Monthly Archives: July 2011

1 John 1:1-4 – Reality; July 20, 2011

1 John 1:1-4 – Reality

 

Over the past several weeks I’ve been discussing the need for modern day Christians to “connect” with their faith.  In essence, to plug into the historical and biblical context of what they profess.  It is a necessary and daunting task to undertake and I have in no means exhausted the Scriptures in it’s calling us to remember and connect with what the Lord has done as it translates into His continuing work in the present.  1 John brings into sharp focus the issue that keeps most modern, especially American, Christians from truly connecting with their faith: Is this real?  Most Christians would not even utter such non-sensical queries based on how they’ve been raised.  You don’t ever doubt God’s existence out loud.  If something bothers you about what the Bible says, you simply find a denomination that has changed the meaning of what you don’t understand to fit the imaginary god you would prefer to worship.  This doctrinal shopping around defines what is truly at the heart of most problems in our churches today.  We don’t believe the Bible or in the God of the Bible.  We have redefined Him and argued away the validity and reliability of Scripture to appease our own appetites and comforts.

The Apostle John in writing this letter to first century believers draws them back to the reality of who Christ is.  He doesn’t use a clever story or anecdote.  He simply makes the claim that only an apostle could make.  He testifies to what he has heard, seen, touched, and witnessed firsthand.  Most modern Christians forget that the faith that we hold to is not something that has been followed blindly for thousands of years.  It is firmly rooted in history, strengthened by first hand, eyewitness accounts passed down from generation to generation.  We, as modern Christians, rarely truly connect with the intimacy with which the authors of the Scriptures wrote their accounts and letters, all writing with full belief and acceptance that the Spirit of God was giving them words that held a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and life.  They weren’t just recounting their favorite children’s stories or moral tales, they were writing the very words of God to His people and to those who would seek Him generations after the words were written.

John in the first four verses of his letter implores us to return to the reality of the God we serve.  The way to this reality is only through the person of Jesus Christ who John calls the Word or the Life.  In order to understand the reality of Christ as God and our only means of true Life, we must first move past our own imaginary, pre-conceived ideas about who we think God should be and return to who God says He is.  We must stop approaching Scripture looking for how it can make our lives easier or more guilt-free and start allowing it to work as the two-edged sword that pierces all of our self-righteous pretension.  We must stop trying to make the Bible line up with how we believe our lives should be in our enlightened state and start lining ourselves up with how the Bible says our lives should be.  The Scriptures are perfect in showing us who God is and directing us to Him as our source for all things.  If we do not believe this then it is most likely that we are making up our faith as we go along.  And that is called idolatry.  God is calling us back to what is real.  He is drawing us back to Himself and His Word.  He is drawing us to a deeper sense of truth.  A deeper well of life.  A truer and more tangible reality.  All which are defined by Him and Him alone.  May we heed His call and pursue Him with utter abandon.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

Revelation 2-3 – He who has an ear let him hear…; June 29, 2011

Revelation 2-3 – He who has an ear let him hear…

 

As we’ve been talking about connecting (see post on Hebrews 11-12) it’s important that we also connect with what God is doing in the Church as a whole, not just the places that we visit on Sunday mornings.  In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus communicates with 7 churches, giving encouragement and rebuke, drawing them to a more intimate walk with Him.  If you are looking for an in-depth study of this passage you are in no way going to find it here.  This is merely a summary and application that will hopefully connect us to a deeper understanding of Christ’s call to us through His letters to the churches.  I am by no means trying to show that these letters to the churches should be grouped in the way that I group them.  I am simply grouping them for the sake of application to our hearts today, and so that this post isn’t 376 pages long.  If you haven’t already, I would suggest reading through the passage.  I will not be addressing the passage specifically very often, but will focus on pulling themes and application from the passage.

 

We will begin by addressing the first four churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira.  These four have a unique connection due to what Christ chooses to address within each.  Problem of persecution and worldly seduction has always plagued God’s people as far back as Balaam in the book of Exodus.  But here we see the problems in new light hedged in by issues of doctrine and love.  Persecution is always a matter of faith.  If one’s faith is weak or, more likely, non-existent, one hardly finds oneself in the middle of harsh persecution for long.  And faith historically has been argued from two very popular points of view: religious and social.  The religious point of view holds that the most valuable and worthy task of any individual is to search for truth where it may be found and once found held ferociously.  Words are scrutinized for meaning.  Philosophies stand and fall at the unwavering plum line of reason.  Truth and the code of conduct berthed out of it reign supremely and often without mercy.  We see it in virtually every corner of the world.  The social view, however, is not as concerned with rules or philosophies and is much more concerned with the individual.  The social point of view will seek to tolerate and incorporate the myriads of philosophies and even religions.  The social is fluid, lacking hard lines and precision, but abounding in acceptance.

 

These four churches are being called to a higher level of faith.  Often it is our usurpation of our faith that often draws us to harder lines on peripheral, unnecessary behaviors while at other times our not holding tight enough to the source of our faith causes us to blur the lines so incoherently that we no longer truly believe in anything.  Both in the midst of persecution can be volatile.  One will establish an order and become the persecutors while the other will adapt to the societal structure so thoroughly that it will no longer need to be persecuted for its beliefs because it believes in everything.  The seductions of Balaam are not limited to sexual immorality and the worship of graven images.  The seductions of Balaam are what draw us away from true worship of the Father.  The unrelenting pursuit of truth and knowledge can be just as blinding as sexual perversion.  The subtle wooing of tolerance without absolutes can be just as numbing as the habitual kneeling before a figure of gold.  Christ is calling us to value love and truth.  We should have the strengths of the first along with the strengths of the fourth.  Only then can we avoid the seductions that come to draw us away from His Name.

 

In the instructions to the final three churches we can find a similar connection, albeit loose.  In what we learn of these three churches we can very accurately account for the majority of those who claim to be Christians.  There are those who on the outside look like they have everything together. They are often Sunday School teachers, deacons, volunteers, those who are always wanting to do more and more without regard to family or self.  People who try to prove their faith by doing without ever tasting the transformation of rebirth.  They simply liked the ideas of Jesus and salvation but never really allowed their hearts to be changed by them.  If you have ever worked in or around a church you have met them.  Actually, if we could be honest with ourselves, we have probably been them.  We have been the ones who on the outside look as white-washed as a Pharisee, but on the inside are as dead and rotting as the world.  Then there is the one who can’t decide between Spirit and flesh.  The one who is happy to do or even lead the Spiritual things while still having the availability to follow the flesh on occasion.  These are the ones who do more than enough good to justify their limited amounts of bad.  They have tricked themselves and the people around them into believing that faith is mustered and manageable not given and grown.  And then there are those who have endured.  Those who have warred.  Those who have weathered the storms and come out firmly founded on the Rock.  These receive the promise of the Open Door.  These are welcomed in by the Father.  These are pillars in the House of the Lord.  Which are you?  Do you pursue acts of righteousness tirelessly without ever entering the rest of the King?  Do you believe that you are owed your reward for doing just enough acts in the name of Christ without ever surrendering to Him?  Are you one who has seen the Open Door and run through it leaving all else behind?  May we all have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT