Keep Jesus centre of it all

John ends his letter strangely: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5 v 21)

We live in a rising idolatrous society where the orthodox Jesus is being replaced with a Jesus of convenience. If we keep Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, if Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then the sinner has a problem, the unloving have a problem.

Idols don’t replace God, they just replace His presence. From ancient times people have tried to use idols to get to God but they cannot.

The reason why people chase idols is because they need to personally experience the divine.

Today Christians carry wounds and many are battered from this life. They will come to Church this weekend carrying their hurt. In their desperation it is very easy to try and take short cuts to God.

John has been loud and clear throughout this letter. His gospel is the presence of Christ found in the love for the other believers. Anything less is not the Church. And as he closes this letter he lovingly calls the Church to keep themselves from anything that is not this gospel.

Keep yourself from distraction. Don’t give your time and energy to squabbles. Stop being unkind and unloving. Whatever you carry is your idol. Carry Jesus and love for others that is the only way. If you don’t then you will be following an idol.

Friends we come to the end of 1 John and I am going to take a 40 day break from posting. I will be seeking and writing without publishing. Thank you for regularly reading it makes publishing worthwhile. Please pray for me during this 40 days. See you around Easter time!

Pray for those within the church who are harming the church.

John in his closing remarks sums up this first letter and all that he said with an order to pray. Within the church ‘antichrists’ have like a creeping darkness have led Christians away through deception. They have dethroned Jesus and they are unkind and unloving to their fellow believers. John has been questioning them in 5 chapters of his letter whether they in the end know Jesus or not. His conclusion is that they do not.

“If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5 v 16-20)

John instructs us to pray for those who continue to sin in the way he has exposed. These are sins that do not lead to physical death but they actually look like they are very much alive and full of the Spirit in their ‘sinning’.

  • We know that our relationship with Jesus keeps us from continuing to sin by withdrawing love. Pray for those who are unloving that they may know Jesus.
  • We know we do not do the devils work. Those who deceive and destroy are under the evil one. Pray for those to be free from doing the work of the evil one.
  • We know that there are those who are ‘true’, those who are in Him, who are true and there are those who are not and who do not know Jesus. Pray for those who need to see the light of understanding.

You can be confident

As we come to the closing remarks of John’s first letter we see a familiar phrase found in his gospel.

“But these are written that you may believe  that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

And now in the letter:

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him. (1 John 5 v 13-15)

The gospel was written evangelistically that people may believe. The letter was written to bring assurance to those who do believe.

Why do people in church need assurance?

In John’s day the ‘antichrists’ as he calls them came from within the church causing disturbance amongst the believers, casting doubts on all they held dear and what they had believed from the beginning, leading them astray from their leaders and eventually outside of the church where they had found salvation. I see it today. The stories of those who have found themselves outside the church are many. The reason is not necessarily their own moment of madness in pressing self-destruct buttons. I have heard stories that resulted from the pain they received from the pulpit and those who stand there will face a higher judgment for it. But speaking from my own experience as I visit churches every week and am confronted by some within the pews who are complaining about the most smallest of things I realise that what John faced still exists today. Who needs a devil when we can do his work for him? Recently I met a lady who had been led astray by certain members campaigning against their Pastor. I use the words ‘led astray’ because once she had been enlightened to the truth I saw her return immediately to a better mental, emotional and spiritual health. She had been released from the snare. This morning I have been praying for this lady that she makes a full recovery something that John himself will encourage us to do in the next verses. This lady had lost her confidence in the church she loved and also the Pastor she served. How? It was from those within who had an agenda of complaint. That’s the same problem for John and we now see why he is writing.

So what does he say about our confidence?

  1. You have confidence in your eternal life. No one can take eternity from you. Don’t let anyone cast doubts on this for you.
  2. You have confidence in your relationship with God. You are in good standing with God no matter what any ‘antichrists’ say.
  3. You have confidence to talk with Jesus. He listens meaning he understands and heeds.

So make sure you fellowship with people who keep all 3 points in tact for you. There’s nothing quite like fighting to lead to losing the confidence in one of these areas. Remember it is very risk to campaign against imperfection when you are also imperfect. Don’t damage and don’t be damaged. Keep your confidence.

Experiences in Church need the unchanging beliefs of the Church.

It doesn’t matter what kind of experiences you have in church if you have let go of certain beliefs.

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5 v 12)

The place we give to Jesus Christ in the Church is critical. Those without the true testimony of Jesus Christ (like John’s antichrists) do not have salvation. To have the Son is to have the Son living within. It is to have Him abiding in your life. This is what John has been focusing on over the last 5 chapters. To have the Son is to love fellow believers. How we treat others reveals what’s inside our lives. Those who don’t like that are probably the ones who do not love.

Is Jesus Christ at home in His Church?

John is robust in his countering of the antichrists. These people have tried to lead the church astray in their divine experiences of the Spirit and supposed love and yet have dethroned Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Basically John is asking these questions:

  • Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?
  • Do you believe that Jesus Christ was alive on earth and experienced as a human by people like John?
  • Do you believe in the water (his baptism) and the blood (his cross)?

“Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5 v 10-11)

Anything less not only negates whatever divine spiritual moment the antichrists are having and the love they are proclaiming but it also puts their eternity/salvation at risk.

Is Jesus Christ as home in His church? That depends on the accepting of the testimony about Him. Do we hold to His baptism and what that means (ie repentance from sinful lifestyles)? Do we hold to His cross and the power of His blood (what sin are people being cleansed from?)

It is possible that the message of Jesus Christ is an offence to those who are making their home in the church. An inclusive church needs to give Jesus Christ, the Son of God His rightful place. He needs to be at home.

How to know what is genuine?

We have to be as strong as John was. He stood his ground against those who claimed the Spirit’s presence and yet denied Jesus Christ as the Son of God. You cannot come from or speak for God and deny everything from the incarnation to the baptism to the blood of Jesus Christ. The antichrists were accepting the baptism of Jesus but not the Lord’s Supper, not the message of the cross, not the power of the blood of Jesus.

John opened this letter by saying he/they had seen, heard and looked upon Jesus, it was their human testimony, an acceptable one. But the testimony of God outweighs even theirs.

“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 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. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.“ (1 John 5 v 4-9)

There is no experience or encounter of God without the surrender to Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Spirit does not lead people away from Jesus but rather reminds them of what Jesus taught and who He is. The Spirit sits in alignment with the water (the baptism of Jesus) and the blood (the cross of Jesus). Anything less isn’t of God. Anything less leads to not overcoming the world.

What a preacher or a ‘move of God’ says about Jesus is the hallmark of genuineness.

Let’s shout it loud and clear: loving God is seen by loving fellow believers.

Yesterday I read an email from a young adult who had been deeply hurt by fellow Church believers much older in the faith than they were. These mature Christians had failed badly in their love towards her and she was on the edge of leaving church. She had not sinned against God but she had offended them by her youthful passion and enthusiasm to serve Him. It exposed their selfishness. Who needs a devil when we beat our own? The only blood on the Church floor should be that of Jesus. The witch-hunts seem to continue. I replied calling for this young person to hold on to love and to keep their heart right and not to become like those older in the faith.

Whatever justification Church people have to be unkind it only reveals that they haven’t been in the presence of Jesus that day. We have seen the Apostle John have much to say on love in the Church.

John has repeatedly majored on the mandatory reason why we should love others within the Church and now he brings it to a close by being as succinct as he can.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.”  (1 John 5 v 1-4)

Here it is:

  • Believing Jesus is the Christ and loving the children (believers) of the father (God) are interlinked.
  • We cannot love God and be obedient in love (His commands) without loving His children (believers) and we cannot love His children (believers) without loving God and being obedient in love (His commands).
  • Love for God is to be obedient in love. His commands are always to love.
  • Love does not burden us because being born of God means we have overcome our own selfish desires (the world).

Any Church that truly gets the above will grow in the presence and power of God.

To do less is not the Church that Jesus came to build.

The proof and the command.

How do we know what is genuine? John has already stated that upholding the name and the position of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is the hallmark for the genuine believer and again he now mentions the second evidence.

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4 v 20-21)

It’s the proof. Loving the easier of the two (a fellow believer that you can see) is proof that you love the hardest (God you cannot see).

The hallmark of genuineness is no matter their gifting, ability and how good they may be at speaking, if you cannot see love then what you are experiencing is a lie. They are not who they say they are. They do not love God nor do they know Him.

Why is this so important? Because it is a command of Jesus.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13 v 34)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15 v 12, 17)

It isn’t easy. But it is the proof you are who you say you are and it is the obedience that Jesus demands.

We love because …

Despite the evidence we may have that can be used against us, He still loves us. It is actually a fixed position, loved.

The enemy of your soul will do all he can to say that you are not loved. He wants you outside of true love. He doesn’t want you to experience the love of God for when we do we are changed to love others.

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4 v 19)

John is exposing the ‘antichrists’ who came against the church who held on to the orthodox teaching of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Their lack of love for the believers within the Church revealed the truth of their spiritual experience.

A lack of love in as person reveals something is wrong and it may be that they have not known the love of God

The experience of God’s love motivates us with the same love. It flows from our lives. We are kind because He is kind. We are generous because He is generous. We love because He first loved us.

Rest in that truth today and then go love that person who is difficult to love. Make the world a better place.

Stop fearing a punishing God.

I know! It is a risky title isn’t it? Especially for those of us who have been brought up with such fear.

Fear of hell; fear of being ‘left behind’; fear of disappointment; fear of disapproval; fear of not being in His will. Our knowledge of God had fears attached.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4 v 18)

John is focusing not on the person who rejects God and on the Day of Judgment is found inadequate. He is focusing on his Church who are being deceived and led astray by the ‘antichrists’ who dethrone Jesus and who are unloving. Pastorally he continues to point his people to Jesus Christ and as a result to know His love in action through their lives for one another.

He now says fear has no place in love. So you either understand fear or you know love.

The result of being baptised in fear is that we have not plummeted into the rich depths of His love.

Do we run the risk of abusing that love if we do not focus also on fear? Yes! But the risk is worthwhile. It seems for John he ignores the risk because the love is so important.

This is not the fear found in awe and respect. That is without question. God is holy. But this is the fear that God is against us. Through the life of Jesus, He is not. He cannot be.

You cannot know love for God and from God; you cannot be embraced with this amazing love of God; you cannot love other believers; and at the same time fear His punishment of you. So make a choice today and choose love.