Category Archives: 1 John Series
Bridge Church began meeting weekly for worship on August 16th, at our local YMCA. This Sunday we’ll do something a little crazy. We’re moving our worship gathering to a local trailer park where we’ll rebuild a porch for an elderly gentleman, throw a block party for kids that will include a gospel centered lesson, have free Jambalaya lunch for the whole park (over 150 trailers), and other miscellaneous projects. We’ll also have ladies scattering out to the ICU waiting rooms in West St. Tammany with fruit baskets and encouragement. We’ve committed to do this at least 4 times a year (every time there’s a 5th Sunday in a month). It’s part of our outreach and discipleship strategy. Outreach because we’ll look to share the gospel and gather prospects along with meeting huge needs in the lives of unchurched people in our community. Discipleship because it gets our whole body engaged in putting what we’re learning into action.
As I’ve shared this idea with people across the spiritual spectrums, it has been met with tremendous support, usually with a statement like – “That’s what the church should be doing!” It just makes sense that servants of Jesus Christ should be out serving in some way. Our desire is to start a church that is a missionary instead of an amenity, a connection point to ministry instead of the consumeristic destination, and that is as intentional about practicing theology as we are about learning theology.
We’ll see how it goes…
If my dad had an iconic symbol (i.e. Lincoln’s hat, Churchill’s cigar, etc.) it would have been the beat up, worn out, broke down truck that he had to work on for an hour before work everyday. He constantly drove clunkers and suffered greatly when he finally got to the point in his life that he was able to afford a new vehicle and purchased one. After a few months, he threw in the towel and gave the new truck to his teenage son (that’d be me) and came home with a school bus yellow ’70 something dodge.
I always despised the old trucks and vowed to never drive clunkers when I grew up. Now, 18 years later, I’m 35 and I’ve never owned a new vehicle. I find myself working on mine regularly before work and I can’t stand the thought of driving something brand new. I can’t believe it! What happened?
One of the favorite titles I’ve held in my life (behind “Dad” of course) is Volunteer Fireman. I was honored to volunteer with one of St. Tammany Parish’s finest Volunteer Fire Departments for a number of years and still like to provide spiritual care for our first responders as a Volunteer Chaplain. One night I was out with our guys for a woods fire near Abita Springs. The fire was away from a road so our trucks couldn’t get close. The chief says, “I need to know how close that fire is, two of you go see.” Since I hadn’t volunteered for any assignments involving burning buildings, I jumped out first and took off through the thick woods. As we approached the fire, the wind picked up and we noticed that it was coming at us fairly fast and the way we had come was too thick for us to be able to make a quick escape. We began clawing as fast as we could parallel to the fire until we found a spot that was burning low enough for us to jump over. The environment at that point changed from scarry to eery. The ground singed and scarred, smoke rising, but we were safe. We were standing where it had already been burned and the fire would not be able to burn there again. We followed the fire up to the trucks at which point it was quickly extinguished.
That night I was reminded of 1 John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The word propitiation is used only here in the New Testament and it is filled with meaning for the real Christian. The word means “the appeasement or averting of God’s wrath or justice.” So, Jesus, through His death on the cross, appeased, absorbed, and averted God’s wrath toward me. Because of my sin, I faced the fire of God’s judgement (Romans 1:18, John 3:36), but in Christ I’m moved over to where the fire has already burned. Jesus took my judgement, He took my sin, He took my penalty, He took my justice. In Christ, there’s an eery safety. There’s been fire here, but it can’t be again.
Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” On that day of judgement, which side of the fire line will you be standing on?
I know what God says, BUT…
- “my situation is different.”
- “that will never happen to me.”
- “everyone else does it.”
- “that was a long time ago.”
- “they deserve it.”
- “god understands my needs.”
- “who really does that anyway?”
- “that’s just not possible for me.”
- “I’ll get around to that one day.”
When you disobey God it means there is a gap between where you are and where you know God wants you to be. “I know what God says, BUT…” or “I know what I should be doing, BUT…” reveals that gap for all that it is. When you excuse your disobedience, you are saying more about what you believe about God than anything else. What you should just go ahead and say is, “I know what God says, BUT…”
- “He really doesn’t matter that much to me.”
- “I know better than He does about this issue/situation. I’m so much wiser about these kind of things.”
- “God has changed since the Bible was written and all that stuff doesn’t really matter anymore.”
- “I’d rather do what my friends say than God. They are so much smarter than him.”
- “I don’t really think He can provide for this need. I’ll just do it myself.”
- “I don’t really believe in God at all. Since he’s not real, I can do whatever I want.”
If you can easily excuse a pattern of disobedience, blowing off the word and will of God, the book of 1 John says you are a liar, deceived, and in darkness.
The real Christian responds to God’s word with obedience. He’s revealed Himself in Christ who is willing to transform our lives. The transformed one responds to God with obedience.
In the book of 1 John, one of Jesus’ closes associates debunks a view of Christianity that threatened to undermine the spread of the life-changing message about Jesus Christ. The false teaching was called Gnosticism (more here). It has crept back into our belief systems in the modern era through academia, but also subtly into the lives of those who claim to be followers of Christ. Briefly summarized, three of the main tenants of gnosticism were: 1) Jesus was NOT real, 2) SIN is not that big a deal, and 3) It’s really about what you KNOW. Let’s take a closer look and talk about how they apply to us:
1) Jesus was not real. Gnostic believed that Jesus only seemed to be a person, but He was not. He couldn’t be, because the absolute god would never enter the muck and mire of the evil earthly matter. This, of course, changed his purpose and the implications of God sending his Son to rescue us from sin.
To believe that Jesus is something that He is not is quite common today. Jared Wilson in his book Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel Good Savior addresses some of the more modern version of shape shifting Jesus to fit ourselves. Here’s a few:
- The Stern Taskmaster Jesus who is waiting to smack your knuckles with a ruler when you get out of line.
- Postcard Jesus who has a perfect tan, white teeth, wavy hair, and a halo.
- Get-out-of-hell-free Jesus. We say a prayer to him, kind of like putting money into a machine, and then we get to bypass hell without having to follow any of his desire for our lives.
- ATM Jesus who just wants you to be happy and successful but most of all RICH.
Many would argue that they believe rightly about Jesus, but they are PRACTICAL ATHEIST because they live their lives like he doesn’t exist.
Our three year old son, Hudson, is a swordsman. His favorite target for destruction is, of course, ME. The plastic and nerf versions of the sword have yet to inflict much bodily harm, but a few weeks ago that almost changed. We were browsing in one of my favorite Hardware/Army Surplus stores in our area, when Hudson spotted a row of REAL swords. The kind that cut. And for some reasons they were hanging low enough for a three year old to draw. He picked the one he wanted, unsheathed it, and turned around looking for “the bad guy.” That’s me. Fortunately, he listens well and didn’t take a swing and we still remain below our insurance deductible for 2009. There are serious implications when something moves from plastic to REAL.
Our faith is no different. What if Jesus is real? What if God really did send His Son to earth? What if sin is such a big deal that Jesus had to die an unimaginably brutal death? What if Jesus really did beat death and is alive today? If all this is really true, it has serious implications for all of our lives.
This weekend, our church began a series of sermons on the book of 1 John. The book delves into the implications of a Real Jesus. John seeks to confront the false teachings of his day and to give assurance to believers about their faith and future. Interestingly enough, some of the same thinking and uncertainty has snuck into our lives today.