Monday, December 20, 2010

 

My Annual Christmas Post

Hey y'all:

Since I started this blog about 6 years ago, I have posted a piece I wrote around Christmas 2003. It kind of sums up for me what is the "Mystery of Christmas" as I meditated on the Incarnation and its implications for humanity (and for God!). The very idea of God becoming "one of us among us" (Immanuel, anyone?) still fascinates and overwhelms me. God, the creator of all things, entered his own creation so as to renew and redeem us (and, ultimately, all of creation as well). As you celebrate the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope you enjoy this rerun! Feel free to make comments if you'd like!

A little over 2000 years ago, a tiny child was born in the bleakest of conditions. Oh, he wasn’t the only one born in a bad state. In fact, in some ways, he was one of the lucky ones. He and his mother actually survived childbirth and thrived. Still, this story is unique and amazing on several levels.

First, this child would literally change the way time is reckoned in the world. His life and abilities would so impress generations of others that a brand new movement would be created, one that would radically change the very face of the earth (sometimes for good, sometimes for bad). His name would become recognized among the names of the greatest of humans, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings or lost a sense of who he was.

The second thing about this child is tied to the first in that this baby, this helpless lad full of spittle and mush, was born as the very Son of God. When Mary held his little head to her breast, he drank human milk. Yet, he was (and is) the God of the universe. Can you picture this simply ridiculous, yet somehow poetic scene? God, who calls the stars by name, pressed to the human breast for sustenance. Humble, yet almighty, is how most folks would no doubt recall this child.

A little over 2000 years ago, God proposed that the only remedy for the human condition of sin would be if he humbled himself, stepped out of eternity and into human flesh, and suckled at Mary’s breast in preparation for the greatest, most impressive conversion of all. God, in Mary’s arms, toddling around Joseph’s shop, learning to talk, learning to walk, tasting and touching things with human hands! As the Psalmist says in Psalm 139, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for us, we cannot contain it!”

God knew that the only way to redeem us was if he did it himself. Haven’t you ever had that thought? You know, the one where you say, “If I want something done right, I’ll just have to do it myself?” Imagine God having that thought about bringing us back to proper relationship with him. Imagine again that the only way he knew he could do that is if he came to earth as a baby. Think of it—-how vulnerable the almighty God was at that moment, how paradoxical that the God of all creation had to learn to walk! And why did he put himself in this situation? Out of his divine since of justice and righteousness, out of his inexpressible love for each of us he acted in this manner.

He became insane that we may be sane. He became flesh so that we might walk in the Spirit. He became sin that we might be righteous. He became poor so that we might be rich. He became a toddling, dribbling, helpless babe so that we could become mature humans in the image of the almighty God. What wondrous love! What humility and service! How then can anything he asks of us be too difficult?

Lord, in this Christmas season, remind me of your sacrifice and love so that I might be a light shining in darkness to others. May the grace of God and the peace of Christ rule in my family and my life.



Thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

 

Living in the Light of Jesus' Coming, 1 John 2:28-3:3, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meetings on December 12-19, 2010. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 2:28-3:3 and discusses the idea that we need to consider how we live our lives in the light of the promised return of Jesus. Jesus' second coming (according to John) offers motivation for us to pursue righteousness in our lives. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Living in the Light of Jesus’ Coming
1 John 2:28-3:3
Theology Matters Series

Introduction
About a month ago we ended a church-wide series on “Living Like You Were Dying” where we focused on the characteristics our lives as Christians should exhibit if we expect to die soon

Today’s passage is like that in some ways, except instead of thinking of our own mortality, we will look at our Lord’s return as a motivation for pursuing certain characteristics in our lives

This being the Christmas season, we typically speak of Jesus’ first coming, the time he revealed God to us by the Incarnation (a topic that John addresses earlier in this very epistle)

The first time Jesus came to earth, things changed dramatically
The lives of many in the first century were changed eternally
The calendars that track our lives were affected
Judgment came in the way people respond to the life and ministry of Jesus

What kinds of changes will come when he returns a second time?

When Jesus’ comes the second time, everything will change
Life as we know it will be completely different
There will be judgment
Things will be revealed and made known that we think are secret

John mentions this return of Jesus (described as his “appearing” twice) in 1 John 2:28-3:3

In this passage John gives us three things to pursue as we wait for Jesus to come. We must pursue:
1. Assurance by abiding
2. Acceptance by his love
3. Purity to be like him

Where will you be when he returns?

1. Assurance from Abiding
1 John 2:28-29

The idea of abiding
Last week we spent some time on this topic
Abiding carries the idea of “remaining” or “continuing” or even (to some degree) “possessing”

Our passage last week reminded us to abide in God’s Word and in God’s Spirit
This passage reminds us to abide in Christ

What does it meant to abide in Christ?
John 15—the vine and the branches
The call here is to stick close to Jesus
As we mentioned last week, we must let everything about Jesus permeate everything in our lives
We must be possessed by him, inundated with his character
In short, we must be so vitally connected to him that we draw life from him

John tells us that this abiding will lead to assurance, but the lack of abiding could lead to shame

John wants his readers to have confidence and not shame when Jesus returns
Shame results in a “shrinking away,” a subtle denial or exclusion of Jesus and his claims on our lives
Shame (and “shrinking away”) is first recorded in Genesis 3
Adam and Eve were “ashamed” at what they had done
Living a life of sinful selfish indulgence leads to shame at Jesus’ appearing

Assurance/confidence comes from what Jesus has accomplished
Jesus is righteous, and his righteousness is ours by faith in what he did in his life, death and resurrection (1 Cor. 1:30-31; 2 Cor. 8:9)
We can be confident in God’s accomplishments
Our confidence/assurance is not in what we have done (Romans 3:21-26)
But what we do can exhibit the assurance of God in our lives
Remember, what we abide in possesses us
John is calling on us to abide in Jesus and receive assurance from what he accomplishes

To avoid being ashamed at his coming, do what he wants you do to do
Abide in him

Where will you be when he returns?
Will you shrink in shame due to selfish living?
Will you stand in confidence due to his righteousness?

2. Acceptance by His Love
1 John 3:1

Note the amazing proclamation here—God loves us
“See how great a love the Father has given us”

The Greek here indicates an “otherworldly” type of love—”from what country”
John depicts God’s love as something that is beyond our normal experience
John describes God adopting us into His family out of pure, raw, unconditional love—for no other reason than the fact that He loves us!

God’s love is what makes us children of God
We are not born Christians, we are “born again”, we are born of him (John 1:10-13; John 3:3, 16-18; Romans 8:14-17; 2 Cor. 5:17-18)

We are adopted into God’s family

We need to spend some time contemplating the great privileges that come from being adopted into God’s family
We are joint heirs with Christ
We lose our sin and gain Christ’s righteousness
We have the joy of calling God “Father” and enjoying the protection and provision that a Father offers

Such contemplation will result in assurance

We need to gain an appreciation of what God’s love means for us
It means life and redemption
It means living in assurance and without shame
On the other hand, it means that we will not gain acceptance from those who are not of God

God’s love for us gives us acceptance
We are accepted as his children
Acceptance gives us assurance in God’s presence
Acceptance gives us confidence when Jesus returns

Where will you be when he returns?
Will you stand with the world, conformed to their mindset and ways?
Will you stand in and shine out his love?

3. Purity to be like Him

1 John 3:2-3

John tells his readers that they are destined for great things
We are destined to share Jesus’ glory when he returns

As children of God, we have a present and future status
John speaks of a “now” and a “not yet”
Our present status has to do with our adoption and its privileges as mentioned in v. 1 above
Our future status has to do with the likeness of Christ

When Jesus returns, we will see him in his glory
Seeing him in his glory has an effect on us (Col. 3:4)
Seeing Jesus results in our being like Jesus
When we see him as he is, we will be made like him (2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:20-21)

Jesus’ return promises us a future glory (Rom. 8:28-29)
While we wait, however, we have responsibilities too

John tells his readers that they need purity
Knowing we are destined for glory should motivate us to live for Jesus’ glory now
If we are bound by God for greatness, shouldn’t we strive to live great lives while we wait?
Living for Jesus’ return means living pure lives for his honor now (Col. 3:4-5)

A mind set on meeting Jesus will discover a renewed passion to pursue righteousness now

If we know Jesus today, that knowledge should lead us to pursue the kind of life that will honor him now
We should live in the light of his coming by purifying our hearts
This purification will have an effect on how we live

Where will you be when he returns?
Will you stand in the shame of selfishness?
Will you stand in the purity of his likeness?

Application
It may seem that applying this passage is easier than others, but the truth is that speaking of Christ’s imminent return does not always lead to motivation for godly living

Nonetheless, there are some things we can do this week to put this passage into our lives

First, learn to abide in Christ and to pursue his righteousness. That may sound a bit esoteric, but it really isn’t? If abiding means being possessed by something, then find ways this week to be gripped and possessed by Jesus. To do that requires some time in his presence. Pursuing righteousness may be understood as doing the right thing. What “right things” would Jesus want you to do? Where do you struggle to do what is right? What can you do to overcome this week?

Second, spend some time actually thinking about the wonderful benefits that come from being a child of God. How can the reality of God’s provision of adoption have an impact on your daily life?

Third, look for ways to purify yourself. Where do you need purity? What can you do to “purify” yourself?

Where will you be when Jesus returns?

Discussion

1. Why does John tell his readers to continue in Christ? (2:28)

2. What do those born of Christ do? (2:29)

3. Why doesn’t the world recognize Christians for who they are? (3:1)

4. How should Christians be different than non-Christians?

5. What will happen to believers when He appears? (3:2)

6. What does John mean by “abide in Him”? How does one do that?

7. What does Christ’s return have to do with how we live now?

8. What can you do to “purify” yourself?

9. How can you allow the reality of Christ’s return to have an impact on your life today?


Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

 

The Importance of Abiding, 1 John 2:24-27, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meeting on December 5, 2010. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 2:24-27 and discusses the idea that what we abide in possesses us, and what possesses us becomes obvious in how we live. That is why the idea of "abiding" is important in 1 John. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

The Importance of Abiding
1 John 2:24-27
Theology Matters Series

Introduction
Last week we spoke of the need to avoid deception and the provision that God has given to us as revealed by John
We mentioned the need to know our teachers
We spoke of the need to know the truth/sound doctrine

This week John continues this discussion a bit by speaking of the “truth” which he had given to his readers—this truth revolves around the word “abide”

What do you think of when you hear the word “abide”?

In 1 John 2:24-27, John uses this word at least five times

Our passage today speaks of the importance of abiding by focusing on two things
1. The Abiding Word
2. The Abiding Spirit

The main point—What we abide in affects how we live

1. The Abiding Word
1 John 2:24-25
There is a command here—”Let that which you have heard from the beginning abide in you”

What is that which we have heard from the beginning? (see 1 John 1:1-4)
What was heard from the beginning refers to the message about Christ. In fact, it refers to Jesus himself.
This is a reference to Christ as the Word of God (i.e., the Incarnation), but it may also be a reference to Jesus as revealed by the Word of God (i.e., Scripture)
Separating Jesus from Scripture is simply not an option. It is God’s Word that makes Jesus known. Jesus is God among us in life and action, and Scripture is God’s self-disclosure in words and thoughts

John speaks here of the importance of remembering and rehearsing the good news of salvation as revealed in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus
We need to hear the old, old story over and over and over again. We need to know it intimately and experientially

The command is to let this revelation abide in us
The word “abide” carries the idea of “remaining” or “continuing”
Ray Stedman substitutes the word “possess” for this word, and he may be on to something. The Word of God needs to hold us in its grip

The expression “Make yourself at home”

John is saying more than this—he is telling his readers that they need to let the testimony of God’s revelation, even Jesus himself, possess them body, soul, and spirit. We need to let God’s Word overwhelm everything we are and everything we have

What abides in us possesses us
What possesses you?

There is a condition here—”If that which you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father”

“If the Word, if the truth of God has possessed you, then you will be possessed by the Son and by the Father, i.e., by the fullness of God which is in the Son and the Father.” Ray Stedman

John 14:23—If we love Jesus, then both Jesus and the Father will make their home in us

John 15—the vine and the branches
This is a reciprocal relationship: To the degree that we react in faith by obeying the Word, to that same degree both the Son and the Father will abide in us accomplishing the Word in our lives

Christ is completely available to us, if we are willing to have him
He will give himself to us if we are willing to obey him

There is also a promise here—this abiding leads to eternal life (cf. Isaiah 40:31; John 17:1-3)
“Eternal life” is not simply a future home in heaven
This term refers to what Jesus calls “abundant life” in John 10:10 (cf. John 5:39-41; Matt. 13:13 and 25:29)
This “abundant life” involves how we live here and now as well as what life will be in heaven

Paul speaks of this life as a life of liberty (2 Cor. 3:17-18; Gal. 5:1)
This is life that comes from God’s Spirit, that is free to do what God calls us to do (John 3:6-8)

What abides in us affects our life and our relationships

2. The Abiding Spirit
1 John 2:26-27—Here John continues his argument by pointing out that with the Word of God we also have an anointing, an “inner witness” of God’s Spirit to aid us in pursuing the truth

John gives a contrast here—a contrast between the antichrists/false teachers who try to mislead others (we spoke of them last week) and true Christians who have the anointing of God’s Spirit

The warning—John states that he has “written” to his readers to warn them of deception
Once again, John understands his letter as some kind of instruction or revelation for his readers
May imply the importance of God’s written Word for direction and teaching in our life
Certainly he reminds us here that the church must be careful of false teaching in all ages

The false teachers in John’s day seem to claim a special “anointing” or “knowledge” or “revelation”
We need no special revelation outside of what God has made know in Jesus and in Scripture
This is John’s perspective in this letter

What is our source of truth? Do we look only to others, or do we look to God?

The other half of the contrast refers to true believers who have the anointing of God’s Spirit

What is this anointing?
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 may provide one answer (cf. 1 John 2:20-21)
This anointing is the presence of God’s Spirit in each believer
The Holy Spirit indwells every believer at the moment of conversion, and his presence in us is a sort of divine “lie detector” or sorts if we will simply follow his lead

We are to let the Word of God abide in us, to possess us—this requires a regular coming to the Word and spending time in and with it

The Holy Spirit , on the other hand, he abides with us if we are already in Christ—we did not get a part of the Spirit at salvation, we got all of him. The Spirit is already present within us

This anointing of the Spirit teaches us what we need to know

What about the words “you have no need that anyone should teach you”?
I don’t think John means we don’t need to listen to human teachers—if so, then his letter is pretty much a waste of time
Rather, he is contrasting the superior claims of the false teachers to the leading of God’s Spirit
We do not need a “skilled” or “enlightened’ or “illuminated” teacher or prophet to reveal “new” truth to us—that is the sense of what John says here (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-13)

The Spirit guides us in truth (John 16:13)—an illumination of the mind and the heart

What abides in us teaches us—what teaching are we hearing?

John gives another command—As the anointing (i.e., God’s Spirit) teaches you truth and not lies, abide in him just as he taught you

The anointing of God teaches us “in all things”—this doesn’t mean that we are spiritual “know-it-alls,” but rather that this anointing permeates every aspect of life

This anointing teaches us the truth and reveals lies—the presence of the Spirit should help us discern between what is according to God’s Word and what is not, but this certainly does not excuse us from spending time in God’s Word (remember the first point above)

The anointing abides in us, but John commands us to abide in this anointing
Remember that “abiding” means something like “remaining” or “continuing” or even “possessing”
We must pitch our tent in God’s anointing

To abide in God’s Spirit requires us to respond to him in obedience

What we abide in is shown by how we act
What do others see in us?
What directs our path? What anointing do we trust?

Application
How do we respond to what John is teaching here?

This week, I think we can live this truth in several ways

First, the obvious one is that we should make time to spend in God’s Word. We cannot hope to have the Word “abiding” in us if we do not take time to learn what it says. This week, set aside at least 15 minutes a day to dig into the Bible. Don’t just read a passage, actually spend some time investigating the material. What is God saying here? How can I act on it in obedience? What is God requiring of me? This week, read 1 John or the Gospel of John and pay attention to the places where John speaks of God’s Word or encourages us to “abide”

Second, tell the story of God’s redemption in your life. John is calling us to be “possessed” with God’s revelation, and one way to do that is to talk about what God has done. During the Christmas season this sharing is a little easier, but you have to be intentional. Take time to remind yourself of what God has said and what God has done. Tell it to others

Make an effort to abide in the anointing that God has given you. Train yourself to listen to God’s Spirit (that means you may actually have to take time to be quiet and still). Remember, God’s Spirit will only lead you into truth, so ask the hard questions about things you hear and see this week—where is God’s truth in this? Is there anything true here?

Finally, act on what God has commanded and shown you—make an effort this week to show God’s love and kindness to another so that they may know the truth of God’s redemption in you. Find a way to stand for God’s truth and then do it.

What we abide in will possess us, and what possesses us will be shown to others
Where do we abide?


Thanks for reading!

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