking in love, confess it to God, and trust Him to forgive you and to remove it from your life. You can always God boldly to God, for He has promised.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
When our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God, and we can know that whatever we ask of Him, we will receive, because we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in love toward each, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Then the power of prayer and faith are released in a mighty way.

(See also, Outspokenness Toward God)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Subduing the World

Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)
In the beginning, when God created man and woman, He blessed them and gave them this mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).

How do we subdue the earth? The apostle John gives us the answer: “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” The same Greek word, niké, is behind both “victory” and “overcome.” You might recognize the word niké as the name of a popular brand of sports shoes. Literally, it means to subdue. It is about forcefully bringing something into subjection.

When God created man, there was still much on earth that needed to be brought into line with His plan. So He gave man, who was created in His image, the authority to do just that. By the time Adam was done, the whole world was to look just like the Garden of Eden. Of course, we know that Adam and Eve disconnected from God and hooked up with satan, and God’s plan for the earth was dealt a severe blow. But we also know that God sent His Son into the world to destroy the works of the devil and reconcile us back to the Father. The works of the devil were destroyed at the Cross, and we have been made more than conquerors (hypernikeo) through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). It is by faith that we receive this victory.

God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, power, might and dominion. That is, He put all things under the feet of Jesus, subjecting them to Him! (Ephesians 1:19-22). Not only that, but God has also raised us up together and made us sit together in Christ at the right hand of the Father. All things have been subdued and placed under the dominion of Christ — and of us, too, since we are seated in Christ on the throne of heaven. All of this we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. No wonder John calls our faith the victory that overcomes the world!

Now, notice that John speaks about this victory, this overcoming, in two tenses. There is the past tense, the act by which the world has been overcome. This is what happened at the Cross on our behalf — the mighty act of redemption that not only set us free and reconciled us to God, but also destroyed the works of the devil. We stand in this great victory by faith. It is this act and this faith that John refers to when he says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.”

But there is also a second tense that John uses to talk about this victory. It is a present and continuing sense: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world … Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” The victory has been won, the enemy has been subdued and put under the feet of Jesus, and the works of the devil have been destroyed. Our work now is simply a “cleanup” operation, enforcing the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over all His enemies.

As we continue in our faith in Jesus Christ, we will keep overcoming the world again and again, subduing it and bringing it under the lordship of Christ and the dominion of God’s kingdom. Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Monday, May 8, 2006

As He Is, So Are We in This World

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion … over all the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

As He is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)
I was just thinking about how similar these two verses are. In the beginning, God created man in His own image. He formed him out of the dust of the ground, then He puffed the breath life, His own breath, into man’s mouth, and man became a living creature. No other creature in heaven and earth is like man. Nowhere are angels ever said to be created in the image of God. No other creature has received the breath of life from God’s own lips. Only man is created in the image of God.

To be created in the image of God means this: As He is, so are we in this world. God created man to have dominion over the earth and everything in it. In other words, man was made to represent God to the world—created in the divine image, animated by the divine breath, the Holy Spirit of God, and endowed with divine authority to rule and reign on earth. Whenever any creature looked upon man, they would see the image of God.

As we know, Adam and Eve lost that authority when they rebelled against God and submitted themselves to satan. But that is why Jesus came, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and restore us to God and the plan He has always had for us. Jesus, the Second Person of the Godhead, and fully divine, became fully human and walked among us. He so thoroughly identified with us that He carried our sins to the cross—became sin for us, the Bible says (2 Corinthians 5:21)—where He died in our place. By His body given for us and His blood shed for us, He broke the power of the enemy over us. Three days later, He arose from the dead. Then, before He ascended to His throne in heaven, He gave us His authority and power:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
This authority and power has been given to all those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptized in His name. To be a disciple of Jesus means to learn how to exercise this authority and power just as He would, though most churches have forgotten how to do this.

Nonetheless, we are fully authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak and act in His name, to exercise the kind of dominion He exercised, and be the agents of His kingdom on earth. That is why the apostle John could write:
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
This dominion is about doing the Father’s will and manifesting the Father’s love in the world. That is what Jesus came to do, and what He authorized and empowered us to do. If we want to know what that looks like, all we have to do is look at Jesus, because as He is, so are we in this world.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How to Develop Solid Expectation

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
We can have confidence in God, that when we ask anything according to His will, He hears us and will grant what we ask. This is solid expectation — but where does it come from? How can we know what the will of God is? Consider Paul’s words to the church at Rome:
But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach … So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:6-8, 17)
In this context, Paul is speaking about the will of God as the “righteousness of faith.” That, in essence, is what the will of God is always about. And it is not hard to know what the will of God is. We don’t have to die and go to heaven or pass through hell on earth before we can discover it. God has already revealed it, very simply. It is close by, “in your mouth and in your heart.” It is the “word of faith.” For, as Paul adds, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. That is where we discover the will of God.

We often think of the will of God as something we must learn to resign ourselves to, as if it were some terrible burden. But the will of God is His delight, desire and purpose for you and the world. It is not a negative thing, but a very good and positive thing. Consider the word the Lord delivered through Jeremiah to the people of Israel in the midst of their captivity in Babylon:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:11-12)
No matter what your need or circumstance, God has made some wonderful promises to you concerning it. His great desire for you is peace, to give you a future and a hope — solid expectation! Here is how you can develop that expectation:
  • Get into the Word of God and begin learning His heart.
  • Make note of those Scriptures which speak particularly to your situation.
  • Let these Scriptures fill your heart and stir up your faith.
  • Let them fill your mouth, also, declaring and decreeing the will of God over your life.
  • Then ask God whatever you desire, according to His will, knowing that He not only hears you, but that He will give you what you ask.
God desires the very best for you—peace and wholeness, a future and a hope. You can know His wonderful will for your life, ask Him to fulfill it, and have a solid expectation that it will be done.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

It’s All About Love

  • God is love. (1 John 4:8)
  • In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
  • Therefore, the heavens and the earth must be all about love.
Of course, there is much in the world that does not come from love. That is because of the choice Adam made for us all way back in the Garden of Eden. God had two trees there: The Tree of Life (which is the Tree of Love) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam decided that he would rather have an intimate relationship with good and evil than with God, who is love. He failed to eat of the Tree of Love — to receive all the love God had for him. Consequently, he failed to love God, his wife and himself. This failure to walk in love soon led to Cain’s failure to love his brother Abel.

Though love has been obscured in the world because of sin and rebellion against God, who is love, it is still present. The Bible says that the love of God abides and that it endures forever (1 Corinthians 13:13; Psalm 136:1). Not only does it abide and endure, but it thrives and is mightily at work to bring about the fulfillment of all God’s purposes for heaven and earth.

God is love; love gives and serves. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus, the Son of God, is the Tree of Life, given by God that we may once again walk in His love.

God is love, so everything He does will always be about love.

Friday, July 22, 2005

That You May Believe

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God … that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
Here is the final reason John offers for writing his letter: That you may believe in the name of the Son of God. Or as you may have noticed in the NKJV, “that you may continue to believe.”

This is the same purpose he gave for writing his Gospel:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31)
John is passionate about Jesus. He is not speaking theoretically, but out of personal experience, his relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Word.

But there were false teachers about, then as now, creeping into the midst and leading believers away from this personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. These teachers denied that Jesus is the Son of God, that the Son of God came in the flesh. These were antichrists, denying that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ.

So John very purposefully brings forth his testimony about Jesus. His purpose from the beginning has been to bear witness and declare what he had looked upon with his own eyes, heard with his own ears, touched with his own hands, to declare of Jesus
  • That He is the Son of God, that is, He is fully divine.
  • That He has come in the flesh, that is, He is fully human.
  • That He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.
John writes, “That you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” For he desires to have fellowship with his readers, all of them together enjoying deep and intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son. This is where fullness of joy is found, in continuous fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith in Jesus Christ is not a matter of the mind, giving mental assent to some theory. It is a matter of the heart, entering into personal relationship with who Jesus really is — the Son of God come to bring us back into fellowship with the Father.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

That You May Know You Have Eternal Life

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
John has been writing about eternal life from the beginning of his epistle. His testimony has always been of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is all about eternal life.

From John’s Gospel
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life. (John 3:36)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28)

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that You Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:1-3)
From John’s epistle:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life—the life was manifested, ad we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. (1 John 1:1-2)

And this is the promise that He has promised us — eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He who des not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14-15).

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (1 John 5:11)

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
How to know
It is possible to know that we have eternal life, and that is why John writes. The reasons for how we can know are all throughout the epistle.
  • We can know by the fellowship we have with the Father and with the Son (1:3).
  • We can know by walking in the light, for God is light, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1:5-7).
  • We can know by God’s faithfulness to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1:9).
  • We can know by the anointing of the Holy Spirit in us to teach us all things (2:20, 27).
  • We can know by abiding—Him in us and us in Him (2:27).
  • We can know by the love of God at work in us and through us (3:16-19; 4:7-11, 20-21).
  • We can know because our heart does not condemn us (2:20-21).
  • We can know because we do what is pleasing in His sight (2:22), for without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).
  • We can know because we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another (3:23-24).
  • We can know because we confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (4:1-3).
  • We can know because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (4:4-6).
  • We can know because He has given us of His Spirit (4:13).
  • We can know because we confess that Jesus is the Son of God (4:15).
  • We can know because we have known and believed the love that God has for us, for God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him (4:16).
  • We can know because there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (4:17).
  • We can know because He first loved us, and we love Him in return (4:19).
  • We can know because we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One (5:1).
  • We can know because we love God and keep His commandments (5:2-3).
  • We can know because we overcome the world, and the victory that overcomes the world is our faith (5:4). We overcome because we believe that Jesus is the Son of God (5:6).
  • We can know because of the water—1) the baptism of Jesus, by which He identified with us in or sin. 2) the sign of water baptism by which we identify with His life, His righteousness and His resurrection (5:7-8).
  • We can know because of the blood of Jesus, shed for us, which cries out on our behalf (5:7-8, see also Hebrews 12:24).
  • We can know because of the Holy Spirit bearing witness (5:7-8).
  • We can know because He who has the Son has life (5:12).
  • We can know because if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And it we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him (5:14-15).
  • We can know because the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (5:20).
Now, understand that this is not how we have eternal life. We have, or receive, eternal life purely by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, this is how we know that we have eternal life. These things give us the assurance that eternal life is indeed at work in us.

If you believe in the name of the Son of God, then you can know you have eternal life.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Because Some Are Trying to Deceive You

These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. ( 1 John 2:26)
John offers another reason for writing: Because some are trying to deceive you. This goes along with his earlier reason: Because you know the truth.Paul, like John, also warns us that there is a spirit of deception at work:
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age had blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
There are those who try to bring something that sounds very good, but ultimately denies that Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh. The beginning stages of Gnosticism, in John’s day, represents such a teaching. It presented Jesus as divine — which is true — but they denied His humanity.

Ironically, there are many philosophers of religion today who celebrate the Gnostic view as a sophisticated form of Christianity. The so-called Jesus Seminar, of recent years, represents such a proclivity. For example, they wished to promote the gnostic Gospel of Thomas as the “Fifth Gospel,” as if it had some sort of canonical or sem-canonical status. It does not and never has. There are various other groups about who try to separate the “Christ of faith” from the “Jesus of history,” seeking to drive a wedge between the divinity and humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That denies the very basis of our salvation. The truth is that Jesus Christ is able to redeem us and reconcile us to God precisely because He is both fully human as well as fully divine.

There are many other forms of error that center on the nature of Jesus Christ. But John declares, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).

It is never enough to know the truth simply as a proposition. We must know the truth as a person, the person of Jesus Christ, who said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

So the testimony John brings is one the comes from personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ:
That which was from the beginning which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life—this lie was manifested, and we have see, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you. (1 John 1:1-3)
This is that testimony John preached all along, the same testimony his Christian readers heard and believed from the beginning of their faith. It was not just a proposition they received, but a person. It was not a religion they had entered into, but a relationship. They were born from above by the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit not only birthed them, but actually lived in them.
Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. (1 John 2:24-26)
It is this abiding relationship that will aid them in discerning deception and standing strong in the truth. For it comes with the anointing of the Holy Spirit:
But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you, but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all thing, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27)
This is what Jesus promised His disciples on the night of the “Last Supper.”
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)
It is very important to recognize that there are those who would deceive us. For there is no life in a lie, only dead religion. But if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you have entered into a vibrant, personal relationship with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — full of light and life. Don’t let it be obscured by deceptions, but let the Holy Spirit take the things of Jesus — the things that come from the Father — and reveal them to you. Then you will be filled with a joy that remains.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Because You Know the Truth

I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:21)
Here is another reason John writes his epistle: Because you know the truth, and that no lie is of the truth. Where does this knowledge of the truth come from? From knowing Jesus. You see, truth is personal. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Through faith in Jesus, we have fellowship with the Father.

Not only that, but we have an anointing from God that pertains to the truth. In 1 John 2:20, John said, “But you have an anointing form the Holy One, and you know all things.”

An anointing is an empowerment from God that lifts burdens and destroys yokes (Isaiah 10:27). This anointing is a work of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2).

John’s readers were being led by Gnostic teachers to think that they need some special, esoteric knowledge in order to really know the truth. Not so, says John: “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know the truth, and that no lie is of the truth.”

The recipient’s of John’s letter not only knew the truth, but they knew how to discern between what is the truth and what is the lie, for they had come into fellowship with the Father through faith in the Son, and they have received an anointing of the Holy Spirit to free them from the bondage of deception.

In other words, what they needed, they already had. They simply need to trust the work of God in their lives.

Now here was the key for discerning between the truth they had received and the lie they were hearing from false teachers: “Who is a liar, but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).

What does this have to do with the anointing? Everything. It is not readily apparent in the English text, but if you read it in the original Greek text, you would quickly see that “anointing” and “Christ” have the same root. “Christ” actually means “Anointed One.” The one who denies that Jesus is the Anointed One, he is anti-christ, or anti-anointing.

The Gnostic teachers, believing that flesh is evil, denied that Jesus was the Anointed One. They rejected His humanity and thus denied both the Father and the Son. They were therefore antichrist and of the lie.

So we see it is the anointing that we receive from the Holy Spirit that helps us discern the truth from the lie, and identify those who are against the anointing. For those who are against the Anointed One are the same ones who are against the anointing.

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you not only have fellowship with the Father, you also have an anointing, a witness from the Holy Spirit to help you discern the truth from the lie. Whoever denies that Jesus is the Anointed One of God is of the lie, not of the truth.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?"

Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward."

Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake."

Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."
(John 13:36-14:1)
At the darkest hour, and with Peter's coming betrayal revealed to him, Peter hears these words from the Lord Jesus, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me."

Every sin is a betrayal of the Lord Jesus, but He tells us, "Let not your heart be troubled." His ability to deal with the darkness of our heart is much greater than the darkness itself. He gives us the promise of forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). So we can confess our heart to the Lord (He will not be shocked — He already knows what is in it), let Him take care of it, and move on in the joy of the LORD.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

That You May Not Sin

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. (1 John 2:1)
Here is a third reason the apostle John gives for writing his letter: That you may not sin.Now, John is not ignoring sin, as if sin did not matter. That was an error of the Gnostics, whose philosophy so separated the spirit from the body that they thought the acts of the body had no real consequence upon the soul.

Nor was he denying sin, as if it did not really exist. That, too, was a Gnostic error, for whom the solution to sin was not the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. To them, the problem was one of ignorantly supposing that sin had any reality at all, so their solution was the so-called “knowledge” that sin is not real. (The Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis. Hence the name Gnostics.)

No, John’s teaching is that sin is real, that it is universal, and that it has consequences which must be addressed. That is why he says,
  • If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Even so, John says, “These things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” This does not mean that it is impossible for the believer to fall into sin. For John declares God’s provision:
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)
What does John mean, then, when he says, “I write to you, so that you may not sin?” Was he describing a purpose for writing that could never be achieved? No, for he was writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and God would not set before us a purpose that could never actually be fulfilled, for He does not lie.

John’s purpose is simply this: Though it is possible for a believer to fall into sin, it is also possible for the believer to not sin. There is never a time in which we can excuse sin by saying, “Oh, it could not helped.”

As Paul tells us:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful [i.e., full and faith, and dependable], who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
It is always possible for us to walk in the light as He is in the light and pursue deeper fellowship with God. He will never lead us into sin, but always away from it. It is important to understand that it is not enough to run from sin. That tactic will always fail. What we must do is run to God and walk with Him. David was called a “man after God’s own heart” not because he was without sin — he broke all the commandments — but because, even when he found himself in sin, he ran to God and not from Him.

Even if we do sin, there is forgiveness with God, and He is faithful to cleanse us from sin, so that we may be increasingly free of its power in our lives. That is why Jesus came.

Dear friend, I write this to you so that you may be free from sin. But if you do find yourself in sin, even habitual sin, do not despair. For the purpose of God is to deliver you, not only from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin, as well. One day, we shall even be delivered from the presence of sin.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

That Your Joy May Be Full

And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:4)
That your joy may be full. The first reason John gave for writing his epistle was that we might have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the people of God. Along with that is a second reason: That your joy may be full.

Whenever we get into deep fellowship with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — joy is inescapable. As David said to the LORD, “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). The presence of God is all about joy. It is where joy dwells and is experienced in all its fullness.

Jesus, also, talked about fullness of joy. He said, “Until now you have asked nothing My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Here again, we see that joy is all about the Lord. When we ask in Jesus’ name we receive whatever we ask, and our joy is made full.

You see, asking in Jesus’ name means to ask as He would ask. We discover how Jesus would ask in any situation by getting into fellowship with Him and learning His heart. Those prayers will always be answered, for the Father will not deny the Son: “You have given Him His heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of His lips” (Psalm 21:2).

Fullness of joy always traces back to the presence of the Lord and intimate fellowship with Him.

God’s desire for you is to walk in fullness of joy. This is established by the mouth of three witness: David, Jesus and John. Enter into fellowship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ, and the new birth by the Holy Spirit. Seek after His presence and get to know Him more and more intimately. Explore His heart in prayer and meditation on His Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you that things that belong to Jesus (John 16:14). Spend your life with Him. Then your joy will be full.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fellowship With the Father and the Son

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and the with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
In the book of 1 John, the apostle gives a number of reasons for writing his letter, beginning with this one: “that you also may have fellowship with us.”

To get to the place of fellowship, he declares what he has seen and heard, what he has personally experienced of the Lord Jesus Christ. For that is the whole basis of the fellowship he seeks with his readers.

Fellowship is community, a common unity, a coming together for one theme and purpose. The Greek words is koinonia, which speaks of joint-participation, intimacy of relationship and freely sharing together.

The psalm writer says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133). He describes it as a high-priestly anointing and as the mountain dew which brings a daily refreshing. It is in that place of unity, he says, that the LORD has commanded the blessing — life forevermore!

The unity of this fellowship is centered on the Lord. It is not just with each other that we enjoy relationship, it is with each other in the company of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Paul puts it in the closing benediction of his letter to the Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, , and the love of God, and the community [koinonia] of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

It is for this reason that John writes and brings to us what he has seen and heard of the Lord, so that we may enter deeper into this fellowship with God and with His people

Many people, even many Christians, are out of joint with God. The answer is to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, to watch for His works, listen for His voice and learn of Him. Then we will enter into true fellowship, the one that consists of intimate relationship with God and His people.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Something Worth Knowing

One of the key words in 1 John is the word “know.” There are two Greek words used, and they refer to perception, understanding and experience. John is not speaking of that which we merely know in the mind, but of that which we know in the heart. For this knowledge comes out of relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and requires a work of the Holy Spirit that takes place in the heart. That is the context of the following statements, and they are not to be understood apart from faith in Jesus Christ:
  • We know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1 John 2:3)
  • We know all things because we have an anointing of the Holy Spirit. (1 John 2:20)
  • We know the truth, and that no lie comes from the truth. (1 John 2:21)
  • We know that He is righteous. (1 John 2:29)
  • We know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29)
  • We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
  • We know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
  • We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. (1 John 3:14)
  • We know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
  • By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. (1 John 3:16)
  • By this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him, when we love in deed and truth. (1 John 3:19)
  • By this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)
  • By this we know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 John 4:2)
  • By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error: He who knows God knows us; he who is not of God does not hear us. (1 John 4:6)
  • By this we now that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. (1 John 4:13)
  • We have known and believed the love that God has for us. (1 John 4:16)
  • By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. (1 John 5:2)
  • We know that we have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
  • If we ask anything according to His will, we know that He hears us. If we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14)
  • We know that whoever is born of God does not sin, but keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)
  • We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. (1 John 5:19)
  • We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:20)
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). He is talking about being born from above (heaven) by the Spirit of God. Those who are not, cannot see the kingdom of God — it is not just difficult, it is impossible. But those who are from above by the Spirit of God can behold the kingdom. We can see it and know it, have an understanding of it and perceive it at work in our world.

The most important question about knowing is this: Do you know Jesus? Have you been born again by His Spirit? He offers it to you: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). If you believe, then you will know.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

The Journey of Spiritual Fatherhood

I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.

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 wicked one.

I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.

I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the world.
(1 John 2:12-14)
The apostle John is a contemplative sort, and there is often a lyrical quality to his writing. This passage is, perhaps, a song — a hymn about how one grows in the Lord from new-born babe, to mature faith, and on to fatherhood in the Spirit. He considers four stages of enlargement:

Little children. The Greek word is teknion. John is addressing recent converts, newly born from above through faith in Jesus Christ. Their sin’s are forgiven because of Jesus, and they are now in the family of the Lord, being reconciled to the Father.

Little children. A different Greek word, paidion, is used in the second instance. This refers to those who are receiving instruction in the Lord. They are new disciples, in training, novices weaning away from the ways of the world. Having known the Lord as God-Who-Forgives (El Nasa, Psalm 99:8), they are now leaning into the heart of their Father and learning from Him. Their Father has now become their Teacher.

Young men. These are men and women who are well into their discipleship. They are vigorous and bold in their faith. They have entered into service, been tested and tried, and their devotion is sound and effective. The Word of God is strong in them and so they are strong in their walk with the Lord. Jesus promised His disciples, “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). The Word is established and at home in them and these “young men” know how to appropriate the promises of God to get things done. They are now powerful overcomers—they have overcome the wicked one. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and these “young men” know how to walk in that authority and enforce His victory upon the enemy.

Fathers. These are those who were once new-borns in the Lord. They began their instruction in the “School of the Father’s Heart” and grew up into a strong, vibrant faith. This did not happen overnight, but came about through a continual focus of the heart upon God and His Word, a “long obedience in the same direction” (to quote Eugene Peterson).

John addresses them twice, but he says the exact same thing both times: “You have known Him who is from the beginning.” That is, they have come into a deep and pervasive experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have taken His yoke upon themselves and learned of Him, and have found rest for their souls. They have learned to know Him, not only in the power of His resurrection, but also in the fellowship of His sufferings.

And now they are fathers. They are passing the inheritance they have received in the Lord on to the next generation. They are bringing forth sons and daughters into the kingdom of God and releasing them into their divine destiny. By their manner of life they teach us that there is no higher calling than to come into intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship only gets richer and deeper, far beyond the ability of human words to describe.

Where do you find yourself in this hymn? Have you received forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you come to know God as your Father and to learn of Him? Is the Word of God so established and at home in your heart that you know how to walk in the victory the Jesus has won over the world, the flesh and the devil? Have you come to that place in your faith life where all you want is to know Him more and more, and to bring others to that same place because you realize that there is no greater joy, no higher calling?