1 John 3:18-20 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 21-24 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. MSG
Here’s your Good News for today: There is a way to practice real love that can help you know you’re’re living truly in God’s reality. It’s this simple: “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Say that to yourself. Do you believe that in the depths of your soul? “Jesus loves me, this I know” is not the same as self-affirmation. It’s not a fake-it-’til-you-make-it plan. “Jesus loves me, this I know!” is how God chooses to establish His in-person relationship with you to confirm His love for you. “Jesus loves me, this I know!” is the only truth you need to know to make you a person after God’s own heart.
God never uses shame and guilt to transform you. It is not God who bedevils you with “debilitating self-criticism…” “Jesus loves me, this I know!” is how God has chosen to convert that space designed to harm you into a reminder of your need for Him instead. “Jesus loves me, this I know!” is real love that changes guilt and shame, “even when there’s something to it,” into a heart full of thanksgiving and praise for the Grace of God, and that confirms your love for Him. Once that’s taken care of and [you’re] no longer accusing or condemning [yourselves], [you’re] bold and free before God!
I John 2
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
– 5…if anyone obeys his word, love for God[God’s love] is truly made complete in them.
– 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.
– 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
We live in an age where truth is more like a list of options and opinions rather than an absolute. Options are good but they’re not necessarily absolutes we can count on to help us fulfill our potential and opinions aren’t necessarily based on fact or knowledge. John is asking us to consider there is an absolute standard of truth that has been verified over and over again around the world for generations and in countless lives; “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
You may have seen this saying somewhere. “IT’S OK IF YOU DISAGREE WITH ME. I CAN’T FORCE YOU TO BE RIGHT.” I can’t…but here is an absolute truth in your personal relationship to “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” that’s bigger, and far easier for you to verify than what I, or anyone else can say or write.
“The anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.”
IF you will personally study and test that one thing in your own life I guarantee it will became a reality that changes and challenges your options and opinions. THEN that little footnote in verse 5 [God’s love] will become a blessing of truth that verifies his love is “truly made complete” in you. It’s more than an option or an opinion, it’s absolute truth.
There’s an easy confidence that comes with knowing exactly what the mornings thought will focus on. That’s over. I’m choosing a new reading plan. It feels awkward even though it’s still the same familiar resource. Maybe that’s my learning curve – coping with the new and awkward parts of daily life. We’ll see.
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Ah love, I feel it so much better than I do it. Love is easier to take than to give. These are not new words to me but they present some challenges because there’s a disconnect between their truth and my reality.
Challenge #1: v7b – Truly believing…”EVERYONE [caps for emphasis] who loves has been born of God and knows God” is a relationship changer.
Challenge #2: Getting the sequence right. This is love…
1. “…not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…”
2. “…we also ought to love one another.
3. “…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”
True love let’s us see God in one another and completes what he’s begun in us.
I John 5:6-10a & 11-12a NASB
6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself…11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life…
“The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself…”. The Spirit, the water and the blood have been, and are still, testifying in your life. It’s easy to recognize that testimony after you’ve been adopted into God’s family. But what about those years before? Those three were not just standing in the wings hoping you might come to your senses. They were there testifying to you about the reality of Christ.
I was baptized when I was about 12. There was some huddled whispering among relatives at that time that was mysterious to me. Some of the mystery became clear shortly after my baptism when I learned the only Dad I’d ever known wasn’t my birth father at all but the process for adoption had been put in motion. The name I had been baptized with wasn’t actually my new name…yet. That process took years but I came home one day to find my Dad with papers in hand weeping because I was finally his daughter.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference what the human details were. The participants might not have been perfect or even particularly religious. The Lord in his mercy, saw that young girl and was testifying to her about another adoption that would take another 15 or 16 years: this time by a heavenly Dad.
Like me, you were not adopted into God’s family because he’d waited long enough…or by the skin of your teeth…or your wise choices. Long before that adoption became a reality there was a process in motion: testimony was happening. Don’t overlook it. That recognition can be one of the strengths in your life. Think back and see for yourself how faithful God has been to you both Before and After.
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 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. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
The image of a teeter-totter came to my mind. On one end are the options of darkness and sin and on the other light and forgiveness. They’re the competing elements of life that bring up the issue of finding balance. Choosing to hover between those options is only going to leave us Off Kilter much of the time.
That struggle and making balance our goal is the inescapable evidence of our incompleteness and our need. Why would we want to settle for balance when we can get off the teeter totter and stand on firm ground with these promises?
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
I John 2:27 NIV As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
I love this passage. I hope you’ve experienced it’s truth in your own life too. Sometimes you hear people ask “how do you know this church stuff is real?” This verse is the answer. Anointing is not a word that is commonly used and only heard occasionally in church.
It’s really easy to begin to depend on what other people know for your faith. That’s their anointing. It’s not what “they” know that transforms you. God promises he will give you your own real, life-changing faith and absolute truth in the time you spend getting to know him through his Word and his Spirit. That’s your anointing.
I remember a Bible study where a man came who’d struggled with addiction for many years. He didn’t have the history of the basic childhood Bible stories or even regular church attendance. He must have really felt like a fish out of water…but for whatever reason…he came. Not only did he come that night but he did the reading for the next week and came again.
There was a moment when he shared something he’d learned from that reading and followed it up with “and nobody taught me that” with such excitement that my heart was filled with gratitude and praise. That was his anointing and God proved himself The Perfect Tutor again.
Back in Genesis God tells Abram in Chapter 17 “Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.” At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!…”
The definition of a covenant is “a solemn, and binding agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.” Maybe a covenant is not a static, one-step, New Year’s resolution kind of thing but more like a cycle renewed each year? That concept makes sense to me.
That first step across the line from unbeliever to believer is only one step, but a momentous one, all based on the awareness of “if’s.” That’s when the cycle of “then’s” begins. It’s the beginning of God’s personal covenant with you: his promise he will move the “if’s” to “then’s.”
If…God, Then awareness…
If…awareness, Then the Holy Spirit…
If the Holy Spirit…Then truth…
If truth…Then grace…
If grace…Then forgiveness…
If forgiveness…Then mercy…
If mercy…Then love – 1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us…
If love…continuous renewal and Limitless Then…
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness…14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was…they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
I John 1:7
“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] purifies us from all sin.”
God saw right from the beginning in Genesis that light made our world as different as night and day and he filled the night with lights. If you’ve ever stood outside looking up at the stars in the clear night sky you see the wisdom of what God was thinking. Those stars have attracted our attention and marked many days and years.
That’s got to be why He used one of them to mark a sacred time that would make our world as different as night and day for a second time…the birth of Jesus. Light has been a part of Christmas right from that long-ago time as that special star led the wise men to the cradle. I think God is still using light to catch our attention this Advent.
Lights are a beautiful addition to Christmas. They fill public spaces and our homes. Our first impulse, at this time of year, when darkness comes early and stays late is to plug in the Christmas lights first thing in the evening and again in the morning. It’s our attempt to replace that darkness and fill our space with beauty. That desire could be one way God uses our Christmas lights to remind us of another Light coming into the darkness. I know one thing for certain: the house is noticeably empty looking when those signs of Christmas are packed away for another year.
We learned a chorus a long time ago that was almost a verbatim quote of I John 1:7. It was written by Mark Yasuhara of the Hawaiians, who believed adding music to Scripture was a perfect way for people to memorize it. He was right. The music is still in my head for John’s words as I read them this year. We walk in the light of the Scripture following its signs to the cradle to give our gifts. It’s a cradle that’s All About Light: a Light that promises we don’t have to settle for darkness even when Advent is over and our beautiful Christmas lights are gone.
Looking for Jesus in all the right places.
I John 5:6-9
6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.
Of Interest from William Barclay:
When he [Jesus] told us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he was telling us to feed our hearts and souls and minds on his humanity, and to revitalize our lives with his life until we are filled with the life of God. But John meant more than that, and was thinking also of the Lord’s Supper. He was saying: “If you want life, you must come and sit at that table where you eat that broken bread and drink that poured-out wine which somehow, in the grace of God, brings you into contact with the love and the life of Jesus Christ.”
A couple of years ago I wrote The 3R’s of Communion. Recently I reviewed and rewrote it. This is part of my own growth, finding words to make what I write more real than ever before.
The 3R’s of Communion.
• Responsibility — I believe what Scripture tells me that it’s Christ’s responsibility to continue and complete His work in me. He has the power to pull it off, I don’t. My responsibility is to regularly give Him back the gift of my faith as it grows and changes and trust he’ll do just what he says he will, build more in me.
• Revelation — Flesh and blood – the elements of communion shared between Christ and me have a powerful purpose. That little bit of bread or wafer that feels so dry in my mouth for a moment and the tingle of that small sip of wine on my tongue are actual physical reminders to wake-up and consider the “now” reality of my life in Him. They are reminders that his plan is to show himself to me and as importantly to show myself to me. Communion is Christ’s plan to feed, to cleanse and to nudge me one step closer to what He sees I can be – with a little taste of Grace and His life in me.
• Regeneration — Those “elemental” moments are blessings to remind me that this beautiful act is more than a ritual. I can feel them as I take them! I believe it is the perfect reminder that Christ meant it to be, my outside reaction to a real “inside” story – the regenerating power of Christ living up to His promises to build and renew my life in Him.