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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Let Us Adore Him (Advent 2, Peace)

    What is peace? Given that we’ve just lit the candle of peace, it’s worth considering. Is peace just the absence of conflict? That would certainly be the way the world wold want to describe peace. When we think about how the world would think about peace, we understand that they would take it to mean that there are no more wars, that everyone can just get along together and see eye to eye on everything. Is that really peace?
    Romans 15, our passage this morning, gives a different story. It lays out how believers in Christ ought to live with one another, and it is called peace. It isn’t the removal of conflict, like the world says. It doesn’t mean we never approach difficult topics or conversations, or that we never have hard words with each other. Rather, our foundation of peace is built on Christ, and what we find is that when we align our attitudes with Christ, it brings us into one mind and one voice, with unity we work to glorify God, rather than ourselves.
    Peace isn’t about winning an argument, or avoiding an argument, but about what it means to build a foundation on Christ that ultimately leads us to unity with one another.
    Let’s look at our passage for today, Romans 15:4-13, “Everything written in the past was written to teach us. The Scriptures give us strength to go on. They encourage us and give us hope. 5 Our God is a God who strengthens and encourages you. May He give you the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had. 6 Then you can give glory to God with one mind and voice. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Christ has accepted you. So accept one another in order to bring praise to God. 8 I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews. He teaches us that God is true. He shows us that God will keep the promises He made to the founders of our nation. 9 Jesus became a servant of the Jews. He did this so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for His mercy. It is written, “I will praise you among the Gentiles. I will sing the praises of your name.” 10 Again it says, “You Gentiles, be full of joy. Be joyful together with God’s people.” 11 And again it says, “All you Gentiles, praise the Lord. Let all the nations sing praises to him.” 12 And Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will grow up quickly. He will rule over the nations. The Gentiles will put their hope in him.” 13 May the God who gives hope fill you with great joy. May you have perfect peace as you trust in Him. May the power of the Holy Spirit fill you with hope.” (NIRV)
    Let’s take a moment first to understand what one of the issues was in the Roman church that Paul was addressing. Paul, in chapter 14 of Romans was addressing the eating practices of Christians. There were some that were very strong in their faith, and they had no problem with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols because it didn’t cause spiritual issues for them; but there were Christians in the same church that thought this was an abomination, and would eat only vegetables in those circumstances. They had fallen into the trap of making this issue of eating meat or not, into a core issue, and a source of judgment against each other. They were accusing each other of not worshiping God properly if you didn’t agree with their side. Paul made his point by telling them not to purposefully be a stumbling block to others, but also to not judge others for their choices that really don’t harm their relationship with God.
    Chapter 15 then builds on this idea, that what we’re supposed to be doing as Christians isn’t to look out for what is best for me and my relationship with Christ, but rather on what is good for our neighbors and what builds up the community of Christ as a whole in unity. There is a huge emphasis in Paul’s letters, but especially here in Romans, on submission to others and selfless living.
    Paul says we ought to have the same attitude toward one another that Christ had. What does that mean? How does Paul define this attitude?
    One of my favorite verses from Romans is found in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (NIV) Paul says to be devoted to one another in love. Living in the body of Christ, having the same attitude toward one another in Christ, starts with being devoted to one another in LOVE. We learn that God encourages us and strengthens us. He seeks what is good for us, and does what is good for us. This is how we ought to love others as well, to love others as God loves them. Living in unity in the body of Christ means that we love one another by looking out for the well-being of other brothers and sisters.
    Being devoted to one another in love, having the same attitude as Christ toward one another also means that we sometimes put aside our own desires in order to build up the community. Paul tells us that Jesus became a servant to the Jews so that the Gentiles may believe and that God may be glorified. He became a servant, putting aside His own desires to do what was best for us, and for all those who would believe.
    In the Roman church, when it came to the issue about eating food being sacrificed to idols, Paul was saying that even though they might not agree on this issue, to put aside their own desires and to instead focus on building up the community of Christ. Not everyone is always going to agree, but that’s not necessarily what is important, and that’s not necessarily what brings peace.
    See, even though we might disagree on things, the foundation we have is the same. Paul calls us to have one voice and one mind. This oneness, this unity, comes out of being like Christ. He is the perfect example of what it looks like to be of one mind and one voice, as He said that He is one with the Father, and He knows the Father’s mind because He and the Father are one. So if we are to be of one voice and one mind with one another, then Christlikeness must be the foundation that we all have.
    The example He gave us is what we must strive for. He showed us love, He showed us compassion, He showed us how to care for one another, He showed us how to submit, He showed us how to sacrifice, and He showed us how to be selfless. So the way for us to truly be of one mind and one voice, the way for us to truly find peace with one another even in the midst of disagreements, is to become more like Christ. Growing in discipleship is how we become more loving, compassionate, caring, submissive, sacrificing, and selfless.
    This is an idea that we can look at in some of Paul’s other letters as well, like in Ephesians 4:2-5, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (NIV)
    Paul says that at our foundation should be the bond of peace, which we keep through unity, remembering that we are one body, with one Spirit, called to one hope by one Lord, one faith, one baptism. He says that we should be humble and gentle, patient, and bear with one another in love. This doesn’t say we have to agree, but it is a recipe for how we keep the unity and bond of peace in times that we don’t agree.
    Paul says in Romans 15:7 to accept one another, because Christ first accepted us. This doesn’t just happen, and it certainly isn’t easy. But we do it because Jesus first accepted us. But what we find is that as we grow in discipleship, as we become more like Christ, the more we will think like Christ, and have the mind of Christ through the Spirit’s work in us. Christ accepted you when you were feeble in your faith, and so we care called to accept one another even when we have feeble faith.
    We become servants of one another, just as Jesus served us and still serves us today. And we do this so that God might be glorified, and so we will be led to greater unity with each other.
    What this passage does is it calls us to be more like Jesus, and reminds us that being like Christ is the only way for us to find peace, not as the world understands it, a lack of conflict, but true peace, that looks at our differences and decides instead to cling to our unity.
    These were harsh words to the church that Paul was writing to. He calls out their selfishness and tells them to learn to be humble and ELEVATE one another. He calls out their judgmentalism and tells them to embrace the unity they have in Christ. He calls out their exclusiveness and tells them to have the mind of Jesus toward them, who accepted all.
    Paul isn’t saying that peace is avoiding conflict or confrontation. He knows those things are going to happen, even in the community of faith. He knows that the way to true peace in the body of Christ is to confront the things that are keeping us separate and breaking our unity. The way to live in peace with one another isn’t to ignore these issues, but to be reminded that at the core of who we are, at our foundation, is a better way. We are called to be like Christ above all else.
    All communities, even communities like the body of Christ, are full of people with differences of opinions. We have deep feelings about important issues. It would be easy for us to think that staying quiet about those issues will bring peace, but that clearly isn’t true. Again, as with all things in the world, Christ shows us a different way. The Holy Spirit through Paul asks us to remember who we are called to be. No to ignore conflict, but to wade through it with Christ as our foundation and our bond of peace. This is hard, but we remember that Christ calls us to a higher way so that we might glorify God.

Questions to form your quiet times this week:
1. Where in our community do we need to confront our judgmentalism, selfishness, or exclusionary practices?

2. Where in our community (church) do we need to be reminded of our foundation and identity in Christ?

3. Where do you need to submit, be selfless, and surrender to the hard work of examining your own heart? If peace begins with you, where do you need to allow your heart to be transformed so you can be a person of peace?

Let Us Adore Him (Advent 1, Hope)

    Advent is the season of preparing for the light of the world to enter the world. It is about preparing our hearts for Christ. It is, as we’ll read in our passage this morning, the season of the dawn. We know what beautiful dawns look like here, when the sun is just starting to come over the horizon and it lights up the sky with pinks, oranges, and turquoise blues and greens. One of my favorite things about living in New Mexico is getting up before the dawn to help with balloon fiesta in October, and I love when we’re all waiting to start inflating the balloons on the field and the sun starts peeking over the mountains and lighting up the vibrant colors all around us. But one things I noticed about the dawn, especially at balloon fiesta field, is that it is coldest right when the sun starts to come over the mountains. There are still long stretches of shadows and places of darkness.
    Advent is the season of dawn, where we live in the space between the darkness of a world without Christ and the light of a word with Christ; where we see the light coming, yet it hasn’t fully come. As we prepare our hearts for this time and we celebrate the light, we remember that we are no longer people of the darkness, we are people of the light. Romans 13, which we’ll look at today says, “The night is almost gone, and the day is near.” We are called to be the people who live in this space, in the reality that the kingdom of God is now, yet still to come in its fullness. Today is a day of hope, a reminder of the hope we have in Christ coming in a stable so long ago, but also a reminder of the hope we have that Christ will come again. It’s a reminder that we are called to live, to love, to serve, to celebrate, to mourn, and to grieve—all in the light of hope.
    Join me please in Romans 13:11-14, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let’s rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let’s behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and debauchery, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (NASB)
    Paul tells us to know the time. Know the time you live in. When Jesus came 2,000 years ago, He entered a world that had long been broken and sinful. When He came, these things weren't eradicated. Sin, suffering, pain, and death all still existed in the world even after He died on the cross and was resurrected. The Roman church knew this because they saw the evidence of it all around them. The early church was familiar with suffering and pain and death as they were often persecuted for their faith and martyred for it. Remember that Rome was the land of the legendary Colosseum, where suffering and pain and death became spectator entertainment.
    We also can look around us and see sin, pain, suffering, and death. We can read the headlines, I have one for you on a slide that happened just a week ago. I don’t care that it was in an LGBTQ nightclub where this tragic shooting took place. Yeah, I know who “those” people are, so do you. Sin still exists, but is this how we handle sin? Do we cause more sin, pain, suffering, and death to handle sin? We can see the dark all around us, and yes, sometimes even within us.
    We know this well about the time. But Paul was highlighting that this present time is different for disciples of Christ. While we, the church, are painfully acquainted with the sin and suffering of the world, we are also aware of the power of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection power of Christ in our lives.
    Because of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, those who follow Jesus should already be living as though Christ has returned. Paul says, “that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep”. This image of waking up, which is a fairly common image used throughout the New Testament, points to those following Jesus, in two ways.
    It’s first to remind disciples of Jesus that if they are not currently following Him, it’s time to wake up and get in line. It’s time to step out of a place of APATHY. Wake up! You are meant to be awake and alive in Christ, remember your baptism, remember that you are called to be an active participant in your relationship with Christ and the body of Christ. Apathy is not acceptable.
    A family friend of ours lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and he’s also a pastor, not of a Nazarene church, but still a fellow brother in Christ and minister of the word. He posted these thoughts last week, “Where are the Christ-like (Christian) people on Sundays? What happened to Christians being committed to gathering together to praise Christ and Commune with the Lord on His day? After 43 years as Christ’s minister, my heart breaks from the lack of commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice from some of my fellow followers in Christ. If my heart aches so, how much more does God the Father’s heart hurt who know the hearts of us all?”
    And my thoughts are…yeah. Exactly.
    And I know his heart, and mine, and quite frankly the hearts of genuine pastors and preachers across the world because this is what we have seen and understand: that church attendance is the easiest thing to do when you are actively trying to grow in your relationship with God. It’s usually the first thing you’ll start doing if you want to walk closer with God, and it is usually the first thing you give up when you feel distant from God. And so we can’t help but think that if you’re not here with the body more than you are here, it’s probably (not always, but probably) a good indicator of where you are in your relationship with Christ. And that is what breaks our hearts because we want nothing more than for you to fall madly and radically in love with the God who is madly and radically in love with you! That’s all we want! I don’t want you to like me, I don’t want your money, I don’t want you to think I preach well, I want you to love Jesus in such a deep way that it changes who you are in the deepest and darkest parts of your soul! That’s all I want! And I don’t say this to guilt-trip you because that’s not my heart. I am just agreeing with Paul, wake up! If you are asleep in your walk with Jesus, it’s time to wake up and step out of that apathy.
    This call to awaken from sleep was also to remind disciples of Jesus to live in the resurrection power of Christ, dwelling within them through the Holy Spirit. In Christ, God invaded the old age to bring about the new age. We, as people of Christ, live in the new age while we await Christ’s return.
    Paul says in verse 12 to, “rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” We are meant to walk in light, and not darkness. Though there is darkness in each of us, we rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness. This means that when we see darkness and the deeds, the acts of darkness in us, we don’t try to hide them and cover them up. We let the light of Christ expose the dark. We accept that it’s there, and we humbly give control of those dark areas over to God so that He can work that resurrection power in us through the Holy Spirit to cleanse us and purify us of all unrighteousness.
    Paul talks about these things in verse 13, “not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and debauchery, not in strife and jealousy.” Carousing and drunkenness we would call drunken revelry today, doing things like going to wild parties and getting completely drunk and letting your drunken state determine what you’ll do. He talks of sexual promiscuity, sexual looseness and laxness, having improper sexual relations. Debauchery is a combination of both drunken revelry and sexual promiscuity and adds an element of violence into it. Strife and jealousy talks about jealous infighting amongst people who should be loving one another.
    These are things that happen in the darkness, at night, when everything is allowed, and this is the way of the world that is lost in sin. Paul says to put on the ARMOR of light. Do the things that are associated with the day, with the light of Christ. I love that Paul uses the word “armor” because what that implies to us is that if you are putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, as he says in verse 14, then you will be protected from the flesh and its lust. Striving to live in the light and be more like Jesus helps to protect us from living in the dark!
    But I also love that Paul reminds us of the importance of the dawn. It is an in-between time, darkness is fleeing but still hangs around in some places, light is coming but isn’t fully here yet. Think of the summer time, when it hits 85 by 10 in the morning here in the desert. By 2 pm it is so hot you wouldn’t even entertain the thought of going outside to do yard work. We understand that when days are hot like this, you do all your activity early in the day, while it’s still cool. But the dawn, and the cool early morning hours, they don’t last long. Before you know it, the sun is fully up.
    The implication here is to hurry. There is no time to waste. In Matthew 9:36-38 we read this about Jesus, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless (pain, suffering, sin), like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (NIV) We are the workers. Point to yourself and say, “I am a worker.” You are a worker. The harvest is now. You are the answer to the disciples’ prayers to God to send workers for the harvest. But we’re supposed to help bring in the harvest before the day comes. That’s what the dawn is for, it’s for the harvest.
    Our state motto is that this is the Land of Enchantment, but we know that really it’s the Land of Mañana. This is the land of tomorrow where everything that can be put of to tomorrow is put off until the day after tomorrow. But Paul was urging us to see that we are already in the dawn, and the time is now! We cannot wait and we cannot put it off until tomorrow. There is to be a sense of urgency to the actions of Christians, both when it comes to riding ourselves of our own personal deeds of darkness and living in the light of Jesus in our walk with him, and when it comes to sharing the glimpse of the hope of the kingdom to come with those who are still living in the dark.
    We are people of the dawn. We live in hope, even while we still see the shadows of darkness. We live as people of the light.
    Advent is the season of the dawn. Christ came, and we ought to be radically transformed because of Him. The kingdom of God hasn’t fully come, all things aren’t made right yet, and to deny the reality of suffering and sin in our world is a heartbreaking mistake. But for those who live in that reality, we are to be a glimpse of the world to come. We are a community of hope, of grace, of goodness, of righteousness, and of love.
    We are to live as people who exist in a different kingdom that is actively breaking into our world, just like the morning breaks into the night. So we lit the candle of hope today. I pray that it is a reminder to each of us that we are people of the light and that we carry the hope that Christ has come and that Christ will come again. Let us live as people of the dawn.

Reflect on hope and the light of Christ this week:
Read Romans 15:13, who is the source of hope? How does hope abound in us?
Read Romans 8:24-25, how does this describe the hope we have in Christ?
Read Romans 15:14, what role does Scripture play in our hope? What if we are neglecting the Word of God?

We Believe... God (Part 3)

    Today we’re finishing our short trek through the first Article of Faith of the Nazarene denomination. This is what that article states: We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe; that He only is God, holy in nature, attributes, and purpose. The God who is holy love and light is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    Today, we will see through Scripture what it means that God is holy in nature, attributes, and purpose and we will see where in Scripture we learn that God is triune in being, revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And if you missed either of the last two weeks when we’ve dug into what Scripture says about God being one, the only, eternally existent, infinite God, or what it means that He is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe, you can find those messages on our website or YouTube channel.
    In the NASB, the word holy is used in the Bible almost 600 times. By comparison, the word love is used only 475 times. When we think of verses and words that describe God’s character, we often think of 1 John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” But really, when we look at the number of times that the word holy is used to describe God, verses the number of times the word love is used to describe God, we see that holy is used more! In fact, as we dig into Scripture, what we start to see is that God’s love is actually a part of His holiness, so if we say God is holy, we can include God’s love. His love is an expression of His holiness.
    But what does holy mean? We often get hung up on that word. Many have taken it to mean perfect, that one is perfect, meaning that they are without flaws and sins. But that’s not what holy means. Holy simply means SET APART. That’s it! There’s no mystical meaning, and it’s not talking about something that is unattainable. When we talk about God being holy, we mean that He is set apart. And He is, in every way. He’s set apart from the ways of the world, He’s set apart in His thinking, He’s set apart in His actions.
    Our Article of Faith states that we believe that God is holy in nature, holy in attributes, and holy in purpose, so we understand that to mean that He is set apart in nature, He is set apart in attributes, and He is set apart in purpose. Let’s dig into each of those.
    God is holy, set apart, in nature. When we talk about someone’s nature, we’re talking about their character, shown by the way someone behaves. It’s mostly the who of who they are. When we say God is holy in nature, we are saying that we believe His character is set apart from the character of anyone else, and that He shows it in His actions.
    Look at Isaiah 6:3, a passage we looked at for our last S.O.A.P. Sunday and the vision that Isaiah had of God’s throne room. “And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of armies. The whole earth is full of His glory.” (NASB) The seraphim are the ones saying “Holy, Holy, Holy” in their worship of God. As I said before, holy is used more than any other word to describe God, but here it is used to describe His nature. The seraphim aren’t saying that God’s actions are holy, or that His thoughts are holy, or that His peace is holy, even though all those things are true of God. They are saying God is holy. That is who He is, and you couldn’t separate His holiness from Him because then He would cease to be who He is. He is holy.
    Look at Isaiah 5:16, “But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts.” (NIV) Remember that when we talk about someone’s nature, we are talking about their character, who they are, shown by the way they behave. I could say that I am a patient person all day long, but if my behavior shows something different, then no one will believe what I say. If God is holy, if His character is holy, it will be shown in the things He does.
    This passage in Isaiah tells us that God’s RIGHTEOUS acts prove His holy nature. As you examine the actions of God, it becomes apparent very quickly that He doesn’t act like anyone or anything else. He doesn’t do things the way we think He should. He is set apart, holy, and the righteous things that He does proves this.
    Isaiah 40:25 says, “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.” (NIV) Who is His equal in holiness? Can you think of anyone who is set apart like He is? Whose ways are higher than anyone else’s? Whose purposes are higher? Whose thoughts are higher? No! There is no one that is His equal in holiness because His very nature is holy.
    God is holy in attributes. This talks about the qualities that describe His character. It’s more of the what rather than the who. We believe that this means that not only is God holy, but all the other words that can be used to describe His character: love, goodness, mercy, just, etc.; holy can be used to describe those attributes as well. His love is holy. His mercy is holy. His justice is holy, and so on.
    Look at Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)
    This passage talks about the way God deals with us, with those who call on Him. This passage shows His love for us, and through it, we see that His LOVE for us is holy. In other words, His love for us is set apart, there is no one who can love you like God loves you. Even the most obedient, Spirit-filled Christian cannot love you like God loves you. His love is wholly set apart and different from any other love you can ever experience. You can look at John 14:16 and 1 John 4:8 to see further Scriptures on God’s love being holy.
    John 14:26-27 says this, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.” (NASB) This passage is an example of how God’s peace is holy. Jesus told us that He gave us His peace, but what did He say about that peace? He said it is not peace as the world gives. That makes His peace set apart, holy. His peace is different than any other kind of peace we can know.
    And look at 1 John 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.” (NASB) I heard a quote in a movie that I watched this last week as the kids were home sick and the character said something like this, that “There is light and dark in all of us, what matters is what part of us we choose to act on.” That reminded me of what John wrote throughout 1 John chapter 1, and it is essentially what John says. We are in the light as believers and Christ followers, and we strive to be walking with God so deeply that there is no darkness in us, but we also heard from John that each of us is sinful and to say that we do not have sin makes us liars and the truth is not in us. So, we strive for light, we desire to act only in God’s light and live in His light, but there is dark there that we are constantly having to give over to God to cleanse and purify.
    But God isn’t like that. He is light, and there is no dark in Him at all. It’s not like with us where there is some darkness but we just choose not to act on it, there is NO darkness in Him at all. His light is holy. It is set apart even from the way we as His followers walk in the light. He can walk in light perfectly. His light is holy. The same could be said about any other attribute we can think of to describe God’s character. All of it, all of who He is, all of His attributes, are holy.
    God is also holy in purpose. We believe that this means that the motivations for His actions are holy. The why, the reasons He does all the things He does is holy.
    Ephesians 2:16 says, “He planned to bring both Jews and Gentiles back to God as one body. He planned to do this through the cross. On that cross, Christ put to death their hatred toward one another.” (NIRV) Here we see the purpose of God’s actions in sending Christ to the cross, and it was to bring reconciliation. Reconciliation we see all throughout Scripture is one of the main reasons God acts the way He acts, to reconcile us, not only to one another, but most importantly to Him. He desires to have a relationship with each of us, and for us to live in peace with other believers, and so He has worked and is still working to reconcile us!
    This is a holy purpose. It is set apart from the way other religions and world views think. God seeks to do that which no one else can do, or quite frankly, even desires to do. His desire to reconcile us to Him and others is holy.
    1 Corinthians 8:6 says, “But for us there is only one God. He is the Father. All things came from Him, and we live for Him. And there is only one Lord. He is Jesus Christ. All things came because of Him, and we live because of Him.” (NIRV) His purpose is to give us life. That is another common motivation for His actions. Again, it is a motivation that is different from all other religions and world views.
    John 10:10 adds to this and reminds us that the enemy, the one who is in the world, desires to destroy, but Christ came to give us abundant life. The motivation behind much of what He does is to accomplish this purpose, even when God says “no” to us, it is often because it is not something that will be good for us, it will not give us life abundantly. When the world says “Have it your way”, God’s message to us is to obey Him and walk with Him because the life He gives us is different than that of the world’s. Life in Him is holy, set apart.
    And we have John 14:13, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” (NLT) Another of God’s motivations is to be glorified, but that glorification isn’t just so we will praise His name, though that is definitely important. When glory is given to God, it reveals His truth. We give glory to God because He has worked some amazing thing in our lives and we want to praise Him. When others see those amazing things, and when we speak about those amazing things to glorify God, we reveal His truth to those who hear about what He has done. God being glorified, reveals truth to others, and the reason it works this way is because His motivation is holy, set apart.
    We also believe that God is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, son, and Holy Spirit. We use a lot of clever images and metaphors to try to grasp what this means, and some of them work pretty well, but in some ways, this is a belief we take on faith.
    One of the metaphors we can use it to think of the states of water: liquid, solid, and a gas. Water can and does exist in all three of these states and it is still water. But this is an imperfect metaphor. If all you have before you is a solid block of water, ice, but no liquid water or steam, you still have water. It doesn’t stop being water because there is no liquid water or steam. But with the Triune God, you cannot separate Father from Son or Spirit, and you cannot separate Son from Father or Spirit, and you cannot separate Spirit from Father or Son, and still have God. They all exist together, and it can’t be any other way.
    Many have pointed out that the Bible doesn’t actually use the terms Triune or Trinity in referring to God, so how do we know this is how He is? We know this from the way God reveals Himself to us in Scripture, and when we look at these passages, we see start to understand the Triune nature of God.
    Matthew 3:16-17 says this, “After His baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.” (NLT) This is one of the passages in the Bible where we see all revelations of God present together. We have God the Father calling Jesus His Son, and we have the Spirit of God coming and resting on the Son. All three are present together, working together in the world.
    We have John 14:7, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (NASB) Jesus revealed to His disciples that KNOWING the Son is knowing the Father, that you can know and see the Father if you know the Son, and that is because the Father and the Son are one. They work as one, they are united in nature, attributes, and purpose.
    Just a little further on in John 14, verses 16-17 Jesus said this, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; 17 the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” (NASB) Here Jesus assures us that it is the Father who sends the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit to help us and to reveal the truth to us. He even goes on to say that you will know the Father through the Spirit living in you. You know the Father through the Spirit, just as you know the Father through the Son. This is because they are one.
    2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” (NASB) Paul tells us that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are in us, at the same time, working in the life of the believer together. They sometimes work in different ways, but it is always in unison to accomplish His holy purposes.
    And finally, we have Matthew 28:19, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (NASB) Disciples are to be baptized in the NAME, singular, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All in one. They are not in competition with one another for the most disciples because they are one. We baptize in the name of all because all live and work as one in the life of the disciple.
    There are so many more passages about God’s Triune nature, but all of them reveal Him to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that is what we believe.
    We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe; that He only is God, holy in nature, attributes, and purpose. The God who is holy love and light is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

1. Read Leviticus 19:2. How do we respond to God’s holy nature? Now read John 14:23. How do we do what is commanded in Leviticus 19:2 according to John 14:23?

2. Read Ephesians 4:1-3. What does Paul call us to do with other believers? Who helps us do this?

3. Read John 16:7-11. Who works in the world to convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment?

We Believe...God (Part 2)

    Well, we’re picking up again with our first Article of Faith in the Nazarene denomination, which states what we believe about God, who He is, how He reveals Himself to us. This is what that statement is:
    We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe; that He only is God, holy in nature, attributes, and purpose. The God who is holy love and light is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    Last week talked about what it means to say “we believe”, that it is faith coupled with action, and must be, and that if action is not a part of faith then it is not true faith.
    We looked at where in Scripture we learn that there is one God, known by many titles as He reveals Himself to us and the way He works and relates to us in different ways, but He is still one and there is no other.
    And we looked at His eternal, infinite nature. That He has no beginning or end, will not die, He exists forever outside of time.
    Today, as you can see in your bulletins, we are going through the next part of the statement of faith, that we believe God is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
    The first part of that is of course, Sovereign Creator. I’ve shared before that I really like words, I like learning about the roots of words and finding different ways of using words to get a point across. That’s one of the things I really like about digging into the Bible is figuring out what some words are in the original languages and learning why that particular word was chosen over a word that may have been similar, and connecting it to other uses of that word throughout Scripture so that I can get a better understanding of how it’s used in different contexts.
    The word Sovereign is one of those interesting words throughout Scripture that is interesting because of the different ways it can be used. For instance, the word Sovereign can be used as both a noun and an adjective. That’s not all that uncommon, there are lots of words that can be both nouns and adjectives, but usually depending on the sentence you’re trying to put together and the thing you’re talking about, most words can only be one or the other in the sentence they’re placed in. Words usually aren’t both a noun and an adjective at the same time.
    But Sovereign, in the way that we use it when talking about God, is both a noun and an adjective at the same time. It is both who He is and something that can be used to describe Him.
    As a noun, a sovereign is someone who is the supreme ruler of something, a kingdom, a nation, a people group. Think of someone like a king or queen, or even in some instances, a dictator. These kinds of persons sit over a nation, kingdom, or group of people as their supreme ruler. We understand that this means that if the sovereign says something, it gets done. If they say that something is true, then it is true because they said it is. If they make a law, it’s law. This is what a sovereign is, and they are responsible for looking out for the well-being of the entire nation, kingdom, or people group.
    When we say that God is Sovereign Creator, we use it as a noun and understand that it means that God is the supreme ruler of creation. All that He has created, He also sits over as its ruler, and the truth that He has said is truth, is truth despite what others might say. When He speaks, things happen, whole stars are created at His command. Psalm 148:5 says that all of Creation praises His name because when He commanded they were created. If all of Creation obeys His word and is created by His word, then He must be the ruler of it all, or Creation would not obey His word. So we know, God is the sovereign, He is the supreme ruler.
    But as I said, Sovereign is both a noun and an adjective, and when we use it to describe God, it is both at the same time. As an adjective, Sovereign means that the one who is Sovereign has supreme or ultimate POWER. We understand that when we talk about someone having Sovereignty, it means that they could do anything they wanted because they have all the power.
    As we use Sovereign as an adjective to describe God’s power, we sometimes think of the word, “omnipotent”, which means all powerful. There is nothing outside of God’s power to accomplish. So with God, it’s not a matter of if He can accomplish something, it’s will He will it. He can do everything, He is capable and His power is more than enough to do it, but sometimes somethings are not within His will or His character and so will not do something because it is contrary to who He is.
    For example, God could make every person obey Him and worship Him. He is capable of that. He is powerful enough to do that. He will not though because that is against His loving nature and His desire to have a willing relationship with people based in choice, not force.
    Or here’s another example, God could give me a red convertible Ferrari. That is within His power to do. He is all powerful and could work behind the scenes to get one to me, but He probably won’t. Why? Because it’s an unnecessary, frivolous thing that I want because it’s a selfish lust of my heart. It would do no good, and ultimately probably wouldn’t be good for me, and He is a good God who only wants His best for me. He could do it, but likely won’t.
    Let’s look at some Scripture that helps us understand God as Sovereign Creator.
    Isaiah 40 is a great chapter that helps us understand God’s role in creation and the hearts of humans, and verse 26 helps us understand God’s sovereign power. “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (NIV) Isaiah is called to look up to the heavens, even the very distant stars, and remember who it is that created them. Isaiah recalls that it is God who created them, He created the stars one by one and calls them each out by name. Then Isaiah makes the point that it is because of God’s great power and mighty strength that all of the stars that needed to be created have been created, and none of them is missing.
    Now, we can make miniaturized versions of stars. Science can do that, and that’s cool. But when we look at the sheer scope and vastness of all the heavens, all the stars, all the galaxies, all the planets, all the black holes and even the emptiness of space is on such a different scale than anything we can come up with in a laboratory. Yet, this is nothing for God’s Sovereign power to be accomplished. And we understand that if God can create the heavens on such a vast scale, then we can trust that He has also created everything that we can see here on earth. His sovereign power created what we see in creation.
    Let’s go to 1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (NIV) This drives the point even more clearly and directly. Paul clearly states here that we believe that God the Father is the one from whom all things came.
    His power is so supreme, so great, so ultimate, that He caused ALL things to exist. If it exists, it is because God caused it to exist. Nothing that exists can exist outside of God causing it to exist.
    We can also look at John 1:3 to understand this, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (NIV), and of course, you can look at the account of creation in Genesis 1 to read about how God accomplished this just by the sovereign power of His word.
    1 Chronicles 29:11-12 says this, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.” (NIV) This passage talks about the greatness of His power and glory and majesty and splendor, and His power in creation to create all things and give blessings as He sees fit, and to give strength to others, but the highlighted portions speak specifically about how He is the supreme ruler, the Sovereign over all He has created. Everything in heaven and earth is His. He is exalted as head over all His kingdom, which is His creation. He is the ruler of all things. Not only did He create everything by His sovereign power but He rules as sovereign over His creation.
    And we also have Isaiah 46:10, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” This is a promise we can take to heart, in every context, in every walk of life and every situation that we might find ourselves in in this crazy world, and it is a poignant reminder for us always around election times and other times of turmoil and disunity in our society, but God’s promise is that His purpose will stand. He will do what is in His will to do.
    One of my favorite little sayings that I see circulating around from time to time is that God already factored in my stupidity when He called me to serve Him, and that is a comforting thought because I know that He is working to accomplish His purposes and He doesn’t do it in spite of me, He does it through me, even using my stupidity and mistakes.
    Why do we act then as if something a non-believer does is going to be able to thwart God’s purposes? Do you really think some corrupt politician, or some criminal is going to be able to throw God off His game? Do you think God has to change His plans to adjust for humanity’s sinful nature? No! He is sovereign and His purpose will stand. He will do what is in His will to do. Now we get the humble opportunity to partner with Him in that work, and He wants us to, but if we don’t He’ll find someone else. He doesn’t need us, He wants us.
    I heard a really encouraging example of this at leadership retreat these past few days. A gentleman who is seeking a minister’s license on our district and His salvation testimony is incredible. He was in prison on a murder charge, given a life sentence. Two days after his arrest, he met with the Lord and had this incredible conversion which freed him from a life-long addiction to drugs, alcohol, and in his words, everything but Jesus. But even though He had this new freedom in Jesus, he was serving a life-sentence. In his time served, he pastored prison churches and saw up to 200 people come to know Christ because of his ministry. Thirty years went by. He came up for parole. Under the previous governor, the parole board denied his parole for eight years, even though his record and merit clearly showed he had radically changed.
    But, then we got a new governor 4 years ago, and COVID hit and you probably already know that during that time, a lot of prisoners in our state prisons were released. That was not necessarily a good thing, and there was definitely some harm that came out of that. But this gentleman was one of those that was released. And now, because God’s purposes will not be thwarted even in the midst of choices we might not agree with, this man is getting ready to plant a church in Santa Rosa and he is 100% all in for Jesus. He has radically committed his life to the Lord and now God is giving him the open doors to minister to people in his community that many of us would never feel “comfortable” ministering to. God’s sovereign power can do all that He says He can do, regardless of humanity’s plans and actions. He is in control, and never is there a time He wouldn’t be.
    He is Sovereign Creator. He is the Sustainer of the universe. A sustainer is someone who UPHOLDS or MAINTAINS something. So when we say God is the Sustainer of the universe, we are saying that we believe that God is the one who upholds and maintains the universe. He keeps it going.
    I look at Psalm 104 which is another passage that talks about God’s power in creation. There’s a few verses in this Psalm that talk about God’s power to sustain what exists in the universe, to keep it going. Psalm 104:13-15, and 21, “He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of His work. 14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: 15 wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. 21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” (NIV)
    Here the Psalmist talks about how God causes the whole earth to provide for its inhabitants. He makes waters come from the mountains, water that we need to sustain all life on earth. The Psalmist tells us that the whole land, all of the earth is satisfied by what God does, by what He provides. The cattle of the field have grass to eat because He provides it, people of the earth have plants that provide food for them because God says so. Not only is food provided for people, but we also have wine to gladden our hearts, oil to make our faces shine, and bread that sustains our hearts. I love a good loaf of bread, when its hot and fresh out of the oven and it’s still soft and almost gooey. For me, that kind of bread is for more than just keeping me alive, it just tastes good, it’s comfort food and it makes me feel good. And that’s the point with the wine and oil as well. God doesn’t just give us what we need to live, He gives us things to make us glad, to give us comfort, to help us be joyful. He sustains us in every way we need to be sustained.
    We understand that without God, not only would everything not have been created, but it depends on Him to continue to exist as well, to be sustained and have continued life. Psalm 104:27-30 goes on to say, “All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (NIV)
    Not only does He provide food for all living things to be sustained and have a good life, but He also gives us our very breath to live. I love that song that we sing sometimes, “Great Are You Lord”, that it is His breath in our lungs. It’s a beautiful idea, but it’s also Biblical! His breath is in our lungs, and the Psalmist says that it is His Spirit that creates and renews life and the very face of the earth.
    He is not a God that created everything and walked away. He created everything, and keeps it going. He gives breath into lungs of the living, He gives His Spirit to renew and create, He provides for the needs and good of all the earth’s inhabitants. He is the Sustainer of the universe.
    We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe…and the rest we will dive into next week.

Questions to form your quiet time this week:
1. Reflect on the attributes of God given in the message. Why is each of these attributes important to you as a believer? How do they affect how you relate to God?

2. How should these attributes of God change how we serve God with other believers? How can we encourage and build up other believers because of these attributes of God’s character?

3. Read Genesis 1:26-27. How did God make humankind? How then might we approach relationships with pre-Christians in light of this and God’s attributes from this message?

We Believe...God (Part 1)

    I know I’ve quoted this before, but I really love this quote from A.W. Tozer, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” And it’s true! If you believe that God doesn’t exist, you will live your whole life in a way that shows that you believe God doesn’t exist. You will live for self, and ultimately, though you might be held to rules and laws of the society you live in, you will find no other reason to grow as a person except to fit into society and culture.
    But if you believe what is right about God, it changes the very core of who you are and how you live. You live for God’s glory and seek to do His purposes which are higher than man’s. You are held to a higher way of living as well, a higher code of morality and it comes not from a desire to just fit into society, but rather from a deep love for God that is shown in your love for others who are created in His image.
    And this is true for every other belief in between as well. If you believe God exists but doesn’t care about you or your life, you will live life accordingly. If you believe God is an oppressive, judgmental God waiting to smite you, you will live your life accordingly. And so on.
    From the early days of Christianity, Christians have made doctrinal statements of faith about what we believe and hold true as Christians. One of the earliest examples is the Nicene Creed adopted in 325 AD. You’re probably familiar with it, even if you don’t know that it’s called the Nicene Creed. The very first version of the creed says this, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.”
    Even if you’ve never heard all of it, you’ve probably heard some simplified version or heard something very similar. Even before the Nicene Creed, Christians have been putting together statements to say what we believe, and we do this in part to fight false teachings and heresies that may come up. But the greater purpose is to make sure that as Christians, we know what we believe and where it comes from in the Bible, so we can stand firm in our own faith, be sustained by faith, and be able to defend our faith.
    The Nazarene denomination has statements of belief as well, and we call them our Articles of Faith. The first Article of Faith has to do with our beliefs about God, who He is, what He’s done, and what His character is like. This is our statement about God:
    “We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe; that He only is God, holy in nature, attributes, and purpose. The God who is holy love and light is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
    This is what we believe, and I want us to dig into this statement to fully grasp what we believe about God, so we’re going to take this statement piece by piece.
    You’ll notice you have three sections in your bulletin we’re going to go over today, “we believe”, “one”, and “eternally existent, infinite God”; and we’ll take the next two weeks to finish up the rest of the statement. So let’s jump in.
    We believe. This is the first part of our statement, and it’s actually the first two words of all of our Articles of Faith. I won’t go over this part when we look at other Articles, but for this first statement, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of what this means when we say, “we believe”.
    When we went through the book of James, we talked a little about what belief really is, what faith really is, and we discovered that there are two components to belief: faith, and ACTION. The two must both be present for belief to be true and real, and faith and action must work together.
    1 John 5:4 helps us with the faith part of it, “That’s because everyone who is a child of God has won the battle over the world. Our faith has won the battle for us.” (NIRV) John tells us that faith is what gives us victory over the world. He says this in the context of talking about false teachings. Faith gives us victory over the doubts of the world, and the alternative viewpoints the world offers up when it comes to beliefs about God. Faith secures us, it anchors us in the truth that we read about in Scripture. Faith is important, it’s good to know what the Bible says, and it’s good to believe in that truth. But when we say, “we believe”, we’re saying more than just “this is what I know to be true”, or “this is what I think is true.”
    Action must be coupled with our faith, with our knowledge of what we know is true. Matthew 5:16 says our actions should point the way to God, shine His light so that others will give God glory and believe as well. So our actions are meant to be give God glory and point others to Jesus, but our actions are more than that.
    James 2:17, and 20 says, “It is the same with faith. If it doesn’t cause us to do something, it’s dead.; You foolish person! Do you want proof that faith without good deeds is useless?” (NIRV). Action is so much a part of belief that if it is not, then that faith is dead. It is not a saving faith.
    Action is a sign, to others, and most importantly to ourselves that our beliefs, our faith have taken root in our hearts and changed us. I just started reading a book and one of the characters makes the point that you can fake anything, you can do anything and say anything, but if you don’t think that way then it’s not true. Belief should be so rooted in our hearts and minds that we are changed, truly different, we think different and feel different, and therefore act different.
    When we say, “we believe”, what we say is that we not only believe that this statement is true, but also that it has taken root in our hearts so deeply that it has fundamentally changed who we are, how we think, how we feel, and how we act.
    Another thing that’s important to note about the statement “we believe”, is that we understand that there may be some things about our belief statements that we don’t fully understand, but we believe anyway because we are smart people and we know that if some of it is true, it all has to be true. For example, when we talk about the Triune nature of God, three-in-one, Father, Son, Spirit, we come up with all sorts of clever ways to try to help us understand this and grasp it, and we do to some extent, but I don’t think we can fully grasp what that means in its entirety the way God understands it.
    So what approach do we take? Do we just say, “Well I don’t fully understand and I can’t fully understand so I’m not going to believe?” Some do take this approach. Others, smart people like us, just understand that everything else that the Bible says about God is true, so this must be true too, even if we don’t fully comprehend it.
    When we say “we believe”, we’re taking a TAKE it or leave it approach. If some of it is true, it must all be true. You either believe it or don’t. Either take it or leave it. But for us, we believe.
    We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God. Let’s look at the word “one”. Where do we get this in Scripture?
    Look at Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God. Singular, not plural or multiple. There is one God at the beginning, and if you look at Revelation, you’ll see that this doesn’t change, and there is still one God at the end. Any teaching that teaches something other than this is false.
    Deuteronomy 6:4 says this, “Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (NASB) This passage echoes the thought that God is one, but here we see two different titles for the one God, we see the title Lord in small caps and we see God. These are just two of the titles we see throughout the Bible. Lord is a stand in for Yahweh, God’s covenant name, which shows the special, personal relationship He desires to have with His created people. God is a stand in for Elohim, creator of the universe. So even though we have different titles for God, different roles He takes with us and His creation, He is still one. Any teaching that teaches something else is false. And just a cool side note, that if you are ever curious about having the original titles of God in your Scripture reading, you can access the Names of God Bible translation through biblegateway.com, and it will put all the original Hebrew titles for God back into the passages. It’s similar to the NIV in terms of how easy it is to read and its accuracy, so it’s pretty cool.
    Now let’s look at Isaiah 40:18-20, “How can we describe God? With what can we compare him? 19 With an idol? An idol made from a mold, overlaid with gold, and with silver chains around its neck? 20 The man too poor to buy expensive gods like that will find a tree free from rot and hire a man to carve a face on it, and that’s his god—a god that cannot even move!” (TLB)
    Regardless of what we make our idols of, Isaiah states that nothing can compare with God. No idol we can imagine or fashion, no thing that is that we honor or devote ourselves is like God. All other “gods” we might come up with or make are ultimately the product of HUMAN imagination. He does not share glory with other gods because there are no other gods. He’s it. He is one, He is the only. Any teaching that teaches something else is false.
    This is a teaching that, as I said before, is consistent throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments agree on this point that there is one God, only one. 1 Corinthians 8:6 says, “But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created all things and made us to be his own; and one Lord Jesus Christ, who made everything and gives us life.” (TLB) Here, even though Jesus is called Lord, we know from other places in Scripture that explore the Triune nature of God, that though Jesus is God, there is not more than one God. Any teaching that teaches something else is false.
    And we believe in one eternally existent, infinite God. Look at Isaiah 40:28, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable.” (NASB) This passage calls God the EVERLASTING God. Everlasting, or lasting forever, is another way of saying eternal. In philosophy one of the most basic things they teach you is how to make philosophical statements to argue your logic and reasoning. So here’s my statement to show my thinking here, and the thinking of Biblical scholars as they use this passage to understand God’s nature, if God is eternal then He has no beginning or end. That’s what eternal means, right? That’s what everlasting means. If something goes on forever, that means it had no start point or stop point. I know this is difficult for us to grasp or understand because we are limited by time as physical beings. This is one of those things that we have to understand as best as we can through Scripture, and then say, “okay, if the rest of what the Bible says about who God is is true, then I have to either take this as truth too, or all of it is a lie.” God is eternal, He exists eternally, without any beginning or end. Any teaching that teaches something else is false.
    1 Timothy 1:17 adds this, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (NASB) Here again we see God’s eternal nature listed, but Paul also adds immortal to how we look at God’s eternal existence. He is immortal, He does not die. Here’s another if-then statement, if He cannot die then He will exist after everything else passes away, and He continues to exist past time. Any teaching that teaches something else is false.
    Finally, John 3:16 adds, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB) And Matthew 28:20 adds, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.” (NIRV) Here He promises to be with us always, offers eternal life to us. Quite simply, He cannot give something He is not or does not have. If God isn’t eternal, or infinite, He couldn’t promise to always be with us, and He couldn’t promise us eternal life. Any teaching that teaches something else is false.
    We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God…and next week we’ll dig into the rest.

1. Since our message deals with our beliefs about God, what aspect of God’s attributes so far are most encouraging to you? How does knowing that this is who God is affect your life and your relationship with Him?

2. How do these beliefs about God affect how you should treat other Christians?

3. How do these beliefs about God affect how you should treat those who don’t believe?

Yet Even Now... (Joel 2:12-17)

    My message this morning is one I know I’ve preached before and I will likely preach again, though from a different passage no doubt. But I urge you not to just tune it out because it may be a familiar topic. Instead, use this time as a chance to let the Lord examine your heart and mind, and do as King David asked, for the Lord to search you and see if there is any offensive way in you and lead you in the way everlasting.
    My message today is about holiness, which really shouldn’t be a surprise considering the Nazarene denomination is a holiness tradition. Sometimes people misunderstand what that means, and of course I don’t want us to misunderstand and I want us to be able to explain why holiness is so important to all Christians, not just Nazarenes.
    Let’s look at our passage for today, again in the Old Testament, in Joel 2:12-17. Now Joel is one of the minor prophets, and the book of Joel is a little tricky because we don’t know for sure where in the timeline of the Old Testament it really fits. Most Biblical scholars put it about 100 years, or a little less than 100 years after the Kingdom of Israel was split into two, with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. We talked last week in the book of Jeremiah about how the Assyrian empire came and eventually destroyed the northern Kingdom Israel, and how the Babylonian empire did much the same with the southern Kingdom Judah. In the book of Joel, neither of those empires are mentioned at all, so Joel seems to take place after the Kingdoms split, because Judah is mentioned, but also before Assyria and Babylon come on the scene.
    What we see from the beginning of the book of Joel is that there was a plague of locusts that had swept through the land, absolutely destroying it, and there was also a severe drought that caused widespread starvation, and fires because of the drought. The people of Judah were in bad shape. And it’s here that our passage picks up.
    ““Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning; 13 And tear your heart and not merely your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in mercy And relenting of catastrophe. 14 Who knows, He might turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him, Resulting in a grain offering and a drink offering For the Lord your God. 15 Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Have the groom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. 17 Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, Weep between the porch and the altar, And let them say, “Spare Your people, Lord, And do not make Your inheritance a disgrace, With the nations jeering at them. Why should those among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:12-17, NASB)
    As bad as things already were for the people, the beginning of chapter 2 actually talks about how much worse it’s going to get. Joel talks about the day of the Lord coming, a day of darkness, judgment, a desolate wilderness with no escape when mighty men will climb walls to try to get away and cannot, when there will be earth quakes and the sun and moon will grow dark. This, coupled with the description Joel gives of the locusts which sounds a lot like the description John gives of the locust like demons in Revelation, is supposed to found very familiar to us, and very apocalyptic. Even though Joel was writing hundreds of years before John, the language they both use is very similar.
    Just like Jeremiah 29 last week, we can clearly see here how this passage in Joel is not only historical, but we can draw similarities and application throughout the New Testament and into today. Joel’s message was that things may look bad now, but they will get worse. Destruction was promised. It was the eleventh hour, almost too late, and Joel says, “Yet even now…”
    The people were supposed to know that even as their destruction was bearing down upon them, even as they were staring at their doom, even then it wasn’t too late for them to do what was right. And what does Joel tell them to do, or rather what does the Lord tell them to do through Joel?
    He tells the people to return to Him, return to the Lord, with all their hearts. There’s two words here that Joel uses here, in verse 12 and 13, that get translated as “return”, but they’re two different words which when you use them together, help give us a full understanding of what return means. Joel uses the word nacham, which means that we should have a sense of sorrow, that we should have pity and be sorry. So we understand that this returning to God comes from a place of sorrow for our sins, that we are supposed to feel sorrow and sadness for what we have done that is against God.
    Joel also uses the word shuv, which means that we turn around, or change our minds, and it’s not just seen in a change of thinking, but a change in actions. This kind of turning around is marked by a change in the life of the one who has turned, a change in their pattern of conduct. In Matthew 3:8 Jesus says this, which uses a word with a similar meaning, “Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance,” (NASB) The kind of turning Joel is speaking about isn’t just changing your mind or feeling sorry. It’s about turning so far away from what you feel sorry about and changing the way you act.
    Joel says to return with all your heart to God. With all your heart! The Jewish people thought that the heart was the seat of all emotions, personality, intellect, sensibility, and will. They thought the heart was the very essence of the human spirit. So when Joel says that they are to return to God with all their hearts, he was saying that the people were supposed to feel sorrow for their sins, change their minds and actions in a way that was so deep that it involved every part of who they were as people.
    We see very similar ways of thinking in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37, that we are to love God with all our hearts. This means that we love Him with every thing that we are, and if you are seeking to love God in this way, you’ll see that there is a change in your heart that is seen in the way that you act.
    This is exactly what we see God promise for His people in Ezekiel 36:26, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (NASB) He promised to give to His people the ability to replace their hard, cold, stone hearts that were always turned against Him, and give them soft, flesh hearts that are capable of loving Him fully. This is what is needed to see the kind of returning to God that Joel talks about!
    Joel says we are to return to God “with fasting, weeping, and mourning; 13 And tear your heart and not merely your garments.” He was talking about some traditions that had become ritual and routine and had lost their meaning. Fasting, weeping, and mourning comes from the temple sacrifices that were offered to atone for sins. The people were called to fast, weep, and mourn their sins as they understood that the price for their sins was death, and that an innocent animal was being slaughtered to pay their price. They were meant to fast, weep, and mourn for the destruction their sins brought and the distance their sins put between them and God.
    When Joel talks about tearing their garments, this was a sign of grief when someone died, it was a sign of mourning. The problem was that even by the time Joel was writing, all these signs of genuine sorrow and weeping for sin and grief had become ritualized and routine. They no longer really meant anything. They were just something that you were supposed to do, rather than something you did because your heart was truly sorrowful and you desired to truly change your ways. Joel was saying that fasting, weeping, and mourning should be done from hearts that are truly saddened by sin and are wanting to really turn back to God, otherwise, those outward signs mean nothing!
    Joel was told by God, “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Have the groom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. 17 Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, Weep between the porch and the altar,”
    I want you to see here that there is no single person in all of the group of God’s people that were to be left out of this call to return to God. The elders are to be gathered, which isn’t an official title, rather it refers to age. Those who are the oldest of God’s people are included, as well as the children, and even the nursing infants. Those of all ages are called to come and give their whole hearts to God.
    Joel talks about brides and grooms coming out of their chambers to answer the call as well. In Deuteronomy 24:5, we learn the reason for this little caveat. Newly-weds were to be given a whole year, free from being in the army or being assigned any duty, so they could spend that year at home in newly-wed bliss. So even people, who may seem to have an excuse given by the law of God’s word, are told that when it comes to the call to return their hearts to the Lord wholeheartedly, they have no excuse. There is no excuse that a person could possibly come up with that will excuse them from the urging Joel gives to return to God and give Him your whole heart.
    The other thing here too, is that this call to give God your whole heart, though its to all of God’s people, and they are supposed to gather and seek God together as an assembly with prayer and worship, the act of returning to God and giving them their whole hearts is a personal one. The act of giving God a person’s whole heart isn’t a decision that only a few can make, and it isn’t a decision that someone can make for someone else. Each person was being called to return to God with their whole hearts, individually, personally. The whole group of God’s people was called to do this, and they were meant to do it with one another, but each had to make the personal decision to devote themselves to the Lord.
    So now you might already see what this means for us. Just like we saw last week in Jeremiah 29, we live in the midst of Babylon. We know though that destruction is promised. Babylon and all its redefinitions of good and evil will one day be destroyed. Yet even now, even when we know this is what is coming for this world, it’s not too late to return to God.
    This is the message that brings us hope! This is the message that we share to those who do not know Jesus, that He doesn’t care about traditions and rituals and religion, He wants our hearts! All He requires of us is that we turn our hearts to Him wholly and fully. Remember, all of our emotions, personality, intellect, sensibility, and will are included in that. We give ourselves completely to God, to be used for His purposes and His glory. He wants our hearts.
    This isn’t just some Sunday prayer we make one time as kids, this is a true turning from the ways we acted and thought before we came to Jesus. This isn’t just checking some box, or going through with some ritual or tradition just because this is what we’ve always done or this is what’s expected. And this isn’t making the choice once and then thinking that you’re good for the rest of your life and there’s no need to ever change. This is heart purity. This is being completely and fully sacrificed to the Lord. This is sanctification, being completely surrendered to God. This isn’t just a one-time commitment, fix it and forget it, this is a lifetime choice that sometimes must be made every minute of the day. This is what God asks of us. We remember Romans 12:1-2, to offer our lives as living sacrifices, for this is our spiritual act of worship.
    This was the radical life that Joel was preaching, and its the same life I preach today. God isn’t interested in tradition, religion, or ritual. He’s not interested in flippant sacrifices or commitments. He wants your full heart, your full devotion, your full life.
    I feel like I’m maybe a broken record when I say this, but does this mean we get it “right” all the time? No, certainly not. We’re going to mess it up, but the point is that we’re in such a place with God that if we do, we don’t want it to happen again. We show the kind of humility that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, and we are quick to be humble and poor in spirit before God. We turn, completely, just like Joel was urging the Jewish people to do.
    And the really amazing thing that Joel brings up is that if the people, God’s people, us, do this full heart turning to God, what we find is that He is gracious, meaning He is inclined to forgive sinners that repent. We find that He is compassionate, He sympathizes with our miseries and desires what is good for us. We find that He is slow to anger, He doesn’t allow His anger to break immediately upon discovering our sin, but waits to see if we will repent and do better. We find that He is merciful, not giving us what we truly deserve. And we find that He relents, He changes His actions toward those who repent. This is the kind of God we love, and are called into deeper and deeper love each day.

1. Grow UP with God: Think about your relationship with God. Is it marked by the heart humility Joel and Jesus talked about? If not, why not?

2. Grow DEEPER with the Body: The call to heart holiness is for all God’s people. How can you help a brother or sister understand the importance of holiness?

3. Go OUT: What is promised for those who do not turn to God? How can you share with a pre-Christian in your life this week that God is not after religion or ritual, He wants our hearts?

Message to the Exiles (Jeremiah 29:4-14)

    If I were to say to you, Jeremiah 29, you’d probably think of Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” This is a great verse, and a great promise, that many of us are likely familiar with, and maybe even a promise that you’ve taken to heart a time or two in your life. And that’s great! My message this morning is actually about the connection between what was going on in Jeremiah 29 and us as New Testament believers, so I believe this is a verse and promise that we can take to heart!
    But I want to talk about more of the passage so we get more of the story, and I love the way that my Bible translation, the NASB, sub-titles this passage as a “Message to the Exiles”, and that is just what we are. But, historically, and in context, this was written to a specific group of exiles, and Jeremiah 29:1-3 tells us that this was the group of exiles: the priests, prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
    Okay, brief history lesson here, and this is grossly simplified, but it will get the point across. All the way back in 1 Samuel, the people of God, the Israelites, cried out for a king to lead them. They wanted to be just like all the other nations around them, which is just a horrible idea. God told them He would give them a king, just like they had asked, but it came with a warning, that their kings would be bad for Israel, that they would lead the people away from God, and into idolatry and wickedness, that they would oppress and enslave their own people. But they still wanted a king. They got a king, and with only a handful of exceptions, those kings were terrible. Most of them did what was right in his own eyes, and led the people further and further away from God.
    God sent prophets to warn them to turn back to Him, but by and large, they didn’t listen. They continued to reject God, just as they had been in a pattern of doing for much of their history. Not only did they reject God, and worship idols, but they also began to oppress the poor, and forgot to plead the case of the widow, and this grieved God greatly. Though His mercy is perfect, His justice is also perfect. He warned them through the prophets that if they did not return to Him and seek justice and righteousness, He would allow foreign nations to come destroy them and take the survivors captive. And that’s exactly what happened. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been destroyed by the kingdom of Assyria, and despite warnings that the same thing would happen to the southern kingdom of Judah, the people and kings did not listen. So Babylon came for God’s people.
    After a 30 month siege of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah, the Babylonians effectively destroyed the city and the temple, and killed many of the people. Those who were important people, priests, leaders, etc. were led away to Babylon to become exiles, just as they had been told would happen. It’s there that we read about people like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, living in exile in Babylon along with many others, unable to go back to Jerusalem for 70 years. This is the setting we find ourselves in when we read Jeremiah 29, and the message to the exiles living in Babylon.
    We have to understand Babylon too, which starts all the way back in Genesis 10:10 with the founding of the city of Babel, which we know from the infamous “Tower of Babel” incident we can read about in Genesis 11. It was there that people got together and thought that they could go their own way, and do their own thing, and make themselves great without God. It’s the same thing humans have been doing forever. We set ourselves up as great and try to do our own thing and go our own way.
    So by the time that the Kingdom of Babylon comes along in Jeremiah’s time, it is a city that stands for all that goes against God. Babylon is a nation and a people who reject God, and stand in opposition to Him. It is a nation where they sought only what was best for themselves, and worshipped whatever they pleased. Think about the stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being forced to worship foreign gods and accept what the Babylonians said was good and right. Babylon became representative of, as the Bible Project says, any human institution that demands allegiance to its idolatrous redefinitions of good and evil.
    This was the historic Babylon, so when God’s people were carried off into Babylon, they were faced not only with a new culture, a new society, a new language, but they were also confronted with new gods, and as we read about in the book of Daniel, were even forced to worship those new gods and adhere to strange, evil ways. What were God’s people to do?
    Well some revolted. They fought against the Babylonians when they were besieging Jerusalem. They fought bravely, I’m sure, but they were killed.
    Some left Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be taken captive to Babylon. They fled to Egypt and surrounding countries and disappeared into history.
    Some, when they were taken into Babylon as captives took a second path, and they COMPROMISED. They not only made themselves fit in with the new culture, and new society, and learned a new language, but they also adopted the new gods and lost their identities as people of God and became just like the Babylonians around them.
    But, God through the prophet Jeremiah presented a different path, a third path. Let’s read our passage for this morning, finally, Jeremiah 29:4-14, “This is what the Lord of armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and father sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may give birth to sons and daughters; and grow in numbers there and do not decrease. 7 Seek the prosperity of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord in its behalf; for in its prosperity will be your prosperity.’ 8 For this is what the Lord of armies, the God of Israel says: ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst or your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to their interpretations of your dreams which you dream. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. 10 “For this is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will let Myself be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”
    This is the third way, I’m calling it the EXILE mindset. It’s a different way of thinking that isn’t revolt and rebellion against the corrupt powers, and it’s not the compromise of adopting all the ways of corrupt and evil people. It was a different mindset that God’s people were called to to be able to live in exile away from their true home while still standing firm for God’s truth.
    What were they meant to do? Jeremiah tells them first to build homes and have families. Get jobs, be productive members of society. In verse 10 it is repeated for the exiles that they will be in Babylon for 70 years, exiled for 70 years. So they had really just a short set amount of time to be in Babylon and then they knew that they would have a chance to go back to their true home. But it was long enough that they couldn’t just wait it out, just wait and do nothing. They had to establish lives in Babylon, and they were told that was okay. It was okay to marry, it was okay to build a home and a life and grow a garden and eat its produce. Settle in, you’re going to be here a while.
    They were told to pray for the CITY. They were told to pray to God on behalf of the city, because if it prospered it would mean they prospered too. So, even though the city was corrupt and wicked to the core and it represented everything that was in opposition to God, their duty was to pray for the city and seek its prosperity, to seek its good.
    If we look at the stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we see that praying for the city and seeking its good didn’t mean that the exiles weren’t supposed to stand up for what was right. Their stories show them being bold enough to stand up for what was right, and to refuse to bow down to idolatry. We learn that Daniel refused to eat all the rich foods of the King’s table so that he would be healthy and able to keep a clear head in prayer. We see Daniel stand up against the corruption and wickedness of King Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. The exiles were called to pray for the city and seek its well-being, but to still stand up against corruption and evil, and to seek what was just and right.
    In verses 8-10 of Jeremiah 29, God warns them not to listen to false prophets who were giving a different message than what He had given to Jeremiah. There were some saying they would go back to Jerusalem sooner than 70 years, and there were some saying they’d never be returned to Jerusalem. Both were wrong. God assured them it would be 70 years, and then He would come and take them back to their true home. So even though they were told to make a life for themselves in Babylon, they were meant to remember that one day they would return home, and they needed to be ready. They needed to be ready to leave the life they had put together when the time came because they were exiles, and Babylon was not their true home.
    And finally, the exiles were told to seek GOD. Seek God above all else in Babylon. God promised that if they sought Him with all their hearts, they would find Him, and He would restore them to their true home. If they sought God, He would be found. He assured them that He wanted His best for them, wanted to give them a hope and a future, but they had to seek Him.
    What does this have to do with us, New Testament Christians? Well, we too are living in Babylon. It’s a modern Babylon, but when we look at what Babylon comes to represent in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, we see clearly that we are living in the midst of the ideas of Babylon. Remember that Babylon is any human institution that demands allegiance to its idolatrous redefinitions of good and evil. You can just pause for a moment and see these human institutions all around us, governments, entities, organizations, etc., that have redefined what is good and what is evil, and make demands of us to accept their redefinitions and not only agree to them, but to embrace them. We live in Babylon.
    But this is not our home. Our true home, as Christians, is with the Lord. We too are exiles, not living where our true home is, but having to find our way in this modern Babylon. How do we do this?
    Well, we could revolt. We could take to the streets and have violent protests and seek to do harm to those who are corrupt and evil in an attempt to overthrow them. I have to admit, sometimes that seems appealing. Or we could compromise like some of the Israelites did. We could embrace the redefinitions of good and evil and take those as our gospel. Or, we too, can adopt the exile mindset we see given in Jeremiah 29.
    We just finished 1 John, and I’m reminded again of 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God continues to live forever.” This world, this Babylon is not our home, and we are not to embrace its things or its lusts. The exile mindset is what we must embrace.
    The Jewish exiles were told to build homes and grow gardens and build families, and they had a set timeframe for this, 70 years. But we don’t have a timeframe. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here, and not our true home. We have the same hope the Jewish exiles had that one day a ruler will come and set it all right, but we don’t know when that day is. So settle in, you may be here for a while.
    Ephesians 5:31 tells us husbands to leave their parents houses and make new lives with their wives. Get married if you so desire, have families, build lives. 1 Timothy 5:8 tells us it is good and right to provide for ourselves and our families. Get jobs, make a living, feed yourselves. You may be here a while. But remember Jesus’s words of Matthew 10:37-39, “The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.” We build lives and we get jobs and families, but just like the Jewish exiles, we must be prepared to leave it all behind at any moment. We hold loosely to the things we have here, even if they are good things, because the one who deserves our allegiance and worship is God alone. Ultimately, everything else will pass away, and the only things that remain are the things of God, the things that are eternal, and those are the things we should be pursuing with our time and resources.
    The Jewish exiles were told to pray for the city, to pursue its prosperity and the good of its people, but to also stand against corruption, evil, and injustice. Romans 13:1 reminds us to be subject to governing authorities, because all of them exist because God allows them to exist. Titus 3:1 says to be subject to all authorities and rules, to be obedient, and to be ready to do good deeds. 1 Peter 2:13-14 echoes those words. And in Matthew 22:17-21 we read the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning poll-tax and how they are to give Caesar what is his.
    But, as much as we are to pray for our cities and do good to its people, we can’t forget that Hebrews 12:14 tells us to make peace with all people, but also to seek holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. So there can be no room for compromise even as we’re seeking to do good to those who we meet every day.
    And how many times did Jesus publicly call out the Pharisees for their corrupt and hypocritical nature, like we can read in Luke 16:14-15.
    And James 1:27 points out that true religion means we fight for the case of orphans and widows. So we are meant to stand up for those who are on the margins of society, those taken advantage of and sometimes even looked down upon by others. In Matthew 21:12-13 we read about Jesus overturning tables near the temple who were bringing greed and corruption into God’s house. On numerous occasions He stood against wickedness, hypocrisy, greed, and corruption.
    So we pray for our cities, pray for our leaders, even submit ourselves to their rule, but we are to at the same time have a sort of quiet subversion against those who are corrupt and wicked, against the evil of Babylon.
    We hold loosely to this world, even while working in it to see God’s Kingdom here and now and to bring the good news of Christ to the lost and hurt and broken of this world, we understand this is not our true home. We don’t want to abandon those we know to the darkness, and it is our job to shine the light, but this is not our true home. Just like the exiles living in Babylon, we know someday we’re not going to be here anymore. Luke 6:22-24 tells us that we should expect that people will hate us, exclude us, insult us, and scorn us because we are followers of Christ. Jesus reminded people that the prophets, like Jeremiah, were treated the same way. But we are to take comfort knowing that our joy and reward is in heaven.
    Matthew 24:44 tells us to be ready to leave this earth, leave our exile at any time because unlike the exiles living in Babylon, we don’t know when our exile will end. Be ready.
    Matthew 25:14-30 gives us the parable of the talents, which reminds us that even though we know someday Christ is returning to take us to our true home, that we have been entrusted with His gifts and resources now and that He expects us to use them to grow His Kingdom. We are not to waste or squander the time He has given us now, but instead to work to bring others along with us to our true home. Be ready to leave at any moment, but don’t you dare keep the hope and the freedom you have in Jesus to yourself as you wait.
    And finally, just as the Jewish exiles in Babylon were urged to do, we seek God. Romans 12:1-2 tells us to give ourselves to God completely and entirely and allow Him to change and transform us so that we no longer want the things of this world, but can discern what His will is for our lives. Matthew 5:3-12 has Jesus telling us that our attitude toward God should be one of humble repentance, seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness above all else.
    Acts 17:27 is very similar to what God told the Jewish exiles through Jeremiah, that if they were to seek Him, we would be there! He is not far from us, His Spirit is with us here right now! Seek Him, look for Him, run after Him, I guarantee because it is His promise that you will find Him.
    Matthew 22:37 tells us to love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
    We are exiles, living in Babylon. This is not our home. We could revolt, and we could compromise, but that is not the way of exiles. Instead, we settle in because we may be here for a while, and we pray for our leaders and cities, and we seek to do good to all people. But, we also must live in a sort of quiet subversion and stand against corruption and injustice and evil, and be ready to leave at any time because this is not our home. And as we wait, we seek Him who is our King, and we lead others to seek Him too.
1. Is there some sin to avoid in your life, brought to light by the message?
2. Is there some promise you need to trust? Write it here:
3. Is there some example to follow that you are not following? How will you do that this week?
4. Is there some command to obey that you are not obeying, or is new? What is it?
5. Is there some knowledge of God and your relationship with Him that is given here? How does it challenge you to grow with Him?

That You May Know (1 John 5:13-21)

    In today’s passage, John says farewell to his Christian readers, wherever and whenever they may be. He has one final thing to say to them, after reminding them of all he has said in his letter about belief, rebirth, love, obedience, and righteousness that we talked about last week; and that is to remind them of what a special relationship it is to know the Lord and walk with Him. He doesn’t want any Christian to misunderstand or to feel doubts or insecurities, but to understand clearly for all generations to come what a blessing it is to be a child of God.
    Join me if you will in 1 John 5:13-21, and pay close attention to phrases John uses like “that you may know” and “we know” because those are the firm foundations we can stand on. “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. 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. 16 If anyone sees his brother or sister committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will, for him, give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death; I am not saying that he should ask about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. 18 We know that no one who has been born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (NASB)
    If you were listening for those key phrases, you’ll notice that you heard them a few times. John once again states that this letter 1 John is ultimately “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Now that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything in the letter for non-believers, and in fact I’m sure that John would say that if a non-believer were to read this letter they would certainly read the gospel of salvation in Christ in it. But John’s main audience is Christians, and as I said before, in closing this letter, his purpose is to give us one final word of encouragement so we know exactly who we are as believers.
    There are 6 things highlighted here that John encourages us with: that you may know you have eternal life, that you may know God hears you when you pray and answers you, that you may know you are protected from evil, that you may know you are a child of God, that you may know you have spiritual knowledge and understanding, and that you may know you are in Him who is true.
    For our encouragement this morning, we’re going to dig into each of these six and be reminded of the nature of the relationship we have with God.
    John says that he writes so that you may know you have eternal life in verse 13. We often think of eternal life just as everlasting life, life after physical death when our spirits or souls are reunited with our Creator in His Kingdom. Though this is certainly part of what eternal life is, this is not how John has previously defined eternal life. We look back at 1 John 1:2-3, “and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us— 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.” (NASB) The life, the eternal life John talks about here isn’t necessarily everlasting life, but rather it’s life in Christ, who is the life, and having fellowship with the Father and the Son.
    John 17:3 also adds this to our understanding, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (NASB) Eternal life, though it includes everlasting life after death, really means that we have abundance of life and blessing in God because we have fellowship with God through belief in His Son Christ Jesus. This is eternal life: knowing God. So John’s encouragement is that if you know God as we have been talking about, then you have eternal life because you know Him and knowing Him is eternal life. There is no doubt that because we know Him, we have life abundantly, here, now, forever.
    In verse 14 John says that he writes so that you may know that God hears you when you pray, and He answers. Again we must understand that John’s letter here is to Christians. This is an assurance to believers that if we ask anything in line with God’s will, it will be given. He hears our prayers, and answers them. It’s encouragement that he repeats from these words in the gospel he wrote, “If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, NASB)
    The encouraging thing about these passages isn’t that we get whatever we need whenever we want like God is some magical genie. It’s that we have encouragement and confidence that God’s will is always done. No matter what, His will is always done, no matter how people may act or not act or what the enemy might do, God’s will is always done, and in part that we get to be part of His will being done through the prayers of faithful Christians. This is encouragement because we know that when God hears our prayers, it implies that in hearing our prayers, it means He is already acting, already moving to bring about His will before we even say, “Amen.” So, we know that we have encouragement that God’s will will always be done, and we get to be a part of it.
    In verse 18 John adds this, “We know that no one who has been born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” As believers in the Son of God, Christ Jesus, we can be encouraged that we are protected from evil, that the evil one does not and cannot touch us. Does this mean that we can never experience evil from the evil actions of other people? Does this mean we’ll be spared pain and brokenness because of the evil in the world? Sadly, no. That isn’t what John was speaking about.
    See, he talks about sin, how the one who is born of God, that’s us, believers, do not continue to go on willingly sinning after being born of God. So what John is talking about when he says that Christ keeps us from the evil one is that when we become believers we are no longer held by the power of sin, the power of the evil one over us. We can and do have victory over sin as Christians! We do not have to choose to sin, and we can live a life that is no longer characterized by sin and death, but rather by truth and life. We are protected by the effects of evil over our souls because we have been set free from sin and death, and that is great encouragement.
    In verse 19 John goes on, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” You know that you are of God, born of God, a child of God. As we talked about last week, when we are reborn of God we become righteous, pure, because He is righteous and pure and we are born of Him. As great as it is to know we are righteous and pure because of who He is, it’s even more amazing and encouraging to know that as God’s children, we are not in the hands of an imaginary or arbitrary God who might at any point decide to desert us. He isn’t going anywhere like a dead-beat parent. He is your Father, you are His child, and He’s not going anywhere! He will not leave you or forsake you. You are His child.
    In verse 20 John adds, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true;” We have encouragement that we know the Son of God has come and part of His purpose was to give us spiritual knowledge and understanding so that we may know God. In Christ, we have spiritual knowledge and understanding. This means that we have the capacity as believers, because of the Holy Spirit given to us, to understand spiritual things.
    Remember Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (NASB) The Holy Spirit helps us understand the word of God which is one of the ways God reveals Himself to us. The Holy Spirit makes the word of God come alive in our hearts, He makes it active to us. Think about how many times you’ve read a passage in the Bible that you know you’ve read before, but then one time it really takes root and grabs you and changes you. That’s the work of the Spirit in you to give you a better understanding of spiritual things.
    John says this in his letter, 1 John 2:20-21, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” The Spirit’s anointing helps us understand the things of God, and through that understanding our relationship with God grows. We have the capacity to know God personally, to have a relationship with Him, and to know as much about Him as any human possibly can. We have the ability to walk and talk with God just like Jesus did, and just like we were created to do, and that is very good encouragement.
    And John’s last encouragement is the rest of verse 20 and verse 21 helps us understand it in context, “and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” We are encouraged here by the truth and the power of God compared to the idols of the world.
    In ancient times these idols were of stone and wood and gold, but now we have different idols that we worship: money, power, achievement and accomplishment, success, fame, deeds that leave a legacy, the self. They take a different form than those of ancient peoples, but the end result is still the same: an idol is anything that we make a god over the One True God. These idols we make are false pictures of God that cause you to stumble and fall away from a relationship with the true God.
    But we have encouragement that through Christ we have a relationship with the One True God who truly does have power. In Him only we find truth, goodness, love, mercy, justice, righteousness, and compassion. You will not find these things in full measure from anyone or anything else, which is why John warns us to stay away from other beings or things that we might be tempted to worship above God. We have encouragement that we do have a relationship with the only One who is all those things and more so there is no need to seek these things elsewhere. We have truth because we know the One who is truth.
    This is the end of 1 John, and as we consider all that the letter has been about, and it’s covered a lot, the biggest thing we want to take away is that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are in God and He has poured out His blessings upon us, but that He also calls us to a higher way of living, a life out of the darkness of the world in His light only, walking in His love, obedience, and righteousness.

1. Grow UP with God: What are some of the “idols” that tempt you to live apart from the true God? How can you overcome the temptations of these idols? What practical steps can you take this week?

2. Grow DEEPER with the body: In verse 16, John talks about a sin that leads to death. Doesn’t all sin ultimately lead to death? How does Matthew 12:22-32 help us understand what this sin is? What does that sin look like in your words? How might a believer be guilty of this sin? What could you do for such a person?

3. Go OUT: Think of a pre-Christian you know. Which of these assurances might be important to that person? Which do they really need right now given circumstances they may be going to? How can you share this assurance that they can have through a relationship with Jesus?

Believe (1 John 5:1-5)

    We are going to start wrapping up our time in 1 John because the book of 1 John is short, and it’s almost done. What we’ll see in John’s letter now is that he is sort of giving a briefing, a recap of everything he’s already said and making sure that his readers, including us, church, understand all the connections of what he has said so far.
    Join me please in 1 John 5:1-5, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and follow His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (NASB)
    Here, John sums up all that he has so far said about believing in Jesus. He is asking us to remember that belief in Jesus is more than just agreeing that Jesus is the Son of God, or that Jesus is the Christ. Belief includes personal commitment to Jesus, to give Him all that your life is; it involves public acknowledgment of who He is and the life He has called you to live despite any sort of opposition you might receive; and it involves trusting in Jesus to guide you, teach you, forgive you, heal you, and make your life what He desires of it. Belief in Jesus requires us to act on belief, to grow, to change, to witness to His name, to do good deeds, and to love others. We don’t just believe facts about Jesus; we believe in Him as our personal Lord and Savior!
    John reminds us of what true belief in Jesus will do in the lives of those who belief. Look again at 1 John 5:4-5, “For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” John tells us that both those born of God and those that believe in Jesus will overcome the world.
    What does that mean again, to overcome the world? Remember that John has talked about what the world is before, and what the world represents. It represents darkness, sin, separation from God and that relationship with God that we were created for. The world represents chaos and destruction and all evil. The world represents all things that are bad for you. We want to overcome the world because if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t really want to be stuck in the things that cause death, chaos, and destruction for you, do you?
    No, of course we don’t. So we need a way to overcome the world, and John says that if you are born of God, if you believe in Jesus, then you will overcome the world. The very first step of live in Christ like we talked about last week, is belief. We must believe in Jesus, true belief, that He is the Son of God, Lord and Savior, and you must be willing to give Him all your life for Him to use for His purposes. It’s radical, yes, but that’s because God is radically different from the ways of the world, and if you want to be His child, you have to be radically different too.
    We start with true belief, and what we’ve seen throughout 1 John is that the initial step of belief or faith that we take in response to what Jesus has done for us and God’s great love for us, causes a chain reaction in the life of those who believe. If we want to experience all the things that John has been talking about in this letter, true love, walking in the light, renewal of life, then it all starts with belief.
    True belief like I’ve described and John has described, brings REBIRTH in the life of the one who believes, and that rebirth causes love, obedience, and righteousness to flourish in the life of the one who believes as well. I want to talk about the connections here between belief, rebirth, love, obedience, and righteousness because John shows how they are all connected to one another throughout his letter.
    Okay, so you believe. You’ve been reborn in Christ. Those two continue to be connected, belief and rebirth, throughout your relationship with God. They feed into each other. As you believe, you experience that initial rebirth of your spirit. As you allow yourself to be made new in Christ, that causes your belief in Him to grow. You start to see Him working and changing you, and your belief in Him is strengthened. As your belief is grown and strengthened, you start to experience rebirth in other areas of your life and renewal in new ways. And so it goes.
    Now, as that is happening in your heart and mind, the rebirth you experience, as I said, leads to love, obedience, and righteousness. John demonstrates the connections between being born of God, or rebirth, and these other things throughout His letter.
    In 1 John 3:10 he wrote, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother and sister.” John uses a negative association, by saying that anyone who does not practice the righteousness of God is not of God, not born of God, but the association here is that if you are of God, if you are born of God, then you will practice the righteousness of God.
    This verse also highlights the connection between rebirth and love. John says if you don’t love your brother and sister, that is other believers, then you aren’t born of God. If you are born of God, if you have been reborn and made new, you will love your brothers and sisters in Christ.
    Go back to 1 John 5:1 that we just read this morning, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the child born of Him.” (NASB) We see here that love for the Father is part of that rebirth as well as loving other believers. So we can make a little caveat to our diagram of connections here so we understand that rebirth leads to love for God and love for other believers.
    Now look at 1 John 3:24, “The one who keeps His commandments remains in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He remains in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (NASB) Here’s where obedience comes in. John says that the one who is in God, that would be the one who believes, the one who has been reborn, will keep God’s commandments. That’s obedience, church. If you believe, if you’ve been reborn and you’re experiencing the renewal of mind and heart that comes with that rebirth, you will find yourself obeying God more and more. You will seek to keep His words, and you will find a desire in your heart to want to do what pleases Him because of that rebirth.
    And here’s the connection between loving God and obeying God, linking love and obedience. Here’s 1 John 5:2-3 again, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and follow His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” For John, love for God and obedience to God are the same. Love for God is shown by obeying God. The two become equals to John, so much so that he even says that if you do not obey God, you do not love Him.
    We further see the connection between obedience and love through the commands to love other believers as John shows in 1 John 3:23, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (NASB) And we just read that he goes on to say that if you don’t do this, you don’t love God. So our obedience for God is shown through our love for other believers, not just in our love for God. And since obedience in John’s letter is equal to love, we know that loving God is also shown by loving other believers.
    We can see this plainly in 1 John 4:20-5:2, “If someone says, “I love God,” and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God must also love his brother and sister. 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and follow His commandments.” (NASB) If you love God, you love His children, other believers. If you love God, you obey Him and His command to love other believers. If you don’t….then you don’t.
    Finally, we have one more connection here between obedience and righteousness. In 1 John 3:1-10, John talked about how obedience to God is shown through the purification of the heart and by choosing to walk in God’s righteousness. In 1 John 3:3 he says, “And everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (NASB) John understands that obedience to God is so closely linked to righteousness that they are equal with each other, just like love and obedience are equal. John understands that if you are being obedient to God, it means that you are walking in God’s righteousness and that your heart is being purified by the work of the Spirit in your life. He goes on to say in 1 John 3:9, “No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God” (NASB) We can follow John’s thinking here and see that if we claim to be reborn of God, to have experienced rebirth, that means we will be obedient to God, and if we are being obedient to God, we cannot sin anymore. Obedience is shown through righteousness.
    So, here’s all the connections we’ve seen in 1 John between belief, rebirth, love for God, love for believers, obedience to God, and righteousness:
—Rebirth leads to righteousness
—Rebirth leads to loving other believers
—Rebirth leads to love for God
—Rebirth leads to obedience of God
—Loving God and obeying God are equal
—Obedience to God is shown in love for other believers
—Loving God is shown by loving other believers
—Obedience to God is shown by heart purification and walking in righteousness

1. Grow Up with God: What evidence of love for God or overcoming the world does your life show? Try to name specific examples.

2. Grow Deep with the Body: What evidence of love for God through loving other believers does your life show? Again, name specific examples.

3. Go Out: How does love for those in the world who do not yet know Christ fit into the belief connections we see in 1 John?

Love AND Light (1 John 4:7-5:1)

    So far in the book of 1 John, John has used the word “love” 13 times. That’s a lot for such a small letter! The frequency of the word “love” is how we know it is one of the main themes of John’s letter here. Though love is certainly one of the main things John talks about, he gives almost equal attention to light, to walking in the light, being in the light, and knowing the light. In fact, for John, if you read the whole letter of 1 John in one sitting, you start to see and understand that for John, love comes from light, and that light must be shone through the acts of love. So for John, love and light are partners, working together to bring a person closer to God.
    Let’s pick up in 1 John 4:7-5:1, “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 By this the love of God was revealed in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him. 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we remain in Him and He in us, because He has given to us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, we also are in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God must also love his brother and sister. 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the child born of Him.” (NASB)
    Alright, as we’re talking about the connection between love and light, and why they must go together, I want us to remember what love and light mean. Love is not the romantic love between spouses, or brotherly love between friends and siblings, nor is it the love that we might have for really good ideas or other inanimate things that bring us happiness, like a good book. Love here is agape. It is not a feeling, but rather a decision to have a selfless commitment to do good to someone regardless of whether they deserve it.
    Light then isn’t some abstract idea about self-truth or inspiration from wherever you might find it. Light is God’s righteousness, which is always in truth and holiness. By this, we understand that walking in the light means walking in God’s righteousness, truth, and holiness, and staying in God’s righteousness, truth, and holiness. These are the true definitions of love and light.
    It is imperative, the most important thing, that we know what true love is, especially given that we have these commands from 1 John in 4:7-8, “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” We read that we must love one another because God is love and love is from God, and so if you have been born of God and you know God, then you, too, will love one another.
    I want us to look specifically at a few verses to look at the example of God’s love for us to see how God has showed His love for us so that we know what love looks like and how love acts. Look again at 1 John 4:9, “By this the love of God was revealed in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him.” God’s love has been shown to us, made known to us, by the act of sending His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him.
    How does this show us God’s love? Well, here it is, and it goes all the way back to Genesis. We have the creation of Adam and Eve, the first people, and what did they do with their time? You might say, “Well, they took care of the garden and the earth and they took care of the animals, and they multiplied,” and you’re right, they did do that. But they did something else that’s far more important, and it is in fact what they were actually made to do. Genesis 1:28, 29; 2:16, 18, all record that before the first sin and the fall of humankind, God freely spoke with humans in a voice that they could actually hear, and there was nothing to hinder them from hearing His voice. In Genesis 3:8-9 we even gain the understanding that before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden, able to see Him, able to speak directly with Him, without anything keeping them from that relationship. That in fact, is what they were created to do. They were created to walk and talk with God, every day.
    That relationship, walking and talking with God, and the image of God being perfect in us is what makes us truly, fully human. Our sin messed that up, and what happened is that we were removed from our purpose and we became sub-human. Without a relationship with God, without the image of God being made alive again in you, you are less than human. You’re not even human, you’re less than human! But then Christ Jesus came, and He walked and talked with God and the image of God was alive in Him. He, Jesus Christ, is the very definition of what it means to actually be fully human.
    But if we are not living a life through Jesus, if we are not living life like Jesus, we are still sub-human. Only through a life in Jesus can you really be what it is to be human. Only a life through Jesus will make you truly human. So God showed His love for us by giving us a way to become truly, fully human again, and He did this through His Son Christ Jesus. Remember Jesus’s words from John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” Not only is He the only way to get to God again, to have that relationship with God, but He is the only way to be fully human, He is the only way to have true life. That is why He came, as He said in John 10:10, “I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.” Aside from a life in Christ Jesus, you are not fully human, not truly living life. Just walking around drawing breath and thinking is not life. Only in Jesus can you be fully human and have real life. So, God showed His love for us by giving us a way to live.
    Second, God also showed His love for us in this, that He made a way for the price of our sins to be paid. Look again at 1 John 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.” Propitiation is another way of saying sacrifice. Why is a sacrifice for sins necessary?
    Well, we remember from Genesis that Adam and Eve sinned, and from there it was a downward spiral. Even by the time Noah came around just a few generations later, we’re told this about the hearts of humans in Genesis 6:5, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” (NASB) That hasn’t gotten any better, right? Romans 3:23 tells us that every single person has sinned and falls short of the glory of God. This is something even John repeats in 1 John when he says in 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (NASB)
    Our sin breaks the relationship we’re supposed to have with God, walking and talking with Him. It breaks the relationship because He is light and in Him there is no darkness, so He can’t be near the darkness, which is what our sin causes. Remember in Genesis that God gave Adam and Eve animal skins to cover themselves after they had sinned? Well, in order to cover them after their sin, an animal had to die, blood had to be spilled to make the covering for them. This continued to be what was required all throughout the Old Testament. If there was sin, which there always was, it had to be covered and the only way to do that was through an animal sacrifice.
    Every year, God’s people would sacrifice an animal to “cover” their sins for a year. If they didn’t, they understood that their own sins would mean their destruction, so instead, the animal paid the price for their wrongs. But, a price has to be paid, and Romans 6:23 reminds us that the price of sin is death. Sin causes death, and if we don’t pay the price…someone has to.
    But animals could only cover sins, they couldn’t forgive sins. If we were to die for our sins, our sins still would not be forgiven because sin cannot forgive sin and we are sinful. In order for forgiveness of sins to be possible, a perfect human had to die. A perfect human without any sin had to be the price paid for your sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says this, “Christ didn’t have any sin. But God made Him become sin for us. So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us.” (NIRV)
    Jesus paid the price for your sin, so you wouldn’t have to, so you could once again have a relationship with God, so you could walk and talk with God like you were created to do. This is how God showed His love for you.
    Third, God also showed His love for us in this, 1 John 4:14, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (NASB) I’ve told you about how sin brings death. Sin causes death and destruction and chaos in a person’s life. Sin will take us and trap us in patterns that hurt us and hurt other people. Sin will keep us trapped in addictions, in anger, in bitterness, in wrath, in selfishness, in apathy, in depression, and every other thing a person might be trapped in. That is what sin does. If God, who is light, who is good, who is kind, who is merciful, if He didn’t give us a way to get out of all that death, He wouldn’t be very loving, would He?
    If He looked at your pain, and your hopelessness, and your brokenness, and your destruction, and turned a blind eye, He would not be a loving, good God. But He doesn’t turn a blind eye. He sees you. He sees you, and your pain, and your brokenness, and all the things that hurt you. And He sent His Son to save you from all that, because He loves you. And He couldn’t just let you stay in darkness.
    And so, then we are called to love others. How? As Jesus has loved you. That means that your love for others has to be coupled with light, just like God’s love. You love others, yes, but that means that you love them in God’s righteousness, truth, and holiness as well. What does that look like for us humans, who are broken and sometimes mess up?
    First, we urge and lead others to live through Christ. We are not fully human without living life in Christ, so if we are really going to love people we have to urge them to live life in Jesus. You’re not loving someone if you’re not telling them about how Jesus can give them true life! We have to love people enough to tell them how to truly live life the way they were created to! Love them enough to tell them that they are missing out on what life really is.
    Second, we need to urge people and teach them to sin no more. The price for their sins has been paid, just as yours were. Just like you have the power of Christ living in you, the power of the Spirit living in you to be able to say, “no” to all manner of sins, you have to love people enough to tell them that they can have that power too! You have to love people enough to tell them that living a life of sin isn’t going to be good for them. Remember that true love, agape love, the kind of love that God has for us, means that we seek to do what is good for those that we love. It is not good for them to live a life of sin, just like it is not good for you to live a life of sin! We need to be loving people enough to tell them that their sin is literally killing them. We need to be loving people enough to show them how to walk away from sin, how to say no to sin, and walk in the light.
    Third, we need to love others enough to share God’s love with them, to teach them to share God’s love with others. If God loved us so much that He couldn’t leave us to our darkness, but rather made a way to live in light, we have to share that with others. People need to know that this kind of love exists, and that it only exists in God’s light. The people you love need to know that they can have the kind of love that is so deep there is nothing they could ever do to make God not love them. That His love for them reaches them in the darkest most desperate places of their life and wants to pull them free of all that so that they can walk in His righteousness, truth, and holiness. People you love need this kind of love, and you have to love them enough to tell them about it!
    See, God so loves us. But He loves us with a deep kind of love that refuses to let us just destroy ourselves. He loves us enough to tell us the truth about our mess, hoping that we’ll see that He offers us a better way. And John says that if we say we love God, we have to love others just like God does. We have to love them with a kind of love that refuses to let them destroy their lives with sin. We have to love them enough to tell them the truth about their mess, and offer the better way of life through Christ. Love AND light.

1. Growing Up with God: If no one has ever seen God (4:12), how is it that people can come to know what He is like according to what John says it this Sunday’s passage?

2. Growing Deeper with the Body: God’s love for us cost Him His Son. Christ’s love for us cost Him His life. What will it cost you to love someone you need to love this week?


3. Go Out: What truth of the light do you need to share to a pre-Christian in your life this week? Though it may be hard to do, remember that God’s perfect love in you drives out fear. Show that person true love this week by sharing the truth with them.

 

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