Monday, October 30, 2017

1 John Pt. 4 - Abiding

Have you ever been told to stay put? It sounds like an easy thing to do but works against all the urges of our independent nature. Staying put tugs at the reigns when we’d rather be running full speed. Your least favorite verse is Wait upon the Lord. Be still and know..

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 Jn 4:15)

The Bible word for abide is stay put. Technically it means remain, but stay put speaks louder to me. It is one of our first lessons as Believers.

The first lesson in training a dog is to get him to sit. It sounds simple, but he has to fight urges coming from all sides. But unless he learns how to sit, he can’t graduate to more challenging commands.

The mark of a well-trained dog is his ability to do what he’s been told to do. If you say stay, he’ll stay. If you say come, he’ll come. Learning to obey simple commands develops his ability to focus, block out distractions and obey.

When God tells us to abide, stay put, He’s not just talking about some position or location, He’s talking about our approach to life.

Abiding is a relational term. It’s more than stay where you are and don’t go anywhere else, it is stay within the context of the presence of God and reflect back to Him what that means.

A dog staying is following an order but also demonstrating submission to his master. When he stays put he is saying this person is important enough to me that I will obey him. Typically, your dog isn’t going to respect my commands because we have no relationship.

An incorrigible dog may reluctantly obey, but only when threatened or rewarded. He doesn’t do it out of loyalty, respect or love, but out of fear or self-interest.

Dog to friend. Watch me get a treat from my master. He trots over to the master and sits, then lies down and roles over. The master pats him on the head and tells him good boy and gives him a doggy treat. The dog returns to his friend. See, all I do is a few tricks and I get a treat. How long did it take you to get him to do that? Oh, not long. He trains fairly easily. If I need to go outside I go to the door and whimper. If I want back in, I scratch on the door. He picked it up pretty fast.

God is not training us, but shaping our hearts. It takes focus. Abiding holds our attention on Him.

1Jn 4:15  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

God keeps His attention on us so He can shape our lives. Like the potter.
But God’s interest lies further than just the moment of confession. John is taking us a step further, wanting us to see what happens as a result of that moment of confession.

A reciprocal love relationship is begun.

1Jn 4:10  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Joh 15:9  "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

Joh 14:15  "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Joh 14:21  "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."

1Jn 2:4  The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
1Jn 2:5  but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
1Jn 2:6  the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

It’s how Jesus lived. It’s how we live. Jesus never woke up and said, well, I think today will be a spiritual day. Let’s see if the Father has anything He wants to put on my agenda. He didn’t have spiritual and secular days. They all were simply days He lived in relationship with the Father.

1Jn 3:24  The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him

See the cycle: learning to abide – stay put – blocks out distractions, sharpens our focus, keeps our minds set on Him. So that when He commands we obey. Obeying Him shows Him we love Him.

How do we do that?
·         Turn down the volume of other voices trying to distract us.
·         Spend time with Him in reading His Word, meditating on what we have read, putting it into practice.
·         Maintaining a continuous conversation with Him throughout the day.

Go back to the dog. For the dog to obey, he has to have a relationship with his master. The better the relationship, the more likely he will obey. When he obeys the command he’s not just doing what he’s told, he’s demonstrating his love for his master.

Joh 15:1  "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Joh 15:2  "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

Bearing fruit – showing evidence of God at work in our lives. It is the work of God in us and through us.

Joh 15:4  "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
Joh 15:5  "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Apart from – separately from

A dog will not obey himself. Without a master the dog is just a dog. A dog trainer said once, “An untrained dog is the waste of a good dog.”

Without the abiding presence of God, we have no influence driving us toward holiness. Our urges are self-centered, not God-centered.

When we abide in God, we are focusing our attention on Him. Being alert to His commands. When we obey His commands we produce fruit, showing evidence that God is active in and through our lives.

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [we have removed the hindrances to keeping our focus on Him]. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal 5:24-25)

Dogs and cat

Abiding: willingly submitting myself to the authority God exerts within me, living my life as an expression of my love for Him.

1.       Obedience requires focus.
2.      That upon which I focus has my attention.
3.      Whatever has my attention has captured my heart.
4.      What has captured my heart has become my treasure.

5.      When God becomes our treasure, we will obey Him because we love Him.

Monday, October 16, 2017

1 John Study Pt. 3

Living in the gulf region, hurricane season means having a contingency plan. We watch the weather, we gather supplies, we test our generators, we evacuate or hunker down. We prepare for wind, rain and power outages.

Nothing we do because of the hurricane causes the hurricane. We are responding to what it causes.

John wrote 1 John for two reasons. The primary reason:
1Jn 5:11  And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
1Jn 5:12  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
1Jn 5:13  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

That you may know that you have, not so you may find out how to have. It was written to help believers with their assurance.
1Jn 2:22  Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
1Jn 2:23  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
1Jn 2:24  As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
1Jn 2:25  This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.

John had heard Jesus put this together: Joh 14:21  "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."

Having a point in time when Jesus became real to you and you acknowledged your belief in Him is a great advantage for assurance. You know that you have affirmed who He is—God the Son, our Savior and what He did—paid the penalty of our sin and opened the door to our relationship with the Father.
When we believe what He says to believe and do what He says to do, our confidence is based upon Him, not us. By faith we know we have eternal life because we trust Him to tell us the truth.

I’m not a huge R.C. Sproul fan, and often find myself disagreeing with him. I heard him on a podcast the other day and he was answering a question about how to know if you are saved. He said the proof of our salvation is in our love for God. According to Sproul, we can’t say we love God unless we are saved.

Saying you can prove your salvation by your emotions is dangerous on many levels. I cannot test my faith by my feelings. I can feel love one day and nothing the next. I can act lovingly one day and not the next. My love isn’t powerful enough to remain constant in all circumstances.

Or even if we take love as an action rather than an emotion as Paul does in 1 Cor 13, we then are basing our salvation on our efforts to perform loving actions. I can’t do that either. If my positive actions prove I have salvation, what do my negative actions prove?

My love for God is my response to Him, not a scheme to prove something to Him.

Guy felt guilty for neglecting his wife. Heard on the radio how he should take her flowers to make up for that neglect. She met him at the door. Great, the baby’s been sick all day, the dishwasher broke, the bank is repossessing our car…and you come home drunk.

My assurance rests on Jesus not me. I believe who He is and what He has done, and I have done what He said to do. The Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. He convinces me I belong to Him.

So because John is writing to believers in 1 John, when John deals with the sin problem, it is the problem Christians have with reverting back to former ways, dabbling in the dirt, returning to a darkness lifestyle or mentality.

Which brings us to the secondary reason John wrote this letter: to show us God’s contingency plan for sinning. If the goal for believers is to have fellowship with the Father and each other while we remain on earth, and that fellowship can be affected by sin, we need a way to deal with that sin.

Listen to how he wraps up the letter: 1Jn 5:18  We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

A better translation is: We know that everyone having been born of God does not continue to sin, but He having been begotten of God protects him and the evil one does not touch him.

Continue to sin means maintaining sin as a defining habit.

1Jn 3:7  Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;
1Jn 3:8  the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
1Jn 3:9  No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Becoming a child of God changes us:
·         New nature – I have a new orienting force within me, a new compass that directs me to God’s ways.
·         New desires – I have a new passion for godliness and holy living in order to please God.
·         New purpose – I have a new direction for my life to glorify God in all I do.
·         New perspective – I have a new focus for how I live and why.
·         New practices – I have new habits that replace old habits creating a new definition of who I am.

Paul writes: 2Co 5:17  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

I am not who I was but I am not yet who I will be. I’m a work in progress!

But what about the contingency plan. 1Jn 2:1  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.

By warning us of the consequences, John would expect us to avoid those consequences.
·         Man who shouts fire is expecting people to get out of the building.
·         If a sign says do not enter, it is expected people won’t enter.
·         If the monks’ signs say bridge is out, they expect people to turn around.

John says,
·         if you dabble in the dirt,
·         if you go back into the darkness,
·         if you linger in the shadows, you will lose the power of your fellowship with God.

But even if, after the warning, I give in to sin, God makes a way to clean up the mess and restore fellowship with me:

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
1Jn 2:2  and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Paraclete – one who goes with us to plead our case.
One who takes our problem to the solution.

But more than that, He’s our Propitiation – When Moses built the tabernacle God told him to have a piece of furniture built that would go into the Holy of Holies. It would be the place blood would be sprinkled that would accomplish mercy in behalf of the people’s sins.

It was called the mercy seat. The same word we have for propitiation.

It was God’s contingency plan within the temple to rectify the sins of the people. It was the place where God: atoned, amended, redeemed, extinguished guilt incurred by sin.

Jesus is for us, what the mercy seat was for the Temple. The place where God enacts mercy/the forgiveness for our sins.

So God’s contingency plan is actually a Person. If we sin as Children of God, Jesus will enact God’s mercy. What does He want us to do: confess our sins, because He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Sounds like a free ride. I can sin all I want. Forgiveness is always available.

Paul wrote: Rom 6:1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Rom 6:2  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Paul actually said: Are we to continue sinning just because forgiveness is provided? Never may it be!

That’s not who we are anymore. Why would we want to live like something we aren’t?


POW’s from Vietnam were finally free from the torturous confines of bamboo cages and isolation cells. Did any of those men miss their captivity so much they wanted to go back to those cells after their deliverance?

You are no longer a captive. You can walk away from captivity.

Got a hurricane raging in your heart? Well, just as preparation for the hurricane doesn’t cause the hurricane, the contingency plan for sinning doesn’t cause us to sin. But it is ready for when we do.

1.       God wants the very best for us.
2.      The only way He can bless us with that best is if we are His children.
3.      As His children, He wants us separated from the darkness that once controlled our lives and, instead, living fully in His Light.
4.      For us to live in the light, to have fellowship with Him, He has set in place the contingency plan of on-going forgiveness.

5.      He must love us very much to go to all that trouble for us to be able to fellowship with Him.

Monday, October 9, 2017

1 John 1 Pt. 2

Anytime we get a new device, there is a learning curve we go through. We get accustomed to how our previous device worked but the new one has unique qualities that we need to know about.

Remember the old rotary phones? Just put your finger in the hole and spin the dial. Easy. Then push button phones. Instead of spinning the dial you simply pressed the numbers you wanted. Same effect. Only problem, you were attached to the phone base. Then came cordless where we could at least move around. Finally, cell phones. Operation was somewhat similar in pressing a few buttons but now you can talk to someone from wherever you are to wherever they are. It opened up a whole world of communication.

But a new limitation entered the picture. Battery usage. You now have to watch for how much battery life you have left before you need to recharge. Each call takes away some power.

John felt sin worked that way in our lives. Sin’s greatest power is causing separation from God. An eternal problem for the lost and an estrangement problem for the saved. The only solution for either is forgiveness.

So if we are loved by God, justified before Him with past, present and future sins covered, and our additional sins cannot take away our salvation, why do we need to ask for forgiveness?

1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
1Jn 1:6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
1Jn 1:7  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1Jn 1:8  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

What John is saying: there is a connected yet separated distinction between relationship with God and fellowship with Him. The closest is marriage without the possibility of divorce.

That relationship changes our lives and defines who we are much like marriage.

But also like marriage, we can mess up the fellowship we have with our spouse. By our attitudes and actions we can make the relationship turn sour, become distant or even cause separation of heart or person.

The relationship remains intact but the fellowship stinks. It causes the whole picture to get fuzzy, feel disconnected, lose its joy.

John says it’s like stepping out of the sunshine and into a dark cave. When we leave the darkness for the light we enter the goodness of God. When we leave that light for darkness, God remains good but the effect of that goodness is diminished in our lives.

How do we sense that goodness diminishing? Guilt. Having been set free from the law of sin and death, the peace we had with God has been replaced by a load of guilt, weighing us down and wearing us out. Not condemnation but conviction. It is the red flag we are out of fellowship.

Each minute we remain out of fellowship with God drains power from our lives like a cell phone losing battery life.

Eddie Murphy played slick talking Jack McCall in a movie called: A Thousand Words. The plot involved a tree that miraculously appeared in Jack’s backyard that held one thousand leaves. Every word Jack said, a leaf would fall off the three. When the tree runs out of leaves, Jack’s life will end. And believe it or not, this is a comedy. With no way to replenish the leaves, the end is certain.

So, like Jack McCall’s tree, our power meter is slowly draining down because we are out of fellowship. But what should we expect? A weak, powerless and destructive life lived separated from the blessings God intends for His children.

I’ve seen marriages with no life, homes with no joy, couples with no love, simply living out their time together like prisoners serving time for their crime. They stay together but the fellowship is gone. I’ve seen believers living a totally inferior Christian life, far beneath their privilege. Grieving God by their neglect. The odor from both is obvious.

You can’t smell good and stink at the same time. Stink – manifesting a repulsive odor.

I know what it’s like to be repulsive. In fact as a kid, my sister told my mom on several occasions the same thing Martha said of Lazarus, “Behold he stinketh.” I wasn’t removed from the family, put in a tomb or lost my identity as a son to my parents. I was made to take a bath.

Sin is repulsive to God. Walking in the darkness is an affront to Him. He dwells in light. Sin is going back into the darkness. Darkness and Light cannot coexist.

Knowing we’re going to struggle there, God provides the fix. If we discover we are walking in the darkness, out of fellowship with God, confess that – admit it, call it what God calls it: sin.

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

For relationship it’s one and done. For fellowship it may be daily or several times a day. Is God so easily offended? It is the power of the darkness to take away fellowship.

Ask God:
·         Is there anything in my life I’m hanging onto that You disapprove of?
·         Are there any habits, attitudes or practices I have you want out of my life?
·         Are there any past sins I have covered over and not dealt with?
·         Am I grieving You by my neglect?

1Jn 1:10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

By refusing to admit we are walking in the darkness, we close the door to fellowship.
By confessing we are walking in the darkness, the door reopens.

What word? That Word that transforms life. We will miss the evidence of the transformed life.

  1. The greatest truth you can ever accept is God loves you.
  2. Through that love He draws you into relationship with Him.
  3. Because of that love He wants fellowship with you.
  4. Choosing to reject His love keeps us separated from Him – lost and disconnected from Him throughout all eternity, or saved and estranged from the goodness He has planned.
  5. Either choice is unacceptable and the results stink.

Monday, October 2, 2017

1 John Pt. 1

Ever meet someone and you have one impression, then go a bit deeper and realize they are much more of a big deal than you first thought. I have that happen all the time.

I was congratulating a lady who had sung in the Christmas show at Second Baptist Church in Houston last year, telling her how much I enjoyed her song. She was cordial, Oh thank you. Then I mentioned that my son was Josh Smith. That Josh Smith, pointing to my son. She hit her knees and took my hand and said: Bless you.

I went to a Gala a few months ago and was introduced to a man who rang no bells in my head, then someone mentioned something about Apollo 13, and I discovered I was meeting Fred Haze, one of the three astronauts we nearly lost to an explosion in space on the way to the moon.

When I met Bill Cunningham I thought, nice guy. Then I found out he was the B in BJ’s Pizza. My absolute favorite pizza place in the world.

I can’t remember a time I didn’t’ know about Jesus. I admit in the early days He was just a Bible story character. But later He became real to me. Suddenly the stories were all true. What He said and did was life-giving.

What about the Disciples? What do you think they thought about Jesus the first time they heard Him speak? It is evident at the beginning they were most interested in what He had to say.

Early on when many were falling away from following Him, Jesus asked the disciples if they wanted to go away, too. Peter said, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.

Your words are giving value to life.

Then on another day Jesus got specific: who do you believe Me to be? Peter said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus said: Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matt 16:17)

They had been drawn to the life they found in His words but now they realized He brought value to their lives.

All of a sudden, Jesus became a bigger deal than Peter had first thought. Not because Peter finally figured Jesus out, but the Father brought illumination – insight that brings understanding.
The Spirit was building into their memories things Jesus had said and done in order to help His men understand who He was. He said this. He did that. Remember, that’s an important clue. Like showing them puzzle pieces. Then, by illumination, they saw where the pieces fit and had a much fuller understanding of what the completed picture looked like.

Little girl finished a difficult puzzle of the world and showed it to her mother. Mom was impressed and asked how she had finished it so quickly. The little girl turned the puzzle over and showed a picture of Jesus. She said, see I couldn’t get everything to fit on the other side so I just put the picture of Jesus together and the other picture just came out right.

That’s why John, writing years later, could point out things about Jesus he didn’t grasp before.

1Jn 1:1  What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life--
1Jn 1:2  and the life was manifested,

John’s testimony: God revealed Jesus to us, we saw Him and touched Him. He was real, yet we discovered more about who He was when He was manifested to us. Manifest: illuminate, make plain, make something graspable. John says, I have grasped who He is and wish to make Him graspable to you.

I had a teacher who took the complicated subject of Calculus and made it graspable.

 and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us--

Vs. 1 – Concerning the Word of Life – Concerning means: all-around (on every side); encompassing, We might say He covers all the bases. Greek word is “peri”.

Perimeter the boundary that defines a piece of property
Periscope an instrument to look all around.

What John (we) found in Jesus encompassed the total subject of Jesus as the One through whom we experience life as God designed.

Logos is the Greek word used for Word – a broad term meaning the message, the reason, the defining idea of a plan.

Reduce God’s agenda to one single word and what do you have? Jesus.

The Bible is the story of Jesus from before creation to the end of time. The whole story is about Him. History is His story.

S.S. class was told that the answer to every question was Jesus. Boy was asked about a picture. He said, “I know it’s a squirrel but I’ll say Jesus.”

Actually the ultimate answer is Jesus –

For John, grasping who Jesus was made what He said of special significance.

1Jn 1:3  what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Vs. 3 – Our fellowship with God and with each other is based upon Who Jesus is and what He has done.

·         Ability to walk together in agreement.
·         Unity of going the same direction
·         Harmony of heart and life
o   Two cats tied together are united but there is no harmony
·         Peace.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck—there’s a pretty good chance it’s a duck.

What does a Christian look like? If determining if a person is a Christian, what would that person look like? What if your Christianity was judged from the outside only?
      He walks, talks like a Christian.
      How does he smell? That’s worldly cologne. Haven’t you seen those commercials?
Did you hear what he said? Did you see that look she gave that lady? Did you see him change his score?

If you hired me for a job, you would judge me on my work, not my heart. Well, he did a lousy job but his heart is in the right place, so he deserves a bonus.

God does both—knows our heart, sees our life. His goal is for the two to match.

1Jn 1:4  These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

Vs. 4 – Being able to fellowship with God and each other completes joy
Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil 2:2-4)

Vs. 5 – God is Light – Light expels darkness.
            You can turn on a switch that makes light come on,
            But you can’t turn on a switch that makes darkness come on.
            You have to turn off the light for darkness to take over.

Joh 8:12  Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."
Joh 12:46  "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.
Act 26:18  to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'
Eph 5:8  for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light

Vs. 6

One of the tests is fellowship. What are the marks of fellowship?
            Living our lives in the Light, not in the darkness
            Walking together with God and others
            United, going the same direction
            In harmony of life.

Paul asked: What fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Cor 6:14)

If we live in the darkness, fellowshipping with darkness, we will become like the darkness we fellowship with. Why are ex-felons forbidden to associate with known criminals? They’ll likely go back into crime.

Stop acting like a baby and act like a man.

If I have the light of God within me and live like a man of darkness, which is me? I am lying to myself. I am not being who I am.

1.       Jesus came to bring us life.
2.      That life not only changes us on the inside but works its way to the outside.
3.      Living in fellowship with Him is like walking on a well-lit path.
4.      Choosing not to walk with God puts us in the dark.

5.      Why on earth would we prefer to stumble in the darkness when we can live in the light?