Into the Light

Today’s Reading: 1 John 1

Today we begin our study of 1 John. As we fall in to the routines of fall, I find myself struggling a bit to find the rhythm of a new schedule. I’m teaching my children once again to be diligent with their school work, to do their best in after school activities and to go to bed on time. In a way, John is writing to the Christians in 70 A.D. about a similar season for recommitment. By the time John writes this letter, Christianity has been around for more than a generation. Despite surviving significant persecution, the primary challenge was declining commitment to the faith. The NIV study Bible commentary says this about 1 John: “Many believers were conforming to the worlds standards, failing to stand up for Christ, and compromising their faith. False teachers were plentiful, and were accelerating the church’s downward slide away from the Christian faith. John wrote this letter to put believers back on track, to show the difference between light and darkness.” This description of early Christians certainly echoes our modern lives. We are tested daily by societal values versus the values instilled in us by Jesus Christ. I like the idea of getting “back on track.” After all, isn’t that the miracle of God’s sacrifice of his only Son for us. We get to begin again, we get do overs, we are allowed to get it wrong as long as our heart is always working toward what is right. By confessing our sins to Him and coming in to the light increases our fellowship with Him. True confession also necessitates a commitment not to continue to sin. John says this about confession in verse 9:

“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: 9-10

So, if God has forgiven our sins through sacrificing his Son, why do we need to confess? Through the process of re-commitment and admitting our sins to our Heavenly Father we can grow closer to him in three ways:

  • Agreeing with God that our sin is truly a sin and that we are willing to turn away from it
  • Ensuring that we don’t conceal our sins form him and consequently from ourselves
  • Recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on His power to overcome it

(adapted from NIV study Bible-Zondervan)

Through my study of His word today, I’m able to see that I go a long way to conceal my sin from myself and therefore my God. I’m bolstered by the idea of stepping into the light and recommitting myself to a clean slate. Lord, help us as your faithful servants to recommit to you. Help us to use this season of change to strengthen our relationships within our families and most importantly with you. We love you Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Purpose of Comfort

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are painful to read.  Yesterday David asked if any of us had ever experienced having a person we were trying to help question our motives and speak negatively about us to others.  I sadly answered yes in my heart as I read David’s prompting.

That experience was difficult for me.  Today’s reading challenged me to grow. Especially verses 3-7.

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

God is our comforter.  Παράκλησις, translated as comfort here, could also be translated ‘encourage’.  It holds in it the element of acceptance, council, and courage.  As if to say God is the one who finds our sorrow acceptable (or not) and strengthens us to continue on (if it is acceptable, more on this latter).

Παρακαλέω, translated as comfort three times in verse 4, could also be translated as urge, implore or exhort.  This helped me understand the activating (or reactivating) nature of this word as if strengthening one to get back in the fight.  God provides us the strength to continue Glorifying Him.

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

‘That we’ is a purpose clause.  God strengthens us so that we may be strengthened and encourage others.  Citing God’s character as the Comforter; the source of strength gives God glory.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

This was the most challenging part for me.  The comfort supplied has no limits, so long as our sufferings are in Christ.  Put another way, God supplies us with all the comfort we need for righteous suffering.

The question then became, what if the suffering was not righteous?  That is, what if the suffering was actually a result of my selfish ambition, seeking my own glory and not God’s?  This was my wake up call.

If I did not receive strength and comfort for the sorrow I felt, does it then mean that it was chastening rather than suffering for Christ?  I am inclined to consider this deeply.  Afterall, are we to believe that all suffering is because we are seeking Christ glory perfectly?  If not, as I reflect on a past wound that lingered too long, that sapped my strength when I know it shouldn’t have, I am inclined to think it was due to my sin and pride.

Ouch and amen! God is the righteous One who judges.  I am the sinner who is judged.  God is the Merciful One who gives grace.  I am the one in desperate need of His mercy and grace.   Admitting this depravity is the first step to receiving that which I need from God.  Confessing our Sin is our humble gate that protects God’s glorious reputation. (see extra credit below)

6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

We are to thank God for the righteous suffering.  We will know it by the degree to which we are supernaturally strengthened.  This is to be shared with and passed on to those who suffer.  All the time giving glory to God as the Strengthener.

7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

 

Extra Credit: God’s Glory and Confession of Sin

All things were created for God’s glory. (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7)  The proud are too busy seeking their own glory to give God His glory.  Confessing our sin proclaims God’s character as holy and His Law as right. (Luke 23:41)  Not confessing our sin is a way of blaming God for sin.  Notice the first sin and how Adam blames God. (Genesis 3:12)  Confessing our sin humbles us and gives God glory. (Joshua 7:19) In summary, when we do not confess our sin it is disagreeing with God, a form of attack on His reputation.  When we say, “God I deserve this” it agrees with God and brings Him glory.  We were designed to bring God glory.  This is one way we can do it.  Confessing our sin.  

The world says, ‘find your strengths and play them up.” the Word says “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12:10)

Actions Have Consequences

When I was in high school there was a night that I remember very well. I remember that night because I was with some of my friends hanging out at one of their homes, as we left we came out to find ice cream all over our windshields. We found out who did it and did what any other teenager would do…we planned an attack of our own.

 

We got eggs and flour and set out to find a car that one of the other guys owned. We eventually did, and I sat and watched as my friends started egging and flower bombing this car. I knew what they were doing was wrong but I kept my mouth shut. We ended the night in an all-out paintball gun war in my parent’s front yard (we lived out in the country) but that’s beside the point. The point was that my friends did something wrong, I knew it was wrong, and I didn’t say a word about it. In the end, it ended in disaster.

 

1 Corinthians 5 talks about this in the church. The chapter specifically talks about sexual immorality but I think this is something that can be taught about any sin. This chapter talks about the hard truth that sin is still a part of our lives and can easily start to take over our lives if we are not watchful. This chapter talks about a man committing sexual immorality by sleeping with his father’s wife. It may be easier to think about this in a different way. What about that time your coworker started to gossip about another person and you just sat there and listened. Maybe you didn’t participate but you knew that it was wrong.

 

Whatever the situation, it is your responsibility to stand up for what is right. God called us to go out to all nations and that could be as simple as your work, your friend’s house, or your own home. We have this responsibility because of love. If we truly love everyone and want to see them go to heaven, we stand up to wrong and with God’s help, we lead people out of the darkness.

 

Romans says that the wages of sin is death, so why wouldn’t we stand up against sin? Why wouldn’t we tell our brother or sister that what they are doing isn’t right? Paul ends this chapter with this, “Purge the evil person from among you.” This stuck with me. We try to focus a lot on spreading the gospel to all nations and but sometimes we disregard the church itself.

 

Christians are imperfect and sin-filled people too. We too can fall right back into the enemy’s grasp. Paul is saying that we need to focus some of our efforts on making sure that the church stays free of the enemy. Let me clarify I don’t mean that the church needs to be free of sin, I am saying that the people who are actively sinning and choosing to do so need to be spoken to. Not only are they acting in a way that leads them away from eternal life, their actions may also lead to false interpretation of Christianity by a new believer.

 

I don’t want you to go around looking at whom you can judge by their sinful behavior but I do want you to look around at some of your close Christian friends. Today, start to pray that the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to any evil that needs to be purged in you and the people who are close to. Just like my story about my car wars experience, I knew what I was doing was wrong and it ended in disaster. If we choose to keep allowing wrong to happen and not standing up against it, it will end in disaster.

A Believer’s Battle with Sin

Sanctification is the separation of the believer from his sin.  This separation is a believer’s ongoing struggle and a battle with himself.  It is internal.

In chapter 7 of Romans, Paul’s internal struggle with sin reveals how sin wages war against the Christian.  Do you struggle with sin?  (God’s word says you do. Romans 3:23, 1John 1:8, Isaiah 53:6)  If you are ready to admit that, the next step is to accept it.

The peace that comes with accepting how we relate to God (we are sinners that have turned away from Him and if we believe in Jesus our sins will be forgiven) will feel like a heavy load being lifted from you.  Remove the expectation that you need to be perfect to become a Christian or that once you become a Christian you will no longer battle with sin.

It is not about you being perfect – it is about Jesus being perfect.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christians motivations to hate sin and flee from it.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way, when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christian’s motivation to hate sin and flee from it.

Here are some notes from a sermon (first link in the resources below) on how sin battles with a believer:

  1. It is within us. James 1:14-15
  2. It is a battle of the mind, of our thoughts. Romans 7:23, 1Peter 1:13
  3. Victory is in Christ.
    1. Confess your sin to the LORD and ask his forgiveness. (1John 1:9, Proverbs 38:13)
    2. Ask the LORD for the strength to refuse to entertain sinful thoughts.  (2Corinthians 10:5, 2Timothy 1:7)
    3. Avoid evil. (Psalms 1:1-6, Matthew 18:7-9)
    4. Draw nigh to the LORD, pursue His Word.  (Philippians 4:8, Romans 8:6)

Here are three great sermons that will arm you with the truth regarding separating from your sin:

  1. Sanctification and Sins of the Mind
  2. Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking
  3. Breaking Sin’s Grip

Deliver Him to Satan?

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

August 31st, 2016

When first read, 1Corinthians 5:5 can have a puzzling effect on the reader. At least it did for me. Still when I read this and other similar instructions it causes me to slow down and think deeper on what I’m reading. A command to hand someone inside the church over to Satan, to abandon them, seems like it could be at odds with love which never fails (1Corinthians 13:8). It gives a feeling that we are being told to give up on a person. A closer look shows that is not the case at all.

  1. Abandoning the person to their owns ways will give them the best chance at learning the right way (1Corinthians 5:5). Perhaps condoning sin may have the opposite effect. God’s law is everywhere, convicting iniquity and reinforcing truth. It is there to help us understand that we are sinners in need of saving (Romans 7:7).
  2. The more I study this I have come to believe it is a matter of humility. The prideful lie is that this person’s salvation rests on our shoulders. That God is relying on us and us alone. That we must save them. More, that if we were to somehow offend them, that we would be responsible for their lack of salvation. That removing them from the congregation would somehow be our choosing to condemn him. If this were to be believed think of the consequences. How the sinful behavior could corrupt the whole (1Corinthians 5:6-7). Instead I think the truth is to love them in peace and entrust them to God, exercising the perfect balance between love and justice. The scripture tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). The conclusion here I believe is that Paul was not giving up on this person but rather that he was committing them to God’s sovereignty and trusting in God’s plan for showing people their need for Him.

God thank You for Your justice that makes everything right: Selah. Thank You for Your love, perfect with no conditions. Thank You for Your Grace and Your mercy LORD and for coming to save us. May we love others with the love of Christ that You have given us. May we be fishers of men. Amen.  

 

Parousia

“Parousia (greek): presence or coming. Referring to physical proximity…occurs most often in relation to the coming of the Lord Jesus as human history moves to closure.” (HCSB 2 Thessalonians)

Today’s Readings: Leviticus 15, Psalm 18, Proverbs 29, 2 Thessalonians 3

 Were you hoping I’d write about Leviticus 15 this morning? In my mind I see thin sheets of bible pages flapping furiously as folks rush to that page…not quite sure they remember what that chapter was all about! It was definitely the first read for me and after some research I was able to put a few of the pieces together in terms of the historical context. My take away from Leviticus 15 is really that fundamentally, God wants us to go through the process in order to achieve salvation. Once I got my snickers out (it helps if you actually eat a Snickers bar while reading) I really gained an appreciation for what the Israelites were going through. I learned that the frequent mention of “discharge” isn’t sexual in nature but rather refers to a chronic infection that affected much of the community. There are so many references to both men and women being considered unclean. Then there are so many steps in order to get clean. Of course the Israelites were human just like us, so surely a few short days after getting “clean” they made the same mistakes and were right back to square one of uncleanliness.

All of this ritual cleansing got me thinking about my own attempts at getting “clean.” My most recent trials have been related to clean eating. Inevitably, I last about a week scrupulously monitoring what I put into my body and making sure that I am following all the laws of clean eating. Then, when my time is up I go nuts. Sugar and carbs and high fructose corn syrup, oh my! As I think through this very real pattern that we all indulge in one way or another, I’m reminded again that I’m nothing but an Israelite in jeans and a t-shirt. I’m as unclean as it gets, stained by the chronic infection of sin. It’s all pretty overwhelming when I think it through, realizing that I’m going to continue to fall day after day. How can we change this pattern, this very human tendency that we have to fall into uncleanliness.

Then I arrived at second Thessalonians. Early on in the book this word parousia [pah roo SEE ah] appears. Paul uses it first to describe the glorious coming of Jesus Christ and the destruction of all his enemies. In today’s reading, chapter 3, he is warning the Thessalonians about irresponsible behavior. He reminds Christ’s followers to

“…keep away from any brother that is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

He goes on to say that we should not grow weary in doing good. He closes his letter to the Thessalonians by assuring them of his genuineness and that Christ is indeed near. When I think of this word parousia, I think of how I need some of it right now.

I need to feel that in the darkness of my jeans and t-shirt days that there is a feeling of parousia. We all need to feel that this process of building and testing our faith through our struggle is drawing us closer to Jesus. Sometimes, he just doesn’t feel so near. The truth is that he wants us to work and strive and fall down now and again in our attempts to be with him. This letter from Paul to Thessalonians is tangible piece of evidence to which we can hold fast. He is near. And so, friends, on this Monday morning we must not grow weary of doing good. Instead, let us continue in His work whether it be 7 acts of kindness for 7 precious lives lost here in Bloomington/Normal or just showing grace one more time when you just don’t think you have it in you. Yes, there is darkness but He is near, He is a presence in our lives and He is coming.