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!
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
I’ve looked for evidence in these second chapters of God’s continuing desire to replace and repair what is worn out, run-down, or broken. That word “broken” has been a part of every post. God created life to be an unending circle for those first two people but they broke the circle because they violated the rule of one unique tree. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Why two unique trees? I know what the results of that break are and I know Revelation 2 is the answer that repairs that broken circle.
Despite our best efforts here on earth perfection is still lost. God has noticed our desire has changed from being content to know His perfection to the confusion of trying our best to sort out the knowledge of good and evil. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…you cannot tolerate wicked people.” I know “that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” I know “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary…Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. ”
Here’s the Good News from Revelation 2 about that other unique tree. “The tree of life” is still standing, untouched, and we still have it’s promise of that first love. There is repair and renewal for that worn out, run-down, or broken circle. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
[NLT] Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Scripture is particularly surprising when ancient words create a bridge to everyday life. I came across one particular old Greek word in reading what John Piper had to say about Philippians 1: politeuomai. It’s an action word.
1. to be a citizen
2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
3. to make or create a citizen
It wasn’t much of a stretch to see in “politeuomai” another more modern-day word…”polit-ics” and that became the bridge of thought for me. God does have a purpose for our daily life in this world. He’s created a place for us to practice living as “citizens of heaven, conducting [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Paul reminds us that’s the very reason we have to stand “together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News…We are in this struggle together…”
Practice can be fumbling, imperfect and often unpleasant BUT remember these two things: 1. everything depends on what we’re practicing AND 2. practice makes perfect. God has given us this world to practice being citizens. We have the “privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” as we struggle with one another to perfect our desire to “live as citizens of heaven” in the midst of an imperfect reality.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of faith who lived and died for these words he wrote: ”I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”
Read Mark 6:47-52. My focus is v50b “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,”
Those simple red-letter sentences are the summation of real good news for friends of Jesus that are worn out from fighting the storm. The story ends in Mark 6 with those friends that knew Jesus best being amazed and terrified when he showed up in such an unusual way. They had invested their life completely in following Jesus and even with all their firsthand evidence they didn’t quite understand what to expect from him. Verse 52 says “their hearts were hardened.” How could that possibly be?
I don’t know about you but the thrust of much of what I watch or read about the world today is at best sad and at worst scary. It’s a harsh reality to face the fact that just like those other friends of his, I have to blink twice to recognize that Jesus is more than a ghost in today’s broken world. My heart has been hardened by struggling to understand the evening news instead of that good news. I can’t figure out what to expect from current events but I think there’s a solution. I’m just trying to blink twice so I can see a new reality that Jesus is in the boat with us and take him at his word in this storm. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,”