John’s Love Letters, Part 3: Fellowship

If we say we have fellowship with him while we 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. -1 John 1:6-10 ESV

At first glance, it seems that there is almost a contradiction. John is telling us that we shouldn’t walk in the darkness and say that we are in the light because if we do, we make ourselves liars and the truth is not in us. However, if we say we’ve not sinned, we make God a liar and His Word isn’t in us. Most of our modern interpretations of this passage imply that when we ‘walk in the light’ we never sin, but for those of us that are realistic, we know sometimes we slip and fall.

Walking in the light is our sanctification. It is a continual process of repentance and growing in love and grace as the Holy Spirit empowers are lives for service in the Lord’s work.

This is why John tells us that He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. Jesus knows that imperfect human beings are incapable of being perfect. William Barclay offers some insight into what John means here.

“John is laying down the blunt truth that the man who says one thing with his lips and another thing with his life is a liar. He is not thinking of the man who tries his hardest and yet often fails. “A man,” said H. G. Wells, “may be a very bad musician, and may yet be passionately in love with music”; and a man may be very conscious of his failures and yet be passionately in love with Christ and the way of Christ. John is thinking of the man who makes the highest possible claims to knowledge, to intellectual eminence and to spirituality, and who yet allows himself things which he well knows are forbidden. The man who professes to love Christ and deliberately disobeys him, is guilty of a lie.” – William Barclay

As we have fellowship with Him, it strengthens and empowers our fellowship with others. Sin is antisocial. It separates us from God and as a result, separates us from others. Let’s walk in repentance and fellowship and be ever fighting in the war against sin in our lives.

John’s Love Letters, Part 1: For Your Joy

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.” – F.B. Hole

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. -1 John 1:1-4 ESV

 As we read the beginning of this letter we learn something about John. John is after our joy. That’s what he wants. He wants to complete our joy. He’s not just focused on his joy, and he’s not just focused on our joy, but he’s focused on our joy and his joy corporately. His joy is found in writing us this letter, and it is implied that our joy will be found in reading it.

Now, there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness fluctuates like a fair weather friend. Joy is a constant rock in times of sorrow that aids us and comforts us through the fiercest of storms. John desires that we know this kind of joy and he’s persistent that the thing he’s writing about cannot only bring us joy, but can make our joy complete.

So, what’s he writing about? In verse 1, John says, “…we have heard…we have seen with our eyes…we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”

A Plymouth Brethren theologian from the 19th Century offers these words concerning this particular passage.

“By the fact of His becoming flesh He placed Himself within the reach of three out of the five senses or faculties with which man is endowed. He could be heard, seen and felt. Hearing comes first, for in our fallen condition it is to that faculty that God specially addresses Himself. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.

But then they also saw Him with their eyes, and even “looked upon,” or “contemplated” Him. There had been in earlier days fleeting manifestations of this great Person as “the Angel of the Lord,” only then it was impossible to contemplate Him for He was seen but for a moment. Now, come in flesh, all was different. The apostles spent years with Him, and could scrutinize Him with attention. They gazed at Him long and earnestly, even though they did not properly understand all that they observed until they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Also they came into physical contact with Him. Their hands actually handled Him. This guaranteed that He was no mere Spirit manifestation. He was amongst them in a real human body of flesh and blood. After His resurrection He sojourned among them in His risen body of flesh and bones, and we may remember how He specifically enjoined them to handle Him and see He was not a Spirit after His resurrection.

All this establishes then beyond a doubt that there had been this real manifestation of eternal life before them.” – F.B. Hole

John is describing to us his testimony of the risen savior, Jesus. John had an intimate knowledge of who Jesus is. Matthew and Luke start their gospels with the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, and Mark starts his gospel with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s interesting to note that John makes shows us that Jesus has no origin, but always been.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. -John 1:1-3 ESV

 John shows us in his Gospel that God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). This holy, untouchable, unseeable, magnificent God became lowly flesh because He was on a mission to bring us the ultimate joy, Himself. He knew that only He could fill the vacancy in our souls. Jesus is the only one that can fill the God-sized hole in our hearts.

In the words to ‘O Holy Night,’ the hymn writer says, “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth!” Only Jesus can bring that feeling, the feeling of joy made complete.

Reflections on Psalm 2

“Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king

    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron[b];

    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
– Psalm 2:1-12 (NIV)

So, I’ve been trying to pray through the Psalms for the last couple of days and I just wanted to share my reflections with you on this passage. I’m going to try not to get into the deep theology of the text, and just get to what I felt that God was trying to show me.

This morning as I as was getting ready to the open the store that I work at, Psalm 2:1 just kept going through my mind. “Why do the heathen rage? Why do the people imagine a vain thing?” (I think Scripture in KJV because I was raised on it.) What is the psalmist really asking here?

In this passage, the psalmist is addressing kings and leaders that would try to overthrow the dominion of God in the earth. In Colossians 1, we read about how Jesus has created everything, sustains everything, and is ruling all of creation. Any power or authority that anyone has politically or otherwise comes from God.

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”
– Romans 13:1-2 (NLT)

So, what does all this mean on a practical level?

Revelation 1:6 tells us that we are kings and priests unto God. Because we are kings and priests unto God, we always answer to Him for everything we say and do. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures are clear that we will have to give an account for our works (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 12:36-37; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). When we don’t surrender our lives under the full authority of Jesus Christ we become just like these foolish rulers that David is addressing in Psalm 2. When we try to direct our lives without God we are simply plotting in vain and setting ourselves up for disaster.

The Closet Concept

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
– Matthew 6:5-6 (NRSV)

“Prayer is the most powerful resource we have in this life; yet, many only turn to it as a last resort. When unbelievers pray for repentance of sin and ask for God’s forgiveness, prayer is the spiritual dynamite that obliterates the darkness and despair of a sin-soaked soul.” – Franklin Graham

A while back I preached on the subject of the Prayer Closet. I’ve found myself being gripped again by the conviction of the Holy Spirit about this subject. I’ve failed in my own life to pray like I should. I have a great head knowledge of prayer, but the journey from my head to my heart seems to be longer than it seems.

God has been showing me recently that effective prayer will always do one of two things. It will change the situation or it will change how you view the situation.

When Jesus tells us to pray, He tells us to go into our room. I’m old school, so I prefer how the King James renders the word “room”. It calls it the “closest”. The word “closest” might give us the mental imagery of that miscellaneous room in our house where we keep coats, jackets, old clothes, board games, and various other things. But, what do we put in the closet? What do the coats, jackets, old clothes, and various other things have in common? Why do we put them in the closet? It’s simple. We don’t want to deal with them.

So, what is Jesus saying when He tells us to go into our closet? Is it so we can have private time with God? Certainly that’s part of it because Jesus even says that the hypocrites love to stand in the street corners and the synagogues and pray publicly, and He tells us not to be like them. But I think there’s another aspect of the closet that we’re missing. The closets in Jesus’ day weren’t much different than our closets today. They were storage spaces, and guess what went in their closets. That’s right. Crap they didn’t want to deal with.

In Jesus’ command for us to go into the closet and pray is not just a command to pray privately, but a command to confront issues in our life that we’ve dismissed and just don’t want to deal with anymore. Maybe there is habitual sins in our lives that we’ve tried to hide away from everyone else and shove into our proverbial closet, but Jesus clearly sees what we choose not to see and implores us to to go to Him in our prayer closet confront everything that might hinder from a deeper walk with Him.

In the NKJV, Matthew 6:6 reads like this:

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

It actually implies that our Father is in the secret place waiting on us to come to Him in prayer. He’s excited to hear from us in prayer, and He longs for us to allow Him to work in our lives and deal with those issues that we’ve shoved away for so long.

Sacred: Part 2: Fellowship

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:9-10 (ESV)

In this series, I’m going to use 1 Corinthians to cover some basic things that we can’t afford to forget as Christians.. In the first two posts I made in the series, I discussed who Jesus is and why it’s important to know and believe His deity and humanity.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at Fellowship. The word for “fellowship”, in the Greek is koinōnia it literally means to be “in intimate community and participation”. This would be like a tightly knit group of people that have a strong common bond. When Paul talks about the importance of fellowship and unity, he makes it clear that you can’t have true fellowship with each other unless you first have fellowship with Christ.

Fellowship With Christ
In verse 9, he says that we are called into the fellowship of God’s son. What does this mean for us? It means simply that we have intimacy with Jesus. We are to walk so closely to Him that our hearts break over what makes His heart break. If you truly love someone, you’re torn to pieces when you see them suffer. Our hearts should be broken over the injustice in the world. Our hearts should be broken over those that reject the love of God. That’s only a tiny fragment of what it means to have intimacy with Christ.

Let’s take a look at the writings of John for a minute:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3 (ESV)

John is writing to three people groups, Believers, Judaizers that claim to be believers, and Gnostics who claim to be believers. The big issue with the Gnostics is that they believed that Jesus could not have been fully a human being. What the Judaizers couldn’t understand is how God could be human. The Judaizers also believed that the resurrection was a hoax created by the apostles.  John is immediately starting off His letter addressing the issue by tell them that we have touched Him, we have heard Him, and we have seen Him. There is no way this could be an illusion. If it was, then it was an illusion shared by over 500 men (1 Corinthians 15:5). 

If we want to go deep, we’ll break this down, Lots of people saw Jesus without ever hearing what He had to say. Still, there’s a great number of people who heard what He had to say, but never got to touch Him. There are very few instances where people got to touch Him while He was on Earth, but now that He’s at the right hand of the Father anybody can come before the throne of grace and touch Him. In the words of a pastor friend of mine, “That’ll preach.”

In John 20, Mary can’t touch Him because He hadn’t ascended (John 20:17). Yet, when Thomas sees Him, Jesus tells Thomas to do more than touch Him. He tells Thomas to thrust his hands through the scars (John 20:27). The difference is that Mary didn’t need to touch Him to believe, Thomas did. A touch from Jesus is always available when we need it.

“Since then 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 is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

We touch Him because we have fellowship with Him. We have fellowship with Him because Jesus tore down the veil of separation between God and man with His blood.

Because God made a way of fellowship with Him, we can have fellowship with each other.

Fellowship With One Another

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Throughout the rest of chapter 1 and then on up into chapter 3, Paul addresses the issue of divisions. In verses 11-17, Paul talks about how people were dividing over who they were baptized by or by what teachings they followed. Christians were picking and choosing their favorite theologian and dividing over it. Then you had this fourth group of people that said, “We don’t care about theology, we just cared about Jesus”, hence the “I of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 1:12. These are the same arrogant people that think being “non-denominational” makes them special because they’re not actually apart of a denomination. Regardless, that’s a different rant for a different time.

Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun, we have the same problems today that the Corinthians were having then. We start allowing ourselves to be students of Calvin, Wesley, Luther, or others and we allow trivial theological differences to divide us.

In the words of Mark Driscoll, “It’s okay to disagree, it’s sin to divide.”

As a matter of fact in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul implies that dividing over trivial things like that is a sign of spiritual immaturity. So, here’s what I want your big take away to be from this post: Jesus died to make a way for you to have fellowship with Him and with others. It’s stupid to divide over trivial things when Jesus is so much bigger than your differences and He is the best common denominator you can have with someone.

Be blessed today!

Sacred, Part 1: The Jesus of the Church: His Humanity

“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” – 1 John 1:1-4 (NRSV)

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (KJV)

In my last post in this series, we started talking about Christ and His proclamation of His deity. Just as a short review, covered parts of John 8 and talked about how Jesus directly referred to Himself as “I AM”. John 8 and many other passages of Scripture affirm the deity of Christ as well as numerous Church fathers and the Creeds of the early such as the Nicene Creed:

“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made. “

In this post what we will attempt to cover is the humanity of Christ which is just as important as affirming the deity of Christ. If we make the mistake affirming Christ’s deity and not His humanity, then we commit the Gnostic heresy of believing that Jesus was some supernatural angelic figure that had no human qualities. This would be described as the early Church heresy of Docetism that taught that Christ only appeared to be human. This teaching as well as the teaching of Apollinarianism (the teaching that claims that Christ had a human body, but not a human mind or will. If this view were true then Christ could not redeem the human mind or will, only the the body. But Christ did not die for only certain aspects of humanity.) stood in stark contrast to the Biblical concept of te incarnation. Jesus died to restore all the aspects of humanity, which is why we can have a renewed mind (Romans 12:1, 2), a new spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and a new body (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

An awesome theologian, J.I. Packer once said:

“But in fact the real mystery, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us… lies not in the Good Friday message of the atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation.” 

Here’s the thing, if you read the Bible and claim to believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God, then you can’t deny Christ’s humanity. He was hungry, He was thirsty, He experienced pain, He experience happiness and joy at celebrations with friends and family. Not only is He just as much God as His Father in Heaven, but He was just as much human as we are. 100% man. 100% God.

“Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
– Saint Augustine of Hippo

As a result of being fully human, Jesus can fully restore all aspects of our human nature. Jesus made all of this possible by the blood of His cross, and He rose victorious over sin, hell, and the grave. Allow these last two passages of Scripture to resonate in your heart as you consider the humanity and deity of Christ.

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NRSV)

 “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (NRSV)

Sacred, Part 1: The Jesus of the Church

What is it about the holy that scares people? It’s simple. Differentiation. R.C. Sproul said that the simplest way to define ‘holy’ is that which is separate or other. It seems that the Church has taken that to extremes to the point that we are abandoning sacred doctrines. Holy doctrines. Distinct doctrines. Doctrines that are imperative to the very foundation of what we believe. Out of these distinct doctrines that we’re going to look at in the series, the foremost that we will address is the deity of Christ. We cannot build the Church of Jesus without the Jesus of the Church being the foundation. There can be no edifying sanctification unless there is first regenerating salvation. So, let’s begin.

Now, let’s get something straight, I’m not going to be able to get into the depth and richness of who Jesus is in one blog post. That would take too much time and energy. I’ll go over Jesus’ huge claim in John 8 and we’ll go from there.

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them,“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. – John 8:52-59 (ESV)

Let’s catch up, Jesus is schooling the Jews in theology by informing them that He is God and if they abide in His words, then they will be free. The problem is that believe that they are already free. Watch this.

“They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” – John 8:33 (ESV)

In the case of the Jews, denial is not just a river in Egypt. In the Old Testament, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, they were taken captive by Babylon, and even now, as they are making this statement, they’re being dominated by Rome. This is the very reason that people refuse to see Jesus as God. People don’t need God if they are under the impression that they are their own god. No one is going to want the freedom that Jesus offers if they believe that they are already free.

Now, if we fast forward to what Jesus tells them in John 8:58, then we’ll see what He’s really trying to get through to them.

“Jesus said to them,“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:58 (ESV)

If you are a grammarian, then this sentence will drive you absolutely bonkers if you have no idea what Jesus is saying. What you think He’s going to say is “before Abraham was, I was also”, but no. He decides that bring the name of God into it. He blatantly makes the claim that He is God. How do these Jews that claim to know God respond?

“So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” – John 8:59 (ESV)

Here’s the issue. We read this passage and think to ourselves, “Those horrible pharisees. They shouldn’t throw stones at Jesus when all He’s trying to do is help them understand who He is.” We don’t acknowledge that we, at times, are the Pharisees. Every time we hear a sermon, read a book, or read a passage of Scripture that convicts, and we don’t respond the way we know we’re supposed to, we might as well pick up rocks to throw at Jesus.

So, what does this mean for us as the Church? As the Church, we should be responding to Jesus everyday in faith and repentance. It has been said that the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. Do a self-evaluation. How are you responding? Are you being melted by Jesus or are you hardening yourself against Him and kicking against the pricks as Paul did?