Tag Archives: 1 John

Doing it together…

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

(1Cor 1.7-9)

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others..

(Phil 1.1-4)

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by 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, purifies us from all sin. 

(1 Jn.13-7)

If you have had the privilege of being in a church family for some time, you will be familiar with the phrase “a time of fellowship” – it is often used to describe that time after a worship service when members gather to drink tea or coffee, standing and sitting about chatting and dropping biscuit crumbs on the heads of small children weaving their way through the room!

Our bible verses today suggest there is rather more to it than ‘tepid tea and soft biscuits’ as I recently heard one preacher say….and the definition which he went on to give fits so well with my own experience – and more importantly with the way the bible uses the word – that I wanted to explore it in this blog. Fellowship simply means “doing life together”, choosing to live out in practice the reality which is our unity in Christ, and our unity with Christ.

It is our union with Christ which is the foundation of our freedom and power to live as followers of Jesus – we can do life together with God the Father, Son and Spirit because we have been redeemed, transformed and forgiven; we have God’s life within us and our thoughts, desires and actions increasingly reflect his character and will. As God’s beloved children, we are able to draw upon all that he is and has done and will do, in order to live the lives he has laid out for us. On our own, we are incapable of anything good, but in Christ, all God asks of us is within our reach and we do it WITH him, in fellowship.

As those who are now walking in the light, not hiding from God or striving to be independent of him, but entering into his will for the world, we and our fellow believers are increasingly walking on the same road, in the same direction – towards the full realisation of the kingdom of Christ. We share a common life – we all have received God’s new heart for our old one, and all depend upon his daily forgiveness and cleansing; we all know that our power and vision come from Christ and that our own wisdom and motives cannot be relied upon to guide us securely.

It is our calling to work together towards the return of Christ in glory, witnessing to all as we have occasion, and building up the believers among whom God has placed us by bearing one another’s burdens, and practically ministering to the needs which each one has. This is “doing life together” – looking to Christ as our goal and also our enabler, recognising in each other the likeness of God and the obligation to love as he has loved us.

Let us, with the apostle John, seek to build one another up in the glorious truths of the gospel – of our salvation, and who we now are as God’s beloved children – so that together we rejoice in the vision of glory, and the complete assurance we can have. And as we do so, let us not be ashamed to “do life together” – since God has called us to walk in this intimate way with him, we should not be afraid to welcome others into our lives, to accept as well as give love and companionship in our labours for the kingdom. May our fellowship with one another make our joy complete and bring glory to God who has made it possible!

 

Nowhere to hide…

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin.

(1Jn.1.5-7)

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

(Deut.19.16)

“The most important [command],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:’Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

(Mark 12.29-31)

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

(1Jn1.8-2.2)

I have to confess to having a very soft spot for the apostle John, author of the gospel and widely accepted as the author of the three short letters which we find immediately preceding the book of Revelation. His approach to unfolding the mystery of the Incarnation, and the narrative of Jesus ministry is profound, and touches my heart. His writing also seems very warm and loving, and especially in these letters, gentle and coaxing. In his last years, the apostle is reaching out in earnest concern for believers who are being misled and in danger of accepting false teaching. His desire that they should know, and stand in the truth arises from his deep love for them, and it is this which speaks through everything he writes.

Perhaps the old man was speaking out of his own years of experience of seeking to follow the master whom he loved so well, and of seeing himself fail, time and again, to meet those exacting standards of perfection. We none of us like to disappoint those whom we love, and who love us, and yet as fallen creatures, this is what we do to our loving, faithful God. I know, that I am often tempted to fall into self-pity and even despair, over the ways in which I fail. Perhaps we might argue that our sins are not so bad as they might be, that we have done nothing worse than anyone else in our church and community….but Jesus clearly set a standard which none of us can claim to achieve every minute of every day.

When I consider my thoughts, deeds, motives and words in the light of the great commands, I am silent before my God. I have not loved either my God, or my neighbour as I ought. I have made excuses, blamed others for my failures, and allowed the powers and attractions of a fallen world to guide and direct my thinking and acting. May I not add to these sins by denying them, and claiming that God has lied! May I be aware of the seriousness of my situation, and not call trivial that for which God sent Jesus to die.

Rather, in tenderness of conscience, may I look ever to the cross, to the place where God’s wrath and God’s mercy met; where divine justice was satisfied by divine love poured out in the blood and broken body of the God-made-man on behalf of sinners.

Because Jesus died, I CAN have fellowship with this holy God. My sins – persistent, ugly, polluting and utterly offensive to him – are dealt with and my guilt washed away as I stand with my holy advocate before the throne of God. In Jesus holy name, I am welcomed into the presence of the light and indeed walk always in it. My persistent sinfulness is no barrier to that light – so long as I remain fully aware that it depends entirely upon my remaining in Christ.

Let me not hide away from this light, ashamed of my sins; but rather come boldly to the throne, claiming the forgiveness and cleansing which I need and which is promised. Let me rejoice in the unbounded grace which delights to give to those who delight to admit their need – not proud of the sin, but so very, very proud of the Saviour whose loving sacrifice deals with it.

On the winning side!

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God

(1 John 5.3-5)

The idea of loving by obeying is not appealing to many folk in our contemporary society, but we cannot rewrite the bible for our own social convenience, deleting or re-phrasing the parts that make us feel awkward. I believe that every part of the bible as we have it today is intended to be a blessing to the church, a source of understanding and above all a revelation of God’s love to the world in Jesus Christ. So I must grapple with obedience as love in action, joyful and persevering obedience in the face of opposition, personal suffering, ignorance, mockery, and indifference.

My love for God – feeble though I know it to be – is first and overwhelmingly a response to his love for me, demonstrated through the death of Jesus for my sins. To be loved like that is irresistible, and I want to hold nothing back in my response. I know that I will fail at times, through human weakness and the pressures upon me, but my desire is to love, more and more. I want to make my God glad, to bring joy – if it is not inappropriate to put it this way – to the fount of gladness! He is not mysterious about how I can do this, and tells me clearly that if I love him then I will obey his commands.

This little passage from John’s letter makes it clear that obedience will not be a burden to me because I have been born of God. What does this mean? I think that Paul put it plainly in his second letter to the church in Corinth:- “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5.17). What God has done in me is give birth to new life, the life of Christ in me, and the commands of God are things I now desire with all my heart to fulfill! The power of this world to deceive me, to weaken my will to obey God, is utterly broken, because the nature which responded to those pressures has been put to death in me for ever.

Our world continues to be the beautiful, ugly, bountiful, dangerous place it always was. Human beings continue to suffer illness and death; to inflict appalling suffering upon one another; to be selfish and cruel, indifferent and neglectful, malicious and evil. In just this last few days I have grieved over a friend’s loss of two out of three triplets, shared the burden of another enduring dreadful experiences at work, and shuddered over news from the Middle East of further mass executions of Christians. In what sense do we have victory here?

We have the victory, because we know that NOTHING, none of these dreadful things, will separate God’s beloved children from his love. We know that in the light of eternity, our greatest sorrows and sufferings will seem nothing. We know that in the darkest places of our lives, our God is not only present but intimately close, understanding our pain and pouring his compassionate love into our hearts.

It is because we have been granted faith to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our saviour, that we can claim in the midst of grievous troubles to have victory, to know peace. The love of God as revealed in Christ is so great, that we can trust him to be working for our ultimate good in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. We may strive at times to hold on to our confidence in him, but God’s hold on us never loosens, and in that we rest.

I do not write these words lightly, I do not wish to suggest that the sufferings of our world are trivial and should not cause us grief and sorrow – they should, they are appalling blemishes on what should have been a glorious creation, and we hold on to the hope that one day they will be banished altogether. But our understanding of who we are as God’s children facing these troubles makes so much difference. As I wrote, these words from an old song came to mind, I leave them with you as a prayer for this week:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.

(Helen H Lemmel)